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Directors Cut: The Maldives Review featuring Emirates and JA Manafaru
By Sinead Mitchard
Three weeks ago, John, the managing director here at Your Travel strolled back into the HQ after a week off in the Maldives. John flew Emirates business class and stayed at the exclusive JA Manafaru. I was desperate to get the details! John’s stories of pristine azure waters, stretches of unspoilt white sands and a level of service secondary to none does not disappoint.
Flying Emirates, particularly in business class and on the Airbus A380 is incredibly comfortable and service driven. We found we were booked into private seats on the first leg from London to Dubai. My partner is a nervous flyer and was initially quite panicked about the take off. The stewardess picked up on this instantly and very kindly asked around for solo passengers willing to swap seats. Thankfully, we were able to switch to forward facing middle seats, allowing us to sit together and to ease Fern’s nerves.
The seats in the London to Dubai leg on the Airbus A380 were fully flat bed with a fast and faultless ICE (information communication entertainment) system. Free WiFi was available and enabled me to keep in touch with work or family and friends.
The bar staff were exceptionally friendly and we spent some time here whilst in the air. Back at our seats we enjoyed restaurant quality food. I devoured scallops to start, steak for the main course and an extraordinary cheesecake to finish. It is worth noting that the meals in business class are served to you whenever you want it, catering to different travellers eating schedules. The service was swift and attentive. We never waited more than a couple of minutes for any request.
A lavishly presented Bulgari amenity kit (produced specifically for Emirates) had everything you needed and more, such as perfumes and aftershaves. Toothbrush, paste and moisturizing creams were provided as standard, as well as earplugs, socks, eyemask and blanket.
Our first flight to the Maldives was London to Dubai. The second was from Dubai to Male (the main international airport in the Maldives). The stopover in Dubai was very short, only one and a half hours. I found that the aircraft for the Dubai to Male leg was an older product, part of the 777 series (?) with angled lie flat seats. This was the only notable difference between the two legs of the journey. Amenity kit, service levels and menus remained the same.
If you are flying as part of a couple, aim to book forward facing middle seats. The Emirates business class cabin is in a 1-2-1 formation. The side seats are ideal for solo business travellers, and in the middle seats there is a partition option. However, these middle seats are the only option for couples travelling who would still like to have some interaction throughout the journey.
Somewhat unrelated, but I would also recommend the movie ‘Glass’ which was released in cinema’s a few months back. It’s a fantastic follow up to M. Night Shyamalans ‘Split’ and was an ideal duration to break up one of the flights.
Editor’s Note: John wasn’t aware that there was a first film. ‘Unbreakable’ is the start of this trilogy! You could consider all three back to back for 8 hour plus flights.
When we arrived at Male airport we were met by a private porter from JA Manafaru. The porter collected our bags and took us to the seaplane check in desk. JA Manafaru is the furthest North hotel in the Maldives and requires an 80 minute seaplane from Male. The porter walked us to the JA Manafaru lounge, a small and quiet space for the short (one hour) wait for a seaplane. In the lounge were reclining chairs, a TV and some food and drink options.
After the seaplane had arrived and refueled, the porter guided us from the lounge. I imagine the plane seats roughly 15 guests. However, there was only Fern and myself, plus one more couple on board. The seaplane journey was an incredible experience, we were able to see all the islands of the Maldives from a clear, sun drenched birds eye view.
We landed on a private jetty for the JA Manafaru to the warmest welcome from staff. A traditional Maldivian band played before the general manager greeted us. He introduced us to key personnel, including our personal villa supervisor, Gani. We were presented with a delicious fruity cocktail and Gani’s business card and mobile number. JA Manafaru politely insist you never need to book anything yourself. Wherever you want to eat, whenever you would like a treatment or an excursion, your villa supervisor is available to bring your plans together and ensure you have nothing short of the most memorable stay.
We stayed in a one-bedroom beach suite with private pool. It was steps away from the beach and surrounded by lush fauna. A tropical hideaway in every sense. Firstly, we backed right on to our own private beach area. Secondly, our decking space included top of the range rattan furniture and was surrounded by nature. Lastly, we had our own private pool to cool down in. The suite had his and hers sinks around an ispa jacuzzi bath and a living area with 40inch flat screen TV (which we didn’t turn on even once!).
On entering the suite, we were greeted with a complimentary bottle of champagne. This was a lovely gesture after a very long and tiring journey. I’m not a long sleeper (I might average six hours a night) but the suite was so serene and the king size bed was so comfortable that I slept at least nine solid hours each evening. Following such a long journey, I even slept for an unbroken twelve hours on the first night!
There was WiFi available in-room. Everywhere is spotlessly clean. A mini bar was stocked with premium sparkling wines, spirits and beers. A full menu was available for in-room dining. The bathroom was awash with luxurious Elemis toiletries. If you never wanted to leave your villa, you wouldn’t be blamed. Infact, that is quite common for guests who book some of the more premium villas.
Where do I start? Although we didn’t use it, there was a spa offering authentic and traditional treatments. At the fully equipped fitness centre you could take part in a class or book a personal training session.
Non-motorized watersports are included in your stay, such as paddle boarding, kayaking or snorkeling. There are some motorized watersports available to book from jet skis to wakeboarding. Boat trips are available for seeking out dolphins or to partake in fishing. Diving is of course available, and the Maldives is one of the best locations in the world to experience diving. I believe there is even an excursion experience to some of the local uninhabited islands.
On land you can explore the island by bike, partake in beach volleyball or book a tennis court. Not to mention, there are two island swimming pools. There are several areas to dine, drink or otherwise hang out. The White Orchid is an award-winning Asian fusion restaurant. Andiamo Bistro is poolside and surrounded by palm trees, a great spot for a Mediterranean inspired lunch. At Kakuni you can indulge in a gourmet breakfast spread or taste Maldivian cuisine in themed meal evenings. The Ocean Grill offers a chilled, beachfront setting with locally caught seafood paired with steak. The Infinity bar has a setting, you guessed it, right by the infinity pool! The Horizon Lounge is a bar area perfect for smoothies or cocktails whilst catching a football game on the screen, partaking in karaoke or a game of pool. Last but certainly not least, is my personal favourite, The Cellar.
On one evening we had The Cellar to ourselves. A romantic atmosphere, an experienced and friendly Sommelier and exquisite dining make this my ultimate recommendation to anybody. Due to the interior (designed exactly as a cellar and surrounded by bottles), the intimate restaurant is kept at a chilled room temperature. Due to this, you are provided with hot stones to keep your feet warm.
It was a grand water two bedroom suite with private infinity pool to be exact. The views are out-of-this-world. You have direct lagoon access via the extensive decking with it’s inviting infinity pool. Considering the location on the jetty, you are able to catch the sun rise in the morning and set at night. Gani explained how popular these accommodation types are for corporate travellers who need to detach from the stressful and busy office environments. They can find peace and tranquility in these suites at JA Manafaru and even improve productivity and thought processes, often using it as a haven for turning out more work! Perhaps this is part of the reason the communal areas were serene and quiet. Whether visiting JA Manafaru for work, leisure or a special occasion, guests have everything they need at the villa, and can order meals in.
Aside from our special evening at The Cellar, we really enjoyed the feeding on the jetty. The waters are some of the clearest in the world and you could view hundreds of fish enjoying the feeding. We even spotted some stingrays! The turn down service in the evening was a great touch, particularly with chocolates placed on the pillow. A pillow service was also well received. It is a great idea for those who have trouble with sleeping. With almost ten different pillow types to choose from, you are guaranteed a good night’s rest!
Above all we appreciated Gani, our villa supervisor more than anything. Gani took extra time to explain the resort and all of it’s features. He also provided us with a brief tour of a different villa, as explained earlier. Nothing was too much trouble and Gani made our stay something that will stay with us for a very long time.
January to April is peak season in the Maldives. Whilst we visited mid to end of May, I cannot stress enough how important sunscreen is! I’d also advise bringing your own snorkeling mask. Particularly if you are an avid snorkeler and invested in the perfect mask. You should definitely consider pre-booking any excursions for the first couple of days before you arrive, to guarantee your spot. Lastly, the lamb shanks at The Cellar were some of the best I have ever experienced. The lobster at the Ocean Grill is also worth some serious consideration. Note that the sun set around 7pm and eating on the sand with little more than moonlight to guide your cutlery can be tricky.
If this hasn’t been enough to confirm your decision to visit the Maldives, check out the links below for additional information.
Don’t forget, you can benefit from our fantastic rates and concierge-style service by calling us on 0203 805 4599. Alternatively, find out more about us here.
For more information on Emirates business class and other classes or facts, click here.
To view the JA Manafaru the Maldives brochure, click here.