Our 4½h flight from SIN was as uneventful as you might imagine (perhaps happily so). After landing in MLE and clearing immigration, we wandered out into the public area of the airport looking for Conrad’s arrivals counter.
Turns out that wasn’t really necessary – apparently there was a greeter who had been waiting for us, but perhaps we had cleared immigration too quickly #briskwalkinghelps and he’d missed us emerging from customs.
The whole transfer process from MLE to the actual property is actually taken care of by the hotel. Other than letting them know the details of your inbound flight (and paying an additional US$526++ per pax upon check out), there’s really nothing much you need to do – everything will be sorted out for you.
This journey began with a private vehicle to ferry us to the seaplane terminal.
The Conrad Lounge
Depending on your luck (and seaplane schedule) you might be in for a bit of a wait. Thankfully, the property operates a lounge at the seaplane terminal that’s complimentary for guests on arrival.
(It used to be free for Diamond guests on departure as well, but those days are long over. Since it’s chargeable at US$50-85 per pax, I guess the Priority Pass option at MLE might be more attractive for the return journey.)
For an area designed to entertain guests while waiting for their seaplane transfer, it’s pretty spiffy. Upon arriving, we were invited to enjoy the facilities and just wait for an announcement telling us when it was time to go.
While most of the seating comes in the form of huge recliners, there are other areas within the lounge you can access with more specialised functions. You can even get a complimentary 10-minute neck or shoulder massage – be sure to ask about it if it’s not offered!
There’s also food to be taken – there’s quite a lot of light bites, but nothing particularly memorable. Don’t expect to have a good meal here…
If there’s enough time and you’d like to freshen up before going on to the island, there are even shower facilities you can make use of.
Leaving on a Seaplane (DHC-6 Twin Otter)
The lounge was rather empty while we were there, so we were rather surprised to hear the boarding announcement less than an hour after we’d arrived. Turns out, guests from different resorts often go onto the same plane – think of it like the matching that is done with GrabShare/uberPOOL.
So after a mass safety briefing (i.e. we watched safety videos on small TV screens), we proceeded to board our planes.
I don’t actually know that much about the world of seaplanes, so I’ll let this handy page from the in-flight magazine (yes, they had those) explain more about the DHC-6 Twin Otters:
The 19-seater is not the usual Milelion J or F experience. It’s actually pretty cramped and stuffy; if window seats are your thing, do your best to board early – couples might even want to split up and take the solo seats.
There’s no real barrier between the passengers and the cockpit, so you’re free to observe the instrument panel and what the pilots are doing, if you so desire.
I’m not sure if barefoot flying is the traditional Maldivian way to fly, but at least one of our pilots appeared to be an adherent of the practice.
All in all, the intimate setting within the small aircraft helped to focus our attention on the surroundings throughout take-off, the actual journey and landing (although this could simply be due to the lack of other options to distract ourselves with such as in-flight entertainment systems or free-flow champagne).
I won’t lie – it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience, but if it’s your first time on a seaplane, it’s probably a rather interesting one!
As it turned out, Conrad Maldives was the first stop on the journey, so about half an hour later we happily disembarked from the seaplane.
Everything is pretty much taken care of for you at this point – porters help to settle the luggage after you get off the plane.
We were then ushered to what I’ll just label, for lack of a better term, the arrival/departure hut, where there’s a small lounge as well.
Some guests got to go onto buggies; we were invited to follow our island host for a short walk to the main reception area instead – I’m guessing we could have waited for a buggy if we preferred, but given the backlog I think walking was definitely the faster option.
The whole reception area (and indeed, many of their indoor areas in general) was decked out in that whole island theme, with outdoor furniture (indoors!) and fine sand lining the floors.
After everything was settled, we were presented with the standard welcome letter listing out our benefits as an elite Hilton member (slightly different from what is listed on the website – we did get everything listed on the site, so I find it odd they don’t list them on the welcome letter as well).
…and from there, we proceeded to our room at last!
The Departure Journey
I won’t really go into this in much detail since it’s pretty much the same experience in reverse:
- Wait for seaplane at arrival/departure lounge
- Take seaplane back to MLE (possibly with stops along the way)
- No complimentary use of Conrad Lounge; consider Priority Pass option
- Vehicular transport back to MLE
In our case, we actually made it to MLE in the nick of time due to the rather late seaplane we had been put on. Not the most pleasant of experiences – I don’t know if it would actually have made a difference, but if you’re worried about making the connection I’d suggest being more proactive about asking about it!
Next up: Beach Villa vs. Water Villa
In the next post, I’ll review the actual accommodation (the Beach Villa and Water Villa that are available as standard award redemptions) and see what those Hilton points can get you. Stay tuned!
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