Trip Reports

Review: W Maldives arrivals and transfer experience

Most hotel transfers are boring and unmemorable. Not when you're in the Maldives.

The Mileymoon: Introduction
Singapore Airlines B787-10 Business Class SIN-DPS
St Regis Bali
Banyan Tree Ungasan Bali
JetQuay CIP Terminal Changi
Cathay Dragon A321 Business Class HAN-HKG
Cathay Pacific The Pier First Class Lounge HKG
Cathay Pacific B77W First Class HKG-SFO
Post Ranch Inn: History & Arrivals Experience
Post Ranch Inn: Tree House Room
Post Ranch Inn: Dining and Ranch Tour
Cathay Pacific Lounge SFO
Cathay Pacific B77W First Class SFO-HKG
Cathay Pacific The Wing First Class Lounge HKG
Cathay Dragon A330 Business Class HKG-HAN
Singapore Airlines A330 Business Class HAN-SIN
Planning a Maldives trip
W Maldives Transfer Experience
W Maldives Villa
W Maldives Dining
W Maldives Activities


In my previous post on Maldives planning, I mentioned that best option if you can’t get on a morning flight into the Maldives is to arrive as late as possible, so you can head straight to bed and fly to your resort the following morning.

We arrived in Singapore from Hanoi at around 5.30 p.m, which meant that SQ452 presented a very doable connection at 8.45p.m. At 10 p.m local time (the Maldives is 3 hours behind Singapore), we landed at Male airport, dead tired after four flights in 24 hours.

Fortunately, our hotel was only a ten minute drive from the airport. We had chosen The Vilu Rest Hotel for our less than 10 hour stay in Male. It’s a basic accommodation near the airport (you can also consider the UI Inn), and at S$87 a night, it didn’t need to be anything more than that.

Image result for vilu rest hotel

We were picked up at the arrivals area and driven to the hotel, where the front desk staff liaised with the W Maldives to find out our transfer times (seaplane schedules are only decided the evening before- talk about last minute). We were informed we’d be on the first flight out at 9.30 am the next morning.

What’s there to know about the Vilu Rest Hotel? The room was clean, the air con was cold, the bed was comfortable and the transfers were painless. Don’t waste your points booking a nicer hotel in Male- it’s purgatory en route to paradise.

Image result for vilu rest hotel

Now on to the fun stuff.

Transfer to W Maldives

We got up bright and early the next morning and waited for our transport back to the airport. At 8 a.m, we left the hotel in a shared van and dropped off right outside the international arrivals area.

The international arrivals area at Male airport is teeming with hotel transfer desks, unsurprising given that there are 135 resorts scattered across the islands. It’s a little bit of a hunt to find the one you need, but in case you were wondering the W Maldives is located in Zone D, at counter 28.

The counter staff checked our names off a list and asked us to wait a little while. When everyone had arrived, we were taken as a group to the Maldivian seaplane counter where our bags were weighed and tagged.

By right, check-in baggage allowances are 20kg with a further 5kg for hand luggage, but in reality it wasn’t really enforced. Passengers who were at 23, 24 kg weren’t asked to pay excess baggage charges.

We were given some very nondescript boarding passes. Although I normally get excited seeing 1C and 2A on my boarding pass, it doesn’t mean all that much here (as you’ll see when we board the aircraft). Don’t get worried if your assigned seat isn’t close to your companion- in reality, seating on the seaplane is first come first serve.

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Our seaplane transfer to the W Maldives cost US$475 per person, inclusive of 12% GST. This has since been increased to US$505 per person. I know it’s the Maldives, but I found it incredible that it cost more to get to the resort than to the country…

Male airport has three different terminals- domestic, international and seaplane. The domestic and international terminals are connected, but the seaplane terminal requires a short drive. After everyone was checked in, a W Maldives bus pulled up to the driveway.

Most resorts use a bus to transfer passengers to the seaplane terminal, but there are certain exclusive properties that wouldn’t dream of subjecting their guests to such barbarity. The St Regis Maldives, for example, offers private Bentley transfers.

In any case, the ride to the seaplane terminal takes a grand total of five minutes, so don’t feel like you’re missing out.

W Maldives Lounge

The bus dropped us off at the seaplane terminal, which has an air-conditioned interior that looks out to a “tarmac” full of seaplanes. There’s a public area for waiting, but almost all the top resorts will operate their own lounges.

Photo credit: Joe Nazarian

The W Maldives has a cozy lounge that takes maybe 20 people at most. Size isn’t that big a concern, given that the seaplane holds 15 passengers. I noticed they even brought along the iconic W Hotel “Good Morning” mats (which get swapped out for “Good Afternoon” and “Good Evening” at appropriate times) to adorn the exterior.

The interior of the lounge don’t exactly scream “sophisticated luxury”, but I suppose you could say the color scheme helps build the tropical resort feel. You won’t spend more than an hour here, so it’s more like a private holding pen than a place that needs to offer every conceivable creature comfort.

The lounge offered a small selection of light snacks, but no hot items. Think cereals, fruit, pastries, pre-packaged tidbits and cakes. Given the W’s hip branding, I thought this might have been an opportunity to differentiate themselves through a more eclectic selection (avocado toast, anyone?), but this was pretty standard issue fare.

A small selection of non-alcoholic drinks are available. I don’t think the seaplane lounges are allowed to serve alcohol, given they’re on Maldavian territory. Resorts can, and you’ll find alcohol in the departures lounge of the international terminal, but it’s otherwise a dry country.

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The lounge has a bathroom of its own, with bliss body products. They didn’t have a shower (which the St Regis does).

The staff made full use of the time in the lounge to complete the check-in formalities so that guests could be shuttled to their rooms/rest areas as soon as they arrive.

Copies of your passport are taken, deposits are swiped on your card and a guest services representative goes through the key policies of the resort. You’re also asked whether you’d like to make any dining or activity reservations (more on that in a future post)

For the W Maldives, key policies were:

  • No drones allowed
  • Feeding and touching of marine life are strictly prohibited, as is fishing
  • Smoking inside the room attracts a US$200 fine (I felt she emphasized this particularly strongly with us because we looked Chinese, but that might be me being hypersensitive)
  • The standard check-in/out time is 1400 and 1200 respectively

Seaplane

About 15 minutes before our flight was set to depart, we were escorted down a floating platform to a row of seaplanes. It was an incredibly hot day, and I quickly learned the Maldavian sun is a different kind of beast. Everyone hustled quickly to our seaplane at the end of the pier.

I’ve flown on every kind of jet you can think of- widebodies, narrowbodies, Airbus, Boeing, jets, turboprops, but I’ve never experienced a seaplane before. Needless to say, I was really excited.

The captain was standing at the door to greet every passenger. Despite the bobbing, it’s fairly easy to step onboard the aircraft. Even if you don’t have the surest of footing, the crew are ready to give you a helping hand.

These seaplanes are probably the least luxurious thing you’ll experience during your whole time in the Maldives. The cabin isn’t pressurized, which means no air conditioning. Ventilation is provided by two small fans at the front (so sit upfront if you want some air). Seats are arranged in a 1-2 configuration, and there’s no recline or extra legroom rows to speak of.

The best thing about the seaplane is that there’s a direct view into the cockpit. There’s no post 9/11 steel reinforced doors here, and you can see the pilots fly the plane (shoeless), fiddle with the GPS and fill out paperwork, often all at the same time.

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A quick safety briefing was conducted before takeoff, but it was done at such a fast pace I don’t remember head or tail of it. For what it’s worth, here’s the safety card.

The first part of the journey was like being on a boat. The seaplane taxied out of its assigned spot, towards a demarcated patch of sea that serves as the runway.

Then the engines spooled up to full power, and we hurtled across the water before lifting off gently.

Once the seaplane climbs, you’re treated to some pretty spectacular views of the surrounding atolls. The seaplane cabin is loud (you’re issued earplugs), so it’s not like you can have a conversation with your seatmate anyway. Inflight entertainment? Stare out the window.

The flight took just under 40 minutes, and we touched down as smooth as we had taken off. Because we arrived at the W Maldives in the early morning, we didn’t land at the resort but rather at a floating platform a little further offshore (I imagine this is to avoid waking the guests, which is a thoughtful gesture).

A W speedboat then came to fetch us.

Our luggage was transferred into the boat and we took a 2-minute ride to the main landing dock, where the staff were lined up to say hello.

And so began our experience at the W Maldives- a place quite unlike any other in the world…


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LuckyMilo
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LuckyMilo

Did you use points to redeem for the stay?

Ken k
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Ken k

Oh the w waiting lounge at the sea plane terminal looks downgraded compared to when I was there 2 years ago!
Was a lot more W then …. hmmmm

Sy
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Sy

Great sharing post to the Maldives !

Lady G
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Lady G

Recently experienced an ancient turboprop plane (not seaplane though) when visiting the Bahamas. It was a Beechcraft C99, with a full view of the cockpit and super tinted windows (with Flamingo Air), this didn’t diminish views of the gorgeous turquoise waters, a very cool experience and one I’m sure you’ll enjoy too! 🙂 #loveplanes