Walking on Water 9-28-2007

Romance and comfort can be found in the Maldives

By: Eleanor M. Wilson

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Forty cottages at the Anantara Maldives
Resort are on stilts over the water.
In the Maldives, a group of some 1,009 islands in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka, life is all about blending with the surrounding sea. At the recently opened Anantara Maldives Resort, the Maldivean architect and Thai designer took that idea to new levels.

The five-star property, on its own island, features 70 beachfront suites and 40 cottages on stilts over the water. “Streets” are sand paths, and the dress code is casual, but service and pampering are dedicated.

“Luxury has many levels,” said general manager Christopher Stafford. “We can’t create a resort to please every one of them, so we concentrate on giving our target market the best experience they can have.

“We cater to young couples who want romantic activities, and older travelers who have already done the tours. They want more relaxation, more comforts and lots of space.”

Both profiles are surely satisfied at Anantara Maldives Resort, a Virtuoso member.

Romantic suites consider guests’ comfort zones, adding to the usual amenities a desk, Internet connection, good lighting, plasma TV/DVD, armoire and signature Anantara products, plus a personal wine cabinet. Beachfront suites place the entire bathroom in a walled garden with vistas straight through from tub to sea.

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The Spa at Anantara Maldives Resort.
That floating feeling is most evident in overwater suites. The architecture dictates privacy even on your huge deck with lounge and sun bed. A lower dock with shower has a ladder for “backyard” dips or kayak parking. The windowed bathroom continues that watery effect, adding a whimsical viewing pane at your feet in front of the “throne” to watch fish nibbling at the coral.

Dining offers themed choices in waterside pavilions. Italian Terrazzo boasts a glass-enclosed wine room seating up to six diners. A fusion grill features a Maldivean smokehouse and open kitchen. Baan Huraa, the Maldives’ first Thai restaurant, sits on stilts alone in the sea, reached only by boat. Aqua Bar and Lounge, serving light fare, borders an infinity pool that goes fiberoptic at dusk as dancing lights match the starlit sky.

At The Spa, also over water, each of five couples’ treatment cottages have a foyer, shower, bathroom and dressing area. Here again is that floor window, strategically placed under your face below the massage table. Massages are also administered at the pool, in your suite or on the beach. A watersports hut offers all the usual sea activities and a unique dolphin safari. Land action includes tennis, volleyball, badminton, a fitness room, cooking classes and a library/Internet lounge. Most activities honor the water theme that defines the Maldives: whale watching, boat trips to Male (the capital), helicopter sightseeing or a luxury overnight in a tent on a private island.

Anantara’s romantic settings are inspirational. Every night at six, my cottage neighbors descended their ladder and waded hand-in-hand across the shallow lagoon toward the sunset. How romantic is that?

Couples can select a dream site, usually the beach, for Dinner by Design. The staff sets up tables and chairs, with flowers and torches surrounding the dining perimeter. At the appointed hour, champagne corks pop and romance comes alive for two happy people.

The Island Tour add-on has guests traveling by dhoni, small sailboat, to an island for snorkeling and a barbecue lunch; then on to visit a school and a fisherman’s family.

Unfortunately, none of these add-ons are commissionable unless included in one of the packages listed on the Web site, but clients will appreciate your suggestions.


Anantara Maldives Resort

Getting There: Singapore Airlines from New York or Los Angeles to Singapore, on to Male Airport and 40-minute speedboat transfer or seaplane charter.

Bangkok Airways from Bangkok on Mondays or Thursdays direct to Male. This makes an excellent route for a combo vacation exploring bustling Bangkok, followed by time at Anantara Maldives Resort.

Rates: Calculated in six seasonal categories: Deluxe Beachfront, $480-$940; Overwater Suite, $660-$1,350 per room, per night. There is a 10 percent service charge and an $8 per person, per night, government bed tax.

Commission: 10 percent