As our Airbus321 touched down at the Velana International Airport in Malé, one of the first sights to welcome me was that of a coy Maldivian woman, head carefully covered in hijab, strutting down the runway with a striking self-assurance. The young airport staff member was among the many Maldivian youths who are trying to carve a new identity for themselves in a country facing a deep political crisis. The simmering unrest in the capital, however, belies the opulent life at the many glamorous resorts of the archipelago.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, my base for the next three nights, is located on a private island in Dhaalu Atoll. Launched in 2016, the resort has quickly gained a reputation for pampering guests silly with its premium butler service. I couldn’t agree more. The Limousine ride to the St. Regis airport lounge (where we boarded our seaplane to the resort) set the tone for the holiday, where all you’re required to do is sit back and savour the laid-back island life. For the sheer love of lounging on a hammock over the ocean and watching a sky full of stars, I chose the Overwater Villa. One must, however, check out the resort’s (and also the Maldives’) biggest villa, the John Jacob Astor Estate. Spread over a whopping 1,522 square metres, the villa comes with an Olympic-size infinity pool, theatre room, massage area, bedrooms with walk-in closets, private gym, whirlpool jacuzzi on the terrace, etc.
“The villa is an ode to the glamorous lives of St. Regis Founder John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Caroline Astor, who were among the first socialites in the Glided Age New York and shared a love for hosting the biggest parties in their mansion on the Fifth Avenue,” General Manager Alexander Blair told me. “Caroline Astor was the queen of the New York society. She set a new benchmark with the List of 400 for the famous ball in 1892 (the guestlist was published in the New York Times!).” Her guests were the crème-de-la-crème of New York and were reverently called the luminaries. The resort carries forward this tradition of treating each of its guests as royalty. From a welcome bottle of champagne to monogramming initials on their private bike—meticulous attention to detail makes each guest feel special. And every once in a while, you come back to a surprise candle-lit bubble bath prepared at your villa while you were away.
My personal butler, Saddam, had a bigger surprise for me. He gave me access to the “most expensive room at the resort.” “It even beats the John Jacob Astor Estate,” I was told. As we walked down a narrow stairway behind the bar at the restaurant Alba, a sudden chill enveloped the air. We were at the Decanter—an underground wine cellar that houses 2,600 exquisite labels from over 26 countries, including the oldest bottle of wine in the Indian Ocean region, Sercia 1755 Porto, worth over `24 lakhs. But it was the exquisite dinner table at the centre that drew my attention. One of the most glamorous dining spaces I’ve come across, the place deserves a special mention for nailing an uber-luxe vibe.
At St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, you check in to a world of luxury, where every experience is carefully curated. On the last day of my stay, I walked up to the resort’s private Orientale beach to catch the sunrise, but was instead greeted by the sight of seaplanes preparing for the day’s first flight. As the engines roared to life, guests scurried to the pier to pose against the rising sun one last time before they flew back to the mainland, taking with them memories for a lifetime.
GETTING THERE: Direct flights are available between New Delhi and Malé. A 40-minute seaplane ride takes you to the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.
STAY: The resort offers a range of private villas—Garden Villa, Overwater Villa, Beach Villa, Family Villa, Caroline Astor Estate, and John Jacob Astor Estate. Starts from Rs 1,50,000
1. Save an evening for a sunset cruise on the resort’s luxury yacht, Norma, available for bookings by the hour. Starts from `1,45,000 per hour
2. While Whale Bar offers the best sunset views, the all-day diner Alba offers exquisite Italian dishes in a charming setting. Other dining destinations include Crust, Cargo, and Orientale.
3. Allow an experienced Ayurveda practitioner to evaluate your body type—vatta, pita, and kapha— and custom-design a treatment at the Iridium Spa.
4. The resort lays special focus on families travelling with kids. The recreational area at Vommuli House goes beyond the library to teach local handicrafts to children.