Vilamendhoo Resort – Paradise Found

As I mentioned at the start of our Dubai post, deciding on a destination for this trip was a painstakingly long effort, one that we didn’t finalize until early April. Once we decided on the Maldives, narrowing down our resort selection took a while too, with Jen spending a decent amount of time talking to various vendors. Our goals we simple, we wanted and over water bungalow at a resort that offered an all-inclusive package and the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. That’s not too much to ask for, right ;-)?

Being focused on the first two requirements, we narrowed our choices down to Kuredu and Conrad, but the Conrad didn’t offer all-inclusive packages. One down. Contacting Kuredu, she was informed that they didn’t have whale shark excursions, recommending instead that we look at one of their sister resorts, Vilamendhoo, as they were closer to the area whale sharks frequent. In talking to them, we learned that in addition to offering an all-inclusive plan, they offered excursions throughout the week that would give us the chance to see and swim with whale sharks, among other sea life. After a little research on our own, with fairly glowing reviews, we booked! This post will cover the resort arrival, facilities, activities, and rooms we stayed in. You may want to keep their site map open in another window as a reference, it definitely helps put things in context:

https://www.vilamendhoo.com/overview-map

Here’s a shot I took of the map, too:

20180602_100021115_iOS

Getting to Vilamendhoo from Malé, as with many of the resorts in Maldives, means taking a short floatplane ride, in our case around 30 minutes. We were pretty excited about this, it was the first time any of us had flown in one. One caveat going in, your checked and carry-on luggage is limited to lighter weights than a typical plane ride, with the one checked bag each person is allowed being limited to 44lbs and the carry-on no more than 11lbs. Anything over that incurred a fee before you could get your ticket for the float plane. We knew this ahead of time, and with my suitcase and carry on both exceeding those, were prepared when they told us we’d be assessed a $40(USD) fee based on that overage. That’s a one-time fee that covered both directions, as well. We paid that and then were shuttled over to Vilamendhoo’s private lounge near the float plane terminal. We had around a half an hour before boarding, so we relaxed, grabbed some free sodas and got mentally prepared for what was to come.

Once the plane was ready, we headed out to the docks and hopped on the plane. There were two other couples on our flight, so the plane was pretty empty, not that it seats a huge number of people. The ride over was pretty smooth, and gave us some amazing views of the area, as you’ll see in the video linked below. After you land, the plane pulls up to a small floating dock just off the island. We all exited the plane and boarded the boat that was waiting to take us and out luggage (that the resort was fully handling for us) to paradise. We were obviously incredibly excited at this point. Frankly, I don’t know that I’ve ever looked forward to a destination this much before, so I had really high expectations going in. On the ride over, one of the Vilamendhoo staff members welcomed us gave us the rundown on how the check in process would work once we docked.

As soon as the boat hit the dock, we all disembarked and were led to the main guest services building, where they sat us all in different sections of the room. We were then greeted by the guest services staff, given what can only be described as an amazingly delicious fruity drink, and walked through the check-in process.

It was relatively painless, and after a few minutes we were headed out as another staff member led us to the jacuzzi water villa we’d be staying in the first half of our stay. Having booked so late, the over-the-water rooms were only available the first four nights, having already been fully booked during the last four nights of our stay. This meant that we’d have to change rooms, but we’ll get to that later. For now, on to the room! I put together a video showing our journey from Malé to Vilamendhoo, which ends with a walk-through of jacuzzi water villa 318, our home the first four nights. I know it’s a bit long, but I wanted to be sure and capture as much of the experience as possible. That floatplane ride was amazing, something I’ll never forget.

As you saw in the walk-through at the end of the video, it’s a good-sized room situated over the beautiful blue water of the resort. The mini-bar includes a number of sodas, water, wine and beer that are included with the All Inclusive Plus package we were on. Just take your drink, note it on the little sheet above the fridge, and the item gets refilled the next time housekeeping comes. The snacks above the mini-bar are not included, however. The couch was converted into a 3rd bed for Bayley to sleep in, and I’d say we had plenty of room for all of us, including storage space.

The real star of these rooms is obviously the balcony. Sitting over the beautiful lagoon waters, you can lay in one of the two loungers, sit in one of the chairs, or head down the stairs right into the warm waters of Vilamendhoo’s lagoon. We loved every minute of our time in this room, as it’s one of the coolest places we’ve ever stayed, right on par with our night in the Kirkenes Snowhotel in Norway last year. I’ll add that in addition to my walk-through, be sure to check out Vilamendhoo’s video tour of this room type, it was spot on. You don’t always see a company accurately represent a room in a walk-through, but this one hits the mark. In addition to the videos, here’s a 360 shot of the room and the view from the balcony. Once you’re done looking around, move on to page 2, where we look at the Jacuzzi Beach Villa we spent the second half of our stay in!


Sailing With Disney – Fun on Castaway Cay!

Read up on our time on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island!

This stop is one of the reasons we really wanted to sail Disney. Beyond the tales of outstanding service, excellent entertainment, and delicious food, everyone raves about Disney’s private island. Finally getting the chance to set foot on the island was something we were very much looking forward to!

Before getting off the ship however, we needed to get our breakfast on, so we (finally!) headed to the buffet. They have a very solid spread, and I can honestly say that everything I had was tasty. This was also the one time I got those famous Mickey waffles on the sailing:

Following breakfast, we headed off the ship. Again, a fairly quick debark, and once outside we took advantage of the bug repellent they provide, and grabbed towels from the table:

Our next stop is the one thing that really makes your realize you’re in Disney’s hands: the tram. Of course there’s a tram on a Disney property! We rode the tram from the dock over to the family beach area, where we grabbed a second tram to the adults only beach, named Serenity Bay. Being one of the first to arrive, we grabbed two hammocks under palm trees. As far as I could tell, these were the only ones that had any shade all day (even though it only lasted until ~noon), so if you happen to get there early and want shaded hammocks, grab the first ones you see on the right as you walk on to the beach. Here’s a 360 degree look at our serenity 🙂

Serenity Bay beach was pretty quiet all day, and the water was just about perfect. In the first hour we were there, a Disney film crew was at the waterline just in front of us doing some filming for what I think is some contest just based on some of the lines we overheard. No idea what contest, but they were filming all week. I’d also seen the female lead and the kid filming some family shots at the sail away party, and would also see them on deck the following day. Whatever it was, that crew must have been hot out there.

The morning was pretty much just a combination of us relaxing in the hammocks and chairs, along with some to cool off. Just after 11am, we started to catch the scent of meat coming from Serenity Bay’s BBQ stand. By the time it opened at 11:30, we were already there, and were some of the first people to enjoy the food. Our lunch spot never got all that busy, as I imagine most people were over on the family beach, so that’d be one tip for Castaway Cay, if you don’t want to wait in the lunch lines on the family side, and can get away from the kids, Serenity Bay’s lines may be worth the trip! The food was pretty good, and consisted of things like BBQ chicken, hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, and steak. I had a burger and brat, and enjoyed both. I may also have made my own little ice cream cookie sandwich :). They have a full topping bar as well, along with soda machines for drinks, along with a small dessert table. One word of warning: the seagulls that hold residence on the island know what’s up. If you leave your plate alone on a table for any reason, be rest assured that at least one of them will be stealing food from you, we saw it happen more than once!

After lunch, we made our way over to the family side to do some snorkeling. Once over there, we saw the water slides on the Pelican Plunge platform and just had to try them. Yea, that turned out to be a bad choice for me. Of the two water slides available, I chose the faster, fully enclosed one. Not realizing how fast it was, and being focused on my GoPro shutting off right as I started down it, I hit the water in a way that resulted in my taking a lot of it up my nose. I was done with those slides :).

After the slide failure, I headed over to the snorkeling area ahead of the girls. We’d brought our own gear, so I put mine on and headed out. It was probably the effect of taking all that water up my nose, but their snorkeling area really didn’t impress me. You have to swim out a ways against the current, so by the time I got to an area where the water was clear, I was a bit tired. Swimming around, I did spot some fish among the relics they’d put on the bottom, along with a turtle trying to avoid some of the kids following it, but all in all, I didn’t really find the swim worth the effort. Being a man-made snorkeling area, not too surprising.

The swim out and back really drained me, so I decided to head back to Serenity Bay for a bit to relax. On arrival, I only hung out for a few minutes before packing up my stuff and catching the tram back to the family side. At this point, I figured I’d walk from the family beach back to the ship to get an idea of what all there was to see and do on Castaway Cay. While it was a hot and humid walk, it was well worth it. The family side does have a lot to offer, as covered in the “Things to Do” section here. I spent a little time walking around the rental area, a little sad we hadn’t come over to rent something, or even signed up for the jetski excursion. Oh well, next time, right? Regardless, walking back was a solid decision that supplied me with some great views of the island, as well as the ship, as you’ll see in the pictures below. On arrival at the ship, it was nice to see a stand with cold water available as well (shown in the last picture below), something not all lines do. You could choose between fruit-infused water, or non-flavored water.

That about covers it for our time on Castaway Cay. We really enjoyed the island, especially the relaxing beach of Serenity Bay, and hope to sail there again in the not too distant future! This is definitely a selling point of a Disney cruise, as it’s one of the best private islands we’ve visited in our travels!

Next up, pirate night aboard the Dream! For now, check out some of my pictures of the island!

 

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