Luxury Hotels

Look out for LUX* North Male, opening 1st February 2019

Global phone box, a LUX* standard

On February 1st, 2019, LUX* North Male opens: the week before, on January 26th, over 30 global media and self-styled influencers will be hosted for a preview of this luxury resort. But, you’ve guessed, the gal has already been. The instant report is that for those who are drawn to the white-blue chiaroscuro of Mykonos or Santorini, or the vibe of Miami Beach, this is just the perfect luxury resort here in the Maldives.  Apparently the three owners, all first-time hoteliers, are already thrilled: they did trials over Christmas, though they could not use LUX*’s signature London red telephone box to Call A Friend, back home in Moscow or wherever, as the instrument had not arrived.

John Rogers

GM John Rogers moved to this 67-villa resort four months ago.  I have seen him run the oh-so-English Tresanton, and La Residencia on Mallorca, and Carlyle Bay on Antigua, and the first difference he notices in the Maldives is that all staff have to be housed.  For Maldivians, this is not an issue – because of the extended layout of the islands, about 823 km from north to south – everyone is brought up knowing they will have to travel. During my days in The Maldives I spoke to many hotel staff about how they save up their time off and then fly to their home island for a good stay.

Morning yoga spot – spa rooftop

LUX* always has a reputation for cool design, cool fun and such signatures as the phone boxes, and sensational ice creams, all day long. Here, at North Atoll, ICI has really enticing selections of flavours, all made here.  Since all the 67 villas not only have private pools, at ground level, but flat rooftop decks above the main buildings (smallest interior size 110 sq m), I can easily imagine guests here having a swim and then retreating up to their rooftop to lie under a canopy and enjoy a couple of scoops of mango ice cream.  Main restaurants, by the way, will feature ceviche tastings, and healthy all-day dining in GLOW.  There is also, as in all LUX* properties, on-site coffee roasting, and here the Café LUX* coffee shop is upper-level, above what could be called ‘reception’, although LUX* was one of the first companies to realise that that function, as such, is now as dead as a dodo.

Farewell time

John Rogers and I had a great lunch, outdoors at Beach Rouge – simple fresh fish and salad– and then espresso, for me, and capuccino, for him, up in Café LUX*, looking out across its outside deck and down to the resort’s jetty (it is a great advantage for any Maldives resort to have a jetty so that arriving and departing is direct plane-to-land rather than having to travel via an offshore pontoon).  My plane arrived, and I had to leave.  Next time I will be able to stay, and having morning yoga on an upper deck above the LUX* Me Spa’s welcome house, and perhaps try a Shirley Page aromatherapy treatment, and enjoy learning, later, about the night sky with Steve Owens, visiting the resort’s art studio, and perhaps taking a trip to a nearby local island, to meet Kashidoo villagers… yes, there is plenty to look forward to at this white-and-bright luxury resort. SEE THE ROOFTOP AND INTERIOR, VILLA 20

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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – celebrating the luxury party of the week (or perhaps the decade)

HRH Princess Maria-Thérèse of Bourbon-Palma, flanked by Nver and Elena Mkhitaryan

It was party time in Dubai on Wednesday January 16th and you will be able to read about it at length, here on Girlahead.  But here is a sneak preview.  Nver Mkhitaryan hosted a function for a few close friends to celebrate the opening of his first hotel, Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai, on Dubai’s iconic Palm.  Now, as Girlahead says, again and again, luxury is doing things well, and with style, and this hotel sure knows how to do that.

The Champagne was Dom Pérignon 2009, the caviar was Prunier, the entertainment was the best that the Ukraine has exported to such world stages as the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre  – here, in the form of Kiev-born global tenor Vladimir Grishko.  The evening culminated in cutting a two-metre-long cake fashioned in the form of the 390-room uber-luxury palace hotel, and then there were fireworks, officially only five minutes but in that glorious and memorable setting they seemed delightfully to go on forever, says the gal. That was true luxury.




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Luxury Hotels

The wonderful Velaa Private Island

Michal Smejc

Velaa Private Island has the advantage among the many luxury resorts in the Maldives of having a top-tier brand awareness on a par with, say, Las Ventanas and Nihi Sumba. But, unlike those two other resorts, Velaa is truly independent, with no affiliation to Rosewood or Leading.  And, says its GM Michal Smejc – a highly experienced international banker who knew nothing about hotels when he took over – he does not need consortia or associations. The 47-room resort can, and does, fill its villas by itself. It achieves 60% repeat visitors, has a long waitlist for the festive season, when a 12-night minimum is required.  And, says the gal, its average room rate hovers around US$3,000, everything extra.

Coral transplants

How does it achieve this?  Michal Smejc’s highly successful eldest brother bought the island, 500 by 500 metres and formerly two big watermelon farms.  It would be his own retreat, and he put in all his great passions, gorgeous Rousseau-type undergrowth with flowers – rare in the Maldives – covered squash and tennis courts, nine-hole real-grass golf designed by José Maria Olazábal, and so on.  Smejc senior realised, with his own professional activities requiring constant global travel, he might as well share his island, so he added beach villas, and over-water villas (see a video of villa 25, below), and a standalone one-bedroom Romantic Villa, reached only by boat.  The resort’s boats and marine activities must surely be the best in the Maldives – see another video of some of its water toys, chosen by the owner’s three teenage sons. There is also a marine biology station, highly impressive, which is so far transplanting over 3,000 coral nuggets, many sponsored by resort guests who receive regular underwater photos of how their ‘orphan’ is growing.

Looking up at the wine tower

To show yet another of the owner’s passions, just look at Velaa’s Tavaru wine tower, 22 metres tall and reached by an exterior elevator. At the top, as a video shows, you have a 360-degree tour of the island.  Come down a floor to a 14-seat teppanyaki restaurant. Below you have wine storage and, at ground level, a ten-seat wine cellar restaurant.  Dine there surrounded by such treasures as Screaming Eagle, still in boxes, and standing bottles of Ch Phélan Ségur 2005 St-Estèphe. Look at the wine list there and prepare to faint, or go to heaven, your choice: pride of place is Romanée-Conti Grand Cru Monopole 1978, US$52,995.  You can dine at a slightly more understandable rate: at our overwater dinner in Aragu (‘essence’), the dinner-only gourmet restaurant with superb live pianist, we drank Blagny Premier Cru Sous le Dos d’Ane Dme Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1991. The two butters were Bordier.  I could have had Gillardeau oysters and Gourmet House Caviar but went instead for two pointillist plates, first bites of Japanese bluefin tartare and then Japanese Saga A5 tenderloin.

Another wonder day dawns

And at breakfast the brands include Dorset Cereals and Echiré – no brand for this luxury resort, per se, but every item within it is the best. Bathroom toiletries are big-size Clarins, labelled for the hotel, and the magnificent spa is Clarins MyBlend: spend time here not only for over-water treatments but for the cantilevered hot tub, and, not open to the water for obvious reasons, the room filled with snow. Come to think of it, there really is nothing missing here. Want a climbing wall?  Yes, sir. Want a kids’ club that youngsters really like?  This one was partly designed by the owner’s daughter, then aged five.  Want superb and happy staff? Well, says Michal Smejc, this is his mantra.  Look after the team and they look after customers, even from the first arrival (see the photo above). Everyone says that but here, I must say, it really works.  But, he stresses again, this is not a resort, it really is a private island that happens to invite you to stay. NOW SHARE A BUGGY-RIDE TO THE VILLA, AND TOUR VILLA 25, SEE THE WINE TOWER, AND GASP IN AWE AT WATER-TOYS-FOR-BOYS




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