Just got back from Vilamendhoo, which we chose predominantly based on the reports posted on this and other forums.
Let me first say that we're regular visitors to the Maldives, trying different islands each year, so our assessment is based on what we've experienced in the past and have come to expect as the standard level of service.
Vilamendhoo has an excellent house reef that will suit both experienced divers and the occasional snorkeller. Whilst there is a mild current off the reef, numerous exit points mean that this is not an issue. The sea life varies from the usual small tropical fish, to turtles, stingrays, reef sharks and some larger than life beasties that pop up from time to time.
Our original room was based on the north east side of the island (room 35) but we had this changed straight away to room 114 on the south west of the island (more of the reason for the swap later).
The beach from rooms 113 down to 118 is really nice, soft white powdery sand, chrystal clear shallow lagoon, lush green vegitation etc, just what you expect in the maldives.
The beach from room 119 to 141 is also OK, but very narrow and you'll be sharing your sunbed area with your neighbours on top of you. The reef is only a matter of yards away from the beach so you get easy access. Same goes for rooms 01 to 28. All of the above on the south side of the island.
The beach in front of the sunset bar is great, but this isn't directly served by any rooms and you'd have to get your 112lb sunbeds moved. Rooms 112 to 81 also have a nice beach but again it's very narrow and you'll be sharing.
This leaves rooms 33 to 80 which look out over ugly concrete walls, rather than any form of beach, onto sharp slippery rocks. Hardly the Maldive dream and the reason we immediately requested a room change as did everyone else who we spoke to who'd been put in these.
The standard rooms are in the middle of the island and most people seemed to opt for an upgrade to superior on arrival.
All of the rooms are looking a little tired as there has been no renewal investment for the last four years as a result over disputed ownership of the island. This has now been resolved and we saw work going on to improve some of them whilst we were there. The superior rooms have an outside bathroom, so make sure you take your bug spray with you. The delux rooms, which we stayed in, were slightly larger, with a separate seating area and inside bathroom.
The island was being surveyed whist we were there so we took the opportunity to chat to the surveyors. It transpired that the new owner intends to upgrade all of the room facilities, add a child freindly area a pool and a spa together with building water bungalows in the lagoon. The surveyors indicated this work would commence in August, with a quarter of the island being closed off at a time. Be warned.
The trips out are good value for money and if you're All Inclusive they throw two of these in with the cost of your holiday. Make sure you go on the Beach BBQ it's great, but take loads of sun protection as the island you visit has virtually no shade. It's also worth mentioning that it has no loo either and you're out from 10.00 till 16.00 :o)
We're not divers but those that were raved about the dive school and dives they went on. So it's a thumbs up for that aspect of any holiday.
Turning to the food, this was a real dissapointment. The selection was fairly limited and was all too often either cold or at best tepid. The meals were prepared ages in advance and the buffet was put out long before the restaurant opened. Even food straight from the kitchen was cold. It was a shame as the quality was generally very good. The standard of service from the waiters was excellent.
The bar staff were very attentive until about 11.00 in the evening after which they made it clear that they wanted everyone in bed. The AI drinks seemed watered down and most people were of the same opinion.
Cleanliness was hit and miss. Some people raved about their room boy, othere unfortunately mentioned that theirs did the bare minimum until the last night when they wanted a tip.
To summarise: We had a really good holiday, but it wasn't great and we won't be booking a return visit.
All maldivian islands are pretty, the sun shines, the sea is clear and warm and you can overlook a tired room, but attention to detail and the level of service are what makes a maldivian holiday special. These latter two details were sadly lacking.