I’ve been snorkeling in Great Barrier Reef, Thailand, and California. When choosing a resort, I was looking for the best snorkeling possible (unbleached corals), good food, water villa, and a medium-sized island so that we wouldn’t get bored after 5 days. Robinson Club surpassed all these requirements. This is a close-to-five star hotel at four star rates.
Snorkelling: The coral is unbleached. Apparently there was a bleaching event in the 90’s (?) that bleached a lot of the coral in Maldives. RC escaped this bleaching event because it is further south. We saw orange fan coral the size of my body, huge coral shaped in flowers -- it was like walking in a botanical garden with the myriad of hues. The colorful coral made the extra domestic flight well worth it. RC is rich in both flora and fauna. Fish were everywhere – 50-100 different species at least, you could just stand at the arrival jetty and see 5 sharks cruising among huge pools of fish. Besides the many reef sharks we saw, we also saw a couple of turtles and a manta ray hung out under our water villa. We also tried night snorkeling. There wasn’t much to see, but you did see a couple of things you don’t see during the day like lobster and rock fish. You see 95% of the fish during the day, night snorkeling is if you want to see a couple of new things. It’s also a different experience, a little bit spooky. Our guide did a good job of making sure we were safe.
Food: Eating is our hobby and we’ve dined in many high-end restaurants around the world (see my other reviews). We usually avoid buffets because we overeat and half of the food is inedible. Not so at Robinson Club. They had theme nights but you could count on wood-fired pizza at lunch or homemade pasta for lunch or dinner. There was always grilled fresh fish available and 10 desserts to choose from. We definitely overate, because everything tasted so good. The waiters were really generous topping up our wine glasses too – at dinner they gave you the whole wine bottle.
The staff was very flexible with food and drinks. Lunch officially ended at 2:30, but the staff was really nice where they’d still serve you a drink if it was after 2:30. My partner asked for fresh pasta specially made for him and the staff was happy to do so. Also, when you asked for wine, you’d get the whole bottle. The red wine was the equivalent of a $5 bottle from Trader Joe’s (easy to drink, but not memorable.) We liked the white and the rose much better.
It’s all-inclusive for breakfast/lunch/dinner, but if you want to go to the bar for drink, a beer is reasonably priced at $6.50, so they don’t try to gouge you. I liked that about Robinson Club, the food outside of meal hours is very reasonably priced, even the room-service. So if you want a beer at the pool bar or beach bar, it’s no big deal and you don’t have to worry about a large bill at the end of the stay.
Water Villa: We stayed in the water villa and a beach villa for a late checkout (which is $150 extra). The water villa is magical – we had the luck of spotting sharks and a manta ray through our glass floor. At low tide you can just wander down the steps into waist-high water, and it’s like standing in a massive aquarium. It’s a priceless experience –if your budget can manage it, try it for at least a couple of nights. The beach villa had a Jacuzzi bath which was fun. For the meals and service that you get, the garden villa is great value; while the water villa a worthy splurge.
Medium-size island: We easily get bored and this island was perfect for us in that there were optional activities such as yoga class, pool exercise, kayaking ($15/hour). There was also a pool party that was a lot of fun – free-flowing champagne and cocktail shrimp. There was also music some nights—our most romantic night was to dance under the stars with a guitarist strumming some light tunes. All of this is entirely optional, if you want to stay alone in your room and enjoy solitude that’s fine too. But everything was such a special experience that my SO who usually spends time in front of his laptop would ask about the schedule as to not miss anything.
Hospitality: Every step of the way, from when we landed in Male to when we left, the staff endeavored to make us feel welcome and special. Stepping off the ferry onto the island was magical; they had music playing, hors d’evours and sparkling wine to greet us. There was good attention to detail: we were given a hand-signed welcome greeting from the top management of the island. We were also lucked out getting an upgrade. In general, the staff try to give the best rooms possible. For example, our late checkout they were going to give us a garden villa, but did some double checking and rescheduling to give us a beach villa. It’s just one example of the little details and staff doing their best for guests.
The staff always smile, make eye contact and say hello, from the manager to the gardener or the guy running around with a bucket of tools. More importantly, everyone seems to have a genuine warmth when they greet you; this goes a long way to make you feel truly welcome. This is a staff training detail that we had only encountered in five-star hotels, like the Peninsula or the Four Seasons.
It’s hard to feel comfortable if the staff doesn’t feel comfortable. So, it was nice that the staff has a feel of a big happy family. The management has done a good job of making their staff happy to work at RC, and as a result, the staff do their best to make you happy. Part of this may be due to the fact that every staff member has to pitch in with all the “chores”; apparently all the staff works two days in the kitchen, in addition to their regular duties, to help serve and prepare food. They also get one day off per week, when they can enjoy the resort’s amenities, and it seems that most employees, including the local staff, get a couple days a year to stay as a guest on the island as well. It’s great to see the staff openly enjoying the same food that the guests eat; we couldn’t figure out the rotation but did notice that every day different staff members were eating at the buffet, and quite often they would sit down with guests and have a chat with them during meal times.
When it comes time to party, the staff are also invited to the party – in fact, they get the party started (that’s probably one of their duties). We had a pool party, and the staff were in the pool with everyone else, and during a dance party it was nice that the staff was there to help get the dance floor “primed”, because it’s always awkward to be the first person jumping onto the dance floor.
The wait staff is attentive, and they remember you. As we dined through the week, the staff began to remember our preferences for wine, beer, drinks, where to sit, and so forth. They remember where we’re from, and small talk from the previous night continues to the next. It was very nice to have service where you were treated like a person. Even though there is really only one or two food options on the island, it never felt like we “had” to go eat; meal time was always a time we looked forward to.
We went the first week of August to enjoy low season prices and were glad that we did. Weather – four days of clear skies and calm water. There were also two days slightly overcast with small waves that don’t affect visibility or your ability to snorkel because there’s so much to see. Occasional rain /thunder at night when you sleep, no biggie.
Tipping is not expected on this island. We would some times give $1 for a waiter/waitress for exceptional service, and they were very appreciative. More importantly, they weren’t treating you well because they wanted a tip, the service was exemplary because the staff wanted the hotel guests to be happy.
I was itchy on the island. I don’t know if it was reaction to the coral or mosquitoes (I never saw any). But bring bug spray and something to apply to relieve itchiness if you are bit. You will certainly need it for the domestic airport where there’s a bit of waiting.
Now the touchy subject of people who frequent the island. I am Asian myself but after sitting in an airport lounge myself with loud raucous Chinese groups for 3 hours waiting for my domestic flight, I can see why this is important to people – it can ruin a vacation. Thankfully, this wasn’t a problem at Robinson Club. I heard German and French being spoken, and about 30% Asian. Everyone speaks English, but the staff are really pleased if you speak a word or two of German to them. Now Asians is a very broad term and it may be hard to distinguish what country people are from. Some tourists from China can be very loud and disrupt the tranquility of the island. But there are different classes within China, and don’t forget the Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, etc. who are really polite. Because of what Robinson Club has to offer (focus on snorkeling, no karaoke, German crowd), there seemed to be very few loud tourists from mainland China. There would be a couple from Japan, Korea, and we’re from Singapore, and a few nice families from China.
Now for some facts/prices if you’ve made it this far:
The Internet is free but slow. Good for checking email, but that’s it. Better to buy a SIM card for your unlocked phone when you arrive at Male airport (it’s to the right as you exit the airport.). The SIM card is only $18 with unlimited data. Speed is about 1 Mbps sustained, with bursts of higher speed. We had to pay in exact U.S. cash as they didn’t have change. Also, check that your card works before leaving the store because the wifi counter failed to give us some important numbers and were unhelpful and trying to wave us off. Thankfully our Robinson Club guy who met us at the airport helped in making sure we got the right instructions to get the SIM card working. That was nice of the Robinson Club staff.
There is a library with German and Chinese books, but no books in English (I counted three). There are also board games, pool, and table tennis to play.
There is a seated 5 course meal on Friday night. The main course was fantastic and of really good quality. However, if you are coming from Asia, be aware of the time change, as it’ll be dinner at 1 am and some tourists were understandably tired. Better to come earlier in the week so that you have time to adjust.
Snorkelling gear is for free, safety vest and kayaking are not. Kayaking rate is reasonable at $15/hour, a safety vest in $8/day to rent. They also had a completely clear see-through boat for $30/hr which we enjoyed once. If you’ve got space in your luggage, you can buy your own safety vest for the price of a rental and bring it. We did that, but the conditions of the waves are pretty mild, and you can always snorkel just 10 m from the beach, so you don’t need a safety vest if you are a confident swimmer.
This is not a place where you can walk barefoot. The couple of times we did, one of us would end up with a splinter. Bring comfortable flip flops. We went after the refurbishment and the decks were in fine shape and didn’t see any wear or tear. Bottom steps of the water villa for water entry were slippery, so be careful. It’s just nature/algae growing on the wood, nothing can be done about that.
Bring spray sunblock for your head so your scalp doesn’t burn.
The best snorkeling is on the arrival jetty/sunset side of the island, if you’re going for a beach villa or water villa and want to be close to the snorkeling , request that side.
The domestic flight: The domestic transfer wasn’t bad for us, but that’s because I checked the flight departure times on the Maldivian Airlines website and chose a flight that ensured a reasonable layover time. The price is just a little bit more than the seaplane transfer. RC let us use the domestic lounge upon departure, and even at the lounge at the small airport on our return flight. It was a nice luxurious touch.
1 L bottle of water every day, otherwise a 1.5L bottle of water is $5. I had space and brought some water in, I think an extra 1.5L bottle per day is safe. You can also get water in the gym.
We had a great time in Robinson Club. I really enjoyed the AI concept – I didn’t have to worry about the bill getting too big and my SO could enjoy wine and beer. The staff, snorkeling, food, and service spoilt us. I converted my SO who was initially skeptical about Maldives into a believer. He is already talking about returning, and he doesn't even like beach vacations!
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- Also Known As:
- Robinson Club Maldives Hotel Villingili
- Robinson Club Maldives Villingili