The Ritz Carlton Fari Islands is one of the newest Marriott branded properties to open in the Maldives, making it the perfect “luxury target” for points and loyalty enthusiasts like myself. After having to postpone a visit due to The Australian border closure, I finally decided to make a speculative booking for March 2022.
In this post:
- Booking Ritz Carlton Maldives
- Getting To Ritz Carlton Maldives
- The Ritz Carlton Maldives Boat
- Ritz Carlton Island Overview
- Our Room: Overwater Sunrise Villa
- Room Impressions
- Beach vs Overwater Villa
- Dining At Ritz Carlton Maldives
- Breakfast Options
- Ritz Carlton Island Activities
- Diving at Ritz Carlton Maldives
- Marriott Bonvoy Elite Benefits
- Ritz Carlton Butler & Staff
- Ritz Carlton Maldives Conclusion
Booking Ritz Carlton Maldives
As a brand, I do like Ritz Carlton, and even though I heard mixed reviews, I figured since it’s new, I might as well cover this property to see what it’s all about. Unless disclosed, I fund and pay for all my travel using cash or points. Practising what we preach is important, so this booking was made using Bonvoy Points which I had saved up from staying at Marriott brand hotels.
I booked this property for 370,000 Bonvoy Points back in September 2021, which falls under the stay 5 pay 4 nights promo all Bonvoy Elites get when booking with points. So every Bonvoy member can take advantage of the first night free, as long as you have enough points to cover a 4 night stay.
Additionally to the points requirement was a US$1415, which covered transportation costs for 2 people from the airport to the resort by speedboat.
As of recently, Marriott has moved to a dynamic reward chart which means prices are tied to the nightly rate of the hotels. This means for similar dates next year, the Ritz Carlton Fari Islands costs 478,000 Bonvoy Points for 5 nights (fifth night free). It’s still not bad when you consider that the retail price of a 5 night stay at this resort costs around US$16,000
If you’re interested in a cash booking, make sure to book via a Marriott STARS agent to receive benefits such as breakfast, US$100 F&B credit and upgrades.
Getting To Ritz Carlton Maldives
Like Waldorf Astoria Maldives, the Ritz is a 50-minute speedboat ride away. While the seaplanes are somewhat iconic, they also aren’t that convenient. With a boat transfer, you benefit from being able to leave at any time and in almost any conditions. On top of that, luggage weight restrictions don’t apply when taking a boat which might be handy for some.
Thankfully there are no more covid restrictions in the Maldives, so there’s no testing, no masks and no vaccine passports, which is an excellent sign of normality returning to overseas travel.
The Ritz Carlton Maldives Boat
Having had a similar boat experience with Waldorf Astoria, I must say I was very disappointed with the standard boat offered by Ritz. While Waldorf guests get pampered with champagne and snacks onboard a 2 bedroom yacht on their way to the resort, Ritz guests have to put up with a very basic speedboat which smells like petrol fumes. Water was only provided once we asked for it, and the snacks on offer were very basic.
Ritz Carlton Island Overview
On arrival, we were greeted by our “Aris Meeha”, who acts as your dedicated butler during the stay. Aris Meeha are supposed to be the most loyal servants to the Maldivian royal family, so the idea being that The Ritz Aris Meeha would treat guests as royalty.
Our Aris Meeha (Arafath) offered us a tour of the property via buggy before completing the check-in formalities in our villa.
The Ritz Carlton Resort isn’t that big so getting around the man-made island with your bike or buggy is a breeze.
On one side of the island, there’s a beach club, dive centre and beach bar/restaurant, as well as the kids club and gym. This island is connected via bridges to the smallest middle island, which houses the other dining venues. On the other side, are most of the villas and The Ritz Private Estate (a 3 bedroom private complex on the island), which led onto the overwater villas and the circular looking spa building.
Our Room: Overwater Sunrise Villa
Having read many comments on flyer talk, I decided to request a sunrise villa because this side of the island has unobstructed ocean views and little to no boat traffic. While sunset villas are the most popular choice, there are a few reasons I didn’t ask for one. The sunset side of the island faces the island lagoon, which has a LOT of boat traffic. On top of that, you can also see the neighbouring islands from your villa, which takes away from the whole experience, I feel. And while it’s nice to watch the sunset… we were usually at the bar around this time of the day, so the sunset aspect of the room would have been wasted.
Designed by Kerry Hill Architects, the Ritz Carlton Maldives has adopted a circular design for almost everything, and I really love its aesthetic.
While the villas aren’t huge, they are massive by hotel room standards, and I felt there was plenty of space to lounge around. The key feature of the rooms is the massive windows that open to either side, which leads you to the infinity plunge pool with uninterrupted ocean views.
The bathroom is equally spacious and has an indoor and outdoor shower, although I would say the privacy screens for the outdoor shower are minimal at best.
Outside there’s a lovely daybed next to the pool, and on the overwater villas, you will find a lower deck with access to the house reef.
Back in the room, everything looks stunning, but I did noticed a lot of the materials used seemed to be in a cost-cutting exercise. There’s lots of wood veneer and engineered stone, and one has to wonder if this will stand the test of time or if it will make the rooms looks dated once things start chipping away.
Onto the minibar, all the non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary and restocked once a day. The same goes for snacks. A highlight was definitely the homemade cookies (I ate way too many of those) and the white truffle chips.
As a Bonvoy Titanium member, I received a complimentary bottle of champagne and some welcome snacks upon arrival.
Beach vs Overwater Villa
On our last night, we asked to switch to a beach villa on the island’s sunrise side. While the room is a copy of the overwater villa, the key difference is the extra space you get being on the beach and having lounge chairs in the sand.
This allows for more sun-tanning possibilities throughout the day, whereas the overwater villa might limit your exposure to certain hours of the day.
In terms of privacy, both room types offer a sufficient amount, but some rooms are better than others. For example, our overwater villa was the last one in a row and most forward, which meant we had total privacy but could see our neighbours by looking around the corner of the pool. On the other hand, I felt that villas at the Waldorf Astoria were spaced further apart, which many would prefer.
Dining At Ritz Carlton Maldives
The Ritz Carlton Maldives offers a unique multi-island concept that allows guests to visit multiple neighbouring resorts which are all owned by the same people. This makes up a man-made archipelago of 3 islands which house Ritz, Patina and the under-construction Capella.
Guests can take advantage of a speedboat which transfers you to the other islands every hour (no cost). Once on the other islands, you can use their food and beverage facilities and charge everything back to your room which is very convenient.
In general, I found the food and beverage offering at Ritz to be slightly underwhelming. There was nothing that really stood out or wowed me, and considering the exorbitant food and beverage prices on these luxury resorts; you would expect things to be exceptional. While I understand it’s hard to retain staff and get access to fresh produce, I felt Waldorf executed much better on the F&B than Ritz by bringing in guest restaurants such as Burnt Ends from Singapore. At Ritz, there just seemed to be too many gimmick dinner experiences designed for people with too much money and low culinary expectations.
On the Ritz Carlton Island, there are essentially 4 restaurants:
- La Locanda: Italian restaurant which also doubled as the breakfast restaurant in the morning.
- Iwau: Japanese restaurant which is located in Eau Bar by the main pool
- Summer Pavilion: Chinese restaurant located next to La Locanda
- Beach Shack: this doubles as the beach club during the day, and it’s probably the most popular lunch spot as the other restaurants are closed.
- Arabesque: Located on the Patina island, but it’s technically managed by The Ritz Carlton.
- Tum Tum: we never saw this place open but it’s also located on the Patina island and offers Asian street food.
Breakfast at Ritz Carlton isn’t inclusive on points stays and neither do you get it as a benefit for being a Bonvoy Elite. Instead, the resort offers a $65++ option if you want to eat whatever you want, or you can order a-la-carte and only pay for the items you prefer. Breakfast pricing wasn’t too bad with an eggs Benedict costing $15++, which seemed reasonable considering the other dining options.
Ritz Carlton Island Activities
The resort organises a range of activities, but most are paid. This includes group training classes in the morning which cost a ridiculous $90++ per person. Group fitness was offered as a complimentary benefit at Waldorf, and for $90, I would expect a private session with a personal trainer.
That said, Ritz does offer complimentary sunrise yoga each morning which was actually pretty good.
There are plenty of water sports, and while powered items such as jet skis come at a cost, non-motorised options are complimentary, including hobby cats, stand up paddleboards, and kayaks.
Diving at Ritz Carlton Maldives
People love to complain or rave about “house reefs” when staying at Maldivian resorts. Of course, with Ritz being on an artificial island, there is definitely some sediment on the house reef, which will take some time to recover. That said, I did see plenty of reef sharks and other interesting fish around the resort. However, for the good stuff, you want to either go on a snorkel tour or, if you’re a certified diver, head to the dive centre and book a dive or two.
Dive Butler manages the Ritz Carlton Maldives dive centre, and I had the pleasure of being the only guest on the boat since there were no certified divers on the island. I was joined by the resort manager and her husband, who both had a day off, and we completed two excellent dives not too far from the resort island, where we saw plenty of sharks, some manta ray as well as all the other suspects you might find around the Indian Ocean.
Marriott Bonvoy Elite Benefits
Bonvoy Elites, Gold and above receive a few complimentary benefits at Ritz Carlton Maldives, the key benefit being afternoon tea between 4-5 PM and evening drinks from 5-6 PM.
Afternoon tea is a non-alcoholic affair at La Locanda and includes tea/coffee and a selection of sweet and savoury snacks.
The evening drinks are at Eau Bar, where every night there is a sunset ritual performed. The drinks on offer were a selection of wines and some mixed drinks. I preferred to hop across on the free ferry to Patina, which offers a happy hour for all their hotel guests, including champagne, between 5-6 PM.
Regarding other benefits, it’s worth noting that there’s often an F&B discount offer for Bonvoy Elites; during our stay, we received a 20% discount on F&B at most restaurants on the island, which was a nice touch.
Ritz Carlton Butler & Staff
As you might expect, every staff member was very friendly and professional. Still, I did notice a few things that “annoyed” me and considering the price of this resort, you would expect nothing less than perfection. For starters, it sometimes took us multiple requests before our butler made any dinner reservations. Every time, it seemed as if we were trying to get a last-minute booking at Noma. Early reservations always seemed impossible to get, so we ended up booking at restaurants directly, which seemed much easier. There was also a significant push for “special dinners”, such as the weekly lobster dinner on the beach, which according to other guests was pretty horrible.
Another thing that I noticed was staff zooming around on their golf carts without slowing down. Compared to Waldorf, every time a golf card approached a guest, they would slow down. Most golf carts at Ritz would leave you in a cloud of dust from the sandy path. The same came to greeting guests along the way; 80% of staff would greet you while the rest would flat out avoid eye contact. Personally, I don’t really care, but it shows that there’s no consistency among the team, which is important at a high-end resort like this.
That said, I don’t want this to overshadow all the wonderful staff we did encounter, and I must say that every interaction with the staff was genuinely welcoming.
Ritz Carlton Maldives Conclusion
Overall we had a fantastic time on the island, the rooms were perfect, and the location was convenient. I think the concept of having inter-island connectivity for guests to explore is a winning concept and will be further enhanced when Capella joins the mini archipelago of resort islands. Escaping one island for another is a luxury in the Maldives.
While this is only my second visit to the Maldives, I would most likely head back to Waldorf if I had to choose between Ritz and Waldorf. I felt that the overall size of Waldorf and their F&B offering were superior compared to Ritz. While the rooms are very much different in each resort, I liked both and think Ritz has got an advantage by having the rounded pods, which is unique. Next time, I think I will try the much-hyped St Regis after they complete their refurbishment to see what it’s all about!