The Big Story Maldives

The Big Story Maldives

Once you couldn’t move for the honeymooners, but now the island has been transformed for kids, writes Susan d’Arcy.

In word-association tests, if you don’t answer “The Maldives” when the psychologist says honeymoon, the good doctor will give you a sideways stare.

These so-romantic Indian Ocean atolls are now as indelibly imprinted on the gilt-edged marriage map as the best man’s cringeworthy double entendres and the embarrassing dad dancing at the evening disco. So the latest focus for its top resorts is rather puzzling — they’re pushing their kids’ clubs.

In the past, you practically had to walk around ringing a bell if you dared turn up with an infant, but the new hot hotel in the archipelago, Diva, is placing every bit as much emphasis on attracting brats as bridezillas.

To ensure a rose-tinted, Waltons- on-Sea appeal, it has drafted in Johnny Mathis, the exacting Swiss general manager who turned the Anassa in Cyprus into the poshest, family-friendly property in the Mediterranean.

Mathis explains: “The Maldives don’t require a string of vaccinations, and the shallow lagoons here mean that the beaches are incredibly safe for kids. Some islands are tiny, so mixing families and honeymooners might not work, but Diva has 4km of beach and we can easily accommodate both groups.”

The resort offers plenty to tempt the grown-ups, including six restaurants, six bars and a spa. Some areas are strictly adults only. But there is also a large children’s club, The Nest, which is complimentary and open daily from 9am to 10pm for three- to 12-year- olds (under-3s must be accompanied by a parent, or a baby-sitter for a nominal fee).

It has a cinema lounge, a well- stocked library, a computer room, a large outdoor playground and a “siesta lounge” for when your toddler tires of excess and needs an afternoon nap.

Next door, just for teens, is the Place, stacked with WiFi computers, PlayStations, table tennis and pool tables. Beach- volleyball matches are organised here, and tennis tournaments are held on its two dedicated courts.

There is also Musik, a nightclub with live bands — though since this also doubles as a conference space, it’s never going to rival Mahiki for ambience.

Diva isn’t alone in targeting those with children.

When Reethi Rah opened three years ago, Jodie Kidd and Aidan Butler and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were among the stream of high-profile honeymooners seeking out its six-star seclusion. But what really surprised the resort’s bosses was the demand from families. During the Easter and Christmas breaks, 80% of its guests are now en famille.

Reethi Rah already has an impressive complimentary kids’ club, complete with dinky swimming pool and pint-sized sun loungers; and ClubOne for teenagers, staffed by its own sports and entertainment team. Now it is looking to boost its family appeal further by introducing a “parents go lightly” scheme.

This would allow guests to pre- order everything from nappies to buggies for their villa, rather than run the risk of having their baby milk mistaken for sarin.

The Beach House at Manafaru, which opened in February, is another newcomer with its eye on junior. Apart from complimentary kids’ and teen clubs, it has a giant trampoline, tennis, volleyball and badminton courts, Nintendo Wii, an 18-hole golf simulator and a special spa menu. For the “Lil’ Mud-Man” treatment, youngsters are given a bowl of chocolate mud to smear over themselves, before jumping into a mud bath and having a mini massage … followed by a slice of chocolate cake.

The idea is catching on, too. In May, the Conrad Rangali followed gooey suit with its Ice Cream Spa, where kids can have a “Super Sundae Supremo” body scrub and massage using “Gotta Have It Pomegranate”.

And if the thought of those ingredients doesn’t make you feel queasy, the prices will — the Supremo costs about £45 (about R670).

Which brings us to the cost. Why whisk your family to one of the world’s most expensive destinations when the kids could just as easily chew sand on a local beach?

Adrian Burley, sales manager of Constance Hotels, reckons he has the answer. Constance owns child- friendly luxury hotels such as the Lemuria in the Seychelles and Le Prince Maurice in Mauritius, and will open Halaveli in the Maldives in March.

“Le Prince Maurice was envisaged as a sophisticated boutique hotel for couples, but we found that lots of families came and loved it too, so we added a kids’ club,” Burley says. “There are lots of parents who aren’t willing to compromise on standards and go to some awful holiday village just because they’ve had children.”

Child-friendly touches at Halaveli will include mini slippers and bathrobes, and welcome trays with mock champagne in an ice bucket.

So that’s the kids sorted.

All we need to worry about now is how mummy and daddy are going to pay for it all.

Source: The Times Online

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