5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Visit the Sheraton Maldives

Apr 12, 2018

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Update 4/25/18: I spoke with General Manager Jean-Louis Ripoche, who responded to the concerns outlined here, in addition to feedback I sent directly. I’ve added his comments throughout the post below.

The Maldives is the ultimate bucket-list destination for many points and miles enthusiasts — naturally, the opportunity to redeem just 80,000 points for five nights in paradise is hard to pass up. Sadly that rate isn’t available just anywhere, though — to score an extended trip for just 16,000 Starpoints per night, you’ll need to make some serious compromises.

Namely, you’ll be booking your stay at the Sheraton instead of the St. Regis. My favorite resort in the world sets the bar very high, even for the Maldives — in a head-to-head comparison the Sheraton doesn’t stand a chance. But with regular rates of 72,000 Starpoints per night (including the fifth night free), the St. Regis is simply out of reach of most SPG members — 16,000 seems like a downright steal by comparison. (Update: While I haven’t visited myself, the Park Hyatt is another excellent alternative, priced at just 25,000 points per night for a Park Villa.)

Overwater Bungalow at the Sheraton Maldives. Photo by Zach Honig.

And normally I’d say a Sheraton vacation is better than none at all. The challenge is that the Maldives is far from the United States — if you’re using Star Alliance miles to fly business class to get there, as I’ve done, you’ll need to connect at least twice, unless you get very lucky with one-stop awards on Turkish Airways. Regardless, you’ll be traveling nearly 24 hours each way, and sometimes quite a bit more. Nobody wants to fly nearly two full days round-trip to relax at a resort that’s “just okay.”

And, for the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, a review of “just okay” is generous. I really didn’t like this place. Here are a few reasons why I’d recommend looking elsewhere for your once-in-a-lifetime trip to paradise:

1. There’s a lot of trash in the water.

This one absolutely requires an immediate fix. I can’t overstate how disappointed I was to find garbage all over the place at this resort. Some clearly washed up from neighboring islands, but discarded water bottles were a common sight throughout. I picked up a half dozen pieces of garbage during the first 10 minutes of my free kayak ride, and ended up so disgusted that I headed straight back to shore. NOPE.

“When the weather / monsoon changes, as you may have observed during your stay, debris from the open ocean are washed in. Every morning on a daily basis, our team starts very early to clean up the shorelines which are obviously not enough; we had enforced additional deployment of our team members on a timely manner to patrol around the island on a jet ski to ensure cleanliness against possible debris floating around the island proximity.”
– Jean-Louis Ripoche, General Manager, Sheraton Maldives

2. Overwater Bungalows cost much more, and they aren’t great.

My Club Water Bungalow was decent, but hardly “aspirational.” On a date when the base room costs $276 for SPG members, you’ll need to pay $712 for the Club Water Bungalow. A regular Overwater Bungalow, which doesn’t include a small plunge pool, costs $541 — and all of these rates are before the 10% service charge, 12% tax and $136 round-trip airport boat transfer.

And you can’t book overwater suites on points, though even if you could, I can’t imagine they’d come cheap. For example, on a date when the base room is 20,000 Starpoints, you’ll need to redeem three times as many for an Ocean Pool Villa. And at 60k per night, you might as well use a few thousand more to stay somewhere much nicer, like the St. Regis.

“We are currently in discussion with a marine specialist to re-build our coral reef as the marine life was disturbed during the construction of the islets as well as during the recent addition of plunge pools at the Club Water Bungalows. It is obviously a long term project that my entire team is very eager and committed to achieve as marine life is one of the showcased pride in the hearts of Maldivians.”
– Jean-Louis Ripoche, General Manager, Sheraton Maldives

3. The location makes a peaceful stay next to impossible.

Construction sites just a few hundred feet away. Photo by Zach Honig.

The Sheraton is just a 15-minute speedboat ride from Male Airport (MLE). That’s great in theory — it makes the property an especially appealing option if you’re arriving in the evening or late at night, when seaplane transfers aren’t available. But it also means that when they’re operating during the day, there’s a constant stream of air traffic near the hotel, in addition to a lot of construction on neighboring islands — at best it’s unpleasant to look at, especially if you’re expecting the level of isolation hotels typically portray on their websites and other marketing materials.

“The opposite local island is also a big concern for us. We have already taken the initiative to develop six new man-made islets with full vegetation yet to grow in the next few months to naturally screen the island across and to enhance a better view, which will ultimately provide utmost privacy for our guests.”
– Jean-Louis Ripoche, General Manager, Sheraton Maldives

4. The food is not good.

You’ve probably heard horror stories about dining in the Maldives — especially as it relates to the astronomical prices. Compared to what you’ll pay at high-end resorts like the St. Regis, the Sheraton may seem downright affordable — but a $95 (pre-tax) dinner buffet better be incredible wherever you are, right? Even though I arrived at the very beginning of the meal service, fish and meat dishes were dry, and other items were generally light on flavor. I’ve even had better food in an airport lounge.

The only saving grace was the 20% discount I managed to score as an SPG Platinum member, but that ended up getting canceled out by the taxes and fees.

“I sincerely appreciate your feedback regarding our offerings from our F&B venues especially from our main buffet restaurant. Our Culinary team is already taking actions focusing on the quality and selection we offer. In addition, as I mentioned we are already in the process for a full renovation of Feast Restaurant with more live cooking stations which will ensure freshness of food at all times.”
– Jean-Louis Ripoche, General Manager, Sheraton Maldives

5. The hotel didn’t take security seriously.

Now this is entirely subjective, and depends on when you visit, of course. But during my stay, I encountered some unpleasant fellow guests. In fact, my next-door neighbors were having a very loud “domestic dispute” that got so out-of-control that I felt compelled to intervene, fearing for my female neighbor’s safety. The hotel eventually sent security to follow up, but they ultimately weren’t willing to get involved, since the altercation took place inside a guest room.

The male occupant saw me and knew I was next door, so I had to ask to move far away, out of fear for my own safety. The hotel ended up moving me to a larger Ocean Pool Villa for the last night, which offered significantly more security, with a second set of doors and a high wall.

The whole experience would make a peaceful vacation impossible, though. Based on my brief stay, it seems that this resort attracts guests that are used to treating others — especially employees in the service industry — rather poorly.

“Our Security team is constantly going thru trainings to improve efficiency. Rest assured that I am personally following thru the teams’ competence particularly how to handle intervention cases.”
– Jean-Louis Ripoche, General Manager, Sheraton Maldives

Bottom Line

I’ll go into more detail on the resort as a whole in my review, but overall I was pretty eager to move on. In fact, had this Sheraton visit been at the end of my trip, I would have even tried to move my flight up a day earlier — based on the concerns above, this was hardly a relaxing stay.

But that’s not all — there were a handful of other items that left me with a sour impression, including:

  • The hotel overbooked my confirmed boat to the airport, and tried to force me to take one 45 minutes later.
  • There aren’t enough umbrellas — unexpected downpours are a frequent occurrence in the Maldives, yet I was told I was “lucky” for snagging the last umbrella from reception.
  • Many of the staff don’t smile or even make eye contact. Those small, but pleasant interactions with the locals at other resorts is certainly a highlight of visiting the Maldives for me.
  • The gym equipment is long overdue for replacement.
  • One of the public bathrooms didn’t have soap (or even a soap dispenser) at the sink on all three days of my visit.
  • SPG Platinum members get access to the Sheraton Club, but I found the food to be practically inedible.

There was one notable positive, though — my surprise upgrade to an Ocean Pool Villa after the run-in with my next-door neighbor at the Overwater Bungalow. I only had one night left, but the bump to an extra-private room did help me rest easier.

All photos by Zach Honig.

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