Maldives Four Seasons How to be a Resort Expert

My friends and family think I live a charmed five-star lifestyle. Frequent jetting off to exotic resorts and Palace hotels in enchanting cities and ancient villages. I briefly met Randy Shimabuku, GM of Four Seasons Kudaa Huraa for lunch in Palo Alto when he invited me to visit the two Four Seasons Maldives Resorts Kudaa Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru.

Four Seasons Maldives, Kudaa Huraa

There is usually champagne involved at lunch and I thought I misunderstood him…two weeks, really you are inviting me as your guest for two weeks? A far reaching trek across the world, it took me a few months to organize the time. Nothing prepared me for the beauty of the Maldives. I didn’t expect the GM to greet me at the airport in a yacht with bubbly- but Randy is the consummate hotelier. 

A peek at my luxurious lifestyle:

7:30 pm Dinner at Baraabaru Restaurant hosted by Randy and his charming wife. Savor authentic Indian cuisine with the Indian Ocean as your backdrop.

Day Two

Nothing prepared me for the beauty of the Maldives.

7:00 – 8:00 am Sunrise Yoga with Resort Yogi Salute the sun: energize mind, body and spirit. Try yoga on a floating board, it was not a graceful display!

8:30 – 9:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.

10:30 – 11:15 am Resort Tour

11:30 – 1.00 pm Baraabaru Cooking Class with Chef Subir Chowdhury, Indian Sous Chef

Learn to cook dishes fit for a maharaja on this mouthwatering culinary journey of India. It’s fun, casual and, of course, lunch is included.

An aerial view of an assortment of Indian food at Baraabaru Indian Thali
Signature Dishes and Ingredients at m Baraabaru

3:00 – 4:00 pm Off to The Island Spa, located just a minute away via a dhoni from the Resort. Refresh, rebalance and rejuvenate with wellbeing classes and pioneering OSEA treatments. I consider it my responsibility to try everything, including spa treatments!

5:45 – 7:45 pm Sunset Fishing Cruise the sunset and catch fish the traditional way, by hook hand line and sinker. This relaxed outing often results in a large catch! Lucky fisherman may ask the chefs of our restaurant to prepare a fish to their liking for a leisurely lunch or dinner the next day. I wasn’t particularly lucky, but it was great fun nonetheless. Seeing the exuberance of the ancient well dressed Asian ladies draw in the most fish was fun in itself, they were experts!

8:00 pm Maldivian Night at Sunset Lounge – Savor the taste of the Maldives with a BBQ buffet night of the freshest seafood and succulent meat set on the beach under the stars.

Day Three

7:30 – 8:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.

9:00 – 10:00 am Stand Up Paddle Yoga with Resort Yogi. Improve balance and core strength, enhance mindfulness and focus, perfect yogic alignment with this yoga – experience afloat on a stand-up paddle board at the lagoon

10:30 – 11:30 am Maldivian Village Tour Sail to a nearby village, where fishermen and their families have resided for generations. Stroll the narrow streets and buy local crafts as souvenirs. I loved this, seeing where the locals live, meeting kids on playgrounds. Well worth the short trip across the lagoon. Surprising to Randy, they also guided me to a private fish farm.

12:00 pm Lunch is at your leisure

2:00 – 5:00 pm Ray Talk & Marine Life Safari. Join our marine biologist for an adventure to swim among the rays of the Maldives, cruising aboard our traditional dhoni at two snorkel sites.

5:00 – 7:00 pm Dolphin Talk and Cruise. The waters near Kuda Huraa are frequented by spinner dolphins. Join our Marine Biologist for a short briefing on this marine animal. Hop on board and cruise through the atoll.

7:00 pm Kuda’s Crab Race Come one, come all, test your luck with our island’s hermit crabs!

7:30 pm Dinner is at your leisure.

Evening view of Baraabaru restaurant dining patio on the water, with tropical flower arrangements, lanterns
Baraabaru Restaurant

Day Four 8:30 – 9:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.

10:00 – 10:30 am Visit the Marine Discovery Centre. The heart of our marine research and conservation.  It’s run by our expert team of Marine Biologists who’ll wow you with astounding facts and wondrous sea tales for starters.

Outdoor entrance to restaurant, with illuminated steps, blue sky at desk, two planters
Cafe Huraa

11:30 to 1:00 pm Heart of the House Tour Discover how we keep the lights on and the water running in the middle of nowhere on this fascinating behind-the-scenes island tour.

1:00 pm Lunch is at your leisure

Kandu Grill at night, with candlelit dining tables under a towering palm, perched on ocean and infinity pool

2:30 – 4:30 pm Discover Scuba Diving for Beginners. Learn the basics and experience the joy of weightlessness in our safe shallow lagoon. Loved this and my new underwater camera was so much fun to use!

7:30 pm Ghar Ka Khana at Baraabaru – Meaning “homestyle cooking” in Hindi. This theme promises a night of wholesome, fragrant fare from across the Indian subcontinent. From curries and kebabs, breads and biryanis, chutneys and salads to over splendid Desserts.

Day Five 8:30 – 9:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.

Transfer via seaplane from Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa to Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. The transfer will take approximately 35 minutes.

The routine began again at Landaa- although once they read my previous schedule, the GM suggested I take a break and ride my bike around the island on my own time.

Poolside Bar

Randy, had me scheduled every hour. I would bump into him on property, he would inquire, how is it going?! My reply: I’m exhausted – you have me scheduled from 7 am and I have dinner with someone from each department every night!

There was a method to his madness, I became an expert on the resort and I can advise my clients on activities and which property would suit them. Actually, I would recommend a stay at both Four Seasons.

The glamorous photos tell my story, this travel has become my lifestyle. How to be an expert? It is moving about a bit and staying in multiple hotel brands, how better to tell our lovely clients – you will LOVE this hotel for these reasons! Or when a cleint calls and says: Gwen, talk me out of this amazing property with rooms that are over $3000 a night – I reply, you must stay, you will never forget the experience, but perhaps you don’t need the star bed on the rooftop!

Only one of my diving videos- the water is gin clear!

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid Magnificent!

I was unprepared to love this hotel so much! I arrived early evening in November after nineteen days of wandering in Morocco. The neighborhood sets the stage for the opulence, the area is quite glammy. The drive up the Paseo del Prado is stunning, festooned with immense stone monuments, beautiful flower beds, the massive tree lined del Prado was just on the edge of winter, the brilliant rosy leaves were still intact and many of the gardens were still blooming. Madrid is truly a very elegant city and I had never visited. My first thought was this is so like Paris.

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid faces the Paseo del Prado, the tree-lined boulevard punctuated by fountains that links the city’s major museums. The hotel is in the elegant Jerónimos neighborhood, where many members of the Spanish aristocracy had sumptuous homes in the handsome late 19th-century buildings. The opening of the hotel in 1910 had a big influence on the architecture of the area, with Parisian features such as sensual curves softening the more austere traditional style. You may recognize the streets from Pedro Almodóvar’s film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios).

Situated within the historic ‘Golden Triangle of Art’, an area defined by the most important museums in the city – the property’s location within a prestigious residential area close to Madrid’s financial and commercial district and to El Retiro Park, adds to its appeal in one of Europe’s greatest capitals. Renowned Parisian designers Gilles & Boissier, have created a sophisticated residential design for the 100 rooms and 53 suites, including several one-of-a-kind specialty suites, featuring unique design elements inspired by the hotel’s historic connections to the city, Spanish culture, and art.

The view of the Prado Museum from my suite at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

A Grand Palace that dates to the 2nd of October 1910, which witnessed the grand opening of The Ritz Madrid. The opening ceremony of what was meant to be one of the Europe’s finest hotels was performed by guests of honor, King Alfonso XIII and his Queen Victoria Eugenia, granddaughter of the English Monarch Queen Victoria. The young King had been instrumental in this exciting new adventure, the creation of the first genuine luxury hotel in Spain. Travelling widely throughout Europe and experiencing the standards of excellence of numerous new Palace Hotels, he was determined to modernize his own country and make Madrid a city equal to other European capitals, with a truly luxurious hotel that could accommodate visiting guests and dignitaries.

Not only did the Ritz Development Company use the architect of the famous Hotel Ritz in Paris, but they also invited César Ritz, “hotelier par excellence” and father of the Ritz Paris, to be involved in the creation of this new hotel which was to carry his name. César Ritz was not only an outstanding hotelier but a showman, a brilliant director and producer who set the stage for the star performance of his illustrious clientele.

Palm Court, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

What distinguished César Ritz’s hotels from other Palace hotels at the time, was the noble proportions of the architecture, the beauty and exquisite taste of the interior, the unfailing personal attention to detail and that often-elusive commodity, great style. Elements that have all been revived today. More than 100 years later, the unequalled style of hotel management and design which César Ritz originally brought to the city, has been restored and perfected for a new generation to experience at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid.

An art collection inspired by the historic city collections. Every work of art at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid has been specifically chosen to draw on the city’s artistic legacy. In its attention to minute, beautiful details, the collection of close-ups from the Museo del Prado hopes to draw the guest in, to relish in the painterly aspects of the original paintings and to inspire guests to visit the museum with a different perspective. It is the idea of reinvention and finding the new in the old that guided the selection of artwork for Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid. Like the building itself, the hotel’s artwork honor’s the past with new interpretations. The collection acknowledges the rich history of the hotel and the art from Madrid’s world-class museums  Fans, decorative and the iconic Mandarin logo play a dynamic part of the décor and provide a suggestion of place, Madrid. An antique pearl and lace fan resides in an ornate case in the lobby, the back wall of the reception area hosts a resplendent sculpture representing the movement of a flamenco dancers’ fan. The brilliant imagery says so much about the attention to detail of the Mandarin.

The entrance is impressive, pass by the formally dressed doormen into a grand five-star old world experience; the massive lobby retains the original magnificent staircase which sits below an ornate celling sculpture of hundreds of quivering gold and silver leaves, a reflection of the nearby Retiro Park; the leaves gracefully flutter over the lobby as if they have just been picked off the ground. I was told the artist, Haberdashery, sprinkled the leaves on the ground and designed the installation as if the collection had just fallen to the ground. Daylight from the overhead crystal canopy roof add exceptional drama to the reflections.

High tea was being served at chic tables, underneath a beautiful crystal canopy ceiling, the Palm Court offers an elegant setting for refined all-day dining and Afternoon Tea. The furnishings are opulent, classic tapestry style embroidered fabrics in botanical prints set the stage. A grand piano provides delightful background music to the beyond beautiful guests, if these were locals, I would suggest that the grand dame Señora’s of Madrid must congregate here as everyone was stylishly dressed and coiffed, it looked like a scene from a majestic movie set!  

At the beating heart of the hotel, under the crystal canopy ceiling of the Palm Court lies the intimate Champagne Bar. A cozy venue with only 8 seats, guests can pair a glass of champagne from an impressive array of renowned houses with caviar, oysters, white truffle or Iberian Ham among other delicacies.  El Jardin del Ritz was in full swing, lovely fountains adding to the ambiance. Serving signature amuse bouche tapas menu alongside a host of creative cocktails, mocktails and wine, the Ritz Garden is open all year weather permitting and is a divine location to catch up with friends in Madrid’s balmy weather.

Champagne Bar
Champagne Bar, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

This property has much to do with royalty, it only seemed fitting I would be treated like a queen, all my wishes were granted. My stunning Prado Suite faced the del Prado Museum, with a view filtered by the brilliant orange and yellow leaves of a late fall. A separate living room provided a cozy space to work and enjoy the view. Bathroom is massive, two loos, and a soaking tub designed to share, truly exquisite!  Butler floor assures all needs will be met in a very timely fashion, when the bell rings around cocktail time, do answer, as trays of elegant canapes reflecting the feasting heritage of Spain and wine, or bubbly are grandly delivered.

Pictura Bar
Pictura hotel bar, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

After my site inspection, I popped into the gorgeous hotel bar, Pictura, totally swoon worthy! Opulent and sophisticated the focal point is the bar counter, backed by a museum-inspired mural of different Spanish artisans, the oversize photos appear to be renditions of Museum Old Masters, however the subjects dressed in period clothing are local luminaries. Poets, politicians, artists and painters in classic costume, a collage of photographic portraits by local artist Paula Anta.  The bar seemed to host locals and guests, who wouldn’t want to curl into a corner booth and sip bubbly with this stunning backdrop, I could have stayed for hours.   

Pictura at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

After an afternoon exploring the street scenes of Madrid, I moseyed to the elegant serene indoor plunge. Walls of white marble frame the long lap pool, offset by a gold canopy frame space filled with several elegant loungers. The humid hushed environment stimulates naps, it’s a quiet relaxing location, perfect for a quiet read or snooze pre-evening entertainment! An urban sanctuary in the heart of the city the facilities include a dedicated treatment room, fitness center, and spa which offers an array of bespoke holistic therapies, designed by The Beauty Concept.

Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid Plunge

Dining with a Capital D! Designed, developed and overseen by Chef Quique Dacosta, who has five Michelin stars to his name in his native region of Valencia and is now bringing his Mediterranean magic to Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid where his signature restaurant looks out onto the garden. Each of the five bars and restaurants enjoys its own unique character, offering delicious cuisine and inventive cocktails served in exquisite surroundings. Dacosta is one of the biggest names in Spanish food, he oversaw the gastronomy of the hotel’s five restaurants and bars.  The hard-to-get reservation is at Deesa, which has two tasting menus’, the signature fine dining restaurant located in the stunning Alfonso XIII room.

Turret Suite Bedroom
My super soaking tub! Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

I have no doubt in my mind that our clients and all fortunate guests staying at the Mandarin Oriental will experience the same regal treatment. Highly Recommend, if you are seeking old world glamour, elegance, divine dining, and exceptional location as well.

What’s not to love? Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid won me over.