Maldives is a rip-off at Christmas. That’s a commonly known fact, like the earth being round and Phil Collins being the sexiest man alive. It always bothered me that an arbitrary turn of date would treble the pricing, often around the 20th December. That’s even before you got onto the mandatory supplements for Christmas Eve, then another for New Year’s Day, before, at some point, they just start making up events like St Christopher Maldivus Day and “JustShutYourMouthAndPayUpDay”. For those reasons, I have advocated against it, even without experiencing it. Just like being rich and famous – yuck, sounds awful. Then I decided what better way to show those bastards how much I hate their price gouging than to pay it. That’ll teach’em.
And then my opinion changed. Turns out, I was wrong. Mark the calendars, folks; it’s a historic first.
Setting the scene
This story begins at Velaa, where we stayed nine nights and departed on 21st December. From there, we transitioned to Joali Being and subsequently to Joali. I have wanted to experience Joali Being since it opened two years ago, but it only allows children during the holidays, and I wasn’t prepared to put my trust in a property that sees children less than divorced dads. Entrusting Christmas to a place that’s about as experienced with children as Jeffrey Dahmer is with table manners? A tad risky for my taste. So, on the morning of Christmas Eve, we departed to Joali. I’m all for reviewing properties, but being miserable on Christmas is not something I’m prepared to pay for. I get that for free from my mum.
This followed our stays at One&Only Reethi Rah and Waldorf Astoria. It was interesting to witness each property’s different approaches and timings for their festive decorations and preparations – a true behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Christmas magic of budgetary controls. On top of this, we had friends staying at Velaa who kept sending us updates. I say friends, but after seeing how much better Velaa was, I heavily resent them and now refer to them as person A and person Hole.
Velaa embraced the holiday spirit, with festive decorations gradually multiplying throughout our stay. It was evident that they spared no expense. As for Joali Being, a wellness resort that only recently decided people with children deserve wellness, too, I had my reservations. However, to my pleasant surprise, they searched deep within their soul, rummaged around and fully embraced our traditions. The tradition of demanding presents from people we barely see twice a year and being forced to sit on some fat guy’s lap that you’ve never met before, just to get another present that you didn’t want. Nothing quite says ‘wellness’ like a good old-fashioned panic attack.
We found ourselves at Joali Being for their Christmas tree lighting on the 22nd, complete with staff bursting into song and dance, decked out in festive attire and other clothing that is yet to be defined, spreading sheer joy. While Simon Cowell might have had an aneurysm, I, on the other hand, would label it the most enthusiastic rendition of Christmas carols I’ve ever witnessed anywhere in the Maldives. Then they turned on the “snow machine”, AKA a foam machine, and all hell/fun broke out, and it turned into a full-on winter wonderland rave with wagyu canapés and truffle. Which is precisely how I remember all the raves I was invited to when I was younger. The ones I definitely were invited to. Yes, sir. To top it off, massage chairs were available with complimentary five-minute sessions. If only this was mandatory, as every party I ever attended needed an excuse to leave early for a nap.
Our room featured its own Christmas tree, with Velaa gracing us with a genuine one, Joali Being presenting an art-deco-gone-wrong experiment, and Joali offering something so bizarre I initially mistook it for a cockroach and nearly launched an attack on it. We asked them to remove it, as it was the most unsuitable for children tree I had ever seen since the day prior at Joali Being. They replaced it with a full-sized, real Christmas tree decorated by someone who was loved by their mother.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and what was unfolding was a buffet of epic proportions, featuring every dish imaginable and so many desserts that you could get heart disease just looking at it. We’re talking the traditional Christmas food, like tuna nigiri wrapped in foie gras, oysters and wagyu. The kinda stuff I grew up with.
The whole setup, from the stage to the incredible lighting that surrounded the island, was brilliant. It really felt special arriving there with such a joyful mood surrounding the property. Admittedly, you are paying a Christmas Eve supplement for it all, so really, I should be thanking myself for my brilliant contribution. Oddly enough, just like at Velaa’s birthday celebration, actors on stilts roamed around, making me wonder what TikTok trend I had once again missed.
As the live band took intermittent breaks, acrobats and a violinist seamlessly filled in, keeping the entertainment flowing. Spontaneous dance-offs involving guests and an especially enthusiastic/drunk staff member made for a fun evening. Meanwhile, my two-year-old daughter took it upon herself to conduct a thorough stage inspection, storming it with the confidence of a rioter in Washington.
What’s the big day like?
Joali managed to misjudge far too many things, but for the sake of brevity, let’s imagine everything unfolded flawlessly.
First off, there’s a hamper under the tree filled with treats, such as minced pies, chocolate, and other things I only got to sniff before someone else ate them. Hanging on the tree were santa hats with presents underneath them.
Joali waited until 4 pm for the big reveal: Santa arriving on a submarine, surrounded by elves on jet skis. Hear ye hear ye, this is how it was written in the Bible. I now understand what it must be like for a celebrity, as the man was mobbed by children and adults alike. He made his way to the beach where the chair was set up for the infamous “go sit on a stranger’s lap and smile or else!” photo, where my daughter looked like someone had just told her that Elsa actually dies at the end of Frozen. Santa, meanwhile, played his part, doling out gifts. Surrounding him were lots of free food, drink, joy and the actors on stilts, back to earn their damn money my supplement paid for. I want them to fight each other in the ocean next time.
And just like that, it’s suddenly all over. If you’re celebrating Christmas on the 25th as we do here in jolly ol’ England, it came as a surprise to realise my meal was teppanyaki, although it’s a significant upgrade on the burnt turkey, screaming and broken dreams I grew up with. Some may feel the joy is lost as it’s not cold and you don’t have your relatives wanting to fight you, but some others are sane.
Traditions are what you make them, and now ours is a day spent in 30C where we eat Japanese food and all stay awake until midnight and watch the beloved Christmas movie: Venom.
What happens next?
After that, it seemed like a lot of so-called activities in the calendar, but most were simply suggestions of regular offerings available at any time, with the usual added costs. That was a different story at Velaa, where the heathens were having the time of their lives with endless, free activities.
Is it worth it?
The Maldives at Christmas: the ultimate wallet-thinner. Even so, yes. Zero regrets, I’d do it again, and plan to the second my wife forgets how much it cost. But you’ve got to choose the right resort.
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I should pre-warn you: a lot of Maldives content is coming up. I’m about to start all the reviews for One&Only Reethi Rah, Waldorf Astoria Maldives, Velaa, Joali Being and Joali. If you’re allergic to sand – or my terrible writing – you might want to stay clear for the next month.
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