News & Reviews Indian Ocean Maldives Review: Patina, Maldives

There are some things I can’t get over. My first love in grade 3 rejecting me, that Gasgoine miss in Euro 96, when they stopped selling Galaxy Truffle chocolates, the end of Game of Thrones, when someone sent me Harry Potter erotica that haunted me for years. And the rooms at Patina.

Patina is not a bad resort.  It’s not a great one either, but it hovers around the right side of good in most areas.  Just not the rooms.  Not those rooms.

The room is important anywhere, but particularly in the Maldives – you’re going to spend a lot of time there and ideally, you don’t want to feel like the bottle opener is going to be your best friend, either because of your impending alcoholism or self-harm. If every time you’re heading back to your room and you’re disappointed, you’re going to either be Melania Trump or at Patina, and no one wants either of those things.

Patina has 90 villas, plus something called a Studio, which looks like a GITMO detainee was asked to draw their dream accommodation after being held in a dark cell, without trial for 15 years.  “Errr, it has a roof and there’s some natural light”.  They’re essentially 60sqm apartments, without an outside area.  Fortunately, we were not subjected to a Studio; we were in a Beach Villa, although, if anything, it suffered from having an outside area.  This is what we call in the industry “shit out of luck”.

Seeing all of the floor plans, I started to panic before we even arrived.  By the time we rolled up, I assumed we would have a pull out sofa for a bed and all 3 of us would take it in turns to sleep; that there isn’t even running water and we’d have to take a dump in the ocean.

If you’re a Smurf no one would even notice you going

No room for privacy

We started off in villa #130, a Beach Pool Villa with sunset view, yet the only view anyone is getting is of you, as it’s so exposed that you may as well just send all your fellow guest’s nudes on arrival to get it over and done with.  We asked to “downgrade” and the next day they moved us to #105 a Beach Pool Villa, which was much, much better in terms of privacy, offered better convenience to the main areas and the winds on this side of the island were much calmer.  Everything else is identical, so the problems still continued to exist.

The bath being outside is practically criminal, as in #130 it was as private as a Kardashian sex tape.  There is absolutely no greenery and you’re completely exposed to the overwater villas.  Inside, you have the TV which is directly in front of you, that prevents you being exposed to that sun thing you’re meant to be paying extra for.  Why they didn’t put it into a cabinet that rises I do not know, although I can have a guess and it begins with “b” and ends in “udget”.  I’m sure the view looked great, but I’d need to order a sledgehammer from room service to get rid of the TV to find out.

The room does not feel cheap, let me be clear about that, but there is nothing that stands out and it’s mostly functional over form.  Everything feels scaled down; the wardrobes are tiny, the Internet asks you to log in and restricts you to 5 Mbps; they only one bar of soap to share amongst us (this was the case in both rooms, so not a mistake) and they couldn’t provide nappy bins, so that taking a dump in the ocean started to sound like a good idea.  I can only conclude based on the small size of everything that their target audience is millionaire midgets.  The worst point was the noise by the entrance.  Either our butler was hiding in there, to whisper good tidings to us as we leave, or there’s a terribly loud generator at work.

The pool is easily the biggest disappointment, with it feeling like a coffin as you enter it.  At 6.5m long and about 13cm wide, it’s like an upgraded plunge pool and is essentially useless for anything other than drowning the local wildlife. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that we spotted no animals on the island; there is bird island, but I assume it’s just a bucket of KFC.

As parents of a young child, another major issue is the lack of a separated living area.  It means that from 7pm we had to hang around outside, which in the crippling humidity was not ideal.  I looked like Ted in Airplane sweating.  In Cheval Blanc you have a large living area, or at Velaa you can upgrade to a Deluxe villa, but at Patina there are no different room categories – your only option would be to take a 2 bedroom villa, at which point you’re paying almost double the price of a standard room at Velaa or Cheval Blanc.

In the end, the room is basically a junior suite with a balcony and plunge pool.  It’s just not a great place to hang around, which brings up the other major issue with Patina: everyone makes their way to the main area, which makes it feel exceptionally crowded.

Moving on

45 minutes via speedboat to arrive from Male – that’s the advertised time.  We arrived 90 minutes later, although the sea wasn’t exactly calm.  All the same, at some point I’m going to create a “only time a man under exaggerates length” chart for luxury resorts and show how far off their transfer times really are. In total, between leaving Cheval Blanc and arriving here, it took over 3 hours and in that time the amount of food offered by Patina can be measured in binary, minus the 1.  When we arrived to Patina a squad of staff were there to greet us, all of whom were clapping.  I was wondering if this was a sarcastic clap, like they were calling me an idiot, and all my pre-arrivals concerns were true.

We were picked up and driven past the main areas and to our room.

What I’m going to call the main area is really just where the swimming pool is, but it’s where you have breakfast and offers multiple restaurants, a bar and the reception area.  There is another pool, which is much nicer, but for whatever reason this is where everyone seemed to be, and I’m sure it had absolutely nothing to do with the bar offering free drinks between 5-6pm.  I was expecting to see Brits getting smashed, fighting each other and everyone running around naked.  No luck.

Patina is on the man-made Fari Islands, which include the Ritz-Carlton and soon-to-open Capella.  Guests can easily move between islands and use the facilities of the other resorts, so if you want to go see the Ritz-Carlton you can.  I did not, because I have standards and I will not step foot in a Ritz-Carlton!  Actually, my standards are “which property offers free ice cream?”.  Patina does, so there was no chance I was stepping foot off the island.

Patina hosts the Fari Marina Village, which acts as a centralised area for all the resorts.  There’s a variety of restaurants, ranging from fine dining down to ice cream trucks, as well as his and her boutique and an invitation-only art gallery.  It’s a core focus of the Fari Islands project, meaning that with the separate swimming pool and beach club it will definitely get busy, particularly when Capella opens.  The Village is actually very nice, and I was surprised the swimming pool did not get more use because it’s much more elegant and beautiful than the main pool, but it’s clearly that bit out of the way to make people think once and then think “fuck that” as their second thought.

The problem with the entire project is that any sense of exclusivity is completely removed.  When you have “guest access” as an option for Internet access, you know you’re not in Cheval Blanc anymore.  That is the shame of Patina – if they made the accommodation better and didn’t try and turn it into some pseudo shared community, it could fight its way up to the Maldives elite, but they either decided against it or have implemented it wrong, as it now doesn’t stand a chance.  It feels too much like a resort that we’ve been and seen before, but with one differentiator: it was even more crowded.

And that is a real pity, as there are some really wonderful parts of Patina.  There’s the cinema, with free family movies every Saturday.  A simple, but elegant spa with a relaxing lounge area offering a sauna and plunge pools prior to any treatments – which include watsu and an isolation therapy chamber, which I think is another word for your villa.

The Kids Club is gorgeous.  It’s a really lovely area, with lots of activities, albeit quite a lot are aimed at older children rather than toddlers.  There are computer games, 3D printers, computers, arts and crafts, outdoor climbing frames, paddling pools and lots to do here.  Although there was someone that worked there who thought they were a comedian but came across as someone you definitely don’t want hanging around your kids.  The kinda person that’d crack a joke by saying “your child is missing”, followed by a long, long pause and add “missing ice cream!” just after you’ve run off, called the coastguard and had a heart attack.

So the choice of dining is incredible, and for those that love art you may enjoy the range on offer, including a James Turrell installation, but for myself, it being a shared area just took so much away from it.

Size matters

The number of rooms always has an impact on service.  It’s inevitable, as no team can handle that level of communication and detail. There’s too many rooms to personalise things and too many rooms even to get some of the basics right, like housekeeping knowing to come to our room during breakfast, or giving our 15-month-old daughter a bicycle to use, like my Peloton skills are genetically passed onto her.  Our primary point of contact was our butler, which, like Cheval Blanc, mostly used WhatsApp for communication.  At Cheval our butler was extremely intense and responsive, whereas here she was so laid back and just didn’t respond to half the points.  If we asked for three things then two would be done, so we had to adapt to her.  When we moved room, we realised it was easier to do it ourselves.  It felt like she didn’t have time for us and we, the guests, ended up feeling bad consistently having to chase for things.

She was a lovely person, but not a particularly great butler.  In the end, we felt like we were gonna end up passively-aggressively texting things like “SOMEBODY forgot”.  We had to ask for everything to be set up again after we moved room.  Whilst Cheval did not cover itself in glory, I started to miss our butler.  Damn, I shouldn’t have written such a horrible review of her.  Maybe it’s me that’s the problem.

Food was good, without reaching the heights of great.  I had a disappointing meal in Helios, their Greek restaurant, but their Asian/Japanese Wok was significantly better.  However, there is a really massive range of options on the island, and you would need at least a week to try them all.  Did I mention how much I liked the ice cream/gelato truck, not least because it’s free?

As we departed we experienced the joyful Soneva curse, of the buggy losing battery and crawling to a near standstill, followed by the Four Seasons Landaa where we waited in the reception area for 45 minutes, all because the boat was delayed.  Surely they knew this in advance.  It just summarised the experience that in the end, we were comparing it to Four Seasons Landaa and Soneva, rather than Joali, who they want to be positioned near.

The Good

  • Immense food selection (and free ice cream)
  • Kids club
  • Spa

The Bad

  • The room
  • Tiny gym
  • The lack of tranquillity at the main pool

The Luxurious

  • It’s still the Maldives

Conclusion

I found myself at Patina after asking on Instagram where else I should visit during our Cheval Blanc Randheli trip  – the mass majority said Patina.  Sometimes social media creates such a buzz and it’s my civic duty to tell you the truth.  That truth is very often: it’s not worth it.  Patina has not conned anyone and it’s a good resort, there are just better Maldivian resorts, some of which are cheaper.

I have to question what the Patina brand stands for, particularly because of their Studio rooms.  Studio apartments says low end, yet the food and accommodation prices says otherwise.  If I’m going to say Four Seasons Desroches isn’t as good as North Island it isn’t a fair comparison as it’s priced 10x higher but Patina is 30% off Cheval Blanc Randheli and Velaa.  30% price difference, but 100% different.

When they’re not that far apart, it’s only fair to look at some comparisons and there’s too much of Patina that feels it needs more time to develop.  The sparse landscape is a big problem for privacy, but so is the sheer number of tables, crammed together, in the main area, which gives you a very different feeling than you’d want when you’re on a so-called deserted island paradise.  Some of the furniture in the communal areas reminded me of Four Seasons Landaa which is not a compliment. In places, it looks like I designed it.

I asked during my Four Seasons Landaa review that I’m not sure who it’s for, and that stands for Patina too.  It is also definitely not for people concerned about privacy, due to the multiple islands and coming and goings of guests, and it’s not for parents like ourselves that don’t need a 2 bedroom villa yet.

I see the Maldives as having several tiers: Velaa and Cheval Blanc exist by themselves, below that you have Nautilus, Joali and Kudadoo, then below that there’s really everyone else, with there being different degrees of awfulness.  Patina exists just below the Joali tier, but it could have easily sat amongst them.

On the last day, I spot someone with a Cheval Blanc hat on.  He glances at mine.  I stare back.  We tip our hats at each other.  We stared at each other in silence for 8 minutes as a single tear fell down my cheek and we both knew, we knew. No words needed to be said.  We had found paradise, it just wasn’t at Patina.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 16th May '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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