News & Reviews Indian Ocean Maldives Review: Soneva Fushi, Maldives

My odyssey started with their pre-arrival form, a masterpiece of customisation.  The form is the best I’ve ever seen.  It effortlessly guides you through tailoring your experience.  Everyone else could learn something from this.  Little did I know, this was the peak of this journey.

We arrived to hear their motto: ‘No shoes, no news,’ meaning my shoes were confiscated.  I suppose they were trying to set the tone for a ‘barefoot luxury, Robinson Crusoe’ experience, but it felt more like a hostage situation.  The policy quickly lost its charm.  The sand, far from the soft, fluffy clouds I was promised, was interspersed with puddles and an army of mosquitos.  The view of a fully developed nearby island didn’t exactly feel like Robinson Crusoe either.  A more apt comparison would have been ‘Lost’, in that it felt as enjoyable as a plane crash and somehow got worse.

The 3-bedroom villa tried valiantly to impress, but it was like watching your 80-year-old grandma attempt a pole dance – something you can’t unsee and something nobody asked for.  The villa’s privacy was its only saving grace, ensuring your poor choice of coming to Soneva Fushi remained your own little secret.  Nestled amidst lush trees and requiring a mini trek to reach the beach, it featured the largest swimming pool I’ve ever seen in a hotel room.  However, with no heating, it might as well have been an alligator pit for all the use I got out of it.

Things got weirder.  A bizarre soundtrack of massage music and whale songs permeates the living area, putting it up there with New Coke as one of this world’s travesties.  The bathroom, though aesthetically pleasing with an outdoor waterfall, left me questioning the sanity of whoever thought placing a water feature next to a place where you need to be semi-naked in the middle of a mosquito carnival was a good idea.  I repeat: person who has never been on an island designs toilet.  Worse of all, Wi-Fi’s reach didn’t extend to this mosquito haven, leaving you stranded with your thoughts and an itching sensation.

The facilities are the most impressive part.  The ice cream, chocolate, and cheese shops were complimentary – or at least one of them was, it was never made clear and maybe I’m now a wanted man in the Maldives.  The slide into the ocean, sunset bar with hammocks over the water, tennis court, observatory, and recycling centre do a good job of distracting from the overall mediocrity.  The Kids Club is genuinely impressive because of its vastness.  The ‘Out of the Blue’ dining area, while promising and inspired by Soneva Jani’s design, was still a work in progress.

The service was like watching a cat.  I don’t mean playful and sprightly, more that they wouldn’t care if you were dead.  The waiters were forgetful, and the butler was just… there.  The staff trying to sell surfing lessons at breakfast felt cheap.  Then someone else came around to offer discounts at the spa, which felt even more cheap.  Whereas at other properties, management comes around to speak to guests, here, they come around to sell.  It was only a matter of time before someone came over with their trenchcoat and tried to sell us back our items.

If anything, they should have been grateful for my presence, as I was able to improve quality control by continually pointing out their mistakes.  Do I get a staff discount?  Our departure flight times were off by a mere factor of 14 hours.  We were seated at a table that was practically in the lap of a bustling crowd.  Seeking a quieter spot, we inquire about moving, only to be told all tables are occupied.  Curious, we ask about our reservation.  The waiter confirms it, then tells us it’s first come, first serve.  Which begs the question, what’s the point of a reservation in the first place?  It’s like being given a ticket to a show that doesn’t exist.

It’s a place where nothing is surprising anymore, when mistake after mistake, indifference after indifference is the norm.  When you have to start laughing at it, otherwise you’re the joke.  Even when trying their best to excel, like having housekeeping coming even during our final day, they manage to screw it all up by forgetting this thing called ‘knocking’.  The final turndown was really beautiful, with a selection of flowers (sure, that’ll keep the mosquitos away).  But you know why?  Cos they leave a picture of the room you stayed in, saying how it’s possible to buy it.  What next?  Trying to sell us bottled water?

Everything was a far cry from the personalised experience I had expected.  That damn pre-arrival form – ruining expectations again.

The food wasn’t much better.  The breakfast buffet was a letdown.  Sure, it’s massive, but it’s spread out so far it felt like a treasure hunt, minus the treasure.  More like a “find a turd hunt”, but you’re standing in it.  I appreciated that no one took the time to explain any of it to us, as it meant less chance of being infected by its blandness.  If you managed to order anything, which involved having to chase someone down, it took an eternity to arrive.

The Good

  • Free ice cream.  I think, at least.

The Bad

  • Service
  • Food
  • Endless sales pitches

The Luxurious

  • I guess you’re in the Maldives




Departure couldn’t come soon enough.  As we were whisked away to Male and taken to Cheval Blanc’s lounge, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief.  Soneva Fushi, with its misplaced priorities and lacklustre service, was a lesson in unfulfilled expectations.  It’s a pity really, because somewhere beneath the overzealous mosquito population and the relentless sales pitches, I think there might have once been a charming little island resort.  Only kidding, I’m sure it’s always been shit.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 15th Jul '18

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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