HOTEL REVIEW Holiday Inn Kandooma


Let me just say, first of all, that - like many people - going to the Maldives was a dream I thought would never happen. And it ended up being a completely improvised trip - almost on a whim. That was our first mistake. Do not take the Maldives lightly!

We found cheap tickets to the Maldives and jumped on them. Then, we looked at the resorts. Mistake number two. Look at the resorts first, then figure out your tickets. Anyway, there are so many resorts in the Maldives and we didn't have so much time, so we took two main considerations into account: the price (obviously) and the diving options (I wanted to get my PADI Open Water license). So we ended up with the Holiday Inn Kandooma. Kandooma is a world-renowned diving site, the Holiday Inn had a diving center, and the Holiday Inn is a very reasonable, reputable chain. We've stayed in many Holiday Inn hotels while on road trips and on transits and have never been disappointed. They provide simple, clean rooms with a couple of freebies (breakfast and wifi - all I need!) at an extremely reasonable price.

But, simple and basic is not actually what you're looking for when you go to the Maldives.

We booked a private beach house which is basically on 2 floors. The ground floor is basically an outdoor living room with sand floors, a table with 2 chairs, and a sunbed/sofa. There is a big storage chest and a sink and shower to clean sand off yourself and your gear before going upstairs. I was under the impression, when we booked it online, that we had access to a kind of private beach. Actually, we had no direct access to the water, as we were blocked off by a stretch of washed up coral. Privacy was also not guaranteed because quite a few people walked passed our place to get to theirs.

Upstairs is basically a bedroom with a desk, minibar and bathroom with outdoor shower. I was a little shocked by the design of the bathroom - with it's open toilet (no door). I don't know how comfortable you are with your partners/spouse, but toilet duties are something I like to keep private.... Staying in the bathroom - hand soap, toothbrushes & toothpaste, body cream, shampoo, conditioner and body wash were all provided. There are 2 bathrobes and an iron with board.  They also provide complimentary beach bags and rubber beach sandals. The safe is also located in the bathroom.
In the room, they have a well stocked minibar with a great number of other snacks and daily necessities, but the prices are Maldives Minibar Prices (i.e. don't even go there). They also have a drawer with some plates and cutlery, wine glasses and the such. There is also a breakfast corner with an orange squeezer, a french press, a teapot and a kettle. Tea, coffee and 5 oranges a day are all provided free. In terms of in-room entertainment: there is a sound system for iPods (we couldn't get it to work though) and a TV (which we didn't really watch) and a comfortable bed. We also had a balcony with a table and 2 chairs giving onto the ocean (which we couldn't really see due to the trees that screened us from our neighbors).
Being by the ocean meant that every time you opened the windows a crack, the floor of the bedroom would be covered in sand. We also had a problem with ants. They were on the desk, on the bed, in the bathroom... We weren't over run with them, but they were there.
By far my biggest disappointment was with housekeeping. We got room service a couple of times and called to have the plates removed (remember ant problem?) but often the plates stayed there all day and even onto the next day. The same happened with basic room cleaning. We would leave in the morning, return in the middle of the afternoon and the room would still not have been cleaned. We had to call every day to get the room cleaned.

The resort has a gym, spa, water sports center, diving school and 2 restaurants. We were put off the meal plan because we were forced to take part in the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Galas (US$150/person per meal). These Galas turned out to be pretty disorganized - especially the Christmas Day Gala. We were told that we had to dress up (no beach wear) but half the guests were wearing shorts and bikinis; and for the Christmas Day Gala, we weren't even on the guest list and there was no table prepared for us. They quickly put a place together for us, in the sand (so think unstable chairs and tables) and in the open air. Considering it had been raining on and off all day, it was only a matter of time till we got rained on. The food was really nothing to write home about.

On the plus side, there was unlimited water and sunscreen available at the main beach. I'm not sure if this is provided at other resorts, but I had read that sunscreen was an essential to bring, because buying it on the spot is hugely overpriced. So finding an unlimited supply was a good surprise. 

Overall, I think that a lot of our satisfaction comes from our expectations and value for money. The Holiday Inn Kandooma didn't quite do it for me. The Maldives are synonym of paradise and luxury, and the very basic (and unreliable) facilities and service at Kandooma were not quite up to par.


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