Book your Maldivian island at Cheval Blanc Randheli

As someone who’s been writing about travel and hospitality, I’d thought I had the hang of luxury hotels. Until I checked into LVMH’s Cheval Blanc Randheli. Designed by celebrated Belgian architect Jean-Michel Gathy and built across six islands in Noonu Atoll, Maldives — with one each for their spa, tennis courts and flagship four-bedroom Owner’s Villa (a favourite with celebrities and royalty alike; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were guests in 2014, soon after the resort opened) — it pushes the envelope for the rich and the jaded.

Think personal majordomos for each villa, the region’s only Guerlain spa, a unique collection of art — from French artist Vincent Beaurin’s Arch in the lagoon, to his Couronne series, a fluid work of 46 sculptural coloured spots that echo the radiance of the Maldivian sun — ‘Ambassadeurs’ to curate every experience, pop-ups by world-renowned chefs (Dharshan Munidasa, of Sri Lanka’s popular Ministry of Crab restaurant was there earlier this year), even special edition timepieces custom-made for the resort, like the Hublot Oceanographic 4000 dive watch and last year’s Classic Fusion.

Book your Maldivian island at Cheval Blanc Randheli

Take your time

My ‘experience’ starts much before I embark on my trip; an email questionnaire determines everything from my choice of pillow and fragrance, to the temperature I prefer in my villa. But true luxury begins at the end of a 40-minute flight on a private Twin Otter de Havilland seaplane from Malé.

My butler welcomes me with a drink, anecdotes and a promise to assist in any way possible — no task is too small, from finding the perfect macaron to planning a moonlit yoga session. The 46-villa property (45 of which are on the biggest island, each with its own private stretch of beach) is in synergy with the island’s surroundings, done up entirely in whites, taupes and pops of signature yellow.

New on the map
  • Cheval Blanc, with Maisons in Courchevel, Maldives, St Tropez and St Barts, is expanding, bringing its hospitality to London and Paris. The property in Paris is scheduled to open next year, followed by London in 2022.

With furnishings made from traditional materials, like rattan, bamboo and mother of pearl, soaring vaulted ceilings (almost 30 feet tall) create drama in my Water Villa. The expansive 2,500 sq ft space — divided by rotating oak panels and perfumed by the resort’s signature scent, Island Chic, a blend of cardamom, rose and driftwood, created exclusively by François Demachy, head nose of Dior — includes an open bathroom, a kitchen, and two wine chillers (one each for red and white). An outdoor deck houses a 40-foot infinity pool.

Book your Maldivian island at Cheval Blanc Randheli

Food for the soul

Here, luxury is in the little details. Like how the resort never gives out the names of its guests (hence a favourite with Bollywood A-listers), or how the staff anticipates your every need, adapting to the time you get up, the drink you enjoy.

Tech vs personal touch
  • Everything in my villa, from the temperature, lighting and media to opening the front door, is controlled through an iPad. It is by far the most easy and efficient wired space I’ve stayed in. For everything else, I had my butler. One of the highlights was the turn down service. Returning after a long day of adventure, I was greeted by a ‘good night’ message, written in sand, on the driveway.

In the competitive Maldivian market, with a decided slant towards couples, families are made to feel welcome here, with a club each for kids and teenagers, with tailored excursions, multimedia stations, and more.

The resort is also a food lover’s paradise, with five restaurants to choose from. At Le 1947 — helmed by Michelin star-collecting chef Yannick Alléno, and outfitted with parquet floors, Christofle silverware and crystal Baccarat chandeliers — a 12-course tasting menu that changes weekly promises to keep tastebuds engaged. Over the weekend, I enjoy a specially-curated vegetarian dinner, with highlights being crispy tomatoes with wasabi mayonnaise and textured cauliflower with black truffle. Among the four bars, the Wine Museum and Cigar Lounge boasts rare French vintages, in-cellar flights, sommelier-led masterclasses and a curated cigar menu.

Book your Maldivian island at Cheval Blanc Randheli

Keep busy

In between dining and relaxing, there is much to do. You can hop into a dhoni (traditional boat) and head to the spa island. Treatments like the Sun Ritual, which prepares the skin for tanning, and the After-Diving Experience, which promises to restore muscles after a day underwater, are tailormade for Maldives. But feeling a little more adventurous, I indulge in snorkelling and sea bobbing, with my majordomo coming up with more ideas. Maybe rent the 30m-long Azimut 98 Leonardo yacht, which comes with an open deck Jacuzzi and additional Jetskis, head out on a luxury catamaran, try night fishing or a personalised dive experience.

It’s only when I board my seaplane a couple of days later that I realise how I’ll miss the feeling of exclusivity one almost takes for granted at Cheval Blanc Randheli.

Villas start from $2,500 a night (approximately ₹1.8 lakh). Details:

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 7:03:37 AM |

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