I began to plan this trip of a lifetime in February of 2021. It was in no way meant to be a redo of my ‘Quarantine 50th’ because that was dope, I mean super dope. We’d toyed with Australia & New Zealand, Tokyo, Singapore & Bali, but none of those places had reopened yet. Dubai & Maldives had both reopened to travelers in the summer of 2020! Neither had stayed closed for long. Sooo, we were going!!! And we didn’t really care how much it would cost.
I start planning as soon as I can for every destination & this 1 definitely had to be as far in advance as possible. All the while hoping & praying that Covid-19 wouldn’t keep us from a vacation of a lifetime.
The first thing I did was to buy our flights & that was in February. We’d decided on Emirates, coach with extra leg room. I then found the Westin Maldives which I liked a lot because they had an offer for a DAILY spa treatment for 2. That would certainly cure the ‘boredom’ that people felt while in the Maldives….. Hmmm, boredom? We were so curious to see if that would be true for us!
As March, Apr & May slowly passed, we would watch YouTube videos of different resorts & other people’s experiences to keep us hyped about the trip that still seemed so far away! I’d planned on us doing the following: Dine in the Sky, dining @ the Ossiano & XLine Dubai. Most of those activities had to be booked closer to the date of arrival & paid for IN ADVANCE.
In the meantime, Floyd came across the Al-Maha Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai. It was an immediate ‘yes’ & it was UTTERLY PHENOMENAL!! The Al-Maha is just as pricey as it can be, & in fact it’s been our most expensive hotel stay to date, but beyond worth it! We sacrificed & only stayed 1 night, but on the morning of check-out, we 150% wished we’d booked for 2 nites.
Sometime in July, I came across a hotel that was on Luxury Escapes called the Finolhu. The Finolhu had a ‘Beach Bubble’ & from that point on, my whole heart & being HAD to stay there & experience the ‘Bubble’! AND, again, it didn’t matter the cost.
I booked both the Al Maha & Finolhu without a deposit, but the Finolhu had to be paid 30 days prior to arrival. For the next month or so, I kept an eye on the websites for those 2 hotels AND the prices DROPPED! They both became a little less expensive… #winning. It was still a super expensive trip though & we ended-up purchasing a travel insurance policy through Generali. We would definitely need it because if anything were to happen, we could rebook all the other hotels w/o difficulty & for whenever we wanted to, the Emirates flights came with insurance, but that doggone Finolhu… Well if for some reason we had to cancel, they were only allowing rebookings thru December ‘21 (3 mos later!)! AND there would be no way that either of us would get that much time off from our jobs over the Christmas holidays.
August 2021, our very 1st Covid tests ever were done & it was only to see what the turnaround time was as we’d have to test within 72hrs of departing the US. Radeas Labs in Raleigh, NC was totally on point. Free & quick to drive thru & self-swab. Yaaay! Results came back within 4-6hrs.
By Sept 1, all bookings were made, I’d been buying clothes, bathing suits & trunks for us for a few months AND our bags had been mostly packed for a couple of months. WE WERE READY!!
We’d decided on flying from RDU to JFK & spending the night in NYC. That’s always best so that you don’t feel anymore rushed on the day of an international flight. We both hate NYC. We just do! So we spent a night @ a nice Courtyard that wasn’t too far from JFK. Our 1st trip shenanigan was Floyd not putting his birthday on his Covid test that he’d done @ Radeas. He’d gotten the result the night that we arrived in NY, but it had no DOB on it. We just knew we’d have to find a clinic to test @ the next morning & that would be just cutting things too close! But he was able to call Radeas the next am & they fixed it. Yay!
Oh, but hold on!! There were even greater shenanigans! Just days before we were scheduled to leave for this big trip, his dad had become critically ill in Va & was hospitalized! Floyd had to go there to be with him & we had no idea that we’d be able to make the trip! It was during those few days that it became obvious that his dad wouldn’t be able to live alone any longer & what would we do if he got discharged prior to us leaving????? Then I had the brilliant idea that his dad HAD to go to rehab. Woo, that saved us because by that time, we were both soooooo ready for a vacation that if we couldn’t make it…. Well, neither of us knew what was gonna happen!
Alrighty then! Another one of the greatest things we’ve ever done was to experience the Emirates Lounge @ JFK. What a super nice, clean, quiet, $100pp treat! #bougie
You could stay in their lounge for 4hrs max & you have to be flying Emirates to even get into their lounge. We were mostly going all out for this trip! Not only was the small buffet of food great, but there was free flowing alcohol & we had our 1st taste of Dom Perignon! Now listen, Floyd was in no way dirty, but he had to go & take a shower! He said it was so good, lol! They give you shower stuff & toiletries. Why did he have to shower though????
We had an overnight flight to Dubai & it was 14hrs total flying time. We arrived @ 6:30pm Dubai time & we were both surprised by how dark it was! The flight there was great! We didn’t need the extra leg room seats because the coach section that we sat in was pretty empty so we moved & each spread out on our own rows! The food wasn’t phenomenal, but it wasn’t bad either + we’d just eaten some good ass food @ the lounge.
The Dubai airport was a nice size & not overly crowded. Floyd took a pic of one of the Emirate working men who was wearing the traditional Dishdasha, and the man called him over to him & made Floyd delete the pic! My baby was about to go to jail, lol!
We rented for the 1st time through Economy Bookings & picked-up @ National Car rental that was right @ the Airport. We had no problem with the rental @ all. They drive on the ‘right’ side of the road & nothing special to rent the car was needed.
Our 1st night was spent in a Beach Suite with Club Access @ the Sofitel Dubai The Palm & it was NICE! We had a private check-in, oooh la la & we were both astonished that the receptionist had never seen our new titanium Apple Card that has no numbers on it. Dubai had yet to see the Apple Card! Anyway, we were taken to our room via golf cart & the room was huge with 1.5 baths. We were ‘feeling ourselves’ that night, ha ha. We ordered & had the best room service, too! Then we both got in the tub for 2 and… Just bathed, laughed, drank wine, & lol………………………………………………………… Shenanigans.
The ‘buffet’ club breakfast was good, but you couldn’t serve yourself. And we’ve had much better ‘club access breakfasts’, but it was still good. We then walked around the huge property just to take a look & were both very disappointed when we had to wait 45min for them to start serving alcohol. They don’t serve alcohol in Dubai before 12p! Can y’all hear me still sucking my teeth right now?! Smh.
The Al Maha was up next!!! He clicked on his Waze app & had no trouble @ all navigating to & thru the desert! The weirdest & craziest thing happened enroute. A bad rain & dust storm came-up, cars began to pull off the road AND people got out (on the side of the highway!), laid out their prayer rugs & began to kneel & pray on the side of the road! Having no idea of what we’d just witnessed, when we got to the hotel’s gate, we asked the guard & he said,”It never rains in the desert & if it does, they stop, get out of their cars & pray.” Wait, what?! We’d just witnessed a rare occurrence??!! AND we were now seeing these animals along the desert road called Oryx, & we’d seen a few camels on the desert horizon as we were driving there? Really?! How amazing! We were in the Arabian Desert. That storm was wild tho’ & amazing!
We got to the Al Maha just in time for the camel trek. We barely had time to change our clothes or to really scope out the gorgeous room that we’d stay in for the night. Floyd & I rode the same camel & trekked far out into the desert for the sunset. We arrived @ a small table set up with champagne that we enjoyed, took pics & talked with other people from around the world who’d trekked with us.
As soon as we trekked back to the resort, it was time to leave for the utter pièce de résistance: Dune Dining! Dune Dining was an extra $300 or so, but so dang worth it!!! Our personal ‘field guide’, Marelie, drove us out into the middle of the desert @ abt 7:30pm. She had set up this feast for us! It was very dark & we would dine via torch light! Ooooh, scary, scary!! We could’ve opted to have a waiter out there with us, but who needed that for an extra $100?! Some things we’ll pay for, some we won’t, lol. There was a large, warming cart with a ton of food!! I mean it seemed to be enough for 4 ppl! There was a cooler with water… Any other drinks were extra (weird, I know), but we weren’t gonna pay for that either! You would’ve thought we’d get @ least some Pepsi for $300 extra! They provided a little birthday cake for me, too. We told Marelie that we just wanted to stay out there for 90min. We ate good, Floyd took a few grainy, desert pics. I took better ones, & we fought off big, black, fast crawling beetles – yikes! They didn’t bite, but just seeing them was not what we wanted to see.
Back to the room & it was divine! We slept in the biggest, most comfortable king sized bed EVER! I mean that bed was something else! We slept so dang good, that we didn’t want to get up for the 0630am ‘Falconry Experience’! That was way too early, but I did get up & order our in-room breakfast dining for a few hrs later. The man who took my order kept asking if I wanted extra of everything that I was ordering!! No sir, I do not! There was only the 2 of us, lol. Seems that I could’ve gotten him 2 plates of petit filet mignon & eggs, but I did get 2 of the best omelette’s that I’d ever had in my entire life – Their ‘Signature’ Al Maha Omelette that had artichokes, roasted pecans & smoked salmon. So so delicious! They way the delivery guy came in & stacked up what seemed like so many silver covered plates of food…. My Goodness! They made it worth your $! Why didn’t we book for 2 nights???!!!!
Later that morning, Marelie, who was from So. Africa, gave us a personal tour of the falcons & their ‘homes’. Cool to see. We gave her a $50 tip. I guess that was enough…?
Though it hadn’t been too long since we ate breakfast, we still ate our sumptuous, included lunch. Not to mention that we left there with the recipe for their delicious Coconut Curry Soup!
The Address Downtown Dubai: Was next & a very worthy 2 nite stay! It was a bit cheaper than some of the other ‘Address’ Hotels in Dubai, but that hotel was TIGHT!! Opulent, beautiful, new, modern & connected via walkway to the biggest mall in the WORLD: The Dubai Mall. I was less than impressed with the mall because there was nothing I needed/ wanted or could afford, for that matter!
At the hotel, we had a ‘Club Access’ Fountain View Rm & the view was beyond spectacular! A view of the fountains & the Burj Khalifa! The view & room itself was worth the extra, the club breakfast was again, just ok.
We dined @ the Armani Hotel@ a Japanese restaurant called Hashi& though my food was just ok, it was ALL ABOUT THE OUTDOOR ‘FRONT ROW’ TABLE WITH A DIRECT VIEW of THE FOUNTAINS AND DINING RIGHT UNDERNEATH THE WORLD’S TALLEST BUILDING, THE BURJ KHALIFA!! That I would do again & again AND again!! The atmosphere was perfect & even with live, soulful music, & the service was stellar. Floyd says that he had the best cut ever of Waygu beef there. After dinner, we then smoked hookah @ the restaurant (I was a hookah virgin!) for about a good hour AND again, under the world’s tallest building! So very DOPE! Y’all can’t even imagine…
XLine Dubai Marinawas our very 1st time zip lining & it was so good. The quickest 3min ever, zip lining through the skyscrapers! I danced all the way thru the sky & beat him to the finish line!
The islands where the water is just a blue as you see it in pictures on the internet!
So it was again time to fly Emirates coach to our next beautiful destination! A 4hr flight that is absolutely cheaper to fly from India than Dubai. Had everything been copacetic in India @ the time with Covid 19, I would’ve found a way to tack on that country, too, just to see the Taj Mahal!
No Emirates Lounge this time, but we did the Finolhu Lounge on arrival & it was cold, cold, cold in there! We had to wait for a couple of hrs for more ppl to come so we could catch the limited sea planes. For the sea planes, they are serious about the weight of your luggage. You’ll be charged if over the kg allowance as we were. The sea planes are tiny, loud & expensive. $570 round-trip per person, & our total flying time to the Finolhu resort was about 30min!
So everything is hella $ in the Maldives since EVERYTHING is imported on those little planes, but when I was doing research for this trip, there were some ‘reasonable’ hotels. The cheaper 1’s didn’t seem to have over the water (otw from this point) bungalows & may have been on the main island, Malé. An otw bungalow was always our goal & the Finolhu did NOT disappoint! There was no way that we were gonna stay on the ‘main island’ of Malé, nope!!! Put us smack dab in the middle of the Indian Ocean!
The ‘Ocean Pool Villa’ – was their over the water bungalow with private pool, & how glorious it was! With a deep soaking tub, 2 outdoor showers & 1 indoor shower, we definitely got what we paid for. In retrospect, I wish we’d stayed longer in this room category… It was private enough to skinny dip & just a great room overall. Tho it was overcast @ times & there were several brief, tropical showers in September, we definitely got plenty of sun & was not disappointed in the weather @ all. ALSO, there were no bugs or geckos of any kind in or outside of the otw villa! I remember thinking that it was the coolest thing ever & ‘How is this possible? What kind of repellent/ pesticides are they using?’ Until we got to the beach villa….! Things were pretty different there.
THE BEACH BUBBLE – was every bit of simply amazing! We were the last people to stay in that specific bubble as the next day, they tore it down to rebuild another that also has a ‘living room bubble’ connected to it. So it’s now 2 bubbles! & for a little more money of course.
The bubble is on a very private side of the island. We were taken there on my birthday eve by speedboat. The bubble was an additional $800 on top of your nightly room rate. Yep! Even though we weren’t staying in our regular room that night, you still had to pay for both rates. So #worthIt! And it doesn’t matter how many days you’re booked for the Finolhu, you can only book 1 night in the bubble. We had a great (included in the rate) butler for the evening who took some amazing pics for us, & we had a private chef (included as well) who cooked delicious food right on the beach! The bed was very comfortable, there was a toilet, sink & shower. It was like glamping! The outside is pretty much pitch black surrounding the bubble @ night except for the moonlight, and the next morning we were greeted by an amazing sunrise along with more made to order, amazing food. The Finolhu Beach Bubble was #wortheveryREDpenny!
Their ‘Beach Villa’ – was our next room category that was nice, private & just as large as the otw. It had the same: 2 outdoor showers, a deep soaking tub – the bathroom was ‘open air’. HOWEVER, there were geckos, mosquitos & lots of hermit crabs in the private space out back that lead directly to the beach. It was all beautiful tho y’all, we can’t complain. Good thing we’d lived with geckos in our kitchen cabinets in Hawaii OR I would’ve been 100% freaked-out!
FOOD: We’d also paid for the ‘All-Inclusive Premium Meal Upgrade’ for the 2 of us that was VERY expensive, but I do believe it was worth it in the end. With that package, you could get any cocktail that you wanted & dine anywhere that you wanted without paying any extra. All of the alcohol in the room was included as well, & there was a lot of in-room alcohol. TOO MUCH TO DRINK (unless you were a bonafide alcoholic!) & none of it could be carried off of the island (boooooo!). That’s Muslim countries for you tho’. The food was absolutely TOP NOTCH! Every breakfast, lunch & dinner @ the Beach Kitchen Restaurant was a different ‘theme’. The food, oh so fresh & lots of it! Serve yourself buffet.
There was Kanusan, a Japanese restaurant – Deliciously expensive! Thank goodness we had the ‘all inclusive package’ because we got basic food that we would normally get in the US with a ‘champagne flight’ & the damage was a little over $500. Yikes! + the Sommelier came to our table & schooled us on the different champagnes. That was really nice.
There was also an expensive restaurant called ‘Arabian Grill’. Delicious food that we’d never really had before, but not as costly as the Japanese meal we’d had. We ate there twice & only because we’ve never seen an ‘Arabian’ restaurant in little old NC.
Then there was the ‘Crab Shack‘ – you could only get there by a very short boat ride, but it was lively with great food & music as well. Cheeseburgers were $24, fish & chips $25, they had a seafood basket for $75… So you don’t really want to be paying for that stuff or worried about the bill while you’re on vacation. The ‘All Inclusive’ package is highly recommended.
The only thing that we weren’t impressed with was the pizza that we ordered @ their pizza bar one day. I would say that the sauce needed a little bit of sugar, lol. Make your sauce like my Grandma Lillie used to! Ha ha!
Milk Lab – a little place where you could get panini’s, ice cream, nutritional shakes, desserts… Good, good, good!! We had the absolute best carrot cake we’d ever had (besides my mom’s southern style one)! AND we left the Finolhu with the recipe given to us by the Pastry Chef! Floyd tried his hand @ making it once… Nah, no good! I’ll have to make it next, smh.
The only thing that we paid extra for was quite a few souvi’s, Floyd’s scuba diving excursion & we both did an underwater ‘Penguin Excursion’ where we saw dolphins! OH & $250 for TWO Covid tests prior to us heading back to Dubai! I was super disappointed by the fact that there weren’t many souvenirs to buy @ the Finolhu Resort… because I would’ve dropped some dollars!! But when you get back to the Malè airport, there’s a souvi shop there.
Not only were the Finolhu grounds absolutely breathtaking, but every person that we encountered, including the General Manager, was so genuinely nice & accommodating. FINOLHU MALDIVES WAS WORTH THE $ & A ABSOLUTE PERFECT STAY! MsSassyTravels highly recommends it!
We then went back to Dubai for 2 days & stayed @ the Le Meridien Dubai which was almost across the street from the airport which was the goal: Close to the airport, as we were winding down now on the way home.
We dined @ Ossiano & that was well worth the money! It’s a 1 starred Michelin restaurant. Fancy, fancy, fancy! We thoroughly enjoyed all of the food that we’d never had before, AND all of the sea animals floating past our table that was right in front of the aquarium. Sting rays, sharks & many colorful fish floated past. We were again in heaven!
On the day before we were leaving for home, we went to the ‘Gold Souk‘ that was downtown or it may have been the Spice Souk, Idk – Floyd was driving, but it was very close to the Le Meridien & I just told him where I wanted to go. It was an outdoor area full of shops of EVERYTHING! We got bracelet charms, purses, a watch, spices & camel milk tea (delicious!). We were caught-up in what I call a private ‘underground’ store of knock-off, high-end purses, sunglasses, watches, totes – everything related to everything name brand. This specific place wasn’t even ‘underground’, but it was so secretive, behind a series ofdoors & there were no windows, so I called it ‘The Underground.’ I bought 2 purses, he bought a really nice watch…. We didn’t see nearly as much ‘high-end’ name brand, knock-off stuff when we were shopping in Thailand. AND all of that shopping caused us to miss our ‘Dine In the Sky‘ – we were so very disappointed! We had to pay for it in advance, there was no refund nor was it anything that we could claim with our trip insurance either. Super sad ‘sitch’.
Then it was time to go on home. We ended-up having to pay about $80 more for Covid tests in the airport because we didn’t actually stay in the airport when we left the Maldives… No, not for 2 days! But had we never left the airport, our $250 Maldives Covid tests would’ve still been good.
And talk about strategically packing ALL of the souvi’s & stuff we amassed while there, whew! It was tough, but we didn’t pay any extra bag fee’s! We’d even gone to a grocery store in 1 of the malls & got spices, vanilla & other different food. We brought all of that stuff home!
The Emirates coach flight home was super CROWDED! Thank goodness for the extra legroom seats then! BTW, there was ABSOLUTELY NO BOREDOM IN THE MALDIVES FOR US! (There is only 1 regret, not taking this trip @ the end of our vacationing lives because NOW EVERYTHING HAS TO LIVE UP TO DUBAI & THE MALDIVES, smh, & it seems that there will NEVER be any place that comes close!! It was just that good!)
As always, thanks for reading!!