Picture a hand-selected movie, in my case, The Great Gatsby, projected on your own private beach under a Maldivian sky bursting with stars. The chocolate fondant cake your butler has placed beside you, which has been personally delivered to your villa by the hotel’s pastry chef, is illuminated by a scattering of candles that have been set up across the sand. You bite into the gooey cake, still full from the 5-course barbecue of local fare you’ve indulged in, as a private acoustic guitar player serenades your meal.
Operated by LVMH Hotel Management, a division of luxury fashion empire Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, the one-year-old Cheval Blanc Randheli, located on Noonu Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane ride north of the capital of Malé, is in the business of making dreams a reality, as I recently lived out during my three-night stay at the luxury resort.
Before arriving on property, I’m sent a preference questionnaire, ranging in nature from my preferred chocolate (dark, milk, or white?), to whether I would favor foam or feather pillows on my villa’s bed.
Once on property, I enter a design lover’s haven, where fashion meets the humbling white shores and azure waters of the Maldives. If you’re looking for a kitschy tiki hut-inspired ambiance, you’ve come to the wrong resort. Rather, at Cheval Blanc, you’ll find materials of slate, marble, and subdued color palettes typical of the swankiest spots in Europe, Dior coffee table books, and customized Vincent Beaurin artwork within each of the 45 villas on property.
The interior design of the resort, devised by Jean-Michel Gathy, is a decadent work of cosmopolitan elegance. My 1,400 square-foot beach villa, with its seven-meter tall bamboo ceilings, automated home electronic system, two outdoor rain showers, Olympic-sized infinity-edge swimming pool, and taupe and yellow color palette, feels undeniably swanky but never stuffy, a graceful balance of form and function that allows me to feel like I’ve landed in a livable lap of luxury as opposed to a sterile design museum.
From the resort’s signature scent “Island Chic,” a blend of cardamom, rose, driftwood, and cedar, created exclusively for Cheval Blanc by Francois Demachy (Creative Director of fragrances for Christian Dior and Givenchy) to the ‘good night’ messages written nightly in the sandy driveway of my villa, by Musa, my assigned butler, who also packs and unpacks my bags upon arrival and departure, attention to detail is synonymous with the Cheval Blanc experience.
Standout moments, although impossible to name them all, include dinner at Le 1947, where upon arrival, I’m greeted with a selection of cashmere scarves, as that evening happens to be on the brisker side and the restaurant staff is concerned that I might be cold. A 13-course gourmet dinner follows, with dishes such as the gold-leafed foie gras terrine with beetroot jelly and roasted veal sweetbread with truffle jus rivaling the world’s fashion capitals finest dining establishments.
Le 1947 is on the highest end of the spectrum of the five restaurants on property, which have all been created in collaboration with three-Michelin-star chef Yannick Alléno. Apart from in-room dining choices, there’s also the White contemporary brasserie; Diptyque, which offers Spanish and Japanese cuisine; Deelani fish restaurant, and Le Table de Partage, a private dining room that can be rented out by guests for special occasions.
My days at Cheval Blanc are spent in the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. I paddle board, jet ski, and work with Musa to arrange a snorkeling experience and picnic at a nearby deserted island. Speeding along the calm waters with my private guide, we encounter a family of dolphins that playfully swims beside our speedboat. On the white sand beaches of the island, after a morning of snorkeling in which I have the pleasure of seeing not one, but two sea turtles, I nibble on a picnic of fresh fruits, gluten-free (by special request) baked goods, and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.
To unwind post-snorkeling, I visit the Cheval Blanc spa for an imperial relaxing massage and sunset yoga session. The spa, exclusively devised by Guerlain, is located on its own island, a three-minute sail away in one of the resort’s traditional dohani boats. It’s also replete with a beauty studio, barbershop, hammam, and meditation pavilion, where I find myself contorting into downward facing dog and exhaling my worries away while enjoying an upside down view of the turquoise horizon and blushing sunset.
I’m really only hit with the impact of my Cheval Blanc Randheli stupor post-stay. Upon arriving to Malé to check in for my flight back to Dubai, I’m told by the airline attendant that I will be unable to switch my seat from the window to the aisle chair. This, I realize, is the first time I’ve heard the word ‘no’ in four days. You see, ‘no’ just doesn’t exist at Cheval Blanc Randheli – which, if you ask me, is the definition of luxury.
For more information about Cheval Blanc Randheli, visit: http://randheli.chevalblanc.com/en