Holiday Island changed from being a popular resort with a mixed clientele to an exclusively Italian (Club Venta) resort. It is now going back to the international mix.
Former returnees and new devotees could revive it to the times when it won the highest occupancy award (1997), but it needs to redefine its place in an ever more demanding market.
For Italians, there is no 'all-together beach', which is a key requirement - that is, somewhere to hang out together during the day and enjoy the organised fun and games. The evening cabaret is also no longer functioning. None of this is a problem for other nationalities. The days are quiet and peaceful and the nights are social. Karaoke takes place twice a week, a live band and cultural show once a week each. Otherwise it's chatting and drinking in the bar and table tennis and snooker in the lobby.
Villa resorts promote the image of having lots on offer all day long, but Holiday Island would seem to be now more about the original Maldives style of an unchanged island where you go to relax and soak up the sun. If the urge for action and a change of atmosphere comes on, there are frequent ferries over to the neighbouring island, which happens to be the biggest and brashest resort in the country, another Villa resort called Sun Island. There you can avail yourself of the fine sports facilities, the large swimming pool, the spa, the restaurants and even the video games room before sailing back to the quiet haven of Holiday.
As a result of former training by the Italian chefs, the food here is well above average. There is variety and quality in the buffets and live cooking stations for the meat, pasta dishes and occasionally even the dessert (pears flambé). The restaurant itself is large and airy, with no requirement to double up on tables.
The 142 rooms are all individual bungalows, except for the 9 interconnecting family rooms. Solid, bright and clean, they have all the usual ingredients, plus a satellite television, hair dryer and bidet. Not all the rooms are the same, though, when it comes to location.
Half the rooms face north and half face south - and it's always preferable to face south. Furthermore, the rooms on the northeast corner (101-135) face a beach with a bad erosion problem (a vertical drop of a metre and more). The sand quality for most of the island is okay but is excellent at the western end. So the rooms to get are those on the southwest where the beach line takes a turn, increasing the sense of privacy, where the sand is superb and the sun shines all day and sets within view (rooms 170-185).
It surprised me to see so many wooden sun loungers on the beach without the cushioned covers, but not when I discovered guests have to pay a dollar a day to rent them. Not good. The 300 metre trip to the house reef from the jetty is also charged for. That's 5 dollars per trip and 5 dollars a day for the snorkelling equipment.
Most people are on all-inclusive packages, but it's not straightforward. The perfectly positioned beach bar is only open for 3 two-hour slots a day and beer is the only alcohol served gratis for all-inclusive clients. Then, sitting on the wooden deck shared by the bar and the coffee shop, you need to pay for a drink if it is ordered from a coffee shop waiter but it's free if ordered from a bar waiter. The opportunities for misunderstandings are many. On the other hand, the Maldivian supervisors are excellent at smoothing over any little problems. And the waiters are also excellent at their job, smiling and serving with a good line in conversation.
This region of southeast Ari Atoll is world famous for its diving. The channels attract the big fish, the sharks and pelagics; the thilas have large schools of the little fish and the outside sites are home to roving whale sharks. This should be a good reason to base yourself here. This, the peace and quiet and the occasional trips to Sun.
Reviewed by Adrian Neville