There are resorts that imagine they are competing at the highest level in the Maldives and then there are resorts like W that not only set those standards but raise the bar by bringing in new ideas and new ways to make a great holiday even better.
The two striking aspects of how W distinguishes itself are, firstly, the company mantra 'Whatever/Whenever' and, secondly, their particular style of service and presentation.
Whatever/Whenever the company mantra
In a way 'Whatever/Whenever' can be intimidating or annoying. You might feel you are missing out by not coming up with great ideas to make your own or your partner's holiday amazing, and then feel pressured or bad about it. And anyway isn't the resort supposed to lay all this stuff out for us? Well they do, we are talking here about the extra extras, the things that suddenly spring into your head or are suggested by someone or something on, or off, the island.
Sunset fishing, for example, is usually over when the boat arrives back at the jetty. A few resorts take it further by offering to serve you your fish in the restaurant. W say "Would you like to eat the grouper you caught? How would you like it cooked? And where would you like it served? In your room, a barbecue on the beach in front of your room or perhaps on our desert island?" You might want to take it even further. How about a night snorkel on the desert island reef? I'm sure they would get a dive master over to guide you around.
I don't know if it was a long-established desire or a spur of the moment thing but one guest badly wanted to fly a seaplane. This, despite their best efforts, the resort could not manage. But they did get him up into the co-pilots seat for a flight and an unofficial lesson.
Luxury with a sense of humour
W sometimes describe themselves as 'luxury with a sense of humour' and this nicely describes the style of service. Everyone is clearly very highly trained yet there is not a jot of stiff, five star formality here. On the contrary, there is a relaxed interaction between the staff and guests that sets the mood and the pattern that then sees guests picking up conversations, making acquaintances and having a good time together.
You might not quite fancy the idea of an overly (in your mind) enthusiastic guy coming by and urging you to join the snorkeling trip today as yesterday they were snorkeling around whale sharks and it should be the same today. Or the greek chef coming out from behind the open kitchen to sit with you at your table and enthuse about his egg benedict. But that's W. It's more for people who drive Aston Martins rather than Bentleys, and whose second, or third, car is a Mini Cooper. It's just a bit funkier and contemporary.
A beat for the young
So naturally there is a beat about the place. Everywhere there's a background accompaniment of electro, dance and buddha bar with occasional indie and soul. It is default in your room (with Bose speakers above and a base unit below) but you can turn it off room by room or all at once. You can ask for it to be turned down in the restaurant too, if you like, just like you can ask for the lights to be turned down or up. It is even on the water villa jetty, which is great during the day but might not hit the spot when strolling back to your room beneath a moonlit sky after a quiet, romantic dinner.
Children below the age of 12 are strictly not allowed on W but teenagers are encouraged. This place is great for them. The staff is relaxed and friendly, the watersports centre is packed with good stuff and if you know how to use the equipment it's all free. That goes for the snorkeling gear, the kayaks, windsurfers, catamarans and kite surfers. The guys here are superb and act as trainers and guides, along with the marine biologist, for a number of great excursions and adventures.
The beautiful, exclusive desert island, Gaathafushi, is another big draw. Here a couple, or a bunch of teenagers, can get away and live out their imaginations.
Fesdhoo has always been a beautiful island
As for the island itself, well, it may seem a bit unfair that W has so much because this is a wonderful little island: a classic circular island in the middle of an atoll with a wide beach and great reef all the way around. The snorkeling is particularly good just around where the spa is. And, being very smart people, they have incorporated this aspect into the spa experience. After your treatment (or really at any time of course) you will be given a canvas, an easel and paints. Then you sit or stand over the water's edge and express creatively what you see and feel.
There is, finally, one thing I can say that brings W back from a level of perfection (that no resort can attain). The rooms are as good as you would expect but they are closer to each other than many a five star resort and the trees, flowers and vegetation are still not fully mature again between the rooms. This key aspect of complete privacy will dismay a few guests, until beautiful Fesdhoo grows back to full maturity.
Review by Adrian Neville