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Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison Been a long time since I updated this so Im just going to upload what I can without overthinking it and add more in the following days!

Since our hotel, The Le Meridian, was right by the Pyramids, it was a short drive to get there. I davened on our balcony with the Pyramids in view and shortly after went downstairs to meet our tour guide and driver.

Driving up to the Giza Pyramid Complex, the height of the pyramids as you get closer is really just breathtaking.

Some pictures for scale:

We first went into the main and largest of the 3 pyramids. It belonged to Pharaoh Khufu and it was a really cool experience to go through. I believe it cost around $10 USD a person to enter the Pyramid and since it was an extra I don’t recall the tour guide covering that. We were able to walk (pretty much had to crouch the whole way up because the king wanted those who enter to be bowing in respect throughout or something like that) through the pyramid to be able to see where the sarcophagus was kept/found.

After exiting that pyramid we then walked by the other pyramids

And then took a camel ride by a viewpoint that shows the pyramids from a distance.

Our teenage camel walker guide thought this would make a great picture.

After that we briefly headed to see the sphinx which was really amazing to see.

 It’s at this point my driver happens to divulge that he has a Wi-Fi hotspot device and it is included in the tour package! You can imagine just how happy as well as confused that they didn’t mention this earlier. Regardless, I started making phone calls during our hour drive to the Museum of Antiquities.

First I called the Merril travel number, to which they tell me they can’t do anything and I would have to wait for a supervisor to arrive in 4 hours. I HUCA’d a couple times (sometimes by choice and sometimes because the phone call dropped :/). Then I tried Emirates and they also could not change anything. I didn’t really expect for either of them to change it but I guess I was hoping for a miracle. Which in a way I guess happened when I found out that my fare booked with Merril happened to be fully refundable fare. [Something I noticed with all the flights I booked was that when I booked it through a portal like chase or Merril the fare is usually refundable by default. Not sure if that is well known or not but definitely something to keep in mind!].

Unfortunately I had already checked in earlier that day meaning they could not refund my flight. BUT, a quick phone call to Emirates had them remove my checkin in. But, of course their systems were down as I called in. They asked me to call back again in and hour and so I did. They were finally able to remove my check in status.

While driving it's hard not to notice how poor some of the infrastructure of Cairo was. The buildings were just missing floors and there were stray dirty looking dogs throughout.

Regardless, what the city has to offer in terms of history is unmatched and I would love to return to see different parts of Egypt.

After breezing through the Museum of Antiquities in about 45 minutes (an activity that the guide had planned 2:30 hours for) we decided to end our stay in Cairo early and go to the airport to sort things out. The Museum was amazing and there was so much material that they simply had no room to store anymore artifacts. Therefore, there were some left outside surrounding the building. Since the museum can no longer house any more artifacts they have seized excavations until they finish building their new museum. Which has been years in the making. As I am writing this TR in 2020 I still don't think its finished.

There were truly brilliant things to see here. Some of the notable few are (bear in mind that in some of the areas of the museum one is not allowed to take pictures and therefore there are pictures that might be of worse quality. Also, feel free to skip these pictures if it doesn't interest you as I couldn't narrow down which are notable and am just uploading a bunch ;D):

Mummified Humans & Animals:

On the way to the airport I toyed around with several flight options which had either had me meeting my wife in AUH for our connection or just meeting in MLE as well as countless other flight routes of which I cannot recall. I wish it would have been as simple to just rebook her on the same flight but that EK flight was completely booked and they could/would not open up any seats. I waited to cancel my flight on the slight chance that perhaps someone at the Emirates counter would be able to help me. Since the Airport had no wifi I asked my tour guide to wait outside while I use the hotspot device inside. She kindly waited outside for a little over an hour while I sorted everything out. Of course, Emirates couldn’t help me and so I was left with not many options. I called Merril and cancelled my flight. I wasn’t ever going to actually send my wife alone on these flights so we found a suitable EY flight that leaves 7 hours later then planned.

This ruined my plan to try to get to MLE as early as possible to take advantage of my time at the St. Regis Maldives. It was really a shame because I have yet to fly on EK and was looking forward to it. Our flight didn’t ticket immediately through the chase portal and so I called chase and asked them to expedite the ticketing process. I made friends with the counter agent and got his WhatsApp number so he could contact me when our flight gets ticketed while we walked to the nearby Le Meridian hotel that is connected to the airport.

I can’t even count the amount of times we went through the whole baggage check process with all our luggages throughout our stay in Egypt. Whether it was to go in our out of the airport or in and out of the hotel it was a massive pain in the a** . For the next 7 hours we relaxed on the couches at the LM and my wife slept while I planned the rest of our trip details and made phone calls on their free guest Wi-FI. Although we got some weird glances from the staff, surprisingly, no one kicked us out. We then walked with all our bags uphill back to the airport (PITA) and went through baggage check to enter the check in area for the third time. One of the baggage helpers took our bags forcefully from us and loaded it on to the security belt (something I could have easily done) and then demanded payment for it. I gave him $1. It was also pretty clear throughout the whole trip that you could literally bribe anyone. This was later confirmed by our tour guide who encouraged us to do so if we wanted something to go our way.
The rude airport employee who’s job it was to look at the screen scanning the luggages decided to put our food luggage aside to inspect, despite having gone through this specific scanner several times with no issues that day, he asked us to open the bag. We tried to explain that we are kosher and this was our food for our trip the next 3 weeks but he seemed to not care at all. He then took one of my wrapped meals and opened it and stuck his fingers in there asked us to close it back up and let us go.  ::)

Once passing security, the EY employee we dealt with earlier was no longer there, and as the airport had no Wi-Fi I could not reach out through whatsapp, but to our surprise he informed the employee checking us in to just give us free checked bags (which were substantially over weight) and also assigned us seats with extra legroom. I tried to give him some money for his kindness but he would not accept. We walked quite a bit to our gate and bribed some cafe employee who was closing up for the Wi-Fi code. After about an hour we started boarding the plane and took off to AUH! (This woman was putting great use to her Hijab).

We landed during a beautiful Sunrise and as we were flying in Y we were meant to wait in this crazy long line. But, it was clear no one was checking so we just said we were flying in J and got through in a matter of minutes (we continued to do this for the next two times we came through AUH and got the idea from when we flew in flying Biz no one checked our ticket to verify anything). The employees supposed to be watching the luggage scanner didn’t seem to care and were just chatting with other employees.

After a 4.5 hour flight we were FINALLY in the Maldives!

That concludes our EGYPT part of the trip!

October 27, 2020, 03:11:24 PM
Re: Around the World in 23 days, A Honeymoon TR by Wizmanison MALDIVES:

We landed at around 2:00pm and were shuttled from the plane to this small indoors arrivals area where we got our bags and cleared customs.

It was only a short walk to get outside where you have a strip of shops and seaplane operators. Someone from the St. Regis held out a card with our names and checked in our luggages onto Trans Maldivian Airways. While they did that they let us stay in the SR van (forgot to request the Bentley!), which had A/C and WiFi. But we walked around for a couple minutes.

The airport is surrounded by a beautiful blue ocean and is entirely an island of its own. The actual city of Male is like a 3 minute boat ride away. We were joined by another couple, who also booked on points, and drove like 15-30 mins to the SR lounge.

We had to wait a couple hours for other guests to arrive until we could all take the seaplane. The lounge was really nice and they offered an iPad Menu with a bunch of non kosher stuff. We just ordered some drinks and some kosher yogurt (could have been like Chobani or something, donít remember) and ate some snacks we packed. As soon as I arrived I asked if we could get the Bentley on our way to the seaplane transfer and when we were to return in 6 days. I was also able to shower in their nice bathroom.

We took the Bentley to the seaplane and since we had a head start, because the others were behind us in the van, we were able to chose our seats on the seaplane. We decided we would sit on the right side on the way there and sit on the left on the way back.

Canít say the the flight itself was amazing, with a barefoot pilot, heated (no A/C), and a choppy flight. But the views were out of this world amazing. Seeing hundreds of islands, hotels, beautiful reefs, and sandbanks all surrounded by this gorgeous blue water was a great tease for what was to come at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.

Timelapse video of takeoff and some islands from the window

Upon landing we were welcomed by a row of butlers and workers who took our luggage and sat us down with coconuts.

We were then introduced to our butlers. After reading reviews on DDF, FT, and TA as well as speaking to some people on DDF who visited it seemed Nasyb was one of the top choices. Therefore, we emailed a couple weeks beforehand requesting Nasyb as a butler as well as some other options if Nasyb was not available. Nasyb was really nice and was well versed with the whole kosher and shabbat situation among other things! He then drove us around to give us a tour of the island before taking us to our room.

We were staying in Villa 544 (circled below).

Pictures of the room and resort coming next!

October 27, 2020, 04:00:13 PM
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi About an 1:30 before departure we headed out to walk around the airport. There were several kid play areas with slides and such that we enjoyed with our son.

After that we headed to our gate where I once again was denied an upgrade to Q suites :(.  Saw lots of Israeli passport holders checking into the flight and it seemed like it was a decently filled flight. Not too crowded since it seemed almost everyone in economy likely had their own row of seats to sleep on but even q suites had only a handful of empty seats. Saw lots of others traveling with their kids and babies as well. My wife and son shared 3 seats by the window while I laid down on 4 seats in the middle on the 777-200LR. I fell right asleep and only woke up when we started descending around 4 hours later. For kosher meal they offered some not so appetizing salmon that we passed on.

Descending into Male Airport was stunning as usual with the window views of all the atolls.

It looked like several parts of the airport was undergoing construction but I believe I recall seeing that last time as well and looks like no improvements have been made IMO.

After landing we busses to the small arrivals area which hasnít changed since we last came towards the end of 2017. Still no WiFi... we went through immigration and ran our luggage through another scanner.

Felt like it took forever to get our bags and since we boarded so last minute at LAX I was worried the bags may have not been loaded properly. But all worked out and we went outside to meet the guy holding the IPad with a Waldorf Astoria logo. He was very nice and tagged our bags and took us to the yacht.

There were actually 2 identical yachts. In our yacht there was 4 parties. One upstairs, one in the general lounge area, we had a bedroom downstairs and another party had the other bedroom.

The yacht was absolutely stunning and modern. They offered us drinks, champagne, and non kosher food which we kindly declined of course. It was about 40 minutes and we just all chilled in the big bedroom downstairs. The bathroom and shower were also really nice.

As we were arriving at the WA it started raining a bit but by the time we docked it stopped. We learned from our last trip that the weather is really sporadic and unpredictable. And regardless of the rain or shine the stay would be amazing!

All the Butlers were waiting by the dock to greet us and the butler assigned to us was named Ella. Someone also was there from the kids program to give our baby a gift, introduce herself, and give us the weekly program/schedule for the kids program. We then went through the main lobby to have our temperature checked by some cool device scanner I have yet to see and then in our golf cart to give us a quick tour and take us to our room.

Ella informed us we were upgraded to an OWB from the reef villa and assigned room 705. And she also mentioned that occupancy is around 50% for them right now.

Next up are pictures of the OWB!

October 28, 2020, 05:49:58 AM
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Stepping into the room was beyond what we imagined and way better than the pictures online. The villa was massive and from the second we stepped in we were blown away. It felt nearly double the size of the SR MLE villa! Hopefully my pictures below do it some justice.

outdoor shower

smart toilet

Since we didnít want the wine or the champagne they had to offer they gave us a fruit basket and freshly squeezed juice. Ella walked us through the room showing me all the gadgets and such. Like most of these luxury resorts there was an iPad controlling all the main functions of the room. Ella also handed us a basic phone that I can use to call her on speed dial if I need something. As well as giving me the option to WhatsApp her. The villa TV can be connected by chrome cast and speakers can be connected through bluetooth. Was cool that they offered a bike with a baby attachment as well. Like most places we travel to we were celebrating an anniversary and also my sons upcoming birthday which is why there are decorations on the bed. I also requested prior to arrival for a highchair, crib, stroller. They delivered all three and several more baby things that will be useful! Also, something to note is that the resort has its own time zone and places it as 1 hour ahead of Male. Since they delivered all the luggages to our door including our freezer bag with food we took out food for today and the next and called them to pick up the bag to put in their freezer. I was worried after the 9 hour layover and the like 21 hours of travel time that maybe some of the food would defrost but it barely defrosted!

After settling in and unpacking the 220V toaster oven we got from Amazon, to heat our food up and avoid the hefty $50 per a meal fee, we went for a swim in the pool as the sun came out. The pool was nice and pretty warm and as you saw in the pictures above really big. It started raining for about 25 minutes so we went in and returned an hour or so later to the pool when the sun came back out. I guess I forgot how bad it was last time and it slipped my mind to bring mosquito spray or those bracelets because I keep seeing mosquitos and am regretting not bringing along some deterrents.

After a couple hours enjoying the villa I checked back in to see if maybe space opened up for my MLE-DOH flight in J but there was nothing. I then looked at the next day and there were 2 business class seats for the full trip. So I reached out to reservations at the hotel and asked if it was possible to use one of my free night certs to extend my stay a day and then once that was confirmed I called in AA and they reissued the ticket with the new dates. So now were staying 6 nights and they were able to confirm the same upgraded room for the extra night as well.

Here are some other pictures I took while touring around the hotel:

Welcome Pier

Peacock lounge where complimentary drinks are served for gold and diamond members during happy hour.

Probably also important to mention that our butler said masks are not mandatory for the guests. However, I have yet to see an employee who was not wearing a mask. Seems all the guests I've seen though are embracing the no mask policy.

October 28, 2020, 09:50:48 AM
Re: Where Are You Posting From Now? WA MLE
October 28, 2020, 10:28:08 AM
Re: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Singapore and Maldives TR Reading this amazing TR while at the WA MLE makes it even better!
November 02, 2020, 02:32:22 AM
Re: Next Vacation - Ideas
I was planning to go to the boardwalk yesterday with DW and take a long walk, but it was freezing. So instead we stayed home and looked at the picture on @Wizmanison 's trip report to the Maldives. It really gave a great feel to our "staycation."

Thanks @Wizmanison
Appreciate the kind words :) Hope you both enjoyed as much as we did! Stay tuned as I should have the rest of the TR finished by hopefully next week!

November 19, 2020, 12:27:21 PM
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi
Any final thoughts on WAI vs STR?
Short answer: WAI over STR any day of the week. Long answer coming in my next update ( hopefully by Friday). Have it all written out just need to make time to link the pictures :)

November 24, 2020, 01:07:29 PM
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Day 3

After spending the night trying to get Qatar to ticket an infant ticket unsuccessfully, I called it a night. We woke up early again since thereís not much to do at night here and every minute of the sun out here is amazing. I sent out my drone as the sun was rising and here are the pictures/videos of the resort:

And here are some of the room and water:

And here is one of those cool drone videos:

Or in GIF form (for some reason they upload in really bad quality):

And a video of the Sunrise:

After that it drizzled for like less than 5 minutes and then a rainbow appeared.

The weather was amazing today with pretty much clear skies and really hot. We headed to breakfast and saw this amazing view once again.

The chef today offered us options of kosher cereal to chose from that had an OU hechser which was nice of him. After that we biked around a bit with the baby and then went back to the villa to swim and snorkel. We saw again from the villa the nurse shark swimming by but by the time I would have got ready to jump in it was too late :/

Besides for that didnít see anything else that interesting. Here are some more GoPro pics and a video that shows how clear the water is, the beautiful sand, and a school of fish:

Getting prepared for lunch and shabbat I went to the kitchen dining area and asked if I could take some stuff out my freezer bag. They asked me to wait 10 minutes while they have the bag brought here from their big freezer that was located elsewhere. As I was taking out several meals for the next 2 days the chef seemed perplexed as to how I intended on eating these frozen meals. Saying that usually his guests ask him to heat it in his oven. I gave him some vague answer that we would be fine and were used to it and went back to heat up some lunch!

Tried giving QR another try but their US call center was closed. Luckily I brought my Pixel 3XL from that deal around 2 years ago. I resumed my long paused service and made a wifi call to the India call center for .01 cent a minute. After 40 minutes there didnít seem to be much success. They told me they would have to reach back out to me latest by Sunday to try to get approval to book this infant ticket. Escalating to a supervisor didnít do much either so I guess Iíll call back again motzei shabbat.

After that sent the drone out again to get some pics of the villa and some family pics and after like 20 minutes I got a call from our butler, Ella, that drones are not permitted at the villa.

We brought in a beautiful Shabbat and heated our food for Friday night and Saturday before Shabbat came in so as to not leave the toaster oven on all of Shabbat for safety concerns.

November 29, 2020, 05:54:49 PM
Re: Maldives Round 2 - Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi Day 4 Shabbat:

(No pictures for this update since it was shabbat)

We woke up to another amazing day with great weather. For Saturday lunch we heated it up before Shabbat came in to defrost and then kept it in the fridge till Saturday morning where we left it out in the sun for a couple hours. Surprisingly, when it came time to eat. The food was actually warm!

From our villa in the morning we saw two turtles. And then later in the day a couple that was snorkeling by our villa said they just saw a massive shark right in front of our villa where the reef ends. So while I got stuck staying with the baby :( my wife jumped in and saw a baby shark really close to her and the big fully grown shark in the distance. She got scared and rushed back. By the time I went out to get a look it swam away :(. However, I continued snorkeling but as it happens to be that on the day we donít have a go pro we see an abundance of colorful and stunning fish! We will be going back tomorrow to get some pics though.

 If I hadnít mentioned it earlier they actually provide, like most of these hotels, complimentary snorkeling gear rentals and they are some pretty good equipment.

It was only today that I realized that although I initially thought the snorkeling was lacking compared to the SR. Since I remember the corals being less bleached and more fish life near the villa, that for the WA if you just venture out like another minute from your villa to the end of the reef there is a lot of beautiful fish. I also donít recall ever seeing a shark or turtles from the SR so as of now it seems the WA is superior in that respect as well. Leaving the SR with not much else...

I did also notice that the butler service at the SR VS the ďhostĒ service at the WA is not comparable. Maybe I just landed on a mediocre host but I recall my butler at the SR always checking in on us and sending us fruit bowls. Whereas at the WA unless I WhatsApp my butler she doesnít really offer anything or checkin. I had to ask for the snorkeling gear and we were never really given a proper tour of the place or anything like that. Not saying itís necessarily bad service but in comparison to the SR I would say itís lacking. The host here, when I do reach out, is very responsive and kind so no complaints about bad service.

Besides for that we just chilled most of the day. Took the baby to the kids program to play with the toys and enjoyed the villa.
I have to say the hotel in general seems really busy and more than just 50% occupied. Iíve noticed that at breakfast, kids club, and at other places the hotel is seems pretty full with rarely any open tables.

After shabbat, I tried again to speak to QR to book infant award and was able to finally book it with ease! I think the key is calling at a good time to get the Doha Call center to pick up rather than the India call center. Or, if Florida call center opens back up that should work as well.

November 29, 2020, 05:56:01 PM