The bathroom was not bad. The air was a bit stagnant since there was no exhaust, but this I was used to on dive boats.
The Ark Royal Dive Yacht & Spa
Their website says: “Ark Royal is a 115-feet luxury cruiser traversing the crystalline waters of the Maldives. The cruiser accommodates 8 Cabins (4 DBL and 4 TWN bed), and 1 Suite with Jacuzzi. The living quarters are complemented by a restaurant able to offer you indoor dining, a fully-stocked drinks bar, a tastefully-decorated lounge, and an extensive library, including video and music collections, should you wish to recline and lose yourself in a book or more.” Sounds lavish.
After our pampering pre-dive resort stop at Velassaru Maldives, my dive group (a total of 14 diving enthusiasts) were itching to get onto our “dive yacht”.The Velassaru speedboat returned us to Male Airport, which is the designated pickup point for Island Pearl, the operators of our dive trip. Divers have a tendency to travel heavy, and most of us had paid for the extra 15kgs just to lug all the dive equipment and underwater camera case set-up we had.
We were picked up by the “Dhoni,” a Maldivian term for ‘bangka‘ or pump boat. The dhoni was much larger than any of the dive bangkas I am used to in the Philippines. It would transport us to another, much larger, boat, which would be our home for the next 7 days. I was excited because my last major dive trip was Palau, and we didn’t stay on a liveaboard for that so I was looking forward to getting my sea-legs for the next few days.
When the dhoni slowed down beside a green yacht, I knew this was going to be home base for 14 divers for 7 days.
I was a bit taken aback because from the website, it looked much larger in the pictures, and looked much newer… the site says 115 feet, so I guess my estimation skills are a bit off.
Upon entering the dining/living area, we were greeted warmly by Kudeh, one of the F&B stewards with a sweet and fruity welcome drink. I wished there was some vodka in it.
The main area of the boat where everyone congregates, it doubles as our dining area, living room, library, camera/laptop charging station and all around rec room. This was much more spacious than the live aboard yacht I stayed at when I dove Tubbataha Reef.
Because Kudeh used to work at the Four Seasons Resort Maldives, our dining table set up was always pristine. The F&B service was impeccable and every meal our napkins would be folded into a brand new design.
At the very center is a 50″ LCD TV with dvd player and soundsystem. There is even a Wii if you want to entertain yourself. It was quite funny because the website made it seem like the “restaurant able to offer you indoor dining, a fully-stocked drinks bar, a tastefully-decorated lounge, and an extensive library, including video and music collections” were all individual rooms. They were all ingeniously located in one main area. The “library” is the stack of books and dvds underneath the sound system. We were able to watch Thor and Hanna on it, and the couches were SUPER cushy and comfy, so no complaints.
The Bar area is also where the drinks are dispensed. Beer is on tap, the wine chiller stockes a LOT of wine and not enough vodka. We ended up begging the sister yacht, Anastacia, for vodka in exchange for our wine. The wine chiller was kept under lock & key. Maldives is a Muslim nation, so both pork AND liquor are forbidden. WHAT?! But since resorts, like Velassaru, and dive yachts are tourist centric, liquor is available on board but taxed at 200%.
I am not sure if a memo was sent that our group was a bit on the adrenaline-junkie side… Red Bull chiller JIC (just-in-case).
One spot I absolutely loved was the sectional micro-suede sofa setup. One sectional was the camera set-up section, another the chocolates & snack section. This was the chill-out section.
We did our boat brief and Ahmed introduced the dive masters Boeeh (back) and Angie (right) to our group. Since we chartered the entire boat for our trip, it was easier for everyone to get along and establish accommodation allotment as well as schedule of dives. This was also the time when we stopped wearing footwear for a week because the Rec Room was strictly no shoes allowed. I love being barefoot, so I took this rule easily.
There are 8 cabins and 1 suite room on the boat. This was the Twin cabin… a bit drab in colors, if you ask me.Whatever lack of decor or closet space there was in the room, it is poignant to note that there was a large 42″ Samsung LCD TV on the walls to watch dvds and films. There was NO signal reception on board.
By luck and by circumstance, I ended up rooming by myself and had this big bed all to moi. The interior was nothing fantastic and the closet space was lacking, but it was much better than a lot of other dive/live aboard accommodations I have seen and experienced. I stayed in Cabin 8, and when I entered I wafted a very evident odor of gasoline coming through my A/C. I immediately told Ahmed about the situation… and he said he would set up a melon oil burner to take the smell off. Lost in translation maybe?
One thing I adored about our rooms stewards is that, no matter how busy their schedule is, every night before I would go to bed they would turn down my room and convert my comforter into random shapes. It was no Water Villa, but it was just right for a dive trip.
I should’ve taken a better photo, but if you can see, the toilet’s base is at least 1 foot higher than the bathroom floor. SO… you had to step up to use the toilet. There was no squatting happening in the middle of the night, let me tell you that much. This was a challenge.
The top deck was a tanning, as well as a drying, area. It did have the best views and perspective of the Maldivian islands, but during the afternoon it was way too hot and bright to lounge there for longer than 30 minutes.
The middle deck had the suite as well as some deck chairs for island sighting, also the designated smoking/muni-muni area.
But the best spot is the front of the boat, where lounge chairs, sofas and platforms were conducive for sun and some conversations.
The Aft of the boat was where we unloaded our dive gear which would be brought to the dhoni for our dive set up.
The two most taxing moments in any dive trip is the unpacking (now) and the repacking after the dives. Because I use a metal back plate, each component has to be disassembled for streamlined luggage packing. It takes some patience and tools to re-assemble. The assembly is much better than the repeat detachment after the trip, which requires washing, draining and drying before repacking. Note the banana vine hanging atop my head. Everyday each level would ripen and become part of our dessert/snack bar.
Strung to the back of the boat is our dependable Dhoni and Jetty. They would travel with us while we moved from island to island.
After our check-out dive, we all congregated in the front to unwind and wine while viewing Khudima Island and the Indian Ocean
All in all, some expectations had to be adjusted, requests were established and wakeup call schedules were set. But we were all excited to begin the real part of our Maldives trip. And by the end of our trip, we forgot about the fact that a fish-eye lens was used to make the cabins and the boat seem more that it was, because the service we received from Kudeh, Ahmed and the rest of the dive crew was outstanding. Service really makes or breaks an experience, and we had an exceptional one at Ark Royal Maldives.
My one issue? Where is the SPA?!
Dive pictures and spots to follow!
Diving? Why not try Ark Royal Maldives