#TBT – Honeymooning RTW In Australia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, And Dubai

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  1. Prior2Boarding

    Prior2Boarding New Member

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    What I enjoy writing, more than anything else, are trip reports. I'd like to think that I've come a long way in terms of the production value of my reports, and strive to get better with each and every trip.While some of my earlier works are just painful to read, my first mega-trip report from 2012 which detailed our 3-week round-the-world honeymoon to Australia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Dubai is one of my favorites.We stayed at some truly phenomenal hotels, including the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and Amangalla in Sri Lanka. But my absolute favorite of the trip was the Emirates Wolgan Valley Spa and Resort near the Blue Mountains in Australia, which is outlined in the post below.Here are the other portions of the trip in case you're interested, and for all the future honeymooners out there feel free to reach out for advice or questions on how to make that once-in-a-lifetime trip truly special.San Francisco to Sydney: United Airlines First ClassEating Our Way Through Sydney + Hilton Sydney Road Trip to the Blue Mountains + Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort + SpaDiving at the Great Barrier Reef, Day Trip to Port Douglas + Hilton CairnsStopover in Brisbane to Cuddle Koalas + Hilton Brisbane Brisbane to Male via Singapore: Singapore Airlines Business ClassConrad Maldives Rangali IslandExtended Layover in Sri Lanka before ex-CMBing + AmangallaColombo to London via Dubai: Emirates First ClassSpending the Day at the Dubai Mall + Emirates First Class TerminalLondon to San Francisco: British Airways First Class______________________________________________________________ Part 1 - Getting There and Arrival/Check-In As we were planning out the Australian portion of our honeymoon itinerary, we were very interested in visiting a hotel/resort in a picturesque setting that would also allow us to be active. I looked into resorts that are primarily considered beach destinations (Qualia, Sothern Ocean Lodge, etc.) but since I had already booked a stay at the Conrad Maldives with my Hilton points, I focused instead on finding a non-beach setting. I actually hadn't heard of Wolgan Valley before, but after seeing a trip report in this forum it was exactly what we were looking for (was also considering Tea Trails in Sri Lanka). I worked with DavidO who took care of all of the booking/reservation details for me.We left SFO and flew direct to Sydney where we spent a couple of rainy days before leaving for Wolgan Valley. After spending a few minutes figuring out how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road, for the most part the drive up to the hotel was pretty easy and took us a total of 4 hours. We were slowed down due to heavy rain and also made a couple of stops along the way to check out some of the vantage points near Katoomba. We weren't too impressed by Katoomba as it was absolutely flooded with tourists and the whole town just screamed tourist trap.View from Govett's LeapKangaroo and wombat crossingThe final 30 minutes of the drive to the resort is quite steep and windy, and I had to do my best to not drive too recklessly fast as I could barely contain my excitement. The entrance to the property is marked by a pair of gates which lead up to the main gate which is staffed with a guard. After checking-in with the guard, the gate opens up into a small parking lot where you leave your car. We were shown to a small waiting room until another staff member came to get us and take us back to the main resort. It's a brief 5-minute drive to get to the main resort building where we were led inside to check-in. The main building is also where the breakfast/dinner restaurant and Country Kitchen for lunch are housed. After arriving we were provided with warm towels and a glass of bubbly, and felt completely relaxed while enjoying the amazing views. The check-in process is a breeze with just a credit card taken for authorization, and then we had a brief overview of the property, the facilities and activities, dining options, and confirmation of Virtuoso benefits (60-minute spa treatment up to $185 AUD value, other standard benefits such as upgrade/free breakfast not really applicable here). After checking-in, we headed down to the Country Kitchen for lunch before heading to our suite. Resort entrance off of highwayMain gateSmall waiting area at main gateRotunda at main buildlingCheck-in area/lobbyPart 2 - Our Suite and the Surrounding PropertyAs we finished lunch and walked over to our suite, it was impossible to not feel completely relaxed. The property is absolutely stunning and the views really do take your breath away. Morning fog rolling inView of the propertyMain buildingThe 40 villas form an S-shape around the property, and we were assigned suite #36. We found our suite to be extremely private as it is after the main walkway and therefore got very little foot traffic. The resort was at less than 50% capacity which also contributed to the feeling of privacy. My recommendation would be to request one of the suites #32-40 as these are at the end of the S-shape and away from the walkway leading to the main building.The 1-BR suites have a "cottage" feel and felt very welcoming. Upon entering there is a small foyer which is also where the mini-bar is setup. There was a fully-stocked fridge with wine, soda, juice, and water along with a tea and coffee machine. There is also a snack drawer filled some chocolates and cookies/biscuits should you desire a snack in between meals. Everything is inclusive aside from a few bottles of hard alcohol.Our suite #36Front porch with our mountain bikesSnack selectionThe suites are quite large and definitely more than enough room for a couple. There is a living room area which is separated from the bedroom by a fireplace. Off of the living room is an entrance to the private pool and outdoor deck area. To be honest, we barely utilized the private pool and actually only used it for the novelty of it. It actually felt a bit claustrophobic and the water was quite chilly. We spent most of our time at the main pool and spa area.The bedroom is equipped with the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in, as well as a large walk-in wardrobe with a sitting area. Past the bedroom is the bathroom which features double sinks, a large soaking tub, and a rain shower with a skylight. There is also a deck area which looks out over the property and has a couple of rocking chairs.Living roomFireplace and deskAmazingly comfortable bedWardrobeBathroomShower with skylightView from the tubPrivate pool Part 3 - Resort Facilities and ActivitiesThe resort's facilities included everything that we were looking for, but were definitely not the highlight of our stay. But to be fair, it's hard to top the natural setting and views around the property.The upstairs of the main building houses the lobby, a small gift shop, and the bar and dining room where breakfast and dinner is served. Downstairs is the Country Kitchen where lunch is served. Main dining roomJust outside of the main building are the remaining facilities which include the spa, gym, indoor steam/sauna and cold plunge pool, and outdoor pool and hot tub. Being the good husband that I am, my wife got to use the complimentary massage as part of the Virtuoso benefits and she reported back that the spa facilities and massage were fantastic. We actually wanted to get a couples treatment, but they were fully booked over the duration of our stay and couple only accommodate one of us. So if you are interested in utilizing the spa, I would definitely recommend booking ahead of time.The outdoor pool area had approximately 15-20 lounge chairs and actually got quite crowded during mid-day. I can imagine when the resort is at full capacity that this area would be very crowded. The thing we enjoyed most was actually the indoor sauna/steam room and the cold plunge pool. At least a couple hours during the trip were spent going back and forth between hot and cold. The gym looked like it was seldom used and was pretty basic.PoolAs part of the inclusive rate, two free activities are available per day. There are several other activities that can be purchased at an additional cost, but none of them looked appealing enough to us to purchase. We ended up participating in only 3 of the 6 activities that were available to us, which were the wildlife safari, night safari/stargazing, and horseback riding. We enjoyed all 3 of the activities, but our favorite was definitely the night safari as we were able to see a ton of animals (kangaroos, wallaroos, and wombats). The guides were very knowledgeable and we actually learned a good amount about the history of the property and the wildlife that inhabits it. We found that horseback riding was by far the most popular activity, and we were lucky to grab a time slot on our last day. Again, if this is something you're interested in would recommend booking prior to arrival.Wildlife safari vehicleMob of kangaroos/wallaroos1 of 5 albino wallaroos on the propertyWallaroo with joey in pouchWombat spotted during our night safariHorseback ridingThe activity that we enjoyed most was actually mountain biking around the property. There are two main bike trails - one is a 7KM trail to Platypus deck, and the other is a 16KM loop around the entire property. Both of these trails are very easy to do unguided, and we were able to stop at several of the designated viewing points along the way to enjoy the views. It also allowed us to get up close and personal at times with the kangaroos/wallaroos. We considered doing some hiking but the flies were constantly swarming and stopped that from happening. Overall, we definitely felt like it was an active holiday and really enjoyed all of the activities. Part 4 - Food & BeverageOur favorite part of the trip! Every single meal we had was delicious and very high quality - the resort takes pride in using ingredients from their on-site garden as well as from other local farms. For the most part there was a good variety to choose from, for both lunch and dinner there would be specials that were changed each day, along with "classics" that did not change for the duration of our 3-night stay. We didn't partake in any of the additional cost options, but heard that the in-suite Australian BBQ was one of the popular choices.BreakfastBreakfast is available from 7-10am (11am on weekends/holidays) in the main dining room. There is a buffet with pastries, meats, fruit, yogurt, and juice as well as a menu with available hot options. The hot options did not change for the duration of our stay. Each of the hot entrees alone is plenty of food, and on the first day we made the mistake of eating too much at the buffet before getting our entrees. The breakfasts are definitely on the hearty side, which makes sense since most people are off to activities in the late morning.Breakfast menuBuffet samplingEggs OrmistonValley BreakfastLunchThere are a couple options for lunch - one is have a picnic basket packed for you to bring out to the destination of your choice, but this was not an option for us due to the swarming flies. The other option is to eat at the Country Kitchen in the main building, which serves lunch from 12noon-3:30pm each day. Because guests are on different schedules at this part of the day, there was never more than a couple tables occupied at any given time. We're actually not used to have a 3-course lunch and found that in general 2 courses (appetizer/main or main/dessert) was more than enough, especially after a big breakfast. The food we had during our 3 lunches were fantastic, with the duck confit being one of the big highlights.Sample lunch menuSample picnic lunch for 2Duck confitTempura soft shell crabBurgerGnocchiDeconstructed passion fruit cheesecakePistachio mousse DinnerDinner is served in the main dining room from 6:30-10pm each night. Since the resort was not at full capacity, the dining room never filled up at any point in time, but during busier periods of the night we did find that the service could be spotty. I can't imagine how it would be if the resort was at full capacity, unless there are additional staff at those times to handle the crowd. Dinner was very enjoyable and each night would be approximately 2-3 hours from start to finish. There is an extensive wine list with a page dedicated to local wines that are inclusive, and several pages of foreign wines that are an additional cost. Overall we absolutely loved the local wines and even wrote down the names of a few for purchase later on.Prior to dinner, for those that would like to enjoy the sunset, the outdoor terrace was available for drinks and canapes. Similar to lunch, each day there was a "classics" section that did not change, as well as a daily tasting menu. For the most part we stuck to the tasting menu, with the exception of the last night where I went with the classics section. The tasting menu also has suggested wine pairings which we got each time. Also, each night there was a completely different selection of cheeses to choose from which were delicious.Pre-dinner canapesTable settingSample "classic" dinner menuSample "Taste of Wolgan" tasting menuOystersPoached scallopsSorbet palate cleanserMain course- barrumundiSpecial ice sculpture with ice cream to celebrate our honeymoonChocolate cake dessertCheese selectionSample tasting menu #2SweetbreadsSashimiTrio of porkPineapple "ravioli"

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