Putting together a surprise romantic holiday is both a thrill and privilege but add into the mix a new client, a special birthday, an unexpected marriage proposal and a global pandemic, and you have the recipe for a memorable story.
Ben contacted me wanting to surprise his girlfriend, Kelly, with a dream trip to the Maldives for her 40th birthday. After much Covid-related upheaval, their patience was rewarded with an unforgettable trip...
The Maldives had been on our bucket list since we had met, so Kelly’s 40th birthday seemed the perfect opportunity to surprise her.
After weeks of researching and speaking to branded travel companies, nothing felt quite right until I found some glowing reviews about Gillian and Holidaysplease, and decided to make contact.
I had never booked a holiday with an independent travel expert so I was a little apprehensive but from the moment we spoke, and I explained what I was after, Gillian gave me the confidence I had been looking for.
She listened carefully, gave me several options to choose from throughout the entire process, and kept in touch regularly, including checking in often post-booking, just to see if we were ok after the pandemic began to cause so much uncertainty and subsequent changes.
The holiday was moved twice, and we had started to prepare ourselves that it wasn't going to happen, but Gillian kept me constantly updated and reassured, and sure enough, in April 2022, we finally set off for Kuredu in the Maldives.
Kelly’s surprise had been revealed seven months before our original departure date, when I had printed off photos of the resort and wrapped them in a box as a final present on Christmas morning.
I’d also planned an additional surprise since confirming the holiday which had to be frustratingly delayed too and necessitated some undercover work right through to the morning of our eventual departure.
The whole journey, starting from Manchester, was a fantastic experience, with three flights breaking it up, a two-hour stop in Dubai airport which was an experience itself, no delays and we felt very safe.
The final transfer by seaplane to the resort was amazing, flying low over all the islands adding to the excitement of finally making it.
From the moment we stepped barefoot off the seaplane, it was complete paradise. The whole island was like a picture postcard and the resort itself looked spectacular. Gillian’s advice was perfect: to split our stay into two, with our first week in a beachfront villa, the sea a few yards from our porch, followed by a second week in a gorgeous overwater villa.
The island resort couldn’t have been any more perfect for us - the only time we left was when I did a couple of diving and snorkelling trips to swim with sharks, turtles, and eagle rays, and for a wild dolphin-watching sunset cruise. Both the sunsets and sunrises were the most stunning I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
We indulged in several room delivery champagne breakfasts, simply being able to enjoy taking in the tranquillity and spectacular ocean view, and treated ourselves to a spa day, including full-body massages whilst watching the fish through the glass floor.
The food throughout was sensational and different every day. There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy. The most memorable was the authentic Indian chicken and fish kebabs accompanied by the most delicious, spiced naan breads cooked in an Indian tandoor clay oven - they became a daily treat!
The service was above and beyond anything we have previously experienced in our broad travels - the friendly and attentive staff could not do enough for us.
Not having previously considered myself the romantic type, Kelly’s final surprise could not have gone better. After 13 years together, I think she doubted any imminent marriage proposal, but I had other ideas.
Back when I had first started booking the trip, I had discreetly managed to acquire her ring size, then on the morning of our departure, a considerable time later, I got up in the small hours and carefully hid the ring in the suitcase she had pre-packed the night before.
As soon as she jumped in the shower after arriving, I removed it and hid it away. I had secretly pre-booked a candlelit beach dinner, having to sneak off a couple of times under the pretext of a walk to sort the menu and logistics.
On the night itself, she believed we were going to the nearby Thai restaurant that she had been keen to visit, and it wasn't until the pre-booked taxi limousine drove past it and onto the beach, she realised I was up to something but clearly had no idea of what was about to happen.
We enjoyed a wonderful private four-course meal under the stars before I asked if she would like her final surprise, insisting she closed her eyes whilst I placed the ring on the table, and as she opened them, I blurted out my proposal.
She burst into tears as I’ve never seen her do before which in turn made me well-up to see her so happy. It took a while for her to regain her composure and she remained pretty speechless for the rest of the night, constantly looking at the ring and saying that it was the best holiday and day of her life. A job well done methinks.
We were gutted when it was time to leave, having forgotten about everything back home except for our dogs. Everything about this holiday was perfect, exceeding all expectations and so worth the wait.
As is often the case, when the party is over and it’s time to return to normality, the return journey was the opposite of the one there, with delays on both main flights and long queues at check-in and security. We felt shattered upon finally arriving home.
There is no doubt that we will one day return as the island stole a little bit of our hearts and I fear this may be about as good as a holiday gets!
I cannot thank Gillian enough and am so happy to have found her. Her personal service and attention to detail are outstanding and I shall be recommending her to everyone I know as well as contacting her to book our next trip as soon as possible.