Our sommelier suggests accompaniments for the entree and main course. "The Hawaiian red clay goes perfectly with the tuna, while the black lava matches the snapper," he says. Far from the fruits of the vine, these delicacies are earthy: a multitude of minerals composed of sodium chloride.
You guessed it – he's a salt sommelier.
Welcome to five-star family travel, one of the hottest trends for 2017. And the latest hot spot is the Maldives, an Endangered/Changing Destination, according to the Virtuoso Luxe Report Australia. "We are starting to see movement outside of the mainstream travel agenda with people taking the current global turbulence as a prompt to look all the way down their bucket list," Virtuoso Asia Pacific managing director, Michael Londregan, says.
We're at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, in some of the most spacious accommodation in the archipelago, a half-hour speedboat ride from Male airport.
The Two Bedroom Family Villa is – in our eldest's eloquent words – "frickin' huge". (That'll be $1 to the swear jar, thank you…) The outdoor bathrooms have rain showers and deep terrazzo baths; the front yard is decorated with beanbags, a daybed and hammock; and adult and child-sized banana lounges front the turquoise lagoon. Best of all, the rooms are dotted with kids' games, books, and skim boards.
You can snorkel off the beach to see manta rays, reef sharks, and tropical fish. But we book a family picnic on nearby Gulifushi Island, with a white linen tablecloth set-up on the sand. The sea's too choppy for snorkelling, so we suffer through the salads, sandwiches and cold cuts, washed down the fine wine and a frothy brew. (Well, someone's gotta do it!) Jase and Grace play on the over-water swings, while Taj and I doze in an egg-shaped hammock: this is sublime.
So is the subsequent massage in an over-water villa, as I watch the skittish triggerfish. And the private yoga classes conducted by Birj, who learned the practice from his grandfather in India. Our sunburned daughter is a string of raspberry liquorice as she eases into a backbend. Finally he lifts us up by the pelvis, so we relax like jellyfish.
Jellyfish are one of the few creatures we don't spot, seated on a deck over the Indian Ocean at Sea. Fire. Salt. restaurant. While couples dine on Beluga caviar and $5200 bottles of French wine, the children scoff $7 soups and $10 pizza. The staff here, and at the high-end Italian restaurant Terrazzo (seriously, the handmade ravioli dissolves in your mouth) speak to Taj and Grace as valued customers rather than unwanted appendages, which is often the case at five-star resorts.
After riding bikes, playing petanque, and making like dolphins on a Seabob, we check out the kids' club, a shaded compound containing a rock climbing wall, tree house, and cubby full of craft.
Despite the deluge of luxury, Grace prefers simple pleasures: soccer on the sand and splashing in the sea.
The night before we leave, a staffer delivers a handmade card, activity book, and jewelled bracelet spelling GRACE, courtesy of the kids' club. "That's so special, Mummy," she says. "I wasn't sure about the fancy salt, but this is what makes it really five star."
Tracey Spicer and family stayed at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort courtesy of the Minor Hotel Group.