The Rise of the Floating Hotel Breakfast

I find myself covered in croissant crumbs, with cold coffee and achy calves from standing on my tiptoes. It took me a good 20 minutes to set up my iPhone on a tripod near the pool’s edge and carefully position my floating breakfast tray, laden with an assortment of food, in the perfect spot. The tray carries a delightful assortment of fruit, eggs, juice, coffee, croissants, and even a vase of hot pink hibiscus blossoms. Juggling my phone’s remote shutter and attempting to maintain a carefree smile, I strive to capture the essence of someone living their best breakfast life, all while clutching a turquoise coffee cup. The entire setup feels exhausting, but I hope it will be worth it when I share my sumptuous floating breakfast experience in an over-water villa at the Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa on my Instagram feed, eagerly anticipating a flood of likes and admiration.

Move aside, breakfast in bed; floating breakfasts have taken center stage. The most important meal of the day has transformed into the most Instagram-worthy spectacle, with the hashtag #floatingbreakfast accumulating over 103,000 hits since its emergence a few years ago. While its exact origin remains unclear, these moveable feasts are now commonly found at luxury resorts in Thailand, Bali, Fiji, the Philippines, the Maldives, and the Caribbean. Floating on trays equipped with foam for buoyancy, these breakfasts are not only photogenic but also artfully adorned with fresh flowers and an extensive continental spread. During the peak of the pandemic, floating breakfasts also provided a practical albeit costly indulgence, offering a socially distant dining experience that felt celebratory rather than painfully solitary (Hilton Maldives Amingiri’s version costs $130 per couple).

Given that I’m currently in the Maldives, it feels almost impolite not to join the legions of guests who partake in this experience at least once during their stay. According to executive chef Praveen Shetty, orders for in-pool breakfast platters have doubled since the beginning of the year. However, due to the time-consuming nature of the service, the hotel, which opened just last July, limits the deliveries to four per day. The preparation involves tray decoration, as well as guidance from the staff to ensure the perfect pose and backdrop for the ideal photo opportunity. Shetty acknowledges that this can occasionally turn into a full-fledged photoshoot, resulting in breakfast items becoming lukewarm. Nevertheless, guests do not seem to mind as the everlasting memories captured in photographs make up for it.

Despite the lukewarm breakfasts and the time-consuming setup, floating breakfasts can pose additional challenges. At the Aruba Airstream Experience, a 30-foot Airstream trailer transformed into an Airbnb with a private pool, the island’s breezes become a factor. “The wind can push the tray really fast around the pool, so it becomes more of a racing breakfast than floating,” says manager Katrin Zehl. “And you need to balance it correctly, otherwise it can all end up in the pool pretty quickly.” Despite these challenges, approximately 20 percent of guests request floating breakfasts, which start at $30 per person. Zehl adds that the trend is particularly popular among female guests and serves as an excellent opportunity for capturing stunning pictures.

However, the issue of pool maintenance does not arise at Thailand’s Kimpton Kitalay Samui. Casper Ponnampalam, the resort’s director of restaurants and bars, explains that they decided to take a unique approach by offering cocktails and canapés on their floating menu. Guests staying in pool-access accommodations can enjoy the “Dip In, Drink Up” amenity for $58. Delivered on an iced floating tray, this service is limited to four suites daily and available from noon to 7 p.m.

Regardless of the premium price and meticulous staging involved, there is no denying that floating breakfasts make for stunning Instagram posts. As Zehl aptly puts it, “Let’s be honest, it’s just a pretty and unique way to eat a meal.” Judging by the 871 people who liked my photo, I couldn’t agree more.

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