Day one (sort of): Bula!!!!
Recently the Admiral and I had a chance to visit the stunning island nation of Fiji. After flying for 600 hours from Boston to Nadi Fiji and losing a day somewhere over the Pacific ocean we arrived at 6AM into the hot, humid, partly cloudy Fiji morning, (Ok it was only 18 hours of flying plus another 4 hours of layovers at LAX) and were greeted with cold towels, cold water and two beautiful flower leis. As part of our arrangement we have transportation provided from the Nadi airport to the Sofitel Denarau resort hotel for a two night pre cruise stay. Although we arrived at the hotel at about 8AM they had our room ready and we had a quick check-in and were escorted to the room. All the rooms are ocean view and ours was no exception, except that we were on the third floor and we had palm trees partially blocking our view. However this was not a problem at all. The room was clean and comfortable but not what I would consider a 5 star resort, maybe 3 and a half. There needs to be some maintenance but it was pleasant and the bed was good. Well after the 6000 hours of flying we were a bit airplane lagged. So we decided to take a short nap and set the alarm clock to wake us in an hour and a half. After the nap it was time for lunch. So in the spirit of exploration we decided to walk the mile or so from the hotel to the Denarau Marina complex to get the blood flowing and have some Fiji lunch. We ended up at LuLu’s a restaurant right at the water edge overlooking the marina and the docks where we would in a few days get on the ship Fiji Princess. Lunch was good and we experienced Fijian beer (good) and a different kind of French fries, made from cassava tuber verses potatoes. These were great! We have previously experienced cassava bread in the Caribbean island of St Lucia but never fries!
Then we wondered around the marina for a bit then back to the hotel. That evening we ate dinner at the hotel water’s edge restaurant. Not soo good but OK considering the airplane lag.
Day 2: (I think this was day 2)
Breakfast at the hotel buffet was included in the price so we ate there. This was a welcome surprise compared to dinner the previous night. Food was very good and coffee was surprisingly good for a hotel. The rest of the day we kicked around the resort and in the evening we went back to the Marina and Lulu’s for dinner. We returned to Lulu’s because as part of the package we had a $150.00 Fijian credit at Lulu’s. We had a nice dinner and wonderful chocolate dessert. Unfortunately we did not manage to spend all the money, so they insisted that the admiral buy a tee shirt! So she did :-). We then had a nice walk back to the hotel. So far airplane lag was held at bay, and we both slept through the night with minor issues. Melatonin helps a lot with this!
Day 3: -10
Breakfast again and a good coffee at the hotel coffee shop! Then re-pack and leave for the cruise ship around 1ish Fiji time. It took a whole 5 minutes to drive to Denarau Marina and find the Fiji Princess check-in desk at the prescribed check-in time. Since this is Fiji they were not ready to check anyone in yet and told us to come back in 30 minutes. So we went and found a place for lunch. In 40 minutes we wandered back to check-in and filled out some paperwork and they told us to come back in 20 to 30 minutes.
Remember this is Fiji so you have to think in Fiji time! However as I travel frequently I have learned to just go with the flow. So time is irrelevant here. However after waiting for the necessary island time with rain delays we eventually boarded Fiji princess with our fellow travelers.
As soon as everyone as on board and settling into the dining room the boat left the marina without any fanfare and headed out! While we were all sitting waiting for information we met Johne our “cruise director”. He then proceeded to introduce the captains (yes we had about 4 captains) and the ship’s master, then we received the required safety drill in a Fijian style. We were introduced to our bartender Tony (Have to keep priorities straightJ) and the rest of the crew and the trip was on!
So began 7 days of mostly sunny, stunning, hot, beautiful weather, crystal clear water containing 365 shades of blue, and around every turn another beautiful stereotypical tropical South Pacific beach with palm trees and sandy beaches!
I won’t bore you with each day’s details as I do not possess the language skills to accurately describe the beauty we saw but I will make some comment about the ship the crew and fellow passengers. I am posting some photos but they can only provide a hint of this place.
The crew is made up of all local people. They were all very capable and very welcoming. Their personalities and attitude made up for any shortfall in the quality of the ship, service or food. They made you laugh all the time and they were always laughing and joking among themselves (probably about all the sunburned passengers). They were always willing to talk to the guests and did what they could to accommodate requests. The Ships Master was involved in everything from driving the ship, operation a tender, being a tour guide, leading snorkeling trips, feeding sharks, handling sea snakes, making (and drinking) kava, singing and playing guitar, an cleaning the ship’s hull. He led the crew by example and nothing was too trivial for him. Plus he was just a nice guy! The rest of the crew was just as involved in everything.
This ship is small, so don’t think you’ll have the accommodations of a 5000 passenger typical cruise ship. You will be sadly disappointed. The cabins are small but comfortable. The AC worked well in the cabins. The cabins are the only place that is air conditioned. The heads or Vale lailai (bathroom for my land lubber friends) in the cabin are, shall we say, small. This is a wet head. Read no shower curtain. When you take a shower everything gets wet. But the water is hot, plentiful and you can take a good shower! Only complaint is there are no stowage bins or drawers for anything that you don’t want to hang up. So stuff kinda gets all over the cabin. But hey minor issue. You’re on vacation!
This is not a trip about food. Typically any fish dish was very good. Meat was always too well done for my liking. Veggies… well there were not too many of them but the fruit was usually great! Once again all short falling was more than made up for by the crew and their fantastic attitude and unending smiles. We always had more food than you could ever want or need, and there were some interesting local foods but always something you would want to eat. Breakfast was an interesting affair and the only meal that was served to you, all else was buffet style. This worked well. At around 7:30 Fiji time over the ships loudspeaker system Johne would come on and say “Vinaka levu it is now time for breakfast”. Forget sleeping in :-). He would announce all meals and happy hour! This although it may sound annoying was actually great!
As expected the bar was the hub of ship activity around happy hour! When we would arrive Tony would say “here are the Americans”. He said this every day because we were the only folks from the USA on the ship, there were other Americans on the ship but they were from the other America… Canada LOL. First time on vacation where we were the only folks from USA. This was kind of fun and made for interesting conversations! By the way Tony makes a good Bombay Sapphire and tonic for those hot evenings under the Fijian skies.
Fellow travelers: (seven dayers)
OK going back to the title of this post…. Fiji – Would I go Again NO, unless……. unless I had a chance to travel with these great fellow travelers again. Fiji is quite a stretch for us from New England to get there and not without some level of pain and suffering (even in Business Class of Fiji Airways 60000 hours of flying is a long time). However this was one of the most interesting and fun loving group of fellow travelers we have ever been fortunate enough to travel with. We have in the past made good friends on other cruises and we value their friendship and we are still in touch with them and there probably reading this blog entry now feeling insulted (please don’t feel insulted), but this as a group of travelers was an incredible experience. We never laughed so much in a week and enjoyed the company of the entire group. If this group ever came together again on a trip I would fly half way around the world to join them. We have the great joy of meeting folks from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and folks from next door in Canada. I will say this…. These fellow travelers were interesting, welcoming and knew how to have a good time. No one was stuck-up or thought they were better than anyone else including their interaction with the crew. I won’t go into the things I’m sure we have all seen with how some fellow passengers will mistreat the crew. This attitude does not go over very well with me. I have been known to make a comment or two over the years to fellow passengers who have spoken down to the crew as if they were their servants. They are not. They are hard working people trying to make a living, in the service sector. I’ll stop my rant here, and repeat again that I did not see this attitude from any of my fellow passengers to the crew. I heard a ton of Bula’s and Vinaka’s through the trip (Hello and thank you) to the crew from the passengers for the crews assistance with all manner of request. This was refreshing and a welcome change in behavior and this too makes me want to join this group of travelers again. So if any of my fellow seven dayers are thinking of a reunion trip let us know we would love to go with you all!
OK I know some of our readers are saying what is a seven dayer. Well Fiji Princess basically does a 3 day and a 4 day cruise. If you chose to do these back to back you’re doing a 7 day cruise. On this week we did our back to back 7 day cruise there were several other couples doing the same thing. We became the 7dayers!
Conclusion: Day 10
Hey where did the rest of the days go? Well I did not plan to write a complete trip report just the highlights. The photos in the blog speak for themselves and really say much better than I can how Fiji is. Once again come back to the title of this blog Fiji – Would I go Again NO, unless……. you know my answer but I feel I need to add a bit more. IF you have Fiji on your bucket list and have burning desire to see this beautiful friendly set of south sea’s islands with you own eyes, I would say go ahead and go to Fiji, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re only thinking that it would be nice to go to Fiji I would say save your money and go to Hawaii. If you looking for a little more off the beaten path adventure Tahiti I think is prettier still than Fiji, but more expensive and about the same flight time from LA. However last time we were there the reefs were much better from all aspects and I think they are a bit greener! I like green lush islands. Fiji is green and lush but not as green and lush as Tahiti. So there you have it, one man opinion and you all know about opinions…….
Oh about day 10 we all sadly got our sorry butts off Fiji Princess and started on the next legs of our adventure in life. Some of our fellow 7 dayers were going to stay in Fiji for another week and set off for other islands and resorts. I think we were all a little saddened to say good bye to one another and the crew of Fiji Princess. For the admiral and I, we had taken a day room back at the Sofitel resort till our flight left that evening for LAX. At about 6:30 PM local tine we were picked up at the resort and transported to Nadi international airport. There we had one more interesting thing happen to us. Let me back up to 6:00 PM at the grand lobby of the Sofitel. While we were checking out there was a large group of what turned out to be Americans who were getting on two buses and heading to the airport. I could tell they were Americans, and I leave it at that. However they we obviously on some kind of a tour program. I noticed that they were with Collette Guided Tours, which is actually headquartered in a town about 20 klicks from our home. So at 6:10 there buses left for the same airport we were going to. I thought ugg we’ll all be checking in at the same time and going through security. What a mess. Anyway we arrived at the airport about 20 minutes after they did, but being a tour group they we kept together and since we were traveling business class they were not in our check-in line. Fortunately for us, as even as business class travelers it took 15 minutes to check in, remember we’re in Fiji…. Anyway while waiting for the next available attendant to check us in we were talking to the tour leader who for some reason was in the business class line with us, anyway as we were talking to him he asked us where we were from, since he knew we were going to LAX. We said we come from a small town south of Boston, MA that he probably would not know of. He pushed us a bit more by saying that he too came from a small town south of Boston… Well as you can imagine he was from our town and leading this tour group. Small world. We have to go all the way to Fiji to meet neighbors! Anyway we checked in, went through Fiji immigration and what stands for security in Nadi International Airport and soon we were on our way back to America! We left Fiji at 10:30 PM on Friday and landed in LAX at 11:30 AM the same day, arriving before we left Fiji . 🙂 have to love the International Date Line. I end this here.