By Milly Gill
Product Manager at Travel Nation
Posts (60) See Milly s profile
Whilst planning my trip to Fiji, I looked at different ways to explore beyond the main island of Viti Levu and get out to the islands. One of the best ways, I discovered, is on a small ship cruise.
So in September, I kicked off my Pacific island holiday with a 4-night cruise on the MV Fiji Princess with Blue Lagoon Cruises which would take me out to Fiji’s remote Yasawa Islands in style. It turns out that small ship cruising is a brilliant way to travel in Fiji.
I flew to Fiji from the UK via Los Angeles, then direct from LA to Nadi with Fiji Airways. If you have time, I advise stopping over in LA, as it’s a long flight. We had a slightly stressful experience waiting in the US Immigration queue before our connecting flight, but thankfully I’d allowed plenty of time (the benefit of a lot of travel experience). We made our Fiji Airways flight in time, and the staff were all friendly and reassuring – a sign of things to come.
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Our flight arrived in Nadi at 6 am and with a few hours to spare before we needed to be at the marina for our cruise, we headed to the Nadi Transit and Rejuvenation Centre - a great pit stop in between your flight and the cruise. Just a 5-minute drive from the airport (free transfers are included), it’s a haven where you can relax, shower and recuperate. We opted for a full body massage – a great way to start our holiday.
Suitably pampered, we then headed to Port Denarau to go through a simple check-in process and soon enough, we were heading off to board our Blue Lagoon Fiji cruise.
There are three itineraries; a 3-night Explorer cruise, a 4-night Wanderer cruise (the most popular cruise), and the 7-night Escape to Paradise cruise. The 7-night itinerary is a combination of the first two cruises.
I strongly advise booking the 4 or 7-night cruise, so that you visit the Blue Lagoon itself, as the 3-night cruise doesn’t take you there. If you opt for one of the shorter 3 or 4-night itineraries, you’ll have a speedboat transfer to or from the ship because you’ll join (or leave) the 7-night itinerary halfway through.
These cruises run all year round so you can go at any time, but if possible aim to travel in the drier season from May – November when you should have calmer waters and sunny days.
The benefit of this cruise experience is the ease of visiting the more remote islands in the far North West of the Yasawas. To reach just one of these islands by ferry takes around 5 hours one way, so why not enjoy the slow scenic route on a cruise instead?
You’ll visit some harder-to-reach islands, including Naviti, Nanuya Lailai and Nacula. These more secluded spots have arguably the best beaches in the Yasawas.
Small ship cruising means just that - a maximum of 60 guests and 30 staff. This makes for a friendly and relaxed experience. Every staff member performs several roles with a smile, and they always have time for you if you need any help.
The Fiji Princess has three decks. On the lower deck, there’s a large dining area and plunge pool; the middle deck has a bar and shady sitting area, and there’s a sun deck on the top. Despite the small ship size, it never feels too busy when everyone’s on board, and there were also plenty of seats and loungers available.
The cabins themselves are small but comfortable; big enough for a full king-size bed you can walk around, plus a TV and a small ensuite bathroom and shower. Every cabin is sea-facing with a porthole window to see where you are and no sailing takes place overnight so you’ll always get a good night’s sleep.
Hibiscus Deck cabins are on the lower deck closer to the engine room and reception area, and because there’s no overnight cruising, you should have no real disturbance. That said, I’d still recommend booking the Orchid Deck cabins on the middle and upper decks. These cabins have better views, and they include a complimentary mini-bar which is replenished daily with soft drinks, water, wine and beer as well as some snacks.
Meals on board are delicious! All of these cruises are full board, meaning that you can indulge from the menu of fresh fish, seafood and more, both international and western foods. The only things not included are alcoholic and soft drinks beyond tea, barista coffee and water.
Breakfast and lunch is a relaxed buffet affair, while your evening meal is a little more refined. The first and last evenings are the Captain’s dinner (without the stuffy dress code), and on the other nights, we ate with the locals on the islands we visited. One night we had a traditional ‘lovo feast’ on the beach, which is a meal cooked in a traditional underground oven – fascinating to watch and delicious to eat.
The cruise was far more active than I expected and this was a brilliant surprise. There’s a timetable of (entirely optional) activities available every day, all of which (unusually for cruises) are included in the price.
I took full advantage of the water sports and snorkelling trips while on Blue Lagoon beach (where they filmed the Blue Lagoon movie). I also visited a local Fijian school and a village for the traditional Kava drinking ceremony.
In some ports, you can choose a short, easy hike. This is an excellent way to go exploring in the knowledge that you won’t get lost! If your primary goal is relaxation, there’s also no shame in grabbing a sun lounger and enjoying the sights from the ship.
In the evenings we had also sorts of entertainment put on by the staff, including a quiz night, a film night and final night party. We found that the evenings were an easy time for everyone on board to mix and socialise, which we quite enjoyed. If you’re not a fan of the social get-togethers, don’t worry, there are plenty of areas to escape to for something quieter.
This small ship cruise was a real highlight of my Fiji trip, and I highly recommend it. I found it was a fun and relaxing way to see more of Fiji and her beautiful islands, but it was also a kick starter for learning about Fiji, its people and the culture. I spent more time off the ship than on it – which shows you how much there is to see and do in the islands.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a mix of all ages, couples and groups. This particular cruise isn’t suitable for families with children under 14, but there are some dedicated departures for families - and we can advise you about those.
When your cruise ends, you can arrange a boat transfer to other islands and resorts without returning to the port, giving you the chance to spend more time on the beach. Let us know if this suits you, and we'll help you put the arrangements in place.
If you’d like to explore Fiji and the islands – we can tailor-make your whole trip. Whether you’re looking to include Fiji in a multi-stop or round the world ticket, planning a full Fiji holiday, or visiting Australia or New Zealand and want to add a side trip, we can advise you. We’ll help you choose the best islands, resorts or hotels and we can plan an itinerary around your interests, from activities that kids will love, to water sports, to a luxury romantic break.
Fresh out of high school, Milly left her home comforts behind and set off to work in a school in Thailand for a year. Whilst working in Thailand she managed to explore Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and China before uni. In the breaks from her English & American Literature degree she interned for Travel Nation, eventually joining our team in 2014. Milly is fascinated by wildlife and food and weaves these elements into both her own trips and those she plans for others. Her natural instinct for building fascinating trips that take you off the beaten track inform the trips she plans and she currently works as our Product Manager sourcing great hotels and itineraries for our customers.