Fiji is known as a 'flop and drop' destination. White sandy beaches, palm trees and clear blue waters enhanced by a relaxed vibe. But what if you could flop and drop knowing you will wake the next morning, or from your afternoon snooze, to look at a new magical destination?
That is the appeal of a cruise around the islands of Fiji. One day you can be anchored in a small cove sheltered by a rocky mysterious island, the next tendering ashore to a remote village and visiting a school. The best part is you only have to unpack the once.
There are many cruise options around Fiji and the South Pacific, so you have a lot to consider before you book. Do you want to enjoy the experience from an elevated vantage point on your ship's topmost deck? Are you happy to use a tender (smaller boat) to get ashore? Or do you want to be able to jump straight off the back of the ship and swim to a beach or explore from a kayak? Do you prefer to stick to the major attractions or venture off the beaten path? Onboard, are you looking for plentiful activities day and night, a quiet respite, or a chance to learn more about the destination and its culture?
All of these things differ, depending on the size of the ship. So how to know whether to go big or small?
First you need to decide what experience you are looking for. For variety and space, with a choice of dining and entertainment options and an array of organised tours, choose a large ship. If you would like a more tailored experience, the ability to get to places less visited, and an intimate group of passengers where everyone gets to know your name, choose a small ship.
To give you a better idea of what to expect, we've compared some big mainstream ships (P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean International) with small ships (Captain Cook Cruises and Blue Lagoon Cruises).
Sacred Island is one of the unique stops offered by Blue Lagoon Cruises that big ships cannot access. This means you can go ashore and practically have the beach to yourself, without the hundreds of people you can expect on the larger cruise ships.
Small ship cruising with Blue Lagoon Cruises means you can have more intimate experiences, like the shore excursion to Yasawa High School. Here you are entertained by the students and can interact with them on a one-on-one basis. It is a great idea to take some school supplies, books and small gifts to donate to the children.
Shore excursions with the smaller ships are what make cruising in Fiji unique. Blue Lagoon Cruises' Fiji Princess is designed so you can get so close to shore that the ship can even be tethered off to a palm tree. As the passenger numbers are fewer, the experience ashore can be tailor made to suit the individual cruiser. So if you feel like a cocktail while sitting on the beach watching the waves lap the sand, it can be arranged.
Small ship cruising with Captain Cook Cruises around Fiji means you can explore the area on a ship that has unique character. The vessel is older but holds a charm, evident in the cabins that make you feel you are on your own private yacht. The best thing about a smaller ship's cabins is there are less of them, so no trekking down long corridors to find your room.
Meal times with Captain Cook Cruises are memorable. Local produce is sourced from ports of call to create tantalising meals. With a smaller number of people on board, it doesn't take long to get to know your fellow cruisers while dining together. You will feel like part of a family or like you're at a dinner party in the ship's large dining room.
If you prefer a variety of dining options, a larger cruise ship is the way to go when cruising Fiji. P&O Cruises has a minimum of eight dining experiences on board each of its five ships. Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden have everything from Italian to Asian, casual to fine dining, plus room service or poolside snacks.
P&O's ships can carry up to 1,500 passengers, so you need to get orientated on the ship to remember where your cabin is at the end of the night. (Don't worry, they have numbers on the doors.) The cabins are generally more modern and spacious than on a small ship, giving a sense of a hotel room at sea. There are also more cabin categories, including inter-connecting rooms for families, balcony cabins, suites and cheaper accommodation without windows (known as inside or interior cabins).
The perks of a mega liner such as Royal Caribbean's Legend of The Seas, Voyager of the Seas or Explorer of the Seas is the sheer size means there is a lot more to do onboard. From casinos, nightclubs, theatres and bars, to sports areas, kids clubs and multiple swimming pools, there is an abundance of activities on offer. If you are looking for a cruise that will keep you occupied while on the ship, not just off the ship, then a larger ship is the best bet. You still have the chance to get off and explore your ports of call every day, however most of the action is happening onboard.
Due to the length and depth of Royal Caribbean's ships, the accessible ports of call in Fiji are limited to Lautoka and Suva. While these ports have many shore excursions and activities on offer, they are only a fraction of the island nation of Fiji. So if you want a more authentic insight into Fijian life and more time on-shore at quieter islands, a large cruise ship may not be the right choice for you.
Updated November 21, 2019