Lautoka, Fiji (docked)
Lautoka is essentially a commercial and residential town and apart from the shops (good if you want to buy clothes) and the markets, there isn’t much else. The market is mostly a fresh produce one (but interesting to see if you haven’t seen native markets before … selling off tarps on the ground, etc) but there is also a craft type market there if you are interested in local handcrafts.
There are likely to be many taxis/vendors outside the port offering trips to local villages and attractions on the way to and in the Nadi area … these will be at very reasonable prices compared to what the ship will be charging!! We did this and had a marvelous day (see Lautoka to be published in late Nov 2017.)
There are no animal parks or aquariums in the area that I have found, but nice places to spend half an hour or so include the Garden of the Sleeping Giant (orchid gardens established by Raymond Burr, aka Perry Mason on TV in the 1960’s) and the nearby Sabeto mud pools, the Hindu temple in Nadi, and Viseisei Village (a historic but fairly prosperous Fijian community village that has been home to some of Fiji’s past leaders … if you can find a tour that can also take you to a less prosperous more typical village, that would be better).
A taxi is also an option, but a tour is probably preferable for a first-time visitor unless you know exactly what and where you want to go. We told our driver that we wanted to go to the Garden of the Sleeping Giants and souvenior/clothing shopping. See my review for the results which turned out GREAT,
The currency was Fijian Dollars, but credit cards are widely accepted, and we found many willing to accept Australian dollars.
Independent tours: If you’re wanting to spend that day at a beach island by the beach, please keep in mind that the ones the locals send you to are quite close to the mainland and not that stunning. The cruise ship excursions are the ones that take you further out to the more stunning beaches.
Ship tour: (from Donna- maybe this is the RCL South Sea Island Day Cruise for $189?) We heard from other cruisers that the Ooh La La Savala Cruise was just amazing: This tour was approximately six hours in duration and sailed from the ship to Savala Island- approx 40 min. This island is truly paradise and an uninhabited island 1.5acres in size. Sand perfect powder white, snorkeling here was amazing as was the opportunity to see the baby shark feeding and reef glass bottom boat tours where you could hand feed fish. Lunch was a fantastic bbq style buffet including alcohol, together with a coconut presentation. This was the perfect tropical island day at leisure and would definitely recommend this tour and would do it again!
In Lautoka they offer a 4-hour Combo tour; historical sites, countryside, Garden of the Sleeping Giant, mud pool, Firstlanding beach resort and shopping for $55 AUD per person.
You can make reservations in advance but payment is cash, only $AUD, when you meet them for the tour.
Currency and Purchases:
Lautoka Fiji and onward they will take Australian dollars but be aware some will try to give you change in the local currency.
Try to get low denomination dollars so you don’t end up with a lot of cash you can’t use.
There are a number of currency exchange places in Lautoka and Suva where you will get a fair deal, especially US dollars. We were able to use our credit card in almost every place except the local markets.
You will find that Fiji is not expensive to buy goods, food and drink depending on where you shop, some of the resorts will be more expensive to buy food and drinks than it would be in Lautoka and Suva. There are lots of outlets where you can buy souvenirs just be aware of the markets close to the terminal as you may get the same article cheaper in the town.Lautoka has a robust public bus transport network operated by private companies and the service is run on scheduled timetables from the central bus station.
Lautoka’s Sugar Mill is also a great place to see. People there are very friendly and will help you to get to the main gate in case you’ve never been there before. There are 4 or 5 gates and it is necessary to get to the main one in order to be let in. It’s necessary to make an appointment before your visit and take proper shoes (boots). The Sugar Mill trip does not cost anything and is really worth seeing.
The Botanical gardens have a large variety of tropical plants most of them labeled with the botanic and common names. If you visit around midday on a working day you may see the horticulturist Shri on site who has a wealth of information on the plants. The park opposite the gardens is a favorite playground for children, and there are toilet facilities.
Note: Chinese in Fiji is actually more spicy than Thai in Fiji
(docked at King’s Wharf): This stop will be on Sunday so some of the notes below may not be relevant)
Attending Church in Suva:
We were in Suva on Sunday so many stores and tours may not be open or available in the morning.. Many people try to go to church when in a Pacific Island nation on Sunday. They love to hear Pacific Islanders sing. Beautiful. Someone will always share their hymn book with you.
Protestant Church: Centenary Methodist Church is a 9-minute walk from King’s Wharf in Suva. Services are at 10:00 AM. We went there and it was a highlight of our cruise. Please see the post about the Church Service in Suva. It is a real cultural experience and the people were so friendly. The service and singing is in Fijian.
Catholic Church: Sunday masses are at 7:00, 8:30, 10:00, 5:00pm and 7:00pm. The 10:00 a.m. service is standing room only which is always nice to see, very friendly congregation and some lovely hymns (guitar accompaniment) to tunes that were melodious as well as easy to sing along to. The service was in English
Know that anyone who tells you the town is closed on Sundays has old information. We were told that a military takeover a few years back changed all of the Blue Laws. Many, but not all stores and the museum are open when the cruise ships are in town.
A local shop, Jack’s of Fiji, (some people reported they offer free shuttles to their shop, a 5-min ride. They had great prices on clothing. I wish we had bought more!
Being a Sunday, the two markets near the dock and most shops along the main street, Victoria Parade, were closed in the morning but opened in the afternoon. However, Tappoocity and Proud’s Shopping Mall very near Jack’s of Fiji were open. Again, lots of private tour operators were at the dock gate. Many passengers, not doing tours, can walk around town or all the way to the Presidential Palace passing shops, the Government buildings, Albert Park, Thurston Garden, etc.
Here’s an idea for those who want to stay close to the city and still see a rainforest:
Ship tour: (this was from a cruise critic on a previous cruise) We booked the Jewel Of Fiji tour which was a fantastic cultural day tour. The drive was approx. 1 hour in duration to a local village where we participated in a traditional Kava welcome ceremony, viewed some presentations on local art and the use of coconuts, learned about the history of the village and viewed village cooking techniques. Lunch was a traditional Fijian buffet with beautiful meats cooked in the ground, fish kokoda salad, curries, and a sandwich bar. After lunch, we went on a 20-minute long boat cruise over the rapids until we reached a rainforest where after a 5-minute walk we came across a beautiful waterfall to swim in. Back on the longboat to the village and back to ship, this was definitely a tour to rave about and fantastic for a cultural insight into Fiji.
https://www.moanatoursfiji.com/ (Some of the Explorer passengers did these) 2017 prices and from the moana tours website
Tour Number 1 3 Hours Combo Tour.
Historical site of Suva
Authentic Fijian Village
Shopping Jacks or Tappoos
This Tour is fully guided and in the Village.You will mingle with the villagers and also taste the local food and see all the local entertainment. There is an option in this tour regarding the waterfall if the guests don’t like walking we can take you to anther waterfall which is just a 2 minute drive away. The cost is $35.00 AUD per person and half price for children Note: Transportation to and from berth and entry fees are included in the cost. We at Mona Tours don’t believe in Hidden Costs. Minimum of 4 people.
Tour Number 2 2 Hours Site Seeing Tour.
Historical site of Suva
Shopping Jacks or Tappoos The cost is $20.00 per person and half price for children Minimum of 4 people.
Tour Number 3
Beach Excursion Duration 4 hours 45 minute Drive to Pacific Pearl Resort.2 and a half hours spend time on the beautiful beach. City shopping after Beach. $25AUD per personNote: This excursion you are going to Pacific Harbour and to the Pacific Pearl Resort. You can also make use of the Resorts facilities, Bar, purchase your lunch.Minimum 4 persons.
Tour Number 5 Waterfall Tour.
Country of the City of Suva
Return to the City for Shopping expedition. Cost is $25 AUD per person. Includes transport and all entry fees to the waterfall. Minimum of 4 persons.Note: the Waterfall name is Coloisuva and is located in the Forest Park. I received an email from Aisha at Moana Tours, Fiji. We arrive at Suva on a Sunday so the 3-hour Combo tour will be offered but without the village, with extra time at the waterfall. The cost would be $30 AUD per person which includes transportation and entry fees.
Suva is on southeast coast of the “main island” of Fiji, Viti Levu. Suva became the capital of Fiji in 1877. Fiji’s tallest building, the Reserve Bank of Fiji Building, is in Suva.
Suva tends to be the major commercial and political centre of Fiji, which Nadi is the major tourist centre.
While dress is less conservative in the city than the villages, women should dress fairly modestly (ie shirts for men, no bare stomachs for women).
Use a taxi as they are affordable and easy to access. The local buses are also straightforward and cost only 70 cents.
Suva Municipal Market Right in Suva town are these fruit and vegetable markets. Sells all kinds of different tropical fruit and veges. Municipal Handicraft Centre To the left of the fruit and vege markets are the Suva handicraft markets. Rows full of Fijian wooden carvings, straw goods and Fijian handicraft souvenirs. Don’t be afraid to bargain with the shop owners for a better price! (not sure if these are open on Sunday)
The Fiji Museum costs $7 FJ, a nice place to get the history of Fiji and see artifacts from all around the South Pacific.
There are very little beach-related pastimes in Suva, though there are some beaches used by locals on the east side of the peninsula.
Besides handicrafts, tourist t-shirts and bula shirts, interesting shopping is fairly limited. However, if you’re doing an extended trip to remote places, it is a good place to stock up on things from the grocery store (biggest one at MHCC) and the chemist/pharmacist.
All these recommendations were from past visitor:
The Indian influence from the significant population in Suva is evident in the food. The Indian food in town is authentic, tasty, and good value.
- Singh’s Curry House, Corner of Gordon Street & Victoria Parade, Suva. Sells cheap and delicious authentic Fijian curry. Eat in or takeaway. edit
For something upscale, try a restaurant inside one of the fancier Suva hotels, such as the Tanoa Plaza, the Southern Cross, or the Holiday Inn. For a quick economical meal in pleasant surroundings, go to the food court upstairs at the Harbour Centre and choose from a great variety of local and Chinese dishes (and you get to look before you buy) and sit and enjoy the view, or get a sack of fish and chips and sit by the waterfront or at the botanical garden.
- Ashiyana. A good Indian restaurant.
- Maya Dhaba. This is more up-market than Ashiyana, but has great food. The prawns malabar, butter chicken and naan bread are good bets here.
- Fr, Queen Elizabeth Drive (Just down from Suva Grammar School). The best fish & chips in town. The location also features a bar and a coffee shop. $8-10 FJD.
- Scott’s, Southern Cross Hotel. High-end European cuisine. The best steaks in town.
- Palm Court Bistro, QBE Centre, Victoria parade (next o ANZ Bank building). 7am-5pm. Outdoor Cafe, relaxed atmosphere. Palm Court Bistro has an all day breakfast menu, however they are renowned for their freshly made sandwiches made to order from the sandwich bar. $7-$15fjd.
- Bulaccinos. This is a western style coffee shop with excellent food. They make the best bread on the island, which can be purchased to take away. Open for breakfast and lunch only.
There are food courts at the top of MHCC and Tapoo. They offer excellent value for money and can be very good.
Suva does have several western-style fast-food outlets available, including two McDonald’s.
Suva is a friendly city, but there are some pickpockets and thieves. Avoid people who approach you asking for your name and country. They often want to lead you to a shop and then try to sell you some overpriced souvenirs they have handcraft themselves. Prices for their goods are very overpriced, and never purchase anything from these places.
You may also find homeless in the parks who may try to ask for money. Any conversation in a park with a stranger will likely go down this path “Bula, where are you from….”
Mystery Island/ Vanuatu (tender)
note from Donna: We did not make it to Mystery Island because of a passenger’s medical emergency but the ship’s lecturer mentioned that Mystery Island is missed about 50% of the time because of winds, currents, etc.
Mystery Island is a tiny small island of Vanuatu. You can walk around the whole island in 40 minutes. The side where the ship tender drops you off is the best side for swimming, and there’s plenty of space to setup your beach towels and relax.
The other side of the island (only a three-minute walk from one side to the other!) is perfect for snorkeling. There are more rocks on this area and it does drop fairly deep quite quickly, however snorkeling is quite good on this side.
In the center of the island, the locals set up their market stalls selling grass skirts, flower leis, coconut bras, souvenirs of all types. This is one of the best ports to stock up on items for Island Night (depending on the cruise line, if they do theme nights. Celebrity Cruises doesn’t tend to do dress up theme nights on South Pacific cruises).
You can get your hair braided, hire a canoe, or get a photo in the photo prop “bubbling cannibal pot” with some locals.
Currency is Vanuatu Vatu, however, I have always found no issues in using small Australian dollar notes.
Independent tours: the locals do offer a number of local excursions such as snorkeling, swimming with turtles, fishing for example.
Ship tours: It’s quite new that cruise lines are offering escorted tours at this port. They tend to be swimming/snorkeling escorted tours.
The Vanuatu/Loyalty islands are just very small islands. From my experience, not much to do on Lifou. An interesting traditional island house and a church which is a climb up a steep hill. If you haven’t experienced the Melanesian culture, this is interesting and worthwhile if there is a village tour. Shame we don’t go to Noumea because their cultural center, both the extraordinary buildings and the exhibits are great. I would say these islands are ports of call because they are tender ports and the shipping line doesn’t have to pay high port charges.
Someone on this roll call put out a call for school supplies, exercise books, pencils, pencil sharpeners etc. for these islands. Try to get them to a church and they will see that they get to the schools who need them.
Lifou, Loyalty Island, New Calendonia (tender)
Lifou is part of the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia.
Stunning island to enjoy the beach and snorkeling.
Currency is XPF South Pacific Francs, however, I have found that they are sometimes happy to accept small Australian dollar notes and/or US dollar notes.
Where the ship tender stops, this beach is beautiful to ensure a lazy day. Plenty of beach space to set up a towel, perfect for swimming. There is some basic snorkeling here, some sea turtles which tend to hug the pier.
There is a market stall set up by the locals selling souvenirs, fresh fruits, and other food offerings. Quite expensive and some souvenirs were made in China.
Also available is hair braiding and massages. The massages are fantastic – $10 for 10 minutes, $20 for 20 minutes.
To the immediate left, there is a hostel style accommodation, however, some beautiful gardens and traditional huts you can walk through.
If you walk up the hill 2 minutes from where the ship docks, you’ll come to a main road.
To the left, is Baie De Jinek and a beautiful church look out.
Baie De Jinek is a preserved natural marine reserve, and simply stunning clear bay with so many tropical reefs and coral to explore. Some of the best snorkelling experienced by cruisers. To get here, this is a 15 minute walk to the LEFT of the main road. You’ll get to a fork in the right, turn RIGHT. Locals sell as “pass” to enter the water for approx US10 per person which allows you to snorkel for approx 2 hours. Bring your own snorkelling equipment. They have now built a ramp to walk into the water.
There is normally a limit of how many guests are allowed per day (approx 200 per day), so this definitely is a first in best dressed system. Get in early and do this first thing to avoid missing out.
** Something to note, if cruising P&O they actually sell the Baie De Jinek passes through the cruise line. So book these onboard before you travel as a preference.
** Royal Caribbean and Celebrity do not presell the passes.
At the fork in the road, if you would have turned LEFT (instead of right), you will a beautiful church and look out, with some stunning views over the island and of your ship. It is quite a climb to the church (200 steps?)
Going back to where the ship tender leaves you, at the main road, you can go RIGHT for a walk through the island village and visit some hidden caves. Locals charge approx AUD$10 per person for entry, where you walk through a rainforest, grottos, and into a stunning cave with a fresh water hole you can swim in. The cave is quite dark, however locals had torches for light.
It’s a 10 minute walk from the entry to the grottos to the cave, however quite a hike so make sure you have shoes with good grip.
Mare, New Caledonia (tender)
Mare (pronounced Mar-ay) is a very small island and a popular cruise calls out of Australia. Local people will meet the tenders and offer transport across to the lagoon for snorkeling. RCI probably calls in Mare rather than the capital Noumea because there are no docking fees.
As part of a visit to Mare on the RCI Explorer of the Seas, the only beach within travelling distance to the cruise dock was Yajelle Beach. We were required to catch a bus as part of the cruise ship tour at US$16.00 RT PP. I would recommend waiting until the day of the visit in case of inclement weather.
Beach was nice and the snorkelling was average. Coarl has seen better days but out wide there were more fish than closer in – you will need to be a strong swimmer/snorkeller to go out wide.
Keep in mind that the weather is not hot year round. We were there in October and the water was quite chilly although the sun’s rays were powerful.
There is a lot of shade but you will need to get there early if off a cruise ship as the beach gets very crowded very quickly.
Note that there is a small beach about 10 minutes walk from the pier to the left hand side. It is only small but there were a few people swimming and snorkelling. A much cheaper option than US$15.00.
Mare Island is the second largest island of the Loyalty Islands group/Province, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. There are two small towns of Tadine and La Roche, but most Maréans live in tribes associated with one of 29 chieftaincies, that are closed to outsiders.
The island has recently been opened to cruise ships which tender at the port village of Tadine, on the western side of the island. The island has had limited access to tourists by plane or ferry from Noumea but now with cruise ships visiting regularly, the numbers of visitors, particularly day visitors, have increased dramatically to potentially as high as 20,000 day visitors per year.
The main entry point for the bulk of tourists (cruise ships) is Tadine. Tadine is relatively undeveloped although it does have a school, one café, primarily for incoming tourists with public toilets nearby, a local bank office, with ATM, a post office, local market stalls (on cruise days) and a gendarmerie (country police station). There is a grocery store at the port but it takes Francs and we heard that the clerks were not receptive to helping with any AUS or USA $ conversions.
Tourism in this remote and relatively pristine paradise has been opened up to help create jobs for local islanders, keen to welcome visits by cruise ships, whilst protecting their strong cultural traditions and the environment.
The main attractions are:
* Classic white sand beaches such as Yejele Beach, about 20 minutes from Tadine by a shuttle bus. The beaches are set with their backdrop of coconut palms or towering pines. The water has plenty of colourful coral and sea life including turtles for snorkelers to discover. The water colours vary from turquoise to cobalt
* “the natural aquarium” about 1.2 miles from Tadine toward Eni.
* Many cruisers hiked down the road and enjoyed the lovely views by the shore. Island tour (4WD or minibus) to villages and natural attractions. The island’s fossil coral rock creates rugged coastal landforms with grottoes, caves and sinkholes where the water colours vary from turquoise to cobalt.
Be careful about renting scooters. We saw an accident where a crew member was injured supposedly by being swiped by a bus. He was transported to the hospital and the ship was delayed from leaving the island because of this.
* Local markets on cruise call days offering handicrafts, seafood and cold drinks, with plenty of smiles and no hard sell.