We just returned from our spectacular Fiji vacation which included 8 nights on Matangi Island and a six night Blue Lagoon Cruise on the Mystique Princess. I will post a separate report about Matangi Island.
We decided on the cruise in order to see more of the Fiji Islands. While reviews of the cruise were slim, the Blue Lagoon Cruise received generally good reviews. Our travel agent arranged our ground transportation from Denarau to Lautoka, which is where the cruise departs from. We stayed one night in Denarau between the Matangi Island visit and the cruise. In hind sight, staying in Denarau was a mistake. It is about 30 minutes from the airport and the drive from Denarau to Lautoka took us back past the airport and then another 30 minutes to the Blue Lagoon “office” in Lautoka. If I only had one night I would stay at a hotel near the airport to save some of the drive. We did stay at Raffles, a hotel across the street from the airport, as a day room after the cruise. Raffles was perfect for a day room and would be great for a one night stay.
When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon “office” our luggage was quickly tagged and we did not have to see it or touch it until it appeared in our cabin. During the 90 minute wait to board we completed the required paperwork and could be fitted for snorkel equipment (no charge). The waiting area was very comfortable with a small shop, a bar, and snack bar. While the cruise is all inclusive drinks are not included. I would suggest that they offer a glass of some tropical drink and some fresh fruit at no charge during the wait.
After a short wait we were taken by motor coach for the five minute drive to the pier where we embarked. There were a total of approximately 55 people on the cruise and this included one family group of 13 and another of 9. We were the only people from the United States. There was one couple from England and everyone else was from New Zealand or Australia.
The ship has one cabin on the top deck (called the sky suite) and then multiple cabins on the three decks below the top deck. No cabins have balcony’s but none are really needed. The top deck has a bar, about 6 tables with sturdy chairs and about 12 lounge chairs. Half of this outside space is shaded and the rest is in the sun. You can walk to the front of the ship which passes by the bridge. The two doors to the bridge were always open but we were never told if we could go into the bridge and although I peered in a number of times I was never invited in. I guess in hindsight I should have asked if it was permissible to enter.
The deck below has a number of cabins as well as the Yasawa Observation Lounge. The lounge is in the front of this deck and is enclosed with windows offering a nice view out of the front of the ship. There are comfortable couches for reading and relaxing but as it is an indoor space it was almost always empty. We were in cabin #2 on this deck. The cabin is laid out very nicely with a king size bed, two end tables, a desk and chair and a couch. A good sized window affords nice views. The bathroom was comfortable in size and fairly standard for a ship bathroom. The cabin and halls are a little dated with carpet that could be freshened up and tile that could use to be replaced in the bathroom.
The deck below has additional cabins, a really small shop, the cruise director’s desk and the dining room. The dining room is good sized with table that generally seat 8 people. There is also a bar in the dining room that is open during meal times. Breakfast was from 7 am – 9 am, lunch was at 1:00 pm and dinner at 7:00 pm. All meals were buffet style. On the first night the captain joined us and ate at one of the table. I would have thought that he would invite different people to his table each night but he was never seen again in the dining room after that first night.
The ship sailed for only a few hours each day. The “routine” was that you could elect to be woken up early each day for a one hour snorkel at 6:00 am. After breakfast at 9:30 am there was either a snorkel trip via a tender or more commonly a quick tender trip to a beach. The beaches were deserted and wonderful with palm trees growing down to the water. Fresh beach towels were supplied as were beach mats. Except for the last day there are no “services” available at any of the beaches. Depending upon the tide you could snorkel from the beach or go via the tender for a guided snorkel trip. These trips lasted about one hour. The tenders were 20 seat aluminum boats with a small outboard (15 or 30 horsepower). The ship has two of these tenders. On each snorkel trip one of the crew would be in the water with the group and the tender would follow along. If you were tired a simple raise of the arm summoned the tender to pick you up. A good ladder for easy access back into the tender was provided. Thankfully time in the tender was usually no more than 10 minutes as there is no shade on the tender. I was surprised that there were no life jackets on the tender. I don’t think this would be allowable in US waters. Snorkel vests were available for those wanting one.
We did have one trip to a Fijian village and another to a Fijian school. Both were very informative. At the school, the children sang and danced for us and it was a very special experience. We did bring some gifts for the children but they were also happy to accept any cash donations in a donation box.
On the last day of the cruise the ship “backed up” to within about 100 feet of the beach. This beach had lounge chairs, hammocks, a bathroom, fresh water shower, picnic tables, a volley ball court, and an area for cooking. This entire day was spent at the beach with lunch provided on the beach. At about 5:00 pm we headed back to the ship to freshen up and then back to the beach for dinner which was cooked in a traditional pit. The concept was great but somebody forgot that the mosquitoes are out in force when the sun sets. Many of us were eaten alive but in all fairness, we had a great time.
While this cruise allowed us to see many small islands in Fiji there were a few minor problems and one major problem. The food was all buffet style and it was common to run out of fresh fruit and dessert. This was irritating and should not have occurred. The quality of the food ranged from good to close to awful. Most dinners had a selection of fruit, a nice salad, a pork dish, a chicken dish and a seafood dish. One night was seafood night with prawns, oysters, and other seafood. The prawns and oysters were “bad” as in beginning to rot and could not be eaten.
The big negative to this cruise were the bugs. I expect spiders, ants, mosquitoes, and even small lizards. I do not expect roaches. There were roaches in the bathroom, roaches on the buffet table, roaches on the dining table, etc. One couple that we spoke with also complained of roaches in their cabin. There was roach spray provided in the bathroom. Roaches are DISGUSTING. It is unacceptable to find them on a ship as this is a closed environment and it is easy to eradicate them.
While the crew was wonderful and friendly the roaches on board would force me to recommend that others defer from this cruise until this problem has been corrected.