Today we're going to discuss my experience with South Sea Cruises.
As part of the pre-travel research (and I always do this), I tried to determine if it would be better to pre-book some activities. Pre-booking is good when you're short on time, when there's a possibility that excursions will be sold out and/or if you want to have some structure to your trip. I've also found that trip structure is key when traveling in groups larger than two and people who have differing opinions on timeliness, etc.
Anyway, we wanted to book a day cruise to some of Fiji's smaller islands and obviously had to decide which company and which option was the best value. From the descriptions, and taking time and price into consideration, we all agreed that the South Sea Island Cruise was probably the best bet. There were activities included, as well as lunch and unlimited beer, wine and other refreshments (#win). We selected the combo cruise. The description of this cruise boasts an afternoon cruise around the Mamanuca Islands after lunch. But...its not what you think it is and it lead us to some disappointments later...yeah we'll just call them disappointments for now.
I'll start with the transfer from the hotel to Denarau Marina. The driver was supposed to pick us and another couple up at 7:30 am. He was 30 mins late. Mind you, the night before, Ali advised us to leave the hotel early enough to get to the Marina on time. The main road near the airport is under construction and morning traffic is awful. As a result of the driver's tardiness, after he got past the traffic, he was overenthusiastic in his pursuit of the road to the Marina. We appreciated it (because it was his fault), but my life flashed before my eyes a few times on the way there. Needless to say, we barely made it before the boat was announcing its last boarding call. It was a short boat ride as this island is one of the first you come to.
South Sea Island itself is...I have no words. It's gorgeous. The picture below shows the actual size of this tiny island. Don't underestimate it though, it was full of fun things to do.
So, we hopped off the bigger boat and onto a smaller one that transported us to the island.
After a brief introduction and explanation of all the activities available, which included snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc., we decided to take the glass bottom submarine tour...then back on the tiny boat...so we sailed up to the sun til we found the sea of green and we lived beneath the waved in our yellow submarine!
Underwater stuff is awesome lol. The submarine was moving too fast for me to capture pics of the fish as we floated by but I think you can see some in a few of the pics below. Plus there's a video....I heard Sebastian singing "Under the Sea" in my head the whole time.
Can you spot the pretty blue starfish? I don't think I've ever seen a blue starfish before!
There go a few fish!
After our sub-aquatic exploits, we went back to the island for some snorkeling fun. Seems like I'm the only one that could master breathing through the snorkel, so I went out kinda far from the beach. I saw a few fish and some other cool stuff. Snorkeling is hard when you're trying not to get your hair wet. The harsh waves combined with the rough corral/sand mixture on the beach made it difficult to do anything. As a whole, we were unable to stand for long enough to get our lives together but I guess that made it exciting too. Alan has the pics of us snorkeling...I'll add them whenever he decides to get his black life and add them to our shared Dropbox folder.
It was time for the BBQ buffet lunch and show. The lunch was delightful. We were served salad, potato salad, rice, fruits and sausage, chicken, steak and what I think was swordfish but I'm not sure. Whatever it was....it was delicious. Oh yeah....don't forget the free Fiji beer.
Afterwards we had a little more time to relax on the beach before it was time for us to hop back on the boat and take a tour of the other islands.
Unfortunately, this tour of the other islands was more like a a taxi service from island to island and we literally just sat on the boat while it chauffeured guests all over the South Pacific Ocean. So, if you're considering this company for tours, be sure not to select the South Sea Island Combo Cruise. This "tour" lasted about 2 hours...enough time for us to really sleepy, irritable and and exceptionally ready to get off that boat. The tour company had other plans though.
I believe this was all the morning driver's fault because as it turns out, he was supposed to let us know that the evening driver would not pick us up until 6pm. You see, the other couple that rode with us from our hotel booked the full day cruise on South Sea Island (which ended at 6) and the combo cruise ended at 3- which we selected intentionally so we would have time to do more exploring after
. Since our hotel was relatively far away, the company was only making one pickup and one drop off (an important detail they could have told us that morning). Our morning driver was supposed to instruct us to hang out at the marina until the 6pm pick up. He failed to mention any of this.
When we disembark the boat around 3pm, we were wandering around trying to figure out the ride back. There was no signage anywhere so we resorted to asking people that were standing around. One of the bus drivers kept saying that our ride would be there at 6pm but we didn't understand what was going on...he wasn't being very clear, no rhyme or reason to his aggressive responses to our inquiry. We found another kind woman who ended up forcing the driver to take us to a hotel on Fiji, where we would switch to another driver and complete the journey back to the hotel. Again...no one is telling us that the evening transfer isn't happening until 6pm. We get dropped off at the Mercure hotel in Nadi and are advised that someone will be by to take us back but he won't say when nor will he give us the driver's name.
Instead, he gives us a number and tells us to ask the hotel's concierge to call if no one is there in half an hour.
My generally calm, cool and collected friend Chidi unraveled a little....it was warranted tho, this guy was a jerk.
Half an hour passes....we go in and ask the receptionist to call...she has no idea what we're talking about. Great. Eventually, the Mercure hotel's tour concierge shows up and I go in and speak with her. She was an extremely kind and professional woman...I wanted to hug her because by this time, we had been sitting there in the hotel's outdoor lobby for over an hour feeling somewhat distressed. She makes a few calls and tells me that she will let me know what's going on but also expressed some disappointment in the fact that they left us sitting there for such a long period of time and in the way the folks at this transfer company were doing business, she had to call 4 times before someone answered. 20 minutes later, she comes out and explains that the tour company, or maybe it was the transfer company, had forgotten about us and then stated all the stuff I just mentioned. Her delivery of this maddening news was so meek and pleasant, I couldn't be mad...in fact, this was the first real detailed explanation we had gotten all day.
To pass the time, she mentioned that there was shopping center in walking distance....there was, but it was more like a true shopping center, with a grocery store and a cinema...nothing that we were really interested in so we went right back to our seats in the hotel lobby.
Our little detour to the shopping center only lasted about 15 mins and we had no choice but to sit there until 6 so I took a nap...not sure what everyone else was doing...I just know that our attitudes were all complete trash at this point.
After a while, the kind woman came back out and told us the driver would be there a little after 6:30 because he had to wait for the other couple to get back and then come there. More irritating news but, it wasn't her fault and this woman was soooooo nice.
The whole time, I managed to keep myself calm until this happened. The driver arrived at about 6:45 and we noticed the couple that rode with us that morning get out of his car, and into a smaller one that would not accommodate all 6 of us...it was at that very moment that the steam started to seep out of my ears....I could feel it. The transfer happened so quickly... if Aneika and I hadn't been paying attention we would have gotten left. The guy didn't even know we were waiting there! We ran over to the smaller car as it was driving away and banged on the windows to make him stop. We asked him, aren't you supposed to be taking us too?!?!?!?! We've been waiting for you for over 3 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!! He didn't know what was going on.
furious by then. The kind woman from the Mercure, the woman that had originally told us to get on the bus from the marina (not sure how she appeared there), and the driver all came together to have a little pow wow - discussed the miscommunication among themselves while we stood there, literally by the side of the road, after being in the hot sun all day, waiting there for three hours, ruining the latter portion of our day, and these fools jerking us around.....and just as I was about to jump into the deep end of the crazy pool....another car appeared...one that could fit us all. They better be glad....the appearance of that vehicle saved them all.
We piled in...everyone was pissed. I want my money back actually because this was a horrible experience and it ruined the day. What made it worse is that the arrogant driver was trying to justify it when there was no such justification to be had......they screwed up, they should have told us what was going on, the driver should have been on time and none of this would have happened. Actually, when the owner of the transfer company first learned that we were waiting, he should either have sent a car for us to take us back to the marina (which would have been perfectly fine) or take us back to the dang hotel. Traffic, gas and drive time be damned.
I just short of cursed the man out who was driving us back because he was doing too much talking and defending the idiot who made all these bad decisions and it was pissing me off. I'm a Christian woman so I let him live.
We finally made it back to the hotel, showered and went to the hotel's restaurant for dinner, which also irked me. We had not planned to eat at the hotel for dinner. We didn't want to pay the more expensive prices and this issue with the tour caused us to miss out on our afternoon exploration plans. However, I will say that the dinner was tasty, despite a few minor issues and the hotel staff did a special kava drinking ceremony just because we asked for it....so that was great and almost made me forget about the cluster that was earlier that afternoon....almost. I'll write another post about that.
This experience reminds me that nothing is perfect and you have to be flexible and deal with things as they come. There's my travel tip for the day. I think it's applicable in almost every situation.