This crazy moth landed on my luggage cart and hung out for over an hour.
What would you do if you had a spare weekend in Auckland and didn’t have anything to do. How about Fiji. When I was on my last work trip to Auckland and Sydney, I had a weekend to kill, I’d spent enough time in Auckland and the other cities on the south island I wanted to go to would take too much time to get there before having to get to Sydney for work on Monday. I started looking at options North of New Zealand, and again there were lots of places to go, but when I started looking at flight options Fiji just kept coming up. It’s always been on the bucket list, but to go there without the wife could be a bad idea. Thankfully being it was the “Year of Rahul” and all, my wife acquiesced.
There were a few flight options to Fiji from Sydney, but only two were non-stop. One of those was on Air Pacific Limited (soon to rebrand to Fiji Airways), and because they are a partner of American Airlines, I could even use points to fly. Score. The tickets were running about $650 roundtrip and I frankly didn’t want to spend that much money so miles it is. Plus this gave me a chance to fly an airline I had not flown before and that’s always fun to do.
Once I got to the airport in Auckland, I was able to hit up a lounge and not have to sit with all the unwashed masses. Ha ha. Thank you again Amex Platinum Card, the card that just keeps on giving. It’s got many great features, but free lounge access to some 3000 lounges is my top one through Priority Pass and the American Airlines, Delta, and United networks. So that being said off I went to the Emperor Lounge it had free Wi-Fi, food, drinks and bit of peace and quiet. Since it was a contract lounge I’m not sure what airlines used it, but it was quite. For the three hours I was there, I saw the two employees working there and three more guests that’s it. That’s my kind of lounge, peace and quiet and lots of space. Below you’ll find a few shots of the lounge; even though it didn’t have any windows it was light and bright, had clean modern furniture and was pretty spacious. I’ve been in a few lounges where you’re lucky to find a spot to sit let alone clean and comfortable.
As I mentioned earlier I had an opportunity to fly Air Pacific Limited. They are a small airline with 11 planes (the majority are 737’s). They fly mostly in and around Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and a few flights a week to Hong Kong, LA and Honolulu. They are in the process of changing their name to Fiji Air and have just received their first new airplane an Airbus A 330 with one to come in a few months. With the rebranding, they will also get rid of their older 747’s which will allow them to continue their aim of becoming a more profitable airline, and expand their route network. That being said, I found this flight to be pretty decent. It was not an airline full of frills, but the staff was friendly, the food or snack in this case was decent, and the drinks were plentiful.
The 737 was configured with two classes, eight seat s in Tabu (business) and 112 in Pacific Voyager (coach) configuration. I was booked in coach, and on a three hour flight that was just fine, although at check in I inquired about an upgrade to business, which could be had for $250. But when the agent told me that coach was very empty and she would block the other two seats in my row I stayed put, who needs business class when you can fly coach anyhow.
As you can see from the pics below, the cabin was in fact empty. I had a row to myself as promised, although not much legroom, I had plenty of space to spread out into and that was fine with me. They offered a light snack of cold pasta and biscuits plus drinks. And it seemed like others got as many drinks as they wanted, one was enough for me. They had overhead entertainment which consisted of a movie and a few sort films, I don’t remember what the movie was but I liked it. Before you knew it we were on descent to Nadi, Fiji and off to my hotel.
Once I got to Fiji, and cleared international customs, it was off to collect my bags and get to my hotel. By 7:30 PM I had my luggage and was in a cab to my hotel. For future reference be sure to get local currency before leaving the airport, the cabs only take cash and don’t take credit cards. I had to have him stop at an ATM at a bank I was familiar with so I could get cash. Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but I had all my valuables in my backpack which I took to the ATM, just in case. Anyhow there was no drama, and I arrived at the Sheraton Denaru Island Fiji in about ½ an hour. The unmetered cab was $40 Fijian about $20 US, one other thing I don’t think exists here are cab meters. So you should negotiate before getting in, I had done so and had also verified on Trip Advisor from other reviewers as to what the general charge should be. I got to the hotel close to 8:30 PM the bell staff took my bags and directed me to check in, where I waited in line. There was only one person in front of me and I was fine waiting but before I could blink a bellman came over to me and said he would take me to my room. Whoa wait a second, I didn’t even tell anyone my name say what. Anyhow the bellman grabbed my stuff we hopped in a buggy and off we went. I felt like some uber VIP that the hotel knew was coming and it was awesome. Once I got to my room, the bellman showed me around, dropped off my bags and I was set.
Wow what a great room, I had booked the cheapest room, a king size garden view standard room, and what I got was and Ocean view king room. Score!! As you can see from the pictures the room was pretty spacious. It had a large TV and sitting area with table as well as a work desk. Plus the hotel was kind enough to hook me up with a bottle of champagne, a logo coffee cup and a couple bottles of Fiji water, is there any other kind of water in Fiji. It was a nice touch to get a bottle of champagne, unfortunately since I was solo, that just meant more for me. Three cheers to Starwood, for these nice amenities as a Platinum guest, you done good.
The bathroom was also nicely laid out. A large soaking tub and large rain shower, as well as a beautiful sink area. Again, Starwood did a nice job designing the bathroom, and providing a well-designed and inspired bathroom.
The hotel grounds were nicely kept and manicured. There was lots of room to roam and a large pool to hang out in with a bar close by that served drinks to patrons in the pool, so there was no need to get out. But if you wanted to go get your drink yourself it was only 5 feet from the pool. There was plenty of benches and tables in the pool too and alcoves to hang out in.
There were three or four restaurants plus the pool bar. They also had an ice cream stand and café. I only ate at the breakfast spot, and I don’t remember the name of it. Frankly it was ok, there was a lot to choose from, eggs any way, fruit and juices, breads as well as Asian breakfast items too choose. I’m really not much of a buffet guy, so even though it was nice, I was not that into it. If you get the meal for free I’d take it otherwise I’d pass. There are also several bars, late night music and nightly entertainment, so if you’re looking for that you don’t have to stray too far. Oh yeah one other nifty feature flags at the loungers so you could just raise it when you wanted another drink or food. I love being lazy when thirsty. And I must give one last prop to the Sunset, just amazing. I just wish I had my bride with me to enjoy it with, besides I may not look so odd if I was with someone, at a holiday resort. I think I was the only person not there with a group, family or couple. As a work traveler this is something I’m use too.
Would I stay here again, maybe? The Westin, which is next door, looked nicer and a bit more upscale. Don’t get me wrong this was a nice hotel and I did like it, they have done a good job keeping it maintained, but from my brief visit to the Westin for an amazing spa treatment and the look of the grounds I’d probably stay there next time. The only other gripe was the water, it was not nice. It just looked gross and not to inviting. Most people were swimming in the pools, not the ocean. In fact again based on Trip Advisor, all the hotels at Denaru have the same issue; it apparently is the area that’s not so great. But if you go offshore even 10 minutes it’s a different story. So that being said I’d find someplace a bit further from civilization, so I can get more white beaches and blue water, as evidence of some of the shots I took, 3 minutes after takeoff. If I was here for more than 2 nights, I would have taken an excursion to uncharted waters just to see what the outskirts of Nadi are like.
So my return was again on Air Pacific Limited but this time to Sydney. I was lucky to fly one of their soon to be retired 747’s so I was excited for that. This is still my favorite plane of all time. It reminds me of all the trips I took as a kid flying Pan-Am and then Singapore Air in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when that mystique of the upper deck and visions of flying something other than coach ran through my head. When the seat map showed stairs and a cabin upstairs that I was not allowed to investigate. This plane is still the workhorse of the long haul and freight industry, but as economies continue to grow the 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus a380 are making their inroads. I imagine this airframe will be around for a few more decades, but the glory years of 747 air travel will slowly go away. I could go on and on, but I won’t.
Anyhow Air Pacific again does a two class configuration with business downstairs in the nose of the plane and the rest of the plane in coach, including the upper deck. When I booked my flight I was not able to assign a seat upstairs, it’s only available for their frequent fliers or on day of for anyone else. I guess it may give them an opportunity to not have to use it if the flight is light. I’m not actually sure how light the flight was booked, but upstairs there were many rows with one person or just two, but not three. It again made for a bit of extra space and comfort on this four hour flight.
I’m not sure if it’s because these are former Singapore planes, or because these planes do the long-haul flights for Air Pacific, but all seats had in seat video monitors so I could choose what I wanted to watch. This makes for a pretty enjoyable trip. In this case it was Pitch Perfect, this is not an Oscar winner by any stretch, but it has good music and is just funny. The show choirs take themselves so seriously at times that you just have to laugh. Plus it has a couple of funny actresses with a good script, so you’re in for a good treat. In any event I find it to be one of those movies when stuck on an airplane I’ll watch again and again, to date I think I’ve seen it four times, never at the movies just on planes. As for food, we had a breakfast burrito, fruit and crackers, again it was pretty good food, and I appreciated it.
The return flight was again uneventful but good. I can’t say I’d go out of my way to fly AP, but I would definitely not avoid them, and would for sure take them instead of Jetstar, Tiger or some of the other low budget carriers in the southern hemisphere.
What’s in your wallet
All in all this was a good trip, but yet too short. Next time I come here there are a few rules I must follow.
1- Bring the wife
2- Stay at the Westin or Sheraton or offshore
3- Visit offshore beaches
4- Have a good time