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A cruise-lover's guide to Port Denarau

Port Denarau is to be found on Denarau Island, a piece of land formerly housing a mangrove swamp on the western edge of Viti Levu. From these humble roots, the island has become a wonderland of resorts which provide a favourable introduction to Fiji and the nearby Nadi. A tropical South Pacific port, it is the gateway to the beautiful  and untouched Mamanuca and Yasawa archipelagos, a popular spa destination and the best way to ease yourself into Fiji life.

The port is a bit of upscale luxury in the beautiful South Pacific islands, but it is generally not an end destination. Beyond the port lies Nadi where tourists can make use of the city facilities, the scenic Coral Coast, boat excursions to outer islands, fishing adventures and the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park. Cruises to Fiji often stop at Port Denarau so that passengers can enjoy the many delights of western Viti Levu.

The Necessities

Docking at Port Denarau

Port Denarau facilities do not extend to a pier large enough for cruise ships, so passengers are ferried to the small-ship dock by tender boats which provide a regular service throughout the day. it's a good idea to get in early for a tender trip, or wait until the rush has passed if you are not in  a hurry.

Transport onshore

There is a local bus service called Westbus which is a low-cost option for getting between Port Denarau and Nadi or to the Port Denarau resorts. You can also take the colourful, open-sided Bula Bus from the port to the resorts or find a taxi to take you to wherever you want to go if you are willing to pay the fare. The more adventurous visitors may also like to rent a car for the day and hit the roads under their own steam.

Money matters

The currency used in Fiji is the Fijian Dollar, whose value usually hovers at around .55 to.6 Australian dollars. There are ATMs,a bureau de change and a Westpac bank branch in Port Denarau and more options for currency exchange in Nadi. With a robust tourist industry, you can use your credit cards in many stores and restaurants.

Language and Etiquette

The most important word to learn during your cruise to Fiji is "Bula." This means hello, and is a great way to be friendly to the locals you meet. Other than that, most people you encounter as a tourist should be able to communicate with you in English. Just be aware that although they may nod and say yes to be polite, you should double-check that they actually understood.

Views on time are relaxed in Fiji (as is true throughout the Pacific) -  especially in the villages. Try not to stress about being on time, unless it's on your way back to catch the ship before it leaves!

Etiquette is more important in the villages than elsewhere. If you are visiting a Fijian community dress conservatively, remove sunglasses and hats and take care to be polite. It is also customary to present a gift.

Get online

Port Denarau and Denarau Island are very well-developed centres for tourism, and this means you shouldn't have much trouble finding WiFi! Most restaurants at the port will offer free connections to customers, and for those without a device there is an internet cafe called Bilo Cafe in the retail centre.

Things to do in Port Denarau

The port itself offers plenty to cruisers in terms of restaurants, spas and shopping. For a more authentic Fijian experience, you may have to go a bit beyond Denarau Island - but here are a few things you can do within a short walk or taxi ride of the tender dock.

Port Denarau

Shopping

There is a good-sized shopping centre right at the port, which serves as a commercial hub for the area. Open seven days a week from 9am to 11pm, it has duty free outlets, the famous Fijian department store Jack's, clothing stores, jewellery, groceries and a spa, along with a range of services which include banks, a post office and a surf school.There are also a number of restaurants as well as a Hard Rock Cafe.

Golf

Keen golfers might relish the opportunity to get in eighteen tropical holes at the Denarau Golf and Racquet Club. Leave the beaches to your other port stops and hit the greens for F$153 for the full course or $100 for nine holes. The immaculately-groomed course also offers lessons, a shop, carts and a clubhouse with food, drinks and sports lounge.

Be pampered

If a bit of five-star luxury is on the agenda for your cruise holiday, Denarau Island is the place to get it. From the Hilton to the Westin to Sofitel, all the big-name resorts can be found there and they have amazing spa facilities combining western techniques with Pacific methods for utter relaxation. The  Bula Bus can get you from the port and around to all the major resorts for a fare of F$8 for a day pass.

Day trips to the islands

The favourite activity on Denarau Island is day trips to the nearby Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, and there are a variety of vessels which can take you to these little offshore slices of paradise - tall sailing ships, fishing charter boats, high speed catamarans and many more. Companies offering day cruises include South Sea Cruises, Captain Cook Cruises and Storck Cruises.

Fiji

Tours and Excursions

If hanging around Denarau Island is not your cup of tea, the easiest way to venture out into Fiji is to book a shore excursion through your cruise line. This means that you won't have to worry about schedules, transport and everything else - you can just enjoy the sights and sounds and rest assured that the ship won't leave without you. However, it is likely that you'll be spending more for a ship-organised tour, and your options will be reduced to those who contract to the line, so arranging your own visit is a good option for those who don't mind a little added work.

For extra peace of mind, the day trips to the islands can usually also be booked through the line, although if you have a specific one in mind it is a good idea to check whether you need to book it independently.

Cultural encounters

Village visits are offered by most cruise lines. These might include Fijian-style welcomes, kava ceremonies, songs and dances. Being welcomed into a community isn't something that happens easily, so if you would like to have this experience it's a good idea to book through your cruise line. You are likely to call in to Nadi town on the way back from any village excursion for a spot of shopping.

Thermal pools and orchid gardens

Just north of Nadi are some natural thermal mud pools where you can take a warm dip and enjoy the wonderful effects of mud on the skin. The pools have been used for their natural therapeutic properties by the Fijian people for years. Tours will often include a kava ceremony for a bit of cultural learning as part of the experience.

The Gardens of the Sleeping Giant are often offered singularly or as part of another tour. This tropical garden resort houses over 2,000 species of orchids.

General sightseeing

If this is your first time visiting this part of Fiji, you might like to join a group for some Nadi sightseeing and get acquainted. The major lines offer tours which call in to highlights like the Sleeping Giant mountains, sugar cane fields, the Hindu Temple and duty free shops.

These are just a few of the most common categories of shore tour available from Port Denarau. Depending on your cruise, you can also get in a spot of fishing, see some firewalking, or head to one of the amazing resorts on the island for some utter relaxation.

With cruises to Fiji from Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and many other major South Pacific ports, Port Denarau is a fixture on many itineraries, and also serves as a departure port for Captain Cook Fiji Cruises - take a look at our Nadi cruise sale page. Have you been? What did you think?

Written By: Sarah Glover, Content Editor of Cruise Sale Finder

I have enjoyed visiting as much of the world as possible over the years. Europe and the Mediterranean are personal favourites, but there is so much to see very close to our little Australasian corner of the globe- one of my top travel experiences was snorkeling with tropical fish and turtles in New Caledonia! Cruising is a fantastic way to see it all, and we hope to make booking a cruise easier for both first-timers and old salts. From ship tips to destination news and views, we will keep you up-to-date. Happy cruising!

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