Since its launch in 1996, Reef Endeavour has been a popular vessel with a legion of fans -- mostly Australian passengers who've taken cruises in Australian and Fijian waters. The ship spent its first 15 years deployed to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but, in 2010, Reef Endeavour was moved to Fiji to replace Captain Cook Cruises' Reef Escape, which had been damaged in a cyclone. Today, the ship looks smart after a 2013 refurbishment.
Ship upgrades came following the devastating Cyclone Evan that struck Fiji's west coast in December 2012. While at anchor in Nadi Bay (west of Nadi Airport) and with no passengers onboard, huge waves pounded the vessel, smashing windows in the dining room, flooding cabins and damaging the top-level Sun Deck.
The five deck ship was repaired and refreshed, with new carpets in all cabins and public areas (including all-weather turf on the Sun Deck), new outdoor furniture, new indoor lounge and dining room furniture and a new glass-bottom boat and tender. Soft furnishings also were added to the cocktail lounge, while all cabins were refreshed with new bed linen. There is also a small fleet of new yellow kayaks.
A trip on any of Reef Endeavour's itineraries (to the Yasawa Islands or the more remote islands around Vanua Levu to the north, or the Lau group and Kadavu to the east and south, respectively) is about swimming, snorkeling and meeting Fijians in their village settings -- at church services, in markets and in small towns. Much of the time is spent on land -- or, more correctly, in the water -- and the ship makes for a very comfortable and friendly base.
The all-white Reef Endeavour has a classic-ship profile and cuts an attractive figure in the water; its whiteness broken up by the walnut polished timber of its cabin doors and railings. Built to handle the outdoors -- and the often-wet weather of the tropics -- most cabins are accessed via the open decks that run along the sides of the three upper decks. There are no balconies, as passengers (except those on D Deck) step straight out of their staterooms or suites onto these three-foot wide decks and take in the glorious views.
The small ship, with its handful of public rooms, provides the perfect blend of bonhomie and intimacy. Passengers easily find little nooks to sit alone and read books or snooze. As most water sports take place off the ship, the pool is goes unused for long periods (except when there are children onboard), and there are always plenty of loungers available. Once the ice breaks, usually by the second or third day of the cruise, the camaraderie is wonderful, helped along by the ultra-friendly crew and the twice-a-day disembarkation into small boats, where it's always possible to talk to a fellow passenger or two. While the ship can carry 130 passengers, it often cruises with just half this number.
Most cruisers know the crewmembers by name within no time. That's because the boatswain, for instance, might also be serving drinks at the bar one night or singing a few songs around the piano in the evening. It's a happy, feel-good way to spend a few days at sea.
There are 63 cabins and suites spread over decks A (just below the sundeck) to D. (the bottom deck) Suites and staterooms on A, B and C Decks are accessed from the outside, via a narrow teak deck that almost wraps around the ship. This gives passengers immediate access to the outside as soon as they open their cabin doors. Rarely is there much passing passenger traffic.
Two sets of outside stairs connect A and B Decks (one near the bow, the other at the aft), while one set of outside stairs connects B with C. To get to D Deck cabins, passengers walk down the stairs and through the dining room to an adjoining corridor. There is a small elevator for passengers with limited mobility. Since the cyclone in December 2012, all accommodations have been refurbished with new carpets and new mattresses. In the suites and cabins (but not the family accommodation), new bed runners (a colorful swath of material that sits over the white sheets) replace bedspreads, and all cabins have been re-painted.
The top deck, A Deck houses the best accommodations (measuring 28 square meters or 301 square feet). Each of the four Tabua Suites (tabua means whale's tooth in Fijian) features a separate lounge area, bedroom with either two twins or a double bed (two twins pushed together) and two bathrooms. Originally, each suite was two separate staterooms. However, a door was cut into the middle of the dividing wall to create a separate bedroom/lounge arrangement. Hence, the two bathrooms. These cabins are very spacious, allowing each person to have his or her own bathroom and wardrobe. The suite bedrooms feature two bedside dressing tables with two drawers and a lower cupboard, as well as a wardrobe for hanging clothes and a desk with drawers. The lounge room is a mirror image, containing a similar desk and wardrobe plus a two-person cane sofa and cane lounge chair.
Also included in the suites are a mini-refrigerator, a flat-screen TV for watching DVDs only (no TV reception), DVD player and tea- and coffee-making facilities, including a coffee press and Vittoria coffee, a quality brand popular in Australia. Suite passengers receive a bottle of sparkling wine on arrival and have free Wi-Fi access in their rooms, although the connection is not guaranteed in the more remote islands. There is also an iron and ironing board.
The decor is attractive and functional but not luxurious. It's simple and uncluttered: a woven artifact above the bed, a couple of framed tropical prints on the wall and a polished timber wall unit containing a conch and other seashells. Bed runners and cushions are red, sheets are crisp white, and pillows are soft and plentiful.
There are four pairs of interconnecting family staterooms (each measuring 26 square meters) located on A and B Decks, and these have a similar layout to the Tabua Suites, but a lockable door separates the two rooms because they can also be sold as separate staterooms. Each of the separate interconnecting rooms has its own bathroom. These rooms are configured slightly differently because of the position of the door between the two. Decor is different also; the bedspreads have blue/green/yellow checks. There are plans to convert another four staterooms into two interconnecting family rooms.
Standard staterooms make up the bulk of the accommodations located on B and C Decks. There are 40 of these, each measuring 14 square meters (or 150 square feet) -- half the size of the suites. These cabins have more room at the bases of the beds and less at the sides of the beds. The bedding decor is blue and white checked runners over white sheets and matching blue cushions. They all have double beds (the size of an Australian queen bed), which can be separated into singles.
Nine family cabins -- each with either two single beds or double bed (depending on the configuration) and two upper Pullman berths -- and one Double cabin are located on D Deck behind the Captain Cook Dining Room. Although these are accessed via an internal corridor (same as on most oceangoing ships), they have portholes for views. These cabins were totally refurbished in early 2013. They measure 14 square meters and are fitted with bathrooms, desks, bedside tables and wardrobes that are identical to those found in other staterooms.
Disabled passengers are advised to book D Deck cabins because these do not have storm steps, and an elevator can convey wheelchairs between C and D Decks.
There are no telephones in any cabins, and a basic, old-fashioned radio (with push buttons) offers about five stations. All cabins are air-conditioned, but there are also small holes in the cabin doors -- a sort of perforation (a bit like a pepper or salt shaker) -- that can be opened or shut to let in fresh air. Cabins are fitted with Australian three-slotted electrical outlets, so overseas travelers will need adapters.
All cabins have identical bathrooms and the same toiletries. Bathrooms can best be described as basic but functional with a plentiful supply of strong, hot water. You walk over a "storm step" into the bathroom, which contains a shower, toilet, sink and mirrored medicine chest (or wall unit) for toiletries above the sink. Pacific's frangipani-scented shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and soap are provided (distributed by Atlantic Hospitality of Miami), and towels can be changed daily. Linens are changed twice during a seven-night cruise.
Passengers look forward to meals aboard Reef Endeavour. Fiji's succulent fresh fruit and vegetables are featured at all meals, along with the ever-popular and versatile coconut.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Captain Cook Dining Room on D Deck, and at least two alfresco lunches, including a barbecue, take place during a seven-day sailing.
Breakfast, served between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. is buffet style, consisting of a huge range of cold and hot dishes. There's nothing quite as sweet as pineapples in Fiji, and these, along with delicious papaya, pawpaw and watermelon, grace the buffet daily. Cereal, yogurt, freshly baked bread and pastries and an array of cold meats are also available. Hot choices include two types of bacon (the crispy version for the North Americans and the not-so-crispy for the Aussies), sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and usually a couple of interesting vegetable sides, such as stir-fried okra or eggplant. Chefs will make omelets and poached or fried eggs to order, and cruisers help themselves to toast, tea and coffee -- and the coffee (percolated style) is very good.
Lunches (served from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.) are equally varied and just as delicious. They include hot dishes like pasta, pizza, curries, grilled fish, garlic prawns and an inventive array of salads. Who would have thought pineapple and chili worked so well together?
Lunchtime desserts vary daily and might include chocolate cake, pies, muffins and other sweet treats.
There will be one "curry tiffin" (an English word meaning light meal or lunch), which is a nod to the large population of Fijian Indians. Dishes include dahl, curried beef, fish, chicken and vegetables, served with roti, poppadum, rice and condiments, along with desserts. The alfresco barbecue, usually held on the Sun Deck, features chargrilled fish, beef, chicken, sausages and salads.
Dinner is served at 7:30 p.m. and is a table-service meal with three courses. Both the entree (or appetizer for U.S. passengers) and main course feature three choices, including a vegetarian dish. Main courses might be baked fish fillet with tomatoes and coconut cream in a rourou leaf parcel (rourou are the leaves of a taro plant) or a vegetarian pawpaw ravioli. The dessert menu always features a fresh fruit plate, a cheese plate and two sweet dishes, such as butterscotch pudding with warm cream topped with rum-spiked caramel sauce or chocolate pavlova, a twist on the classic Australian meringue dish. The food is best described as international with Pacific influences, and it's very good; passengers had nothing but praise for the meals and the quantity of food.
Menus are rotated every fortnight, so there's no chance of receiving the same dish more than once on a cruise.
The first evening is the Captain's Dinner (Yakayakavi Nei Kavetani in Fijian), and everyone receives a complimentary glass of sparkling wine to start. Dishes included Fijian spiced coconut prawn soup and vegetable frittata, followed by butter chicken served with rice and seasonal vegetables and a succulent lamb served on a bed of mashed potatoes with buttered spinach carrots and spiced beetroot glaze.
Drinks are not included in the fare. Prices are about the same as those charged in Australian or Fijian four- and five-star resorts. They range from around $6 for a beer and about $8 for a glass of wine. Bottles of wine are about $25 and up.
Two themed buffet dinners (Asian and Island) are offered during a seven-night cruise, while shorter cruises feature the Island night theme. Both offer many choices, including delicious prawn and fish dishes, chicken and beef, pork or lamb and a couple of vegetarian options.
Seating is allocated on the first night of the cruise. Thereafter, it's open seating, and passengers can reserve tables and sit with whomever they like. Throughout the cruise, suite passengers and past passengers will usually have the opportunity to dine at the captain's table or with the chief engineer, who also hosts a table of six. New dining room tables and chairs were added in mid-2013. Tables are a mix of round and square, while chairs are painted cane.
Tables are set for dinner with white linen cloths, cloth napkins and sparkling cutlery; it's more casual at lunchtime. Alcoholic beverages are served during dinner, and passengers who buy bottles of wine can have them stored in the refrigerator if they don't wish to drink the bottle in one sitting.
An extensive wine list features mostly Australian and New Zealand labels, along with a couple of Champagnes and a handful of wines (mostly red) from other countries including Italy and Argentina. There are also both white and red wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Washington state.
Help-yourself afternoon teas (with cakes, scones with jam and cream and muffins) and pre-dinner canapes are served in the cocktail area of the Yasawa Lounge. Canapes may include meatballs, sushi, tiny pizzas and delicious fried coconut with a touch of chili.
Tea and coffee stations, offering a variety of espresso coffees, are located in the Yasawa Lounge and the Reef Room for passengers to help themselves throughout the day. Biscuits (cookies) are also available.
There is no room service, although suites have their own tea- and coffee-making facilities. An optional "romance and spa" package (for a fee) includes breakfast in bed one morning, along with extras like a mini-massage, bottle of sparkling wine and a cosmetic Senikai Essence of Viti gift pack.
Onboard attire is smart casual, leaning a bit more toward casual. The Captain's Dinner is held on embarkation night, and passengers are asked to dress up. In Fiji, this means long trousers and a polo shirt for men and a cocktail outfit for women. The rest of the cruise is smart casual, meaning evening clothes can include shorts and sandals (for both men and women) and casual dresses. Most women tend to wear sun dresses or light pants with nice tops to dinner.
Men are not allowed to wear tank tops (sleeveless T-shirts) in the dining room in the evening; swimsuits are not allowed in the dining room or Yasawa Lounge at any time, and shoes must be worn in the dining room.
Each cruise has an island night, and both men and women are encouraged to wear sulus (sarongs) or tropical attire, including Bula shirts (Hawaiian shirts).
As passengers spend a good deal of time in the blistering sun, a hat and sunscreen is essential while a "rashie" (or rash guard, a swimming shirt that prevents sunburn) or T-shirt should be worn when snorkeling. Reef shoes or plastic sandals are a must when walking on the coral-strewn beaches.
Modest dress is required when visiting villages for concerts, feasts and church services or when walking around the towns. Passengers can cover their legs with a sarong, or wear lightweight long trousers, long shorts or below-the-knee dresses; they should also cover up bare shoulders. Hats and baseball caps should not be worn in villages.
Daytime entertainment is quite limited because activities tend to take place off the ship during the day. However, the purser (who also acts as cruise director) gives a very informative orientation talk about the villages to be visited, the history of the region, customs and do's and don'ts.
A handful of talks are given by the marine biologist on the marine life and corals to be encountered on the snorkeling and diving trips.
A singer/keyboardist plays melodies during lunch in the restaurant, and a small band of singers and guitarists entertains during alfresco lunches.
Evening entertainment is quite diverse. It's good fun and mostly takes place in the Captain Cook Dining Room or the Yasawa Lounge. The latter is a comfortable area of sofas, armchairs and coffee tables, complete with a small bar, piano and dance floor. It also contains the purser's office and a tea/coffee station. It was refurbished in 2013 with new furniture and carpets.
On the first night, the crew sing, dance and invite passengers up to join them in their own version of ballroom dancing. On another evening, there is hermit crab racing, where each table will "buy" a crab at auction. This event is always a hit. The winner takes all the money, and most donate it to the ship to redirect to one of the seven schools that the cruise line supports in Fiji.
Other scheduled entertainment includes the crew fashion show, where various national costumes are paraded, and the final night's fun crew show with tribal dancing and singing.
Once during the seven-night cruises, the crew puts on a "movie under the stars" with free popcorn. Passengers vote for which of three movies they'd like to see and watch it on the pool deck on a balmy night if there is no rain.
Apart from this themed entertainment, there is always cocktail music from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to midnight in the Yasawa Lounge, and, if passengers are willing, there's impromptu karaoke.
On the night following the village feast visit (which takes place on the seven- and 11-night cruises), the crew sets up the "kava bar" on a woven mat on the floor of the Yasawa Lounge and breaks out the guitars and ukuleles. Passengers are invited to join them around the tanoa (the kava bowl) and savor a coconut bowl or two of kava. Kava is the traditional drink of Fiji, made from the root of a pepper tree. It's a murky brown color and has sedative and anesthetic properties (lips and tongue sometimes go numb); however, consuming a small bowl known as "low tide" should not produce any untoward effects. Mind you, it's not to everyone's taste, and many people say it tastes like dishwater.
Shore excursions revolve around village visits, village mekes (dance performances) and lovos (meals cooked in underground ovens), and almost all are complimentary unless outside transport is involved. Every day, passengers have opportunities to swim in the ocean, while there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel (a boat takes passengers to the best sites) and take trips on the new glass-bottom boat -- both are included in the fare.
Diving is an additional charge, and trips are led by qualified dive guides. The company has acquired a new dive boat -- along with the glass-bottom boat -- because both were damaged during Cyclone Evan. While people make jokes about "Fiji time" (a cavalier approach to time-keeping), the tours run on time and are handled very efficiently.
A handful of optional tours are offered, including tubing and rafting down rivers and walking tours, and all are very good value and much cheaper than those offered by large cruise ships. For example, Reef Endeavour charges FJ$30 ($16.30) for a village visit in the lovely old capital of Levuka and gives the money to the village; during its visit in 2013, the top-rated cruise ship Europa charged FJ$90 ($48.90) for the same visit.
Village visits are always an eye-opener, and children follow passengers in pied-piper fashion; it's always appreciated if passengers bring along stationery, toys and the occasional bag of sweets to donate to the schools and kids -- and of course the villagers love it. They do not, however, expect any gifts.
On Sunday mornings during the longer seven- and 11-day cruises, there are church services to attend if passengers so desire. These are moving occasions with wonderful Fijian hymns and harmonies.
An interesting tour in Levuka consists of meeting an elderly lady, said to be descended from the last cannibal, complete with afternoon tea and storytelling at her home.
All cruises call at Captain Cook's exclusive island called Tivua for an afternoon beach and snorkel stop. A new feature for the tiny island (which can be walked around in about 15 minutes) is a turtle pond and the services of a full-time marine biologist.
A free coach transfer is offered to all passengers at the end of the cruise if they're staying at nearby Denarau and Nadi hotels or going to the airport.
When they are not snorkeling or visiting the villages and taking shore excursions with their parents, children between 5 and 10 years old are looked after by a youth counselor at certain times. Youth staff will watch DVDs with the kids or play board games and cards. The Fijians' love of children is legendary, and they shower little ones with affection. Children eat breakfast and lunch with parents or with other kids in the dining room, but have an early 6:30 p.m. dinner, from a dedicated children's menu with the youth staff. The price is included in the fare.
Baby-sitting is free at the following times: 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. No after-hours baby-sitting is available. Children 4 and younger are accepted on the ship, although it's not recommended. When onboard, these children must be looked after by a responsible adult at all times and it is compulsory for the parents to hire a nanny for their children aged 4 and under. The cost of the nanny is included in the fare. Parents should consult the cruise line for details.
There are no programs for children older than 10, but if there are more than a few children onboard, they have plenty of fun snorkeling, swimming, playing in the pool and hanging out with one another. They love the evening entertainment, and the staff will often include them in their concerts. If the captain approves, a child may even play at "steering" the tender boat in the full care of professional crew. Children love their time aboard Reef Endeavour, particularly because the crew fusses over them.
There are two types of family accommodations, outlined in the Cabins section: the interconnecting cabins on A and B Decks and the quad cabins (two twins or a double bed with two Pullman bunks) on D Deck.
Reef Endeavour caters to everyone, including children older than 5. The itinerary often determines the age group, with younger passengers (families and those in their 20s and 30s) on the shorter three- and four-night trips to the nearby Mamanuca Islands and southern Yasawa Islands and mostly older passengers -- 50+, but with sprinklings of younger folks and even a few kids -- on the seven-day Four Cultures Discovery and Colonial Fiji Discovery cruises that venture to the more remote islands. The seven-day Yasawa Islands cruises are a combination of the three- and four-nighters (with some people staying onboard for both), so these cruises tend to attract a younger clientele, as well. An 11-night Lau & Kadavu Discovery Cruise attracts older well-traveled passengers. These islands (to the east and south of the main island) are very much off the beaten track, with several that had never been visited by a cruise ship before.
About 80 percent of passengers are from Australia and New Zealand; others are from Canada, the United States, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and occasionally Holland. Europeans tend to cruise during the northern hemisphere's colder months, from November to April, although this is the rainy season in Fiji.
All menus and itineraries are in English.
A swimming pool, with a depth of about five feet, is quite large for a small ship, yet it's rarely used by adults because there are so many other swimming opportunities. Scuba lessons take place in the pool about twice a week. It's located on C Deck.
The Senikai Spa is located in cabin 116 on A Deck. It offers a range of massages, facials, body treatments, foot massages and manicures/pedicures. Treatments cost about half the price you'll find on other ships. One therapist is on duty and is often quite busy, so early bookings are a good idea. Occasionally, multi-treatment packages are offered at a discount if bookings are slow.
The masseuse will also set up the massage table under a palm tree on the beach and sometimes on the upper outside deck. Beach massages are quite popular.
Reef Endeavour has a small gym on the Sun Deck, with one treadmill, two exercise bikes, a rowing machine, free weights and exercise balls. There are also two hot tubs.
It's possible to walk around the ship on B Deck, but you have to traverse the Reef Room (and open and close two doors), so it isn't ideal.
The onboard currency is the Fijian dollar (FJD).
Tipping is not expected in Fiji. However, it's customary for the crew to share whatever tips are given. There is a communal tipping box at the purser's desk, where passengers can place tips at the end of each cruise.
Date Refurbished: 2014
Country of Registration: Fiji Islands
Regular Capacity: 130
Maximum Capacity: 140
Crew Nationality: Fijian
Officer Nationality: Australian/ Fijian
Language(s) Spoken: English
|The MV Reef Endeavour is an intimate small ship. Which allows passengers greater shore access. She visits new and exciting destinations daily. The easy access hydraulic platform makes it quick and easy for passengers of any age to board and disembark the glass bottomed boat and tender vessels.|
No. of Dinner Sittings: 1
No. of Dinner Sittings: 6-8
Special Diet: Upon Request
Dress Code: Daywear: Casual Clothes, Evening Wear: Smart Casual WearGratuity Policies Gratuity Policies