Wanting to explore the Yasawa Islands of Fiji and wondering if it is worth it to go on the 7 night cruise on the MV Reef Endeavour ship with Captain Cook Cruises? Read on to find out more and my honest opinion.
Spend 7 nights onboard, exploring the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands during the day, or if you’re short for time you can just do the 3 night Mamanuca Cruise or 4 night Yasawa Cruise – whatever suits your travel dates and itinerary.
Let’s see what the Captain Cook Cruise ship ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ has to offer on its Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands 7 night cruise of Fiji!
Where Do You Visit On The Captain Cook Yasawa & Manamuca 7 Night Cruise?
The itinerary includes stops at the iconic Blue Lagoon Beach and Sawa-i-lau Caves – both featured in the 1980 Blockbuster movie ‘Blue Lagoon’, as well as a stop at Modoriki Island which was made famous by the Tom Hanks film ‘Castaway’. There are snorkelling opportunities daily and there is the possibility to swim with reef sharks or manta rays!
A beautiful secluded sand bank is also on the itinerary, as well as Captain Cook’s very own private island ‘Tivua Island’ and several other stunning islands and beaches in the area.
There are many cultural Fijian experiences on the cruise too, including local village visits – experiencing a traditional music and dance performance, experiencing a sevusevu kava ceremony and spending time with the school children. There are also two optional mountain hikes if you want to see the view from up high and get your blood pumping!
In addition, you also get the opportunity to visit the Hot Water Springs & Mud Pools and the Orchid Gardens Of The Sleeping Giant – two of the most famous attractions in Nadi. There sure are a lot of great places to visit and things to experience on the Captain Cook Yasawa & Mamanuca Cruise!
Which Is Better: Cruising Around Mamanuca & Yasawa Islands Or Island Hopping?
Wondering what is the best way to see the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands: exploring on a small cruise ship for 7 nights or island hopping independently?
Exploring the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands by a small cruise ship is ideal if you want to take it easy and have someone else do the planning for you. You still want to see lots of places but you don’t want to spend lots of time waiting for transfers between one island and another. On the cruise there is usually a different island each morning and afternoon, so often you’ll visit two different beaches each day – so it’s pretty much island hopping anyway, just in a much more convenient way!
Cruising around the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands as opposed to island hopping independently and changing hotels every couple of days is certainly a lot easier and far less time consuming. No packing and unpacking of your suitcase when you change locations and checking in/out of hotels. All you have to do is turn up and read the itinerary for the day!
The small cruise ships such as The Captain Cook ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ that are used for cruising around the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands are a lot different to regular cruise ships.
The ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ can accommodate a maximum of 130 guests, so the experience is much more intimate than a regular cruise that can hold hundreds or even thousands of people and you won’t feel overcrowded on the ship. The small cruise ship companies in Fiji also generally visit beaches when nobody else is there. Plus, Captain Cook always bring the paddle boards and kayaks along, so you’ll still experience that desert island feeling!
There are also several activities off the boat each day you can do so you will get to see lots of different places. Seeing the same amount of places independently would be a lot more tiring, plus it would involve a lot of organising and patience (and more money!). The cruise can still give you the feeling of island hopping but just in style and minus dragging your suitcases on and off boats every couple of days!
If you visit in the shoulder season and during the school term, you’ll most likely have smaller numbers on the cruise ship which can make the cruise feel even more exclusive and almost like a private charter!
Especially during the American, Australian and New Zealand holidays, the Captain Cook 7 night Yasawa Islands Cruise is popular with families. You’ll also find plenty of young couples as well as older couples onboard throughout the year – the passengers are a real mix of ages.
What Is The Captain Cook Cruise Ship ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ Like?
The MV Reef Endeavour ship is about 25 years old so it does have character. It is however decorated and maintained to a good standard.
Onboard the MV Reef Endeavour is also a glass bottomed boat. This is used as a tender, as well as for taking passengers out on trips to see the marine life and coral reef below, which is especially good for those who want to enjoy seeing underwater but don’t want to swim.
And of course not forgetting the hospitality staff onboard the MV Reef Endeavour. The staff work really hard to ensure everyone has an enjoyable time onboard. They are always smiling, polite, willing to help, and are multi-skilled, with many of them doing several different jobs onboard.
What Are The Rooms Like On The Captain Cook MV Reef Endeavour Ship?
As is to be expected on a cruise, the bedroom cabins aren’t huge. However, there is certainly enough space for 2 people and their luggage, with ample storage space to keep the rooms tidy and spacious.
The rooms all come with ensuite and toiletries, serviced daily.
There are four different room types on the Captain Cook MV Reef Endeavour ship: Porthole Cabins, State Rooms, Connecting Family State Room and Tabua Suites.
The doors in all cabins (except the Porthole Cabins) opened out onto the communal balcony which is really nice, as opposed to opening into a corridor.
The Porthole Cabins have a double bed and bunk beds in, so are popular with families. They are the only cabins that didn’t have direct access to the outside and are the most economical rooms available.
A State Room is more than adequate for most couples. The rooms also have 2 windows so they feel very fresh, light and airy. The Connecting Family State Rooms are the same but with an interconnecting door between two rooms.
The Tabua Suites are twice as big as the other cabin rooms. They have a bedroom and a separate living room area, a TV, fridge, two bathrooms, tea and coffee facilities and plenty space to store luggage. These are the most expensive rooms and there are only a few onboard.
What Is The Food Like Onboard The ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ Cruise Ship?
The food onboard the Captain Cook MV Reef Endeavour is very good. A cooked and continental breakfast buffet is available every day, as well as buffet lunch and a 3 course dinner each night.
With every meal there are plenty of choices, and there is also a small afternoon tea and canapés served each day.
One evening you will get to have dinner at one of the local villages which is really nice for some variety. The staff onboard provide and prepare all the food at the village in ‘lovo’ style – a traditional Fijian feast which involves cooking the meal underground on hot stones.
What Is Included In The Captain Cook 7 Night Yasawa Islands Cruise?
What’s great about the Captain Cook 7 night Yasawa & Mamanuca Islands Cruise is that unlike the majority of big cruise ships most of the excursions are included in the price of the cruise!
Want to visit that desert island, see the local dance performance or do that snorkeling trip like the Captain Cook website advertises? You’ll be able to do all of that without having to pay extra.
Also each beach that you visit, the staff will bring a few paddle boards and kayaks for you to use, as well as towels and beach mats – free of charge.
The only optional things you would need to pay for are any massages, diving, drinks (beer, cocktails, wine, soft drinks etc), the cost of visiting one of the local villages ($10 FJD) and the cost to swim inside the famous Sawa-i-Lau caves ($15FJD) and any medical consultations/medicine prescribed by the nurse.
All meals are included and there is a coffee machine available for free 24/7.
What Amenities & Services Are There On The Captain Cook Cruise Ship ‘MV Reef Endeavour’?
Massage & Beauty Services
There is a massage parlour onboard where massages and beauty services are offered at an additional cost.
Many people are completely satisfied with the snorkelling onboard that they don’t feel the need to do diving. However there is the option to do diving as there is a Dive Team onboard.
Diving costs are additional and are available for all levels.
There is an open air swimming pool onboard Captain Cook’s MV Reef Endeavour cruise ship which is very popular with families.
There is also a Marine Biologist onboard during the whole of the cruise – most days they will do some short talks onboard about marine life that are fun and educational.
The Marine Biologist is very helpful and goes on almost all the snorkelling trips with the group, pointing out interesting marine life and coral, so it’s really handy having them onboard.
There is a boutique shop onboard, where you can buy essential items like hats, sarongs, suncream, rashies, as well as some local souvenirs.
A Kids Club is available on board too – perfect for when you want someone to take the kids off your hands for a few hours!
There is also a nurse onboard who is available 24/7 for consultations and emergencies. The consultation cost for the nurse is $60FJD and any medication costs are additional ontop of the consultation fee.
Each evening after dinner there is a different type of evening entertainment, whether it is the Pacific Island night, Fijian fashion show, the music quiz night, dance show or the hermit crab racing.
Complimentary wifi is available on the ship in the main lounge, however there are locations along the way where there is no signal (you are in the middle of the ocean remember!) so it is not available at all times.
Embrace being disconnected from society and just enjoy the beautiful paradise you are in! Emails and social media updates can wait!
On the top floor is a small gym with one bike machine, a rowing machine, cross-trainer, yoga mat and some weights for those who want to keep active whilst onboard.
Guests can do their laundry onboard if they wish: laundry is $10 per wash and $10 per tumble drying load.
There is also a little clothes hanging rail underneath the balcony outside each room where you can hang your wet clothes to dry.
Does The Captain Cook Fiji Cruise Help Local Communities In Fiji?
By going on the Captain Cook 7 Night Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands Cruise you’ll have the opportunity to visit 4 different local villages, which is a really great way to get an insight into local Fijian culture. For one of the village tours you’ll be asked to pay $10 per person – however this money goes directly back into the village to help them build and restore communal spaces such as the Community Hall.
For all the other village visits Captain Cook will pay some money to the village so you can visit. As these villages are very remote and far from the mainland this is one of the main incomes of the people in the village so by visiting you are really helping the local community.
In addition you’ll have the opportunity to buy souvenirs from the shell market in one of the villages and donate any money should you wish (although you are not obliged to) which also really makes a difference.
The staff onboard the MV Reef Endeavour are almost all local Fijians, so by going on the Captain Cook Cruise you are helping not just the families of the villages that you visit, but the families of all the local crew onboard.
Which Captain Cook Cruise Is Better – The 3 Night Or The 4 Night?
Both cruises visit totally different places so it’s hard to say if one is better than the other.
They both offer different islands and beaches to visit daily, as well as hiking, snorkelling and cultural village visits all in different locations.
In addition, the 3 night Mamanuca Cruise includes reef shark feeding and a visit to a stunning secluded sand bank, whereas the 4 night Yasawa Cruise includes the opportunity to swim with manta rays (seasonal) and a visit to the famous Sawa-i-Lau Caves.
Both include some similar activities but they also have lots of different activities, so if you are on the 7 night cruise you definitely won’t feel like you’re doing the same itinerary twice.
Should I Do The 3 Day, 4 Day or 7 Night Captain Cook Cruise?
Many people ask this question – especially those who are unsure whether they will enjoy a cruise, and those who are unfamiliar with Fiji’s islands.
The itinerary for the 7 night Captain Cook Yasawa / Mamanuca Islands cruise is pretty busy and each day is very different. Sailing hours during the day are kept to a minimum which means you’ll spend a large part of your day off the boat (unless of course you just want to relax on the boat – there’s no pressure to do anything if you don’t want!).
Many people believe that cruises are just for retired people and that if they are on a cruise they won’t get to see and do as much as they would like as they will be stuck on a boat. The small boat cruise ships around the Yasawa and Manamuca Islands of Fiji are different to regular cruises and focus more on experiences and activities as opposed to traditional cruises that focus more on relaxation, so you definitely won’t be complaining of boredom!
I would highly recommend the 7 night Yasawa Islands & Mamanuca Islands cruise if you have the time and funds to do so, as opposed to doing just the 3 night or 4 night. Both the 3 night and 4 night itineraries are in different island groups of Fiji and are very different to each other, so by doing the 7 night cruise you’ll see and experience as much as possible!
Most people will combine the 3 night Mamanuca cruise and 4 night Yasawa cruise, however there will still be lots of people who only do one or the other as their schedule means they only have time for the 3 or 4 night cruise. Just go for the one that fits in with your itinerary and budget.
Captain Cook’s 3 night cruise always departs on a Saturday and 4 night cruise always departs on a Tuesday. If you want to do the 7 day cruise, you can either start it on a Saturday or on a Tuesday. It doesn’t matter which day you choose and whether you do the 4 night Yasawa cruise or the 3 day Mamanuca night first as you’ll still get to visit everywhere.
Captain Cook 7 Night Mamanuca & Yasawa Islands Cruise Itinerary At A Glance:
The brief itinerary below starts with the 4 night Yasawa Cruise first and then the 3 night Mamanuca Cruise. If however you are doing the 3 night Mamanuca Cruise first, then Saturday will be the first day of your cruise.
None of the activities are mandatory – if you feel like having a rest or taking it easy one day that’s all good. There are plenty of places to relax on the ship.
4 Night Yasawa Cruise
Tuesday: Visit idyllic Tivua Island.
Wednesday: Visit two beautiful beaches (Brothers Beach and Gunu Beach). Do a Village Tour of Gunu Village – including a lovo feast, sevusevu ceremony, watch a Meke music and dance performance and visit the market.
Thursday: Early morning hike and ocean swim (optional). Visit a local school and the famous Blue Lagoon Beach and Sawa-i-Lau Caves.
Friday: Visit Yaqeta Island and BBQ beach and swim with the manta rays at the Drawaqa Channel if conditions allow (manta ray sightings are only from May-October).
Saturday: Guests finishing their cruise disembark at Denarau. For those staying on for the 7 night cruise they can choose an optional excursion from the ones below: Sabeto Hot Water Springs Mud Pools or Orchid Gardens Of The Sleeping Giant.
3 Night Mamanuca Cruise
Saturday: Depart Denarau. Visit Nukuimana Sand Bank.
Sunday: Visit Monuriki (Castaway) Island and Monu Island. Experience a lively Church Service on Yanuya Island in the evening.
Monday: Visit the beautiful Sacred Isles and watch shark feeding. Relax on Yalobi Beach or do the optional Yalobi Village Tour. Additional optional hike for some great views.
Tuesday: Guests finishing their cruise will disembark at Denarau. For those staying on the cruise they can choose from one of the optional excursions: Tivua Island, Sabeto Hot Water Springs Mud Pools or Orchid Gardens Of The Sleeping Giant.
Captain Cook 4 Night Yasawa Islands Cruise Itinerary – Fiji
Arrive on Captain Cook MV Reef Endeavour at around 12.30. Be greeted by the team who are singing and you’ll be given a lovely shell necklace to wear! Enjoy a buffet lunch, get acquainted with the ship. As the ship starts sailing you’ll go past some beautiful islands in the Mamanucas before arriving at the first location.
The first stop on the 4 night Yasawa Islands cruise is Captain Cook’s very own private island – Tivua Island!
Tivua Island is honestly a paradise. Clear water, perfect white sand, beautiful beach cabanas to relax under, snorkel gear, paddle boards, kayaks and a volleyball net available, plus there are several baby reef sharks that live in the shallows here. You’ll be able to see them as you get off the boat as the water is so clear – check out how close the shark pup is to the water’s edge below!
The baby reef sharks are quite timid. They like to hang out underneath the pier – they are a little scared of people but they are so fascinating to watch from the pier above, or you can pop on one of the snorkel masks and try spot them underwater. This is their natural environment, they are not ‘pets’ of the island and their parents don’t live here so there is no reason to worry!
At the end of the pier you’ll find the coral nursery where the resident Marine Biologist plants and rehabilitates coral. There are 500 acres of coral reef surrounding Tivua Island which is incredible!
You can also take a walk around the whole island, which will only take around 7 minutes!
There is lots of space on the island, with plenty of beach cabanas for you to use for free, complete with bean bags, sun loungers and chairs.
You’ll spend about two hours at Tivua Island before heading back to the boat.
Brothers Beach is a beautiful beach where you can spend the relaxing morning or go for a stroll along the beach.
Gunu Beach & Village Tour
The next beach on the itinerary is the stunning nearby Naviti Island where you can spend the afternoon relaxing on Gunu Beach. Gunu Village lies right next to the beach so you’ll most likely see some of the locals. You’ll be spending a few hours at this village later this evening so make sure to say a big ‘bula!’.
The women in Gunu Village will set up a Shell market so if you are keen to buy any souvenirs in Fiji make sure to purchase them here as the money goes directly back to the community.
Especially if you’re flying back to Australia if you are buying any wooden souvenirs always make sure to declare wooden gifts bought at customs at the airport to avoid them being confiscated!
After the shell market, the Chief and several men in the village will perform the sevusevu and kava ceremony. If you haven’t tried kava before then this is your opportunity.
Kava is not an alcoholic drink but it is a mild narcotic. It is a relaxant and has a calming effect. Fijians and other South Pacific Islanders typically drink kava after a day working to relax.
When you drink kava it will make your lips a bit numb at first but it won’t last long.
Kava is made from ground-up root and tastes like mud, however, it’s good to try it!
For the kava ceremony, the elders of the group will be sat around the big bowl of kava and as guests, you sit opposite them.
One of the locals will offer you the kava in a cup which is actually a coconut shell cut in half! Clap once before accepting the drink, say ‘bula’, drink the kava in one go (like a shot), give the cup back to the local and then do 3 claps afterwards!
After the kava ceremony you will have your dinner on the island. The dinner is a lovo dinner – which is a traditional Fijian feast where the food is actually cooked underground on hot stones! This way of cooking makes the food taste even more delicious!
Traditional Fijian Music and Dance ‘Meke’ Performance
After the lovo feast is the ‘Meke’ – the cultural singing and dance performance. It’s great fun and gives you a real insight into the traditional Fijian culture.
There is an optional hike at 6am to climb up Mt Tamasua on Yasawa Island so you can watch the sunrise from there. The views are incredible.
Visit a school in Tamasua; this is a really special experience where the children greet you by singing songs. They are so lovely and will take your hands and show you around their school.
This is a great opportunity to donate any school supplies you can such as pens, books etc – they will be much appreciated.
The famous Sawa-i-Lau limestone caves are a highlight in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji. The caves were featured in the 1980 Blockbuster movie ‘The Blue Lagoon’. The cost to visit them is $15 per person, which goes directly to the people in the village.
You will need to have your swimming costume on beforehand as this is a cave that you swim in! You climb up some stairs, then down some stairs (be careful with your head!) and then jump into the water.
The pool is quite big and there is natural light coming in from above from the limestone caves. It looks really impressive and is a really special place to swim!
Blue Lagoon Beach
After visiting the caves, take a short trip around the corner to the Blue Lagoon Beach.
This absolutely stunning beach was where the ‘The Blue Lagoon’ movie was filmed, starring Brooke Shields.
The water is so lovely, clear and warm here! Sit in the water, relax or go for a paddleboard.
Enjoy beautiful Yaqeta Island – there is also some really great snorkelling here with very colourful fish and reef.
Spend the afternoon at BBQ Beach on Drawaqa Island, and hopefully swim with the mantas at the nearby Drawaqa Channel! Swimming with manta rays cannot be guaranteed (it is seasonal and tide-dependent), however it is a incredible if you are lucky to experience it! These beautiful creatures are so big (they can reach up to 4 metres!) yet so graceful!
The cruise ship will come back to Denarau Port to drop off the people who are finishing the cruise (whether they just did the 3 night Mamanuca cruise or the 7 night Yawasa Islands cruise).
Disembarkation is at 9am, and if you’re remaining on the cruise you’ll have around 4 hours where you can get off the ship and do the optional excursions to the Mud Pools or The Garden Of The Sleeping Giant. They are both located about a 45 minute drive from Port Denarau and transport and the cost of these excursions is included.
If you don’t want to do the optional excursions you can simply relax onboard or explore Denarau Marina.
Optional Excursions – Garden Of The Sleeping Giant or The Mud Pools
If you’ve ever been to The Dead Sea (Jordan side) then the Mud Pools are similar. You have a bucket of mud that you rub all over your body. Your swimming costume shouldn’t get stained, but it’s best to wear a dark or older bikini just incase.
Once you have rubbed the mud over your body, you’ll go into the first mud pool where you’ll wash the mud off.
You’ll then go into a second warmer pool where the water is clearer, warmer and there are stones at the bottom of the pool. It’s much more pleasant in that pool!
Captain Cook 3 Night Mamanuca Islands Cruise Itinerary – Fiji
Nukuimana Sand Bank
Nukuimana Sand Bank is the first stop of the 3 night Mamanuca cruise and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, it is a total tropical paradise! At mid to low tide the sand bank is exposed and you can get some really great photos.
You’ll spend about an hour here – plenty time to go for a snorkel to see all the beautiful fish and coral reef drop off or just relax on the island.
The stunning Monuriki Island is the island where the Tom Hanks movie ‘Castaway’ was filmed! Relax on the beach, then have a wander round and find the ‘Help Me’ sign written in coconuts!
Make sure you get in the water, whether for a kayak, paddle board, snorkel or swim – the water here is so incredibly clear.
Next to Monuriki Island is Monu Island where parts of the ‘Castaway’ movie were also filmed. Parts of the latest ‘Survivor’ series were also filmed here.
Monu beach is lovely, with a rugged backdrop of hills behind where mountain goats live!
Yanuya Methodist Church Service
For Fijians, Sundays are a day of rest and for going to Church. Whilst it might seem unusual to visit a church whilst you’re on holiday, a visit to a Fijian Church service on a Sunday is a must do when in Fiji.
The singing at the Yanuya Church Service is amazing – the harmonies by the choir are absolutely perfect and the children are a delight to observe. The church service doesn’t go on too long at all and is really special to witness.
When you visit any Fiji village you will need to make sure your knees are covered (both males and females). Most visitors will wear a sulu (sarong) around their waist or females can wear a long skirt. You also need to make sure your shoulders are covered and make sure you don’t have a hat or sunglasses on your head. This is a sign is respect.
If you’re an early riser or are keen to stay as active as possible you can start the day with the Marine Biologist for a 7am ocean swim!
If you’re ever wanted to see shark feeding – this is your chance! Even before the Marine Biologist throws any fish into the water, the sharks already start circling the boat as they have come to recognise that each time the boat comes, they will get fed, so make sure to get out on the deck and check them out!
Just look out into the water from the lounge or one of the decks and you’ll see several reef sharks as the water is a clear blue so they are easy to spot. The reef sharks are about 1.5 metres long and there are two types: black tip reef sharks and white tip reef sharks. As their name suggests, some have a black tip fin and some have a white tip fin.
There is plenty of space on all the viewing platforms for guests to look down and see the Marine Biologist throwing the raw fish to the reef sharks. It is so interesting to watch them feed – they just glide over each other to get to the food!
You may even see a reef shark whilst you are out snorkelling throughout the trip so don’t be scared. Reef sharks are safe to swim with. We often think all sharks just want to eat us but it isn’t the case.
After the shark feeding visit the Sacred Isles. These islands are very beautiful and are extremely significant in Fiji as this was where some of the first Fijians arrived by canoe when they reached Fiji.
Spend the morning relaxing on the picturesque beach or snorkelling amongst the stunning reef or in the beautiful clear waters.
Yalobi Village Tour
In the afternoon you will arrive to the Southern Yasawa Islands: characterised by long beaches lined with palm trees and dramatic peaks. You will visit Yalobi village which is located on Waya Island. For $10 per person you can do the Yalobi village tour and visit the shell market in the village.
If you don’t fancy doing the village tour (it is totally optional), you can spend the afternoon relaxing on Yalobi beach which is truly breathtaking. After the local village tour, if you have the energy you can hike up School Hill to the peak of Waya Island to get stunning views over Yalobi Bay!
And so to the end of the cruise and back to Port Denarau. People who joined on Saturday who are doing the 7 night cruise will get to do the optional excursions.
Of course do note that the itinerary may change due to weather conditions on the day.
Is Captain Cook’s 7 Night Yasawa Islands Cruise Worth It?
The Captain Cook 7 Night Mamanuca & Yasawa Islands Cruise is definitely worth it – it’s incredibly organised, lots of fun and you’ll get to visit some insanely beautiful places. The snorkelling spots are particularly interesting with lively and varied reef, and it really is one of the best ways to ensure you see the best of the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands.
Whether you’re fortunate enough to be a frequent visitor to Fiji, or whether this is your trip of a lifetime and your only chance to experience this stunning country, cruising the 7 night Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands Cruise with Captain Cook is the perfect way to visit some of the most beautiful places Fiji has to offer.
From visiting a different beach and snorkeling site every day, to relaxing onboard and enjoying the delicious food, to swimming in famous caves and experiencing the culture in local villages – there’s certainly something to suit everyone’s taste.
Looking for more Fiji excursions from Denarau? Check out: