Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Trip Review: Lomani Island Resort, Fiji

In November 2013 we spent five nights at Lomani Island Resort in Fiji. We had a great time, particularly enjoying the many activities the island has to offer. More pictures of the island and our adventures can be found here




Here are the details:

The first night we stayed in Hibiscus Suite #9


Firstly, I should mention that Lomani graciously let us stay here at the cost of the Deluxe room as all the Deluxes were full at the time of booking. On the second day we moved into a different room further down the beach. 

Although palatial in size (three sitting areas!), the Hibiscus Suite was looking a bit dated, particularly the bathroom, which only had a barely functioning shower head. The view of the water was partially obstructed by the water sports activity hut and it was set fairly far back off the beach. It was also the room closest to the restaurant/check-in area although we didn’t have any problems with noise. The outdoor shower was nice but probably not worth shelling out the big bucks for on that feature alone.

Our guess is that it’s next in line for a bit of a cosmetic face-lift, given that many of the other rooms appear to have undergone similar transformations.






Nights 2-5 were spent in Deluxe Suite #2, which was part of a two-story building set fairly close to the water (with great views!). 


Comprised of a bedroom, bathroom, and living room, this unit was on the ground floor with a private lanai. It was fantastic.


TV (lots of movies but no channels), a fridge, and aircon (a must have in November) completed the unit. Simple but perfectly adequate.


It also had a snazzy new bathroom (and a working shower!).  


Although it was an eight unit building, noise wasn’t an issue for us, except when the maids were cleaning upstairs. Not a big deal at all. 

Here is the Lomani Island Resort Layout. Hibiscus Suite (#9) and Deluxe Unite (#2) are visible to the right of the pool. Please note, however, that the layout of the unit numbers in the Deluxe building is incorrect. Unit #1 was at the far right, bottom floor, and Unit #2 was the second from right (also bottom floor). I’m not sure how the numbers went from there but I’d guess that #s 3 and 4 were also on the bottom and that #s 5-8 were on the top. 




Had we been on our Honeymoon or born filthy rich, we probably would have sprung for one of the private bures (cottages) as they looked absolutely lovely. However, given the price tag of $525 USD a night, that wasn’t in the cards for us! Maybe when we win the lottery. :)


The great thing about Lomani is that it’s a fairly small resort: only 26 rooms. It’s also spread out so there was never a feeling of being too crowded. Oftentimes we were the only people on the beach or in the pool. 



Those daybed loungers were in high demand, however. You had to stake those out around 11:30 to claim your spot.



 ACTIVITIES

The daily complementary activities were the highlight of our stay. We stuck mostly to the water-based excursions so we can’t speak to the quality of the village tour or art walk.

 Snorkeling on the reef was great fun - just don’t expect fantastic corals or fishes. We heard that the reef took a beating during the December 2012 cyclone. We did see a few rays and sand sharks, which made things a bit spicier. Visibility was decent, although not exceptional. 

We also did the dolphin cruise which was nice because we got to see some of the outer islands, but didn’t spot any sea-based mammals. A couple that was with us on the boat had gone the year previously and had a great dolphin adventure so perhaps we just had an off day. 


Hand line fishing - so much fun! We caught a few things and the chef graciously cooked up our biggest specimen that night for dinner. It was beyond delicious. 


Bicycles - we took a nice little jaunt around the island. Go in the morning because it’ll be way too hot in the afternoon (at least in November). 


Polynesian dancing. They did fire dances. It was great. Enough said.



We also did some standup paddle boarding, which was easy, given the lack of significant waves. We never got around to the kayaks, windsurfers, or hobie cats. 

 SERVICE

So. This is the section where I recommend Lomani (with reservations) and where my husband would not. 

I’m a little hesitant to impose my American expectations of service on a country that is decidedly not the United States, especially given that the majority of the guests are from Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. But we’ve been to most of Europe and now New Zealand and I didn’t feel like the service in those parts of the world was that dissimilar from the US so expecting a resort that caters to those countries to strive for comparable levels of service doesn’t seem like too much of a request. Regardless, take this as you will, with the understanding that you might find the situation to be quite the opposite of ours, depending on your outlook. I tried to provide time estimates in an effort to be slightly more impartial. 

[Update: Eh, maybe I’m the only one that wasn’t thrilled with the service. The reviews on Trip Advisor are uniformly fantastic. So take my advice with a grain of salt!]. 

First, let me start by saying that everything works on Fiji time. None of this rushing around business. Things move slowly. Expect that before you even step off the boat and it’ll make your holiday much more enjoyable. 

The welcome and check-in was a bit of a painful process for us because they were trying to usher some other folks out the door at the same time. So we twiddled our thumbs for 30 minutes and then various groups finally got up and left, going either to the pool or (as in our case) heading for the restaurant. Perhaps this was because our room wasn’t ready but the process could have been much smoother. We also never found the staff at the front desk to be particularly helpful. We asked for snorkel gear - the cabinet was locked, come back later. Can we see the additional DVDs that are kept that the desk? Sorry. We don’t have any. Etc. It was mildly annoying.

But the real kicker were the excruciating wait times for meals. It was two-fold too: You might wait 10-15 minutes for your water glass to be filled or for the menus to arrive, which was the fault of the waiters, but you’d also wait 30-45 minutes for your appetizer to arrive, and then another 30-45 minutes for the main course to arrive (slowness on the part of the kitchen staff). 

It was so bizarre to look around a full restaurant and not see anybody eating, just waiting.  I was pregnant, so I couldn’t even enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine, and bread often took another fifteen minutes to arrive (or didn’t come until after the meal had been served). Dessert, thankfully, was served in a slightly more timely manner.

Given that this was a holiday resort, it’s not like we had anywhere else to be, but still: I like to eat and to be kept waiting for so long was driving me up the wall. Eventually we stopped ordering appetizers and went straight to the main course, just to speed the process up a bit. Which was a shame too, since the food was delicious. 

That was my main beef with the resort. I genuinely liked everything else. But the service situation could use a good kick in the pants. 


MEALS

We highly enjoyed the meals at Lomani. We thought the food was fresh, nicely presented, and delicious. Chris said that his lobster dinner on one of our last nights was fantastic. We loved that it was seafood heavy, given our proximity to said ocean. Breakfast could do with fewer poached eggs and perhaps some sausages and hashbrowns but those are my American preferences coming into play. Most of the guests were Kiwis, Australians, Europeans, and Asians and those fine folks seem awfully attached to their morning poached egg. 

Also, we wondered if things might have moved a bit more speedily had there been fewer menu items that were offered on a daily basis but rotated more frequently. For example, if you only offered five main entrees per night (a fish, a pasta, a chicken, a beef, a seafood medley) but rotated them out every few nights for other selections (different types of fish, for example, or a different cut of beef), would that allow the kitchen staff to pump them out on a quicker basis? There were at least 20 offered entrees per night (and just as many appetizers) and it seemed like the kitchen was having to make each one from scratch. We joked that they were also have to go out and catch the fish too, before preparing and finally serving it!

Breakfast is included in the overnight package. As for lunches/dinners, you can pay per day ($115 FJ/day) or there is an optional meal package called Kana Levu which is a flat $450 FJ for as long as you stay. We didn’t have much interest in trying out the other restaurants on the island (the reviews from other guests weren’t great) and this made financial sense as we were there for five nights. 

Breakfast can be delivered (at no charge) to your room every morning if you fill out the breakfast card and deliver it to reception before 7pm the following night. Having breakfast on the patio in one’s pjs never gets old. 

As mentioned previously, we found the food service to be exceptionally slow. So while an appetizer, main course, and dessert are included in the meal package, we typically only ordered the main entree (usually a sandwich for lunch, because those are quick to make), just to minimize the time spent waiting for our food to arrive. 

Also, did I mention that I was seven months pregnant? So when my blood-suger dipped, I was admittedly not the most patient of guests. We’d typically end up begging bread off the waiters just to keep me going during the wait for the food to arrive.



We typically did the morning activity, which ended around 11:30ish. We’d head directly from the boat to one of the giant day-beds at the edge of the pool. From there we could take a dip, do a bit of reading, and order lunch (by pushing the call button or zipping into the restaurant). Since it took so dang long for the food to arrive, it was nice to be reading poolside, rather than sitting (twiddling our thumbs) in the restaurant. A quick note though: We found that they only answered the call about half the time. We got a huge kick out of the fact that the little sign next to the button said: “Push button for IMMEDIATE assistance!”. Not the case! By the end of our stay, we wouldn’t even ask for the menu as it would take another 15 minutes for the server to re-appear. We’d order everything the first time he arrived and then push the button again when we were ready for dessert (which we’d pre-ordered). Also, don’t expect your dirty dishes to be removed. We would park them off to the side of the lounger as to not have to stare at them all afternoon. Same with breakfast dishes. Those will sit outside your room all day until someone comes ‘round for them mid-afternoon.

The highlight of our stay at Lomani was going hand-line fishing in the afternoon and then having the chef cook our catch that evening for dinner. It was incredibly delicious - the chef really outdid herself. I’m going to think fondly of that rock cod for the rest of my life. Well done and thank you Chef Patricia! 

Other Odds N Ends

  • Complimentary wash n’ fold service
  • The provided black bags are a nice touch. Perfect for hauling all your stuff down to the beach. We also looked forward to the nightly turn-down service and chocolate. It’s the little things that make a difference!
  • The provided snorkel gear was just fine and we were glad not to have to haul all our stuff in our luggage. Chris wears a size 13 (US) shoe, too, and didn’t have any problems finding a size that fit.
  • The beach towel charge on your bill will be refunded at the end once you’ve returned your towels
  • We splurged on his ’n hers foot massages at the beachside massage tent. Mine, given by Selinda (Selina?), was wonderful. Chris’ was ok but not out-of-this-world (didn’t catch his gal’s name).
  • One of the guys running the activities was great (Kegale? I’m sure I’m butchering his name..), the other, not so much. He’d motor you out to the snorkel site without a word of greeting. During fishing, his only words were “lines up”. Not the most talkative of men. But we did catch several fish so at least he knew the good spots!
Ok, that should do it! I’ll add more if anything else pops up. Again, more pictures can be found here.

xo, 

Sonja
November 20 2013




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