Siena Yates gets carted off to a life of luxury where the friendly staff make the best difference.
There's nothing stranger than going from a "compact" unit in Auckland to a new, five-star Pacific resort.
A resort where your bedroom — which is the size of your entire flat — opens on to a deck right on the beach of a picture-perfect lagoon, and where staff will come and pick you up in a golf cart so you don't have to walk to the lobby (God forbid).
Fiji's new Marriott resort at Momi Bay, 33km from Nadi, is about as luxurious as it gets, without being overwhelming.
Here's the thing: I don't think I'm a "resort" person. I stayed at a Club Med in Bali and I was left feeling really awful about the rich/poor divide and the subservient nature of the staff who bowed and avoided eye contact.
Luxury, as a concept, makes me feel a little weird — especially when you drive past relative poverty to get to it.
But what saved me from feeling this way at the Marriott was the staff there who are, frankly, the resort's greatest asset. They are friendly, they smile a lot — and genuinely too. They'll shout a hearty "bula!" as you pass, remember your name if they see you often enough, let you in on the in-jokes and have some friendly banter.
If you're the kind of person who likes to be treated like royalty, they'll do that. If, like me, you prefer a (much, much) more low-key approach, they'll do that too.
Zipping around in the golf cart, I asked the obvious question: "Do you race these when no one's around?"
The driver just laughed and shook his head which I took to mean, "100 per cent".
The restaurant staff greeted me politely and gave me time and space to do my own thing, the admin staff were refreshingly laidback — unlike other, stuffier encounters I've had, and even the garden staff, when I passed by in the morning would give me a wave and a "bula" despite being knee-deep in work.
I later found that the Marriott employs people from nearby villages, giving them stable work, which many need to provide for their families.
It's a good thing they're there too, because without them, the Marriott could be a little intimidating to the average Kiwi because it is pure luxury, through and through.
The rooms are massive, high-ceilinged, beautiful affairs with a slick standalone bathtub and a distinct beach-escape vibe.
The resort's crown jewels, which it's really using to push the destination to tourists, are its overwater bures. They look damn impressive when you fly a drone over the top but honestly, the lagoon-front bures are just as great — maybe better — because you get to enjoy the beach just a few steps from your door.
If you sit on the daybed and look out from the deck, you can almost pretend you have your own private beach, particularly when it's quiet — which it usually is.
That's the great thing about this resort; even though it was fully booked for my stay, it never felt crowded or busy, not even at the restaurants during meal times. It's so spread out (hence the golf carts) that everyone has all the breathing space they need.
The other great part of that is the children's' area — where the kids' club and pool are located — are at the opposite end of the resort from the adults area, so even when the resort is packed with kids, you barely see or hear them.
And if you're the one travelling with said kids, not only is there the kids' club and packed itinerary full of activities, there's also a nanny service so you can go enjoy the resort on your own.
There's also an activity list for adults so you can try your hand at crafts, taste some kava, take in some performances, try out some water sports and more.
If you're looking to go further afield, the Marriott has partnered up with local tourism businesses to offer excursions to go snorkelling, visit popular surfing spot Cloud Break, take a scenic chopper ride, go zip-lining, or simply take a bus into town to explore on your own.
There's a lot to do in Fiji and many of those things, I'm told, are exhilarating. If, however, you're more like me and prefer to relax during your holiday (crazy, I know) you can lounge on the lagoon beach, fill your face at any (or all) of the amazing restaurants that offer an impressive range of cuisines — and, by the way, cater to a range of dietary requirements. You can dip in the breath-taking infinity pool or Jacuzzi, or visit the gym, or better yet; the spa, which delivered the best massage I've had in my life. There's everything you could need or want, including a convenience store.
The one activity I did embark on and loved was the helicopter ride, which took us out over Cloud Break and the dozens of tiny islands surrounded by beautiful blue seas.
If you think Fiji is stunning from the ground, wait until you see it from the air.