Blue Lagoon’s Mystique Princess visits the
unspolied Yasawa Island chain.
Would I be willing to take a drink from the communal kava bowl?
That was the question on my mind as we sat on woven mats,
watching the Fijian villagers dressed in grass skirts perform the
traditional Yaqona ceremony to welcome high-ranking chiefs and
important visitors. First, they pounded the kava, which is the root
of a pepper tree, then added what looked like muddy water, to make
the tasteless non-alcoholic drink, which acts as a relaxant. Then
one of the passengers in our group clapped his hands once, and he
was given the wooden bowl to drink from. When he handed it back, he
clapped three times, as is the custom. And then there was another
clap. It turned out there were quite a few adventurous souls among
us willing to try the kava.
We were visiting the small Fijian village of Somosomo, in the
unspoiled Yasawa Island chain, with Blue Lagoon Cruises.
Founded in 1950, the Fijian cruise company now has five motor
yachts. Two vessels, including the 72-passenger MV Mystique
Princess on which we sailed, offer Gold Club cruises at a higher
standard of comfort. Three vessels offer Club cruises. Clients
shouldn’t expect a five-star product by North American standards.
But they’ll get a spacious cabin, private shower and toilet, and
good air conditioning. And they only need to pack their bathing
suit, shorts, T-shirts and a sense of fun and adventure to have a
We departed the main Fijian island of Viti Levu in the late
afternoon, arriving in the Yasawas by evening. Blue Lagoon’s ships
only sail one or two hours a day, usually at lunch, and anchor at
night, so days are spent enjoying the islands. Flat-bottom steel
skiffs tender passengers ashore, and wet landings (where you get
off into the shallow water) are typical.
Somosomo villagers perform traditional
dances for passengers.
The quintessential South Seas paradise is Nanuya Lailai Island,
where we tied up to a coconut tree. Imagine swaying palms, a long
stretch of golden sand beach and bathtub-warm, popsicle-blue water.
Blue Lagoon Cruises owns 50 acres here, so unlike many of the other
locations we visited, we actually had modern bathroom facilities
and a fresh-water shower.
On Nanuya Lailai, scuba divers can explore Fiji’s colorful
underwater terrain through Blue Lagoon’s contract operations with
West Side Watersports, a PADI dive center. Dive sites include wide
cave-like tunnels, canyons and pinnacles and even a wreck of an old
steam ship that sank in the 1900s. On our coral reef wall dive, we
were enchanted by soft fan corals, eels, spiny lobster,
lime-and-turquoise parrot fish, and best of all, a large sea
The snorkeling right off Nanuya Lailai also rates among the best
we’ve done around the world.
Blue Lagoon Cruises supports the Yasawa Islands financially, in
particular with education projects. One morning, an excursion took
us to a local elementary school, which exists mainly on donations
from passengers. We listened to the children sing and talked with
them about life at the school (many children board during the week,
because the cost of daily boat transportation is too
Our days started early, often at 6:00 a.m. when a tender ferried
passengers to a nearby islet for a swim before breakfast. And there
was always time for sunning and swimming each day. After dinner,
some passengers joined the crew in dangling a line and hook (no
rod) off the stern to catch small fish.
Fish, of course, was often available for lunch and dinner, along
with hearty curries and stir-fries, served buffet-style. On the
last evening, we were treated to a traditional Fijian lovo feast
ashore. Chicken and pork was wrapped in coconut leaves and cooked
underground on hot stones. And the crew set up batik-covered picnic
tables on the sand and hung up propane lamps in the palms.
Afterward, we watched a fun international contest among
passengers. The New Zealanders performed a Maori dance, the
Australians read a story, the Canadians performed a 2010 Winter
Olympics skit, and the Europeans watched. (This particular cruise
was unusual, as there happened to be no Americans onboard).
Then the smiling Blue Lagoon cruise staff brought out their
guitars and got everyone up and dancing. Of course, the Fijians
Blue Lagoon Cruises offers three- and six-night
cruises to the pristine Yasawa Islands in Fiji.
A three-night Gold Club cruise starts at about $2,400 per cabin,
Commission: 10 percent