South Seas Paradise

Aboard Blue Lagoon in Fiji

By: By Janice Mucalov

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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 wonderful time.

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.

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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 turtle.

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 expensive).

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 “won.”


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, double occupancy.

Commission: 10 percent