After a week in Savusavu we spent our second week in Fiji on a Blue Lagoon Cruise in the Yasawa Islands. It’s a beautiful part of the world; both Tom Hanks’ Castaway and Brooke Shields’ Blue Lagoon were filmed here. Still, we’re not typically the cruise boat types; we spent a week on a boat in the Galapagos Islands over a decade ago and a couple days on the Yangtze River more recently, but that’s really about it. (There were those 1,361 days I spent in the Navy, but that was a little different.) Still, this seemed a good way to see some pretty remote islands in Fiji. It was a pretty small boat – fewer than 70 passengers – and the TripAdvisor reviews were good. So we gave it a try.
And for the most part it was good. Sailing time was reasonably limited as we would hop from island to island and, when the weather was good, there were plenty of places on the boat to either hang out and be sociable or get away to read quietly. My favorite times were cruising gently along, curled up on one of the wicker couches on the top deck with my Kindle. The breeze, the beautiful water, the passing tropical islands, and the gentle rocking of the boat were pretty fabulous.
Then there were the various shore excursions. The first day might have been the best: snorkeling with sharks. That was the plan, and they delivered; there were probably half a dozen sharks swimming around our little area. We learned some years ago while scuba diving that sharks aren’t usually dangerous and these didn’t seem remotely interested in us. It’s cool, though, looking down through your mask and seeing a couple sharks circling.
On other days they would put us on little boats and ferry us to typically uninhabited islands, though sometimes to islands with tiny remote villages, too. Either way, before we went ashore the staff would bring small beach chairs and umbrellas and have them set up for us. Then we could swim, snorkel, read, talk … whatever. It was very civilized. Hell, if they’d had services like that when I was in the Navy I might have stayed in!
And then there was the storm. On our fourth day out most of the guests were leaving; we were doing the full seven-day cruise while some did only three nights and then were replaced by people doing the final four nights. The day started overcast and then it started raining. The group that was coming to join us came out in a fast catamaran and transferred to our boat in the rain; the group that was leaving us left in the rain. Not more than 30 minutes after that transfer was finished the weather took a pretty bad turn – heavy rain, strong winds. I can’t imagine what they would have done with the transferring passengers if it had hit just a little earlier.
Now instead of being spread around the boat on various decks open to what had been tropical sunshine we were all pretty much cooped up on the one covered deck as the ship started rocking pretty hard. At one point the staff suggested we should all go to our cabins for safety but then decided we could stay out. And only later did I discover that it was our captain’s first voyage on his own! At any rate, though there were a few minutes of concern about the storm, the worst of it passed through in maybe an hour.The next day started reasonably well; overcast but not raining. We went ashore for a day on their own private island but just as lunch was being served Mark observed ominous clouds approaching. In no time at all another storm was on us. We all ran to a sheltered pavilion while the ship had to quickly cast off the lines and haul in the anchor so it wouldn’t get dashed up on shore. Eventually that storm passed and we were able to get back onboard. Overall we spent the better part of two days huddled under cover, sheltered from the rain but not exactly enjoying paradise.
Other than that, it was a nice cruise. We met a bunch of fun couples – honeymooners from the DC suburbs, a mixed British/French couple traveling for nine months, a cute young Indian/Fijian/New Zealand couple who’d won the trip from her employer – which is always fun for us when we’re away from friends and family for so long.
At the same time, Fiji didn’t really seem like paradise to us. As when we were in Savusavu we kept pining for Samoa. Don’t get me wrong, Fiji is beautiful and the water and islands are great. Ultimately, though, it felt too touristy, too easy, too predictable. Not high on the list of places we’re dying to go back to. On the other hand I’m writing this in Tonga, where we flew the day after we got off the boat and this feels like the kind of South Pacific paradise I’ve always dreamed of. Stay tuned!