Once notorious as the Cannibal Isles, Fiji has 330 different islands scattered across 20,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Only 100 are inhabited. It is the crossroads of the Pacific. Latitude 18.00 S and Longitude 175,00 E. This is one of the top five places in the world for snorkelers, divers and surfers.
The climate is the same all year, in the 80’s, with high humidity, and they can get heavy rain. It is 11 hours from Los Angeles by air, and four hours from Sydney, Australia.
You can take a 3-,4-, or 7-day cruise. I took the four-day cruise to the Yasawa islands.
The beauty of Fiji lies in its diversity. Gorgeous white beaches, loaded with pretty shells, and turquoise waters teaming with 1000 species of colorful fish and turtles. Four of the seven species of turtles swim in these waters. Fiji is known as the soft coral capital of the world.
The flora is what you would expect in the tropics, lots of orchids, and over 3,000 colorful plants which are magnificent along with the flowering trees.
Fiji was part of the British Empire, and in l874 they brought in 40,000 Indians to work in the sugar plantations. Today, the Indians are mostly the shop-keepers, and the Fijians are involved with tourism, which is a big part of the economy.
I have visited many of the luxury resorts on various islands such as Vatulele, Likuliku Namale, Vomo, Qamea, Wakaya, to name a few. This time I decided to take a cruise, so I could compare my previous island stays to moving every day and seeing different islands.
Likuliku is the only property with over-the-water bungalows.
The ship sailed mostly at night, and the seas were very calm. Judging by the number of people I saw at Nadi Airport struggling to lug around giant surf boards, they were heading to the huge surf breaks on islands like Tavarua, and Namotu some wonderful locations for giant waves.
This is a unique way to see the culture of Fiji. The snorkeling and diving are outstanding, and with 65 cabins on the Captain Cook vessel, and 50 crew, it was a very enjoyable trip on the M.V. Reef Endeavour. Small ship cruising allows passengers greater shore access. There was a glass-bottom boat so non-swimmers could enjoy the reef, and the small boats to take you ashore landed right on the beach so you didn’t even get your feet wet. The boat was 73 meters in length and 14 meters in width. It has a draft of 3.6 meters, and can go at a speed of 13.5 knots.
This is not a posh luxury cruise line. The cabins are basic but comfortable, and the loungers, dining room, pool area, and decks are very well laid-out with nice furniture. This is not, however, a cruise for the handicapped. The library was an excellent place for the marine biologist to give lectures and the dive instructors also held classes there.
The only entertainment on board was when the crew, even the captain and cruise director, all gathered to give a wonderful concert.
The company has built strong relationships with villages and supports eight schools, and we were well briefed on how to behave and dress when we visited the various islands. You cannot wear a hat, or shoes, and must have your shoulders and legs covered. They gave everyone a sarong to tie around our waists. We all looked daft, like a badly dressed Polynesian choir, but it was worth the effort. When meeting with the village elders, everyone sits on the floor, with the men in the front row, and the women in the back rows. Only one man from our group was allowed to be the spokesman. They expected you to buy something, and the villages had laid out their crafts work, carvings, leis, jewelry, and shells they had collected.
We were the only American’s on board. Passengers were mostly Australian. All ages. It was a very casual ship. There is no doctor on board, and any passenger over 70 has to take a doctors certificate with them saying they are in good health for travel.
This is a wonderful way to explore Fiji and its many islands, and the meals were excellent. For a diver, this is an inexpensive way to experience these waters. All the equipment is provided to you for a very reasonable cost, ten dives under $600. They give lessons for people who are wanting to get their diving certificate. All snorkeling equipment was also given to you. They had kayaks on board
The Hotel Captain Cook has wonderful wedding packages.
The two biggest islands are Viti Levu and Vanau Levu, and I have stayed several times at the Sonaisali Island Resort, as well as stays at hotels on Denarau Island.
I would only stay in Nadi, for one or two nights. There are several lovely luxury resorts on the beach. This is where the international airport is. Suva is the capital, about an hour’s drive away. There is an excellent golf course at the Sheraton Hotel in Nadi.
The Mamanuca Islands is a group of 20 lovely sand fringed islands set among deep blue waters. Here you will find the island Tom Hanks used for the film “Castaway."
The Yasawa group is made up of some 20 islands of volcanic origin, to the north west of Viti Nevu. This is where the movie Blue Lagoon was filmed. I would recommend this cruise if you want to visit an island school, a church, and hear the magnificent singing by its parishioners, plus meet a village chief. I found the shell market in the villages fascinating. I saw some shells I had never seen before.
If you want to take a cruise, then stay at a resort on one of the islands for a few days afterwards. This way, you would be having the best of both worlds.
I took a bad fall, and while my colleagues went on a tour of the hotel and its grounds, I sat for two hours in a lobby in Nadi at a big 5-star hotel on the beach, with an ice pack on my knee, listening to the staff tell people just arriving that they had overbooked, and they were going to send them to another hotel in town.
Not one I would ever sell. I watched seven couples, presumably young honeymooners, who all booked thru the Internet, not having their reservations honored. Very angry—in tears in some cases—expecting a beach and they got a hotel in the town.
That’s a shining example of why you should book with a travel agent who is part of a consortium like Signature Travel Network. They would not dare bump one of our clients. The hotel got the chance of taking a large corporate incentive booking, so they bumped lots of reservations. A general manager told me that they bump the Internet reservations first, then telephone reservations. The consortium bookings have to be given an upgrade, a free breakfast, and other amenities like a free spa treatment, or free excursion. With seven billion in sales, the consortium has tremendous clout around the world.