If you want to visit stunning beaches with little effort, then a Captain Cook cruise in Fiji is definitely for you. You get a warm welcome, great food and the experience of waking up in a different place each morning while also having the opportunity to get to know your travel companions by name and having large stretches of beautiful beach practically to yourself.
My small-ship adventure on M.V. Reef Endeavour started at Port Denarau. Check-in to the vessel, which caters for 130 passengers, was quick and friendly. Our luggage was taken away and the next time we saw it, it was stowed neatly in our cabin. The crew welcomed us on board with a drink, a song and a delicious buffet lunch. Less than two hours later we had our first beach stop at Tivua Island offshore from Lautoka, which is owned by Captain Cook Cruises. We finished the day with a sit-down dinner at the Captain’s Table.
After breakfast the next morning we snorkelled from the glass-bottomed boat along the edge of a reef. We got to do this five times at various locations in the Yasawa Islands and each time we saw a wide variety of fabulous fish and colourful coral. If you weren’t a confident swimmer/snorkeller there were life-vests and noodles available, or you could go to the beach and swim, kayak, paddleboard or snorkel from there. All this equipment is provided as part of your cruise package and you only need to pay extra if you want to dive. There was also a resident marine biologist on the cruise who gave a couple of very informative talks.
After a day of snorkelling, swimming and reading under a coconut tree on a near-deserted beach we visited a village on Naviti Island. The ship’s crew had spent the day preparing a traditional lovo (food cooked in the ground) which we ate at the village. Afterwards we were treated to a cultural performance by the villagers. Walking back down the beach to the boats that would ferry us back to the ship, we had the most amazing view of the night sky without any light or air pollution – it was truly magical.
'Walking back to the boats that would ferry us back to the ship, we had the most amazing view of the night sky without any light or air pollution – it was truly magical.'
The next morning some intrepid explorers amongst us got up early to climb a mountain and watch the sunrise, but I chose a more leisurely start with a relaxed buffet breakfast before visiting a local school where the children sang for us before taking us on a tour of their classrooms and convincing some passengers to play touch rugby or volleyball with them.
This was followed by a very different kind of excursion where we got to swim in a limestone cave. There was a small charge for this which went towards the maintenance of the cave and it was worth every cent of the FJ$13. The water was a bit bracing after the warm ocean I had become used to, but floating while looking up at the cave walls was a unique experience and one I would thoroughly recommend.
In the afternoon we visited the famous Blue Lagoon. The beach area was surprisingly small but the lagoon was very pretty and we enjoyed a leisurely swim in the lovely tepid waters with the lagoon as a stunning backdrop. Our after-dinner entertainment was a very amusing crab race.
Our final full day on Reef Endeavour was the best yet for snorkeling, with the afternoon spent at a marine reserve. Dinner was followed by a music quiz (which involved a performance component that shone a new light on some of my fellow passengers) then a late-evening drink with new friends we’d made on the cruise.
'It was lovely to share each beach with a small number of people rather than the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) from a large ship.'
I’ve cruised the Pacific on several occasions on larger ships, which has been wonderful, but cruising on a small ship is quite a different experience. There is no doubt that the accommodation is more basic and there are no lavish shows or numerous dining options to choose from. Instead, you get to know everybody on board including the crew, you can have a personal bridge tour and the captain knows you by name. It was also lovely to share each beach with a small number of people rather than the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) from a large ship.
My four days on Reef Endeavour were a lovely mix of relaxation, water-based activities and learning about the culture and marine life of the Fijian Islands. The food was great, particularly if you like fresh seafood – my travelling companion had prawns for dessert! – and the crew demonstrated why Fiji is known as the Friendly Islands. A cruise on Reef Endeavour is a great way to explore the many beautiful islands, both above and below the water, that make up Fiji, and to connect to the people who live there.