When conjuring up images of the most romantic and exotic tropical island getaways around the world, Fiji certainly comes to mind. While some people mistakenly think Fiji falls under French Polynesia's umbrella, it's actually part of Melanesia, an island group set in the South Pacific Ocean. It's situated about 1,000 nautical miles northeast of New Zealand's North Island, with Vanuatu to its west and Tonga in the east. The easiest way to get to this archipelago of 332 islands is to take an 11-hour nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Fiji's Nadi International Airport.
The islands and more than 500 motus—tiny, mostly uninhabited, islands—were created by volcanic activity 150 million years ago. Today, Fiji offers year-round tropical weather, gorgeous beaches, outstanding snorkeling and scuba, and ideal conditions for sailing.
Blue Lagoon Cruises has offered itineraries around the Fijian islands for 60 years, but has recently made some changes. First and foremost, Marine Tourism Management (MTM) is now running the brand, along with South Sea Cruises for day trips, and the backpacker brand Awesome Adventures Fiji.
MTM compiled feedback from its guests and used that data to create optimized Fijian cruise itineraries. The result? Longer voyages with more emphasis on discovering the true culture of the islands. Shore excursions now include visits to remote villages for access to cultural activities, beachside Fijian feasts, swimming with manta rays, cooking classes featuring traditional Fijian dishes, hikes to the summit of an island peak, and port calls to the Sacred Islands.
When visiting the Yasawa Islands, guests can also now meet with Vinaka Fiji Yasawa Trust Foundation volunteers and schoolchildren in the education program. With the help of Blue Lagoon Cruises, the organization is helping to bring clean drinking water and education to remote island villages in the area.
Despite some of the changes to push Blue Lagoon Cruises into the future by providing a more high-end experience, some things will remain the same. The 100-percent Fijian crew remains on the intimate 68-passenger Fiji Princess and each sailing will continue to visit the company's private beach at Nanuya Lailai Island.
The cruise line currently offers 3-, 4-, and 7-night voyages to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. The ship sails for a maximum of four hours per day, so you'll spend most of your time exploring onshore.
Your cruise fare includes all scheduled shore excursions and activities, all onboard meals (with coffee, tea, water, and juice), traditional Fijian entertainment, snorkeling equipment and use of other gear (including kayaks), entrance fees for village visits, gratuities, and all port charges and taxes.
Cruises depart Denarau Marina—a 20-minute drive from Nadi International Airport—every Monday and Friday.
Several other cruise lines also offer voyages around Fiji, including Tui Tai Expeditions and Captain Cook Cruises. Paul Gauguin Cruises also sometimes highlights itineraries with Fijian ports of call.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Blue Lagoon Cruises