Captain Cook Cruises Fiji’s recent acquisition of boutique expedition ship MS Caledonian Sky opens up the real Fiji for adventurous travellers. Karryon’s resident cruise expert, Sally Macmillan, travels to Fiji to sample it first-hand.
Fiji welcomed a record number of Aussie visitors in 2023, and I’m happy to say I was one of those 434,500-plus travellers. I just squeaked into the new stats in December by joining a wonderful four-day cruise on Captain Cook Cruises Fiji’s newly acquired MS Caledonian Sky.
I hadn’t visited Fiji for several years, and the first thing that struck me was the very comfortable, under-four-hour flight from Sydney to Nadi onboard Fiji Airways’ spanking new Airbus 350-900. It certainly makes heading to the island nation for a four- or seven-day escape a very realistic proposition – and there’s no jetlag involved.
Connections and Community
Captain Cook Cruises Fiji has been operating cruises in Fiji’s stunningly beautiful islands for nearly 30 years. The company, now headed by Captain Cook Cruises’ family member Allison Haworth West, has extensive connections with local communities and chiefs throughout the Mamanucas, Yasawas, Lau and remote northern island groups.
These relationships allow guests to visit remote villages and participate in traditional ceremonies, experiences you won’t find at a resort. MS Caledonian Sky’s resident musician, Manasa, who previously sailed with the line’s now-retired Reef Endeavour, performs the customary sevusevu ceremony at every community the ship visits – he takes kava to the chief and asks formal permission for guests to enter.
The ship’s hospitality staff and multi-skilled expedition team are Fijian, and their friendliness, warmth and sense of fun are another big drawcard – you don’t often see crew breaking into spontaneous singing during lunch service!
4-day expedition cruise highlights
My four-night Northern Yasawa Island cruise kicked off with a relaxing afternoon on Captain Cook Cruises Fiji’s private island, Tivua. Here, you can join marine biologists to do your bit for conservation by planting a coral frag – part of the line’s ‘Buy a Coral, Build a Reef’ program.
Over the coming months, renowned scientists and marine experts will join select voyages to present lectures and host tours.
MS Caledonian Sky is equipped with 10 zodiacs, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and snorkelling gear, all of which were used everywhere we dropped anchor. We swam and snorkelled off deserted beaches and further offshore, under the watchful eyes of our trusty zodiac drivers – and there is some spectacular coral reef and marine life to observe.
Guests can also take PADI-certified dive classes with two onboard instructors, and experienced divers can pre-book dives.
A dip in the famous Blue Lagoon at Sawa-i-Lau was followed by a visit to a school in Yaqeta Village. It was especially eye-opening for our school-age guests, and the headmaster said his students gained new perspectives from meeting people from the “outside world”.
Other highlights of this cruise included a traditional lovo feast at Matacawalevu village, the stirring meke (song and dance celebration) performed by the same villagers, browsing beach markets for handmade souvenirs, sharing jokes with local kids, doing the ‘Pacific plunge’ from the ship’s marina platform and meeting Captain Peter Martin for an enlightening – and very entertaining – bridge tour.
Life onboard MS Caledonian Sky
Captain Martin welcomes guests to the bridge on every cruise, and he tells us a lot about the ship’s history and her future role in Fiji.
“MS Caledonian Sky has been very well maintained, and the accommodation and public areas are extremely spacious and comfortable,” he said. “It was time for something new and different to come to Fiji and we’re offering a new level of expedition cruising to more remote destinations.
“Tourism is Fiji’s biggest industry and the ship is attracting guests from all around the Pacific, America, Canada, Hong Kong, many Aussies and Kiwis, and Fijians. We are proud to be a Fijian entity, offering employment and training for locals who want careers in the maritime world and an authentically Fijian experience onboard.”
On our cruise, guests ranged in age from eight to 80 – couples, multi-generational families and solo travellers. The onboard ambience is relaxed, and facilities include a library, a small gym and a spa. Meals are served either in the Main Dining Room or on the al fresco Lido Deck, and every evening’s brief and recap sessions in the Caledonian Lounge are accompanied by canapes and cocktails.
2 new expedition cruises
CCC Fiji operates a range of itineraries – three-, four- and seven-night Yasawa Island cruises, seven-night Remote North Fiji cruises, and seven-night Southern and Northern Lau cruises.
Two exciting new itineraries have been added to the program: the 14-night Southern Lau and Tonga Whale Migration cruise in August 2024 (Fiji to Tonga, departing 17 August, and return departing Tonga 31 August) and the 14-night Northern Fiji and Samoa Voyage in March 2025 (Fiji to Samoa, departing 8 March 2025, and return departing Samoa 22 March).
For more information, visit captaincookcruisesfiji.com
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