Seventy years after an intrepid New Zealander’s first commercial cruise set to sea with no paying passengers, the M.V. Fiji Princess now hosts up to 68 lucky tourists on regular trips through the stunning Yasawa Islands.January 12, 2019
Rebecca MurphyJanuary 12, 2019
The passengers who are welcomed on board Blue Lagoon Cruises’ M.V. Fiji Princess twice a week with a big friendly ‘Bula!’ are following in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of happy travellers who have been guests of the cruise line for close to 70 years.
The company was founded in 1950 by Captain Trevor Withers, a young New Zealand stockbroker with a passion for the sea who wanted to establish Fiji’s fishing industry with his friend Harold Gatty. After four years of effort but no results the pair went their separate ways, with Gatty going on to found Fiji Airways and Withers determined to start the country’s first tourism venture – a cruise through the idyllic Yasawa Islands.
Luckily for the passionate New Zealander, he had formed good relationships with the local chiefs and people of the Yasawas and his proposal was met with enthusiasm and promises of co-operation.
Withers named his new business after the original version of The Blue Lagoon movie which he worked on when it was filmed in the Yasawas in 1948. His first vessel was a 13m former war boat he named Turaga Levu and had converted into accommodation for six passengers.. a far cry from the comfortable 68 passenger berths offered by the company today.
Stuck in the lavatory
It was not an auspicious start. Turanga Levu (which means ‘Great Chief’, Withers’ local nickname) had zero bookings for her maiden cruise; instead Withers took along six local men he knew so as not to disappoint the Yasawans eagerly awaiting the boat’s arrival. They were given a royal welcome everywhere they visited, and despite a slow start – and some inauspicious moments, such as when the first paying customer, an American, got stuck to the newly painted toilet seat and had to be taken to a doctor – within a year Withers had already expanded his fleet.
These days the cruise company is managed by South Seas Cruises Ltd and it operates just one vessel, the M.V. Fiji Princess, which offers three, four and seven-night itineraries through paradise with an all-Fijian crew.
The all-inclusive cruise* gives guests an array of unique experiences and plenty of cultural immersion with the people of the Yasawas. You can choose to be as active as you please from the many activities on offer, from cooking lessons and snorkelling excursions to village visits and island walks. Or you can simply sit back and relax and enjoy the area’s scenic beauty, which includes the famous settings seen in the movies Cast Away and The Blue Lagoon.
Tie up to a coconut palm
There are no more than four hours at sea each day, with the ship anchoring in a different part of the Yasawas overnight. Fiji Princess’ small size means she can get close enough to shore to tie off to a coconut palm, which she does at Blue Lagoon Cruises’ private beach on Nanuya Lailai Island for a traditional Lovo meal cooked underground on the beach and enjoyed under the stars during four and seven-night itineraries.
For more information and to book your Blue Lagoon Cruise visit www.bluelagooncruises.com.
*Diving and spa treatments incur an extra charge.
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