Visiting the Happy People of Fiji Aboard the Fiji PrincessIt has been a long time since I last visited Switzerland, but have more recently been to most of the others on the Happiness list. Australia is the one that I have missed, but it is high on my list and maybe I will be there within the next year or two.
The most recent Happiness Top 10 list that I read seemed like a pretty good list, but I'm not at all certain how one goes about determining "happiness." I understand that disposable income, working hours, life expectancy, education, etc. can contribute to happiness, but I also know that there is something beyond the material aspects of life that must account for true happiness. I think where happiness exists it can actually be seen and maybe doesn't have to be measured with all the statistical data.
What I know for sure is that the happiness in Fiji can actually be felt. You won't need to read about it on an internet survey. Whenever you are met with a Fijian "Bula!" and a wonderful smile you will know you are encountering a Happy person.
Sing, Sing a SongPerhaps one indication of this grand level of happiness is the fact that everyone in Fiji can sing. Well, almost everyone . . . it seems that there may have been one Fijian aboard the Fiji Princess who was not comfortable with her own singing, but she joined in anyway.
Visiting this Happy Place Aboard the Fiji PrincessI recently traveled to Fiji aboard Fiji Airways and spent 4 delightful days aboard the Fiji Princess a small, recently refurbished ship perfectly suited for cruising the Mananuca and Yasawa Islands of Fiji. With an all Fijian crew and a maximum of 4 hours of cruising each day there was plenty of time to enjoy the small ship, the islands and the delightful people of Fiji.
The islands offered opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with manta rays, fishing, hiking or just lying about on the beach. One of my favorite activities involved visiting a school and meeting the children and teachers. English is a required subject so it made it very easy to communicate with the children. One of the major differences I noticed about the Fijian children was that they are not "clingy." While not wealthy from a cash perspective, they appear to be quite comfortable from a cultural perspective and from a personal worth perspective. I have visited many countries and islands where the children seem to desperately need the attention of visitors.
These Fiji youth are wonderfully friendly and conversant and appear to greatly enjoy interaction with visitors while at the same time displaying an independent and self-sufficient nature that would appear to signify a strong family and cultural support base. And, of course, they can all sing! My biggest regret on this trip was not having a video camera -- it is difficult to describe the vocal talents of the Fiji people.I'd ask you to take my word for it, but a better option would be to visit and see for yourself.
Let me tell you a bit more about the Fiji Princess. It is a fine ship, operated by Blue Lagoon Cruises, sailing with a maximum of just 68 guests. Everyone dines at the same time and in the same room so you can get to know the other guests quickly. The all-Fijian crew is lots of fun and you will quickly know them by name and they'll know you, too. You'll recognize the Captain when he plays the ukulele and you'll spot the Cruise Director when she makes the animal sounds in one of the songs during the crew entertainment before dinner.
I can say without hesitation that, having traveled all over the world, I have never had better fish than that served aboard the Fiji Princess. I'm not a "food writer" but I do love to eat. I enjoy steak and potatoes, and probably don't eat as much fish at home as I should. But, if I could cook fish that would taste like the fish in Fiji, I would probably have it at least 3 or 4 days a week.
As you might imagine, the dress code aboard the Fiji Princess is casual and informal. Leave the black tie and gowns at home. Bring along (or purchase locally) your colorful tropical shirts, shorts and sandals.
Your stateroom will be air conditioned with private bath, a DVD/TV (there is a small library aboard), large external windows, hair dryer, periodic WiFi, and adequate storage space.
The best news about the Fiji Princess? It doesn't stop at any ports along the way. The small 55 meter ship simply drops anchor off a beautiful tropical island where you can spend the day enjoying a real vacation sans shopping malls, museums, city buses, taxis or bustling streets.
If you recall the movies Blue Lagoon and Cast Away you may recognize the locales when you visit them. Just don't expect to find "Wilson" floating on the surf.
Maybe one of the most memorable experiences for you will be walking into the Sawa-i-Lau Caves where you descend a short ladder before plunging into the clear water where you will marvel at the high ceiling just before you dive underwater to swim into an adjoining cave. Sounds tricky you say? Well, it's easier than you might think and quite rewarding. The caves are beautiful and the crew is there to reassure and assist you if needed.
Don't Miss the Kava ExperienceYou won't want to miss out on a traditional Kava experience. I won't explain, but you have to try it for yourself -- it's a part of the Fiji experience and you flew many hours to get here.
The Lovo meal cooked underground at the famous Blue Lagoon is a special treat. You can watch as the meal is prepared, the hole is dug in the ground, the fire is set, the food is buried, then later dug up and served on the beach under the palms and the stars. Afterwards you will enjoy a Fijian meke -- singing, dancing and storytelling by a group of local villagers.
When You GoBlue Lagoon Cruises (Fiji Princess): BlueLagoonCruises.com
Fiji Airways, Fiji's national airline, has been connecting the world with the South Pacific for 60 years, and has been awarded "Best Airline in the South Pacific" by readers of Global Traveler Magazine in 2013. Whether traveling in Business Class or Economy, the natural warmth of the cabin crew will ensure the journey to the destination begins with a smile. Fiji Airways flies the new A330 between Fiji (Nadi) and North America (Los Angeles.) Flights include checked baggage, complimentary in-flight entertainment and a range of meals and beverages. If flying to Australia or New Zealand a Fiji stopover is allowed. For more information, visit Fiji Airways or call 1-800-227-4446.
Robert Painter is an adventure travel writer currently residing in Southern Utah. When not traveling around the globe his time is spent hiking and exploring the wonderful and beautiful red rock surroundings of his new home.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author