Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Not Exactly as Advertised

All cruise ships have people whose job it is to inform passengers about the places you are going to visit. On the Noordam this position is called the “Location Guide”. Our guide is KK, and although she is always available to pass on information, sometimes that information is not completely accurate.

For example, we stopped yesterday at the island of Dravuni which is part of the Fiji Islands. This sounded like a wonderful stop, an unspoiled tropical island in the middle of the pacific with only 200 inhabitants. We were told that when we visited their village we were “In effect” going into their living room, and we were asked to respect their culture by not wearing hats or sunglasses, and to wear modest clothing covering the shoulders and knees. We were told that there might be a few local handcrafts for sale and perhaps a barbecue might happen with some local food. The pictures showed simple native houses and a simple floating dock leading onto a deserted beach.

The island was only two miles long and a trail let to the highest point where you could see for miles around. This sounded like a nice activity offering exercise and photo opportunities.

Well there was a trail and the views were pretty spectacular, but that was about it for the unspoiled paradise. As our tender pulled into the modern floating plastic wharf, we were greeted by rows of $20 “Full body massage” booths, racks of Dravuni T-Shirts and pretty modern looking houses mixed in beside the “Native Huts” we were shown previously. There were lots of hats, sunglasses and bare shoulders. And there was a spectacular mile long beach perfect for swimming. I’m not quite sure how KK reconciled this attraction with the need to respect “Native Culture” – don’t think the ship’s shops sell full body swimming dresses any more. In fact it sort of looked like the island’s 200 natives seemed only too happy to have these hat-wearing, sunglassed, bare shouldered tourists come ashore to spend their money. Many passengers were upset about having to make another tender trip back to the boat to change out of pants and long sleeves into their western bathing attire to enjoy the waters around the island.

Once past the generator installation, the pig pens (No, real pigs), and the garbage pits full of plastic, Styrofoam and aluminum refuse, the trail to the top of the island was worth the effort and I got some great pictures.

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