French Polynesia has five groups of islands, spread over an area as large as Europe or the eastern United States. Each of these five archipelagos has a distinctive look and unique characteristics. When I was researching my first Tahiti cruise, I was fascinated by a story I read of a ship that served both as the primary supply link to the far flung Marquesas Islands and as a passenger ship for adventure-minded tourists. When I read that this passenger freighter, the Aranui 2, was being replaced with a brand-new ship, the Aranui 3, I couldn't wait to sail on her. I was not disappointed.
If you have an adventurous spirit and are not a timid traveler, you will love the Aranui experience. However, it is important to adjust your expectations and remember that the Aranui 3 is a cruise freighter, not a mainstream cruise ship. Although the Aranui has many traditional cruise ship characteristics, this ship is different. Passengers on an Aranui French Polynesian cruise from Tahiti to the Marquesas will find aspects that make it seem like a cruise ship such as --
- clean, spacious cabins with terrific showers and plenty of storage
- good food served family style
- complimentary French table wines at lunch and dinner
- freshwater swimming pool and plenty of deck chairs
- free washer and dryer for passenger use
- interesting lectures from knowledgeable experts and guides
- exercise room with bicycles and treadmill
- wonderful sunset vistas, refreshing breezes, and the thrill of cruising
Polynesian cruise passengers on the Aranui will not find these "standard" cruise amenities --
- spacious carpeted hallways and stairs
- gourmet food with a variety of selections at every meal
- a printed daily schedule or newsletter that details the next day's events
- show lounge entertainment
- informal or formal nights - every night is casual
- organized onboard activities such as bingo
- a spa or beauty salon
The Aranui 3 embarks from Papeete, Tahiti 16 times a year, sailing for 16 days each voyage to the remote, northernmost islands in French Polynesia, the Marquesas. The ship usually sails "sometime after 6:00 pm", which means that most passengers will spend the night in Tahiti before joining the ship in the afternoon of embarkation day. Enroute, the ship visits two islands in the Tuamotu archipelago by anchoring offshore the island of Takapoto northbound and in the lagoon at Fakarava on the southbound return to Papeete, Tahiti. The journey has three sea days, the first day, the third day, and the next-to-last day. Otherwise, the ship is making its supply stops at numerous villages on the six main islands of the Marquesas -- Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Ua Huka, and Tahuata. The Aranui often delivers supplies to more than one village or town on each island, so passengers get an opportunity to easily see more of the Marquesas than with any other ship or on an independent tour of the archipelago.
Let's first take a look at a typical sea day on the Aranui.
Page 2 > > Typical Sea Day on the Aranui 3 > >