Come and explore the enchanting Marquesas Islands on the trip of a lifetime.
For more than 30 years our ships have been taking avid adventurers on one of the most fascinating voyages anywhere on the planet. Aranui 5, the crown jewel in our pursuit of the ultimate passenger-freighter, will take you to far-flung corners of French Polynesia where we resupply tiny communities living far from civilisation. Home to unspoiled beauty, warm and hospitable people and a vibrant culture, the Marquesas are ancient and majestic islands.
Aranui 5 is a true expedition ship with all the comforts of home: spacious cabins with private bathrooms, dining areas for every mood and occasion, a spacious sun deck with infinity pool, gym and spa facilities (including massage rooms), library… even a movie theater! The ship also boasts an experienced crew of over 100 dedicated professionals who will ensure your safety at all times while onboard.
Please note, although vaccination for COVID-19 is no longer required for entry into French Polynesia, Aranui Cruises continues to require proof of a current COVID-19 vaccination for all passengers and guests.
Explore the beauty of the islands and relax at sea with Aranui 5.
Whether you're looking for a family vacation, honeymoon, or romantic getaway, Aranui 5 offers accommodations for all of your needs. With our accommodations featuring interior spaces with their own unique design and theme measuring from 120 to 440 square feet, balconies, and with 103 cabins offering up to 230 guests, you will find plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the cruise's amenities which includes a dining room, a spacious lounge & conference rooms, bars including a panoramic bar (Skybar), fitness room/gym and more.
With approximately 140 sq. ft. (13 m²) of interior space and a 45 sq. ft. (4 m²) private balcony, this exterior cabin offers a bedroom with a king size bed or twin beds, a bathroom with shower and hair dryer, refrigerator and safe. Occupancy: 2 persons
Cabin located on Pool Deck - 7, Sky Deck - 9, Sun Deck - 8.
The SUPERIOR DELUXE cabin is spacious, with a private balcony, a king-size bed or two twin beds, and a shower and hair dryer. It's perfect for couples who want to relax in comfort after a long day of exploring the South Pacific.
Our cabins feature 160 sq. ft. (15 sq.m) of interior space and 45 sq. ft. (4 sq.m) of private balcony area each. Occupancy: 2 persons
Cabin located on Sky Deck - 9, Sun Deck - 8.
JUNIOR SUITE W/ BALCONY
With approximately 180 sq. ft. of interior space and a 45 sq. ft. private balcony, this exterior cabin offers a bedroom with a king bed or twin beds and a sitting area, a bathroom with shower and hair dryer, refrigerator, and safe. Occupancy: 2 persons
Cabin located on Pool Deck - 7.
JUNIOR SUITE W/O BALCONY
With approximately 160 sq. ft. of interior space and a picture window, this exterior cabin offers a bedroom with a king bed or twin beds and a sofa bed, a bathroom with shower and hair dryer, refrigerator, and safe. Occupancy: 3 persons
Cabin located on Veranda Deck - 6.
The Premium Suite is the most luxurious cabin on board Aranui Cruises.
With approximately 200 sq. ft. (19 sq.m) of interior space and a 45 sq. ft. (4 sq.m) private balcony, this exterior cabin offers a bedroom with a king size bed or twin beds and a sitting room with sofa bed, divided by a decorative filigree screen, a bathroom with shower and hair dryer, refrigerator and safe. Occupancy: 2 to 3 persons
Cabin located on Pool Deck - 7, Veranda Deck - 6.
The Presidential Suite is the ultimate in luxury and comfort. Consisting of 3 individual rooms, approximately 440 sq. ft. (41 sq.m) of interior space and a 130 sq. ft. (12 sq.m) private balcony, this exterior cabin offers a separate bedroom with a king size bed, a sitting room with a sofa bed, a lounge with a built-in bar, two bathrooms with shower and hair dryer, a walk-in closet, refrigerator and safe . Occupancy: 2 to 3 persons
Cabin located on Sky Deck - 9.
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Dining on board is an experience like no other.
Served in a casual, family-style setting, meals are prepared by our professional crew and served by the same friendly, attentive staff that will be taking care of you throughout your charter.
We take special consideration for medically prescribed diets into account, but please be sure to inform us of any dietary restrictions at the time of booking or more than three weeks before your sailing date.
Designed to be a communal experience, our restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual, family style atmosphere. Breakfast is traditionally a buffet of varied assortments of hot and cold dishes, such as pastries, fresh fruit, eggs, cheeses and meats. Lunch and dinner consists of a three course plated service, featuring a fusion of French, Polynesian and Chinese cuisines, prepared by our French trained, mostly Marquesan chefs and kitchen staff. Three pastry chefs and a baker round out the team. They can accommodate special diets and dietary restrictions upon request. During the cruise, one or two dinner events will take place around the pool, bringing together all guests and crewmembers in a shared feast, followed by music and dancing under the stars.
POOL BAR & GRILL
The Pool Grill and Bar offers a less formal menu of quick bites, from cheeseburgers to salads, and more traditional Polynesian fare, like poisson cru or sashimi. As this is not included in the onboard meals, an additional cost applies.
Colorful and vibrant, the Veranda Bar is the main hub for evening gatherings and entertainment. The indoor/outdoor set-up is ideal to meet up and socialize with friends, old and new. Several times during the cruise, the Aranui Band, composed of staff and crew, will perform local music and songs here. On other nights, live music and dancing keeps it lively. The daily Happy Hour is a great way to end the day at sunset before moving on to dinner.
Featuring a 180 degree panoramic view from the highest deck, the Sky Bar provides a more subdued retreat to enjoy a relaxing drink, quiet conversion or simply admire the scenery ahead while at sea. Once in the islands, it offers the perfect spot to watch the well-choreographed activities below. From the bay of floor to ceiling picture windows, observe our Polynesian sailors perform Aranui 5’s primary purpose: the delivery of supplies to the small towns and villages of the Marquesas.
In keeping with the spirit of traditional Polynesian cultural immersion, most of the entertainment on board is local and casual. Singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or sometimes all three, are important elements to the Polynesians and their way of life. Talent abounds in the culture and Aranui 5 represents it well. The Aranui Band, consisting of staff and sailors, performs several times in the Veranda Bar throughout the cruise, serenading guests with local songs. If passengers find their foot tapping to the beat or feel like cutting a rug, even better. They have crossed to the other side. Live music during Happy Hour, a dance performance from a local Marquesan group at one of the island stops or dancing under the stars after a Polynesian Feast, these are some of the offerings on board.
Cultural enrichment classes are given throughout the cruise. Like the entertainment, they focus on various aspects of Polynesia. Guests can learn how to prepare Tahiti’s famous “poisson cru”, raw fish marinated in lime and finished in coconut milk similar to ceviche; the many ways to tie the versatile pareo, a cotton fabric commonly worn by women for every occasion; some of the local dances and songs, to be performed during the Polynesian Feast; how to weave palm fronds to create utilitarian objects; or occasionally, basic language classes as all five archipelagoes each have a distinct dialect. There will be much to discover about French Polynesia during the sailing.
Our spacious lounge hosts our guest lecturers, providing educational talks on various aspects of French Polynesia with a focus on the Marquesas, from its history and culture, to archeology or the navigational prowess of its people. It is a great place to curl up with a book or check emails. Several demonstrations, such as the many ways to tie a pareo, are done here. Coffee and tea stations can be found at the back of the lounge 24 hrs./day.
Pamper yourself with our relaxing spa treatments.
The Aranui Spa offers a variety of treatments by a fully trained wellness and massage therapist. Make your way to the spa for a facial, body scrub and massages using the traditional oils of French Polynesia. Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure or a relaxing foot massage — perfect after a day exploring.
At sea, you'll have access to a licensed Marquesan tattooist. He'll help you design a personalised tattoo using traditional Marquesan symbols to represent the story you wish to tell. Tattooing is done in a clean and sterile environment using modern equipment. A tattoo is the ultimate souvenir from the Marquesas.
Our library on Deck 6 is the perfect place to curl up with a book. You can choose from a selection of novels and history books in French, English, and German.
Aranui Cruises Ship's Boutique is the place to go for all your shipboard needs. You'll find everything from mosquito repellent and sun lotion to sundries, clothing, and local souvenirs.
Aranui Cruises offers a wide variety of shore excursions, but all are limited to the time required by cargo operators and port restrictions. Port time may range from just a few hours to a day or more. While some ports offer shore excursions with an additional fee, Aranui Cruises does not own, operate or exercise any control over those excursions. The company, its agents and employees do not assume any responsibility in connection with the operations of said programs. The company accepts no responsibility of liability for the failure of any operator to perform any said program and/or for any injury, damage or loss however caused or arising therefrom.
At each island stopover, as part of the cruise fare, an excursion is included as per our daily itinerary. On our Marquesas cruises only, where freight is carried, our guides will escort guests ashore while supplies are unloaded and goods destined for Tahiti are loaded. Each excursion has been designed and developed between Aranui and the local islanders to maximize the exploration and discovery of an individual island, focusing on highlights and points of interest.
A 4x4 excursion from town to the Cathedral Notre Dame, known for its stonework and wood sculptures; the Tohua Kamuihei in Hatieu, and archeological site; the valley of Taipivai, where a traditional Marquesan lunch will be served. Stops at scenic viewpoints on the return, with time in the town of Taiohae in the late afternoon.
Following a morning hike to a hill overlooking the bay below and surrounding valleys for breathtaking views, visit of the village, arts and crafts center and local fruit tasting. A dance performance featuring the Bird Dance before a Marquesan lunch at one of the island’s restaurants.
A 4x4 excursion from Vaipaee to the villages of Hokatu and Hane, with stops at the botanical garden, 3 museums, featuringreplicas of Marquesan artifacts, ancient maritime objects and petroglyphs, woodcarvers studios and a hike to an open air temple with red tuff tikis, followed by a traditional Marquesas lunch.
In the main village of Atuona, visit to the Calvary cemetery, where the painter Paul Gauguin is buried, the Gauguin and Jacques Brel museums and an arts and crafts center. In the north, in the village of Puamau, visit of the Mea’e Iipona, an archeological site featuring the second largest tikis in the world after the ones in Easter Island.
Visit of the Catholic Church built by the Vatican and decorated with beautiful carvings and a stained glass window with the Marquesan cross. An arts and crafts center featuring some of the finest bone carvings, for which the island is known.
Visit of the village of Omoa in the morning, with demonstrations of the making of tapa, a cloth from the bark of various trees and the kumuhei, a floral bouquet unique to this island and worn by women to perfume their hair. A 10 mile hike to the next village of Hanavave is offered. For those who do not wish to partake, the ship will reposition to Hanavave, where guests can disembark for a visit and a dance performance.
At each island stopover, an excursion is included as per our daily itinerary. On our Marquesas cruises only, where freight is carried, our guides will escort guests ashore while supplies are unloaded and goods destined for Tahiti are loaded. Each excursion has been designed and developed between Aranui and the local islanders to maximize the exploration and discovery of an individual island, focusing on highlights and points of interest. These range from visits to archeological sites, villages, museums, botanical gardens and arts and crafts centers, to hikes featuring breathtaking scenery, while traveling by 4-wheel drive or on foot.
Various optional excursions are offered as well, depending on the selected itinerary.
Diving in French Polynesia
Some of the best diving in the world can be found here. The three different topographies offer a different experience each time, with diving available on six islands: Fakarava, Rangiroa, Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Tubuai and Bora Bora.
Deep sea fishing in the Marquesas
Due to its remoteness and isolation in the South Pacific and with an abundance of marine life, the Marquesas is a fisherman’s paradise. Mokai Nui 2, a four-person boat, offers deep sea fishing outings at four different ports.
Private guided tours in Ua Pou or Fatu Hiva
In Ua Pou, guests will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth either the eastern or western coasts of the island on a half day 4 wheel-drive tour. As there are fewer available vehicles on this small island, space is limited. In Fatu Hiva, for those who do not wish to make the 10 mile hike between the villages of Omoa and Hanavave, there is a three hour crossing by 4 wheel-drive as an option. Discover some of the most spectacular scenery in the Marquesas, including a view from above of the Bay of Virgins.
Glass bottom boat in Rangiroa
For those who don’t dive or snorkel, enjoy the extraordinary underwater world of Rangiroa’s blue lagoon on a glass bottom boat tour. Discover the colorful coral and tropical fish that call the atoll home with the chance of a cameo from a shark or ray.
The Cruise is a spacious and modern yacht with all the amenities you need to make your stay feel like home. Amenities include swimming pool, veranda bar, reception & boutique, cabins and suites, a sun deck with sun loungers and much more.
Client Testimonials & Reviews
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- The Aranui 5, both a cargo ship and a cruise ship, sails from Tahiti to the Marquesas, through the Tuamotus and the Society Islands for 12 days. Designed to offer all the comforts of a cruise ship, while operating as a supply ship, the Aranui 5 is classified as a small ship, accommodating 230 passengers with a total of 103 cabins. POLYNESIAN CRUISES: THE ARANUI EXPERIENCE An adventure trip off the beaten track. An opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture. A way to discover the... Read more The Aranui 5, both a cargo ship and a cruise ship, sails from Tahiti to the Marquesas, through the Tuamotus and the Society Islands for 12 days. Designed to offer all the comforts of a cruise ship, while operating as a supply ship, the Aranui 5 is classified as a small ship, accommodating 230 passengers with a total of 103 cabins. POLYNESIAN CRUISES: THE ARANUI EXPERIENCE An adventure trip off the beaten track. An opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture. A way to discover the heart and soul of an ancient era. All this describes the Aranui experience. As French Polynesia’s longest-running cruise line, Aranui Cruises has been fulfilling wishes for 35 years and showing travelers the enchanting Marquesas Islands on the “voyage of a lifetime.” The ship, the Aranui 5, is special in every way. This mixed cargo and passenger vessel, which entered service in 2015, combines the modern comforts and amenities of a cruise ship by taking its passengers to some of the most remote parts of Polynesia and providing cargo to small communities so far from civilization. The Aranui is deliberately designed for only 230 passengers. This ensures that fellow travelers from around the world can get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere. Show less
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- From January 1, 2023 until December 31, 2023
- Monday 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
- Tuesday 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
- Wednesday 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
- Thursday 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
- Friday 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM
- Saturday Closed -
- Sunday Closed -
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The Aranui V is a working cargo freighter that also operates as a cruise ship, taking passengers to the most remote island group in French Polynesia—the Marquesas. The ship departs every three weeks from Papeete and transports everything from food and liquor to medicine and fuel to the small, inhabited islands of Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata and Ua Huka, as well as Fakarava and Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Atolls. The Aranui V features 86 spacious cabins, including ten large suites with balconies. Guests of the ship are fully immersed in Polynesian culture—both on shore and on board the vessel. Each cruise itinerary offers a series of lectures on Marquesan art, culture and history from quality guest speakers. Other amenities include two bars with ocean views; a large dining room; a swimming pool and fitness center; and an activities station for fishing, diving and snorkeling.
- Flat Screen TVs
- In-room Safe
- Maid Service
- Cultural Activities
- Deep Sea Fishing
- Fishing Equipment
- Hiking Tours
- Water Sports
- Fitness Center
- On-site Activities Desk
Each Stateroom includes a port hole window, a bathroom with a shower, a desk, a flat screen TV, and in-room safe, and your choice of either one double bed or two twin beds.
40 Rooms of this type
Each Deluxe Room contains a private outdoor balcony, a bathroom with a shower, a makeup table and desk, a wardrobe, a flat screen TV, an in-room safe, a refrigerator, a hair dryer, and your choice of either a double bed or two twin beds.
25 Rooms of this type
The Junior Suites feature a 190 square foot room with two windows, a bathroom with a shower, a makeup table, a desk, a closet, a flat screen TV, a sofa bed, an in-room safe, a refrigerator, a hair dryer, and your choice of a double bed or two twin beds.
2 Rooms of this type
The Premium Suites feature a bedroom and semi-private day room with a decorative screen as well as a private outdoor balcony. Cabin amenities include a makeup table, a bathroom with a shower, a desk, a closet, a flat screen TV, a sofa bed, an in-room safe, a refrigerator and a hair dryer.
21 Rooms of this type
The Royal Suite features a semi-private bedroom with a decorative screen, a day room and sliding glass doors that open out onto a private outdoor balcony. Additional cabin amenities include a closet, a makeup table, a bathroom with a shower, a flat screen TV, a sofa bed, an in-room safe, a refrigerator, and a hair dryer.
8 Rooms of this type
The expansive Presidential Suite offers a living room, day room, bedroom, two bathrooms and glass sliding doors that lead out to a private outdoor balcony. Additional cabin amenities include a mini bar, walk-in closet, a makeup table, a desk, two flat screen TVs, an in-room safe, a refrigerator, hair dryer and a sofa bed.
1 Room of this type
Take a Look Around
Aranui 5 Superior Deluxe Room
Aranui 5 at Sea
Bay of Virgins, Marquesas
Aranui 5 Premium Suite
Aranui 5 Junior Suite with Balcony
Marquesas Rugged Landscape
Paul Gauguin Gravesite
Aranui 5 Main Lobby
Aranui 5 Royal Suite, Bedroom
Aranui 5 Royal Suite, Lounge
Aranui 5 Standard Stateroom
Ancient Ruins at Hiva Oa
Aranui 5 Tender
Aranui 5 Pool and Deck
Aranui 5 Itinerary Map
Aranui 5 Dining
Aranui 5 Lounge Area
Aranui 5 Bar Area
Check Out What Our Clients Are Saying
Become inspired, your trip is waiting.
A unique adventure is waiting for you aboard the Aranui 5.
This mixed passenger and cargo ship will welcome you in the pure Polynesian tradition for a cruise full of discoveries and magical encounters.
The Marquesas Islands, The men land, territory of mysteries and natural marvels, shelters the most incredible stopovers of this itinerary. Follow Paul Gaugin and Jacque Brel’s steps and admire these incredible landscapes from the comfort of your cabin.
Nature and beauty will be you daily routine for this timeless vacation.
In addition to the Marquesas Islands, Aranui offers many special cruises in 2021 and 2022.
- The special atmosphère of a mixte cargo
- The magical itinerary accros splendid landscapes
Class ‘C’ (Dorm) - 2021 & 2022
Standard cabin (obstructed view) - 2021 & 2022, standard cabin - 2021 & 2022, deluxe cabin - 2021 & 2022, superior deluxe cabin - 2021 & 2022, junior suite - 2021 & 2022, premium suite - 2021 & 2022, royal suite (obstructed view) - 2021 & 2022, royal suite - 2021 & 2022, presidential suite - 2021 & 2022.
- MARQUESAS 2022
Day 1 – Tahiti Day 2 – Tuamotu Islands – Makatea or Mataiva Day 3 – at sea Day 4 – Marquesas Islands – Ua Pou Day 5 – Nuku Hiva Day 6 – Ua Huka Day 7 – Hiva Oa – Kokuu Beach Day 8 – Puamau – Tahuata Day 9 – Fatu Hiva Day 10 – at sea Day 11 – Tuamotu Islands – Apataki or Rangiroa Day 12 – Tahiti
- SOCIETY ISLANDS DISCOVERY 2022 (April)
Day 1 – Tahiti Day 2 – Moorea Day 3 – Raiatea Day 4 – Maupiti Day 5 – Bora Bora Day 6 – Huahine Day 7 – Tahiti
- TUAMOTU, GAMBIER ISLANDS & PITCAIRN 2022 (September and October)
Day 1 – Tahiti Day 2 – Tuamotu Islands – Anaa Day 3 – Amanu Day 4 – at sea Day 5 – Gambier Islands – Mangareva (Rikitea) Day 6 – Pitcairn – Adamstown Day 7 – Adamstown, departure at 4:00PM Day 8 – Mangareva (Aukena) Day 9 – at sea Day 10 – Hikueru Day 11 – at sea Day 12 – Tahiti
- AUSTRAL & SOCIETY ISLANDS 2022
Day 1 – Tahiti Day 2 – at sea Day 3 – Austral Islands – Rurutu Day 4 – Tubuai Day 5 – at sea Day 6 – Rapa Day 7 – Rapa, departure at noon Day 8 – Raivavae Day 9 – at sea Day 10 – Society islands – Taha’a Day 11 – Tahiti
- Voyage 1 – January 8th to 18st 2022 – CANCELLED
- Voyage 2 – January 22nd to February 2nd 2022 – SENIOR DISCOUNT
- Voyage 3 – February 5th to 16th 2022 – THEMED CRUISE
- Voyage 4 – February 19th to March 2nd 2022
- Voyage 5 – March 5th to 15th 2022 – CANCELLED
- Voyage 6 – March 19th to 30th 2022
- Voyage 7 – April 2nd to 13th 2022 – THEMED CRUISE
- Voyage 8 – April 15th to 21st 2022 – SOCIETY ISLANDS
- Voyage 9 – April 23rd to May 4th 2022
- Voyage 10 – May 7th to 18th 2022
- Voyage 11 – May 21st to June 1st 2022
- Voyage 12 – June 4th to 15th 2022
- Voyage 13 – June 18th to 29th 2022
- Voyage 14 – July 2nd to 13th 2022
- Voyage 15 – July 16th to 27th 2022 – AUSTRAL & COOK ISLAND SPECIAL
- Voyage 16 – July 30th to August 10th 2022
- Voyage 17 – August 13th to 24th 2022
- Voyage 18 – August 27th to September 7th 2022
- Voyage 19 – September 10th to 21st 2022 – PITCAIRN, GAMBIER AND TUAMOTU DISCOVERY
- Voyage 20 – September 24th to October 5th 2022
- Voyage 21 – October 8th to 19th 2022
- Voyage 22 – October 22nd to November 2nd 2022 – PITCAIRN, GAMBIER AND TUAMOTU DISCOVERY
- Voyage 23 – November 5th to 16th 2022
- Voyage 24 – November 19th to 30th 2022
- Voyage 25 –December 3rd to 14th 2022
- Voyage 26 – December 17 to 28th 2022
The rates are per person and include :
- The 13 days/12 nights cruise (2021) and 12 days/11 nights cruise (2022) with all meals
- Guided excursions
- Ports and touristic taxes
Travel Insurance :
- It is the obligation of all passengers to purchase their own travel insurance to cover against travel cancellation expenses, unexpected medical issues and repatriation should any occur from the time of booking the Aranui cruises until the passenger returns to their country.
- A 25% deposit will be required to be paid immediately within 7 days of the booking confirmation
- Full settlement of the remaining account for each passenger or booking must be received no later than 90 days prior to the scheduled departure date to avoid automated system reservation cancellation.
- Any Cancellation after the official confirmation of a cabin held on your behalf will be subject to a penalty of 17 900 XPF per person. Non-refundable or non- commissionable.
- If Cancelled 90 to 61 days prior to scheduled departure: the initial deposit of 25% from the cost of the full fare of the voyage will be retained.
- If cancelled 60 to 45 days prior to departure: one third (1/3) of the cost of the full fare will be retained.
- If cancelled 44 to 30 days prior to scheduled departure: two thirds (2/3) of the cost of the full fare of the voyage will be retained
- If cancelled less than 30 days or no-apparence: the total (100%) of the full fare of the voyage will be retained.
2022 Booking Change :
- After CPTM issues a confirmation, any reservation changes such as travel dates and name change, made at the passenger’s or travel agent’s request will be subject to the same penalties applied to cancellations.
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Join us as the new Aranui 5 continues to offer adventure voyaging at its best, with full ameni- ties, seafaring stability, warm hospitality and a lifetime of unforgettable memories.
Departure from Papeete dock at 10:00am.
Checking time is between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM and the counters will be closed at 9:30 AM.
Tuamotu Archipelago – Fakarava
Morning arrival in the small oval-shaped atoll of Takapoto located in the Tuamotu Archipelago. A short walk through the village brings you to a white sand beach. On this little paradise, enjoy a delicious barbecue picnic, swim and snorkel in the translucent lagoon among the colorful ballet of tropical fish. Arts & crafts will be available at the beach. Return to vessel by 3:30pm.
A day to unwind and relax on one of the sun decks or in the comfort of our air-conditioned lounge. Or why not simply enjoy the views of the endless South Pacific Ocean as we make our way to the captivating Marquesas Islands.
Lectures on Marquesan culture and history will send you back in time and give you full insight into this ancient civilization. During the cruise, you will also get the opportunity to learn how to move your hips like a true Tahitian!
You will probably spend many evenings socializing at the bar with your fellow adventurers from around the world. The spirited Polynesian crew will proudly introduce you to their way of life and entertain you with Polynesian songs and rhythms on their ukuleles, guitars and drums.
Before you go to bed, set your watch 30 minutes ahead for Marquesan time.
Nuku Hiva (Taiohae-Hatiheu-Taipivai)
Be out on deck to fully appreciate our arrival into Taiohae’s spectacular bay, a giant volcanic amphitheater dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. As the Aranui unloads its freight, you can explore Taiohae, the Marquesas’ small administrative center.
Taiohae Bay is where 23-year-old Herman Melville and his buddy jumped a whaling ship in 1842. Follow their escape route by 4-wheel drive along steep, winding dirt mountain roads to the village of Hatiheu to visit the archaeological site of Kamuihei.
Lunch will be served at Yvonne’s Restaurant, one of the best in the Marquesas. Here, the specialty is the “Hima’a”, where food is cooked for hours in an underground oven. You will meet the owner and Chef, Yvonne, who also happens to be the town’s energetic former mayor.
After lunch, travel to Taipivai Valley. The area is dotted with stone tikis and sacred ritual sites (me’ae) and immense stone platforms (paepae) on which the Taipi built their houses. Enigmatic petroglyphs of birds, sacred turtles and fish are carved on huge boulders. Hikers can take a steep trail to visit the Paeke site.
The Aranui’s whaleboats will pick you up from Taipivai Beach (the ship will be anchored in the bay).
Please note this is a wet boarding.
Ua Pou (Hakahau-Hakahetau)
From the decks, you’ll see the soaring mountain spires unique to Ua Pou.
While the crew unloads supplies, from cement to sugar, and loads sacks of copra (dried coconut meat) and fruit, explore the quaint village of Hakahau and its church featuring a hand-carved wooden dais.
Meet the island’s talented woodcarvers and artists, hike up the hill to the Cross for breathtaking views of the mountains, the lush valleys and the main village.
At Rosalie’s Restaurant, another delicious Marquesan lunch will be served: breadfruit, a Marquesan staple, along with curried goat (one of the Marquesas Islands’ specialties), poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk), taro and sweet red bananas. Enjoy an excellent dance performance including the Bird Dance, traditional to Ua Pou.
Hiva Oa (Puamau) & Tahuata (Kokuu)
In Puamau, travel by 4WD to the most incredible archaeological site for “tikis” (ancient, human-like religious stone sculptures) outside of Easter Island. Once you reach Mea’e Iipona, our knowledgeable guides will tell you the stories of these haunting statues of ancient times. Surrounded by beautifully lush grounds, the site is overwhelming and has a lot of what Polynesians call “mana” (spiritual power). Only a small part of the site has been restored and most of it is still buried under massive trees and rocks.
After lunch on board, Aranui will set sail for Tahuata, where you can enjoy a lazy afternoon relaxing at the beach or taking a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean.
Hiva Oa (Atuona) & Tahuata (Vaitahu – Hapatoni)
Aranui will arrive in Hiva Oa in the morning, where you will have plenty of time to explore Atuona, the second largest village in Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and created some of his best work. You can visit the colonial store where he shopped, as well as a replica of his infamous “House of Pleasure” and the adjoining museum. As you walk up the hill to the cemetery, you’ll have sweeping views of the harbor. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words: Paul Gauguin 1903. Nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa: Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978.
TAHUATA (Vaitahu – Hapatoni)
In the afternoon, the Aranui will anchor off the small island of Tahuata. On this leaf-shaped island, the air is thick with the fragrant scent of tiare, frangipani and history.
In 1595, Spanish explorers landed in the village of Vaitahu and opened fire on a crowd of curious islanders, killing about 200. Tahuata is also the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas in 1842. The large church built by the Vatican, is decorated with beautiful Marquesan carvings and a stunning stained glass window.
Tahuata is famous for its exquisite bone and helmet shell carvings. There will be many to choose from in the village.
Fatu Hiva (Omoa-Hanavave)
This is the most lush and remote island of the Marquesas. The only access is by sea, since there is no airport on Fatu Hiva. It is also the island of “tapa” and you will discover all about this traditional cloth.
In the tranquil village of Omoa, you will see women pounding mulberry, banyan or breadfruit tree bark on logs. The bark is then dried and used as a canvas where the locals will paint ancient Marquesan designs. Fatu Hiva is also well-known for its hand-painted pareos (sarongs) and monoi, coconut oil infused with “Tiare Tahiti” blossoms, vanilla or sandalwood. You will meet skilled woodcarvers in the large handicraft center. This will be another great opportunity to purchase Marquesan art and souvenirs.
Before lunch, the Aranui will sail to the other side of the island, to jaw-dropping Hanavave Bay, also known as the Bay of Virgins. Athletic passengers may choose to make the trip on foot. On this unforgettable ten-mile hike you will take in breathtaking views of towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls. For hikers, a delicious lunch will be served at the top of a moutain. (Scale of difficulty 8/10)
Sunset in Hanavave Bay is a moment of pure bliss.
Ua Huka (Vaipaee-Hane-Hokatu)
In the early morning light, the Aranui will arrive in Ua Huka. This is one arrival not-to-be-missed! The maneuver entering the small bay and positioning the vessel for departure is truly impressive.
On the dry lands of Ua Huka, visit the small museum of Vaiapee located in the island’s city hall gardens. The museum features exquisite replicas of Marquesan art and our guides will immerse you in this ancient civilization.
Back onboard your 4WD , explore the island, stopping for stunning views of the Pacific, visit to the arboretum and botanical garden born from the passion of the island’s former mayor, before reaching the beautiful village of Hane. Lunch will be served at a local family restaurant.
On Ua Huka where the wild horses (brought from Chile in 1856) outnumber the inhabitants, horseback riding will be available (sign-up is required and an additional cost applies). Travelers choosing the horseback riding option will meet the rest of the group at the restaurant.
After lunch, continue discovering the island in the fishing village of Hokatu, or hike up to one of Hane’s viewpoints escorted by the ship’s guides. You may also choose to just relax on the beach.
Of course, Ua Huka will be another opportunity for art and crafts shopping. Wood carvings, as well as engraved coconut shells, are some of the island’s specialties.
Back onboard be sure to be out on deck as the Aranui sails along the coast of Ua Huka, for more gorgeous views.
To end a brilliant day, a sumptuous buffet dinner will be served on deck for our Polynesian evening under the stars.
Nuku Hiva (Taiohae) & Ua Pou (Hakahau)
The ship’s final day in the captivating Marquesas Islands! The Aranui will dock in the Bay of Taiohae, in Nuku Hiva. You may take the local shuttle “Le Truck” or walk to the town center for some free time.
At noon, the ship will sail to Ua Pou, and dock in the village of Hakahau. You may hike up to the Cross once again, stroll around the village, or just spend a lazy afternoon on the beach. This is your last chance for Marquesan art and souvenirs.
After an enchanting, enriching journey to the heart of Polynesian civilization, unwind or enjoy the various activities and lectures offered.
Tuamotu Archipelago – Rangiroa
From the decks, watch our approach and arrival into French Polynesia’s largest atoll and the second largest in the world. You may spot playful dolphins greeting the ship as we enter Tiputa Pass, one of Rangiroa’s two channels.
Snorkeling and scuba diving excursions are available (sign-up is required and an additional cost applies). Scuba diving in Rangiroa is rated as one of the best in the world (all levels welcome).
The Tuamotu atolls, with their pristine environment and pure waters, offer the ideal conditions for pearl farming. This will be your opportunity to visit a working pearl farm and learn how Tahiti’s famed jewel of the sea is produced. And if your dream is to bring one home, the small on-site store features a nice selection of loose and set pearls.
Should you decide not to go on any tours, enjoy Rangiroa’s white sand beach and translucent lagoon. The local “mamas” will have an excellent display of shell necklaces, key chains, and other small souvenirs for sale on the beach.
The Aranui will depart in the afternoon and sail to the mythical island of Bora Bora.
Society Islands – Bora Bora
Arriving in Bora Bora’s world famous lagoon of opalescent blues and greens, you will be greeted by majestic Mount Otemanu, the island’s highest peak.
In this picture-perfect island paradise, you will enjoy a day at the beach and another delicious picnic, on a private “motu” islet surrounded by crystalline waters.
You may also choose from a variety of excursions at an additional cost: circle island tour by boat or bus, helicopter flight, 4WD off-road tour and one of the most popular for the bravest: shark and ray feeding!
Bora Bora was a US military outpost during World War II and remnants from the war such as cannons and bunkers can be seen on the 4WD tour. Evening departure for Papeete.
Morning arrival in Papeete by 9:00am. Safe trip home with these memories.
Come explore the enchanting Marquesas Islands aboard the latest incarnation of our famed ships. Setting sail in the Winter of 2015, the new Aranui 5 represents the crowning jewel of a 30 year long pursuit of the ultimate passenger freighter. Redesigned and custom built with passenger comfort in mind, you will embark on a voyage of discovery following the paths of Paul Gauguin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Brel. Our Polynesian staff and crew will welcome you to these exotic, captivating islands they call home.
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Aranui Tahiti Cruises
Aranui tahiti cruises – authentic polynesian adventure.
Embark on a two-week all-inclusive cruise aboard the Aranui 5 (a binary passenger/freighter vessel) and explore the unspoiled beauty of French Polynesia. Encounter the warmth of the local people who are eager to share their culture and discover the magic that has attracted thousands of adventurers from far-flung whereabouts including the likes of Paul Gauguin.
Considered by most, if not all, to be the trip of a lifetime, the Aranui 5, which first set sail in 2015, will navigate remote localities and supply isolated communities with anticipated commercial goods–from sacks of sugar to four-wheel drive trucks–whilst still encapsulating an authentic holiday atmosphere. Copra, citrus fruit, and fresh fish will be loaded at port, destined for Papeete on the return voyage.
Choose from four exclusive itineraries and add a pre- or post-cruise stay at one of French Polynesia’s world-renowned luxury resorts, certain to complement your unforgettable odyssey. This truly is a unique experience that combines adventure, discovery, and wonderment.
Amenities & inclusions, 2020 departures, 2021 departures, thursday departures, saturday departures, gambier-pitcairn departures, society-tuamotu departure (may 8, 2021), austral-cook islands departure (sep 4, 2021), presidential suite (1 suite – 441 sq. ft – sky bar deck).
The Presidential Suite is an exterior cabin that comprises three individual rooms. In addition to the 441 sq. ft of interior space, there is a 129 sq. ft private balcony with sliding glass doors. It offers a separate bedroom with one king-size bed, sitting room with sofa bed, lounge with built-in bar, two bathrooms with shower and hairdryer, walk-in closet, under-counter refrigerator, make-up table, desk, two flat-screen TVs, minibar, and safe.
Max Occupancy: 3 Adults
Royal Suite (8 Suites – 236 sq. ft – Sun Deck; Pool Deck; Veranda Deck; Boat Deck)
The Royal Suite is an exterior cabin. In addition to the 236 sq. ft of interior space, there is a 96 sq. ft private balcony with sliding glass doors. It offers a bedroom with either one king-size bed or two twin beds, sitting room with sofa bed that is separated by an ornamental filigree screen, bathroom with shower and hairdryer, wardrobe, under-counter refrigerator, make-up table, desk, flat-screen TV, and safe.
Premium Suite (20 Suites – 205 sq. ft – Pool Deck; Veranda Deck)
The Premium Suite is an exterior cabin. In addition to the 205 sq. ft of interior space, there is a 43 sq. ft private balcony with sliding glass doors. It offers a bedroom with one king-size bed or two twin beds, sitting room with sofa bed that is separated by an ornamental filigree screen, bathroom with shower and hairdryer, wardrobe, under-counter refrigerator, make-up table, desk, flat-screen TV, and safe.
Junior Suite (3 Suites – 161 to 204 sq. ft – Pool Deck; Veranda Deck)
The Junior Suite is an exterior cabin with or without balcony. The two cabins without a balcony are each equipped with two windows (not openable). It offers a bedroom with one king-size bed or two twin beds, bathroom with shower and hairdryer, wardrobe, under-counter refrigerator, make-up table, desk, flat-screen TV, and safe.
Superior Deluxe Cabin (24 Cabins – 156 sq. ft – Sky Bar Deck; Sun Deck; Upper Deck; Main Deck)
The Super Deluxe Cabin is an exterior cabin. In addition to the 156 sq. ft of interior space, there is a 43 sq. ft private balcony with sliding glass doors. It offers a bedroom with one king-size bed or two twin beds, bathroom with shower and hairdryer, wardrobe, under-counter refrigerator, make-up table, desk, flat-screen TV, and safe.
Deluxe Cabin (7 Cabins – 139 sq. ft – Sky Bar Deck; Sun Deck; Pool Deck)
The Deluxe Cabin is an exterior cabin. In addition to the 139 sq. ft of interior space, there is a 43 sq. ft private balcony with sliding glass doors. It offers a bedroom with one king-size bed or two twin beds, bathroom with shower and hairdryer, wardrobe, under-counter refrigerator, make-up table, desk, flat-screen TV, and safe.
Max Occupancy: 2 Adults
Stateroom Cabin (40 Cabins – 118 to 182 sq. ft – Boat Deck; Main Deck; Lower Deck)
The Stateroom Cabin is an exterior cabin. It is equipped with a porthole. It offers several sleeping configurations, bathroom with shower and hairdryer, desk, flat-screen TV, and safe. Six cabins offer Pullman beds (one above the other) allowing up to four persons.
Max Occupancy: 4 Adults (not applicable to all cabins)
Amenities & Inclusions
- One dining room (all meals included in price: buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Picnic meal or meal at local restaurant for shore excursions
- Minimum three-week advance notice for special dietary needs
- Liquor not included in rate (can be purchased onboard)
- Wi-Fi internet connectivity available
- Electrical current
- Two spacious lounges
- Two lifts (elevators)
- Two conferences rooms
- Four bars including one panoramic bar (Sky Bar)
- One fitness room
- One outside swimming pool
- One boutique (variety of supplies and souvenirs)
- Credit cards accepted (American Express, Visa, Mastercard)
- One massage parlor
- Spa treatments
- Tattoo studio
- Library (French, English, German)
- Emergency telephone
- Laundry (washing and dryer machines available)
- Medical assistance onboard
All Cruise Packages
Two Week Marquesas Cruise on Aranui 5
Windstar Tahiti Cruise – 7 Nights
Paul Gauguin 7-night Cruise
Looking for something, the best packages are those hand selected by our travelers, with guidance and inspiration from our dedicated tahiti specialists. get in touch and let’s explore a journey made especially for you..
Operated by: Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime
Aranui 5 is a unique, custom-built, dual-purpose passenger/freighter that sails from Tahiti to the Marquesas, Tuamotu and Society Islands in French Polynesia on a 12-day all-inclusive cruise. Designed to offer all of the comforts of a cruise liner, while operating as a supply ship, Aranui 5 is classified as a small vessel, accommodating approximately 254 passengers and 103 cabins.
Redesigned and custom built with passenger comfort in mind, you will embark the Aranui 5 on a voyage of discovery following the paths of Paul Gauguin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Brel. The Polynesian staff and crew will welcome you to these exotic, captivating islands they call home.
The Aranui 5 continues a relaxed, friendly tradition with space to meet new friends in the bars and lounge or while relaxing on the deck or by the pool, as the islands seem to float by. If you are looking for privacy or romance, retreat to your balcony in suites and deluxe staterooms. Watch the infinite colours of the sunset play in the sky and sea as another day draws to a close in the South Pacific.
After a three-course dinner, let the lively Aranui Band introduce you to Polynesian rhythms and teach you to swivel your hips to the infectious beat of the Tamure or the Tahitian Waltz.
Read our Aranui 5 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Room Grades
SIZE: 41m2 / 441sqft SLEEPS: 3
Consisting of three individual rooms, 41 sqm. (440 sq. ft.) of interior space and a 12 sqm. private balcony, this exclusive suite offers a separate bedroom with a king size bed, a sitting room with a single sofa bed, a lounge with a built-in bar, two bathrooms with shower and hair dryer, a walk-in closet, desk, two flat screen TVs, refrigerator and safe.
SIZE: 22m2 / 236sqft SLEEPS: 3
Aranui 5's eight Royal Suites are a large 22 sqm. with with glass sliding doors leading to a private outdoor balcony measuring 9.5 sqm. Royal Suites offer a bedroom with a king size bed and a sitting room with a single sofa bed, divided by a decorative filigree screen, a bathroom with shower and hair dryer, wardrobe, flat screen TV, refrigerator and safe.
SIZE: 18m2 / 193sqft SLEEPS: 3
Aranui 5's 21 Premium Suites are a spacious 18 sqm. with glass sliding doors leading to a private outdoor balcony (4 sqm.) and offer a bedroom with a king size bed and a sitting room with a single sofa bed, divided by a decorative filigree screen, a bathroom with shower and hair dryer, wardrobe, desk, flat screenTV, refrigerator and safe.
Located on the Veranda Deck, the two Junior Suites are 18 sqm. in size, with two non-opening windows. Junior Suites feature a separate sofa, make up table, flat screen tv, safe and refrigerator. Note this room type does not feature a balcony.
SIZE: 14.50m2 / 156sqft SLEEPS: 2
Superior Deluxe rooms offer 14.5 sqm. of interior space with glass sliding doors leading to a a private outdoor balcony (4 sqm.) two armchairs, make up table, flat screen tv, safe and refrigerator. Ask us about the handicapped accessible Superior Deluxe room located on the Main Deck.
SIZE: 13m2 / 140sqft SLEEPS: 2
Deluxe rooms offer 13 sqm. of interior space, with glass sliding doors leading to a private outdoor balcony (4 sqm.), two armchairs, make up table, flat screen tv, safe and refrigerator.
SIZE: 11m2 / 118sqft SLEEPS: 2
Staterooms offer a compact 11 sqm. of living space with ocean views via a porthole (no balcony). Comforts include flat screen tv, safe and desk. Choose from locations on the Boat, Main or 2 decks.
SIZE: 12.50m2 / 134sqft SLEEPS: 4
Ideally suited for those on a budget or single travellers who don't mind sharing, Class C offers dormitory style accommodation for up to four guests in bunk beds. A bathroom is shared between all four guests and other conveniences include a porthole, wardrobe and sitting area. Interconnecting Class C rooms are also available for larger groups.
Aranui 5’s restaurant offers the chance to taste the distinctive flavours of French Polynesia while getting to know fellow guests in a casual, communal setting. Three meals are served daily with the breakfast buffet boasting tropical fruit, pastries and a hot breakfast. Complimentary wine is served with lunch and dinner, which is always a three-course meal including crusty bread, salad, dessert and mains ranging from freshly caught Wahoo to local pork, New Zealand lamb to Chow Mein and even American spare ribs. During special Polynesian themed nights, a seafood barbeque is served on the pool deck. Vegetarian and other special dietary requirements are catered for.
The Aranui 5 voyage is as much about the experience of being on a cargo ship as the fascinating excursions ashore. There is nothing like watching the muscular Polynesian crew go about their daily tasks and witnessing the kaleidoscope of activity as the ship’s cranes swing into action unloading everything from sugar to cars, trucks and building materials, and loading fresh produce such as copra (dried coconut), citrus fruits, fish and noni juice to take back to Papeete. And because it is a working ship, methods of disembarking and embarking vary according to port access. At some islands the ship is able to tie up at the dock, while at others it has to drop anchor and ferry passengers and cargo ashore by barge. But this is all part of the adventure.
When you are tired of watching the cargo operations, there is a full program of activities including a series of lectures about the Marquesas and the part played by Europeans and Polynesians in shaping their history. There is also a range of Polynesian-themed classes at which you can pick up some new skills. Sign up for a ukulele or dance class and you may even find yourself performing alongside the crew members of the Aranui band after dinner! Or you might like to simply relax on one of the sundecks, take a dip in the pool, work out in the basic gym or indulge in a spa treatment. With four bars, a comfortable lounge and library, the ship never feels crowded.
The Aranui 5 has taken freighter cruising to a new level, offering more passenger space and facilities, a higher level of comfort and more balcony suites than its predecessor. All suites, staterooms and public areas are air-conditioned and there are two passenger lifts for easy access between decks. Accommodation includes 32 suites, ranging from the sprawling Presidential Suite to 8 Royal Suites, 21 Premium Suites and 2 Junior Suites.
A doctor travels on each voyage and the onboard infirmary is equipped to deal with most first-aid requests and emergencies. Guests can use the self-serve laundry and the onboard boutique has a wide range of books, souvenirs, toiletries, clothing, sweets and snacks.
Aranui 5 Expeditions
French polynesia's marquesas islands.
From AUD $4635.00 Per Person
DURATION: 12 Days/ 11 Nights REGION: Australia, New Zealand & Pacific SHIP: Aranui 5
From Tahiti to the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia, this 12-day all-inclusive cruise aboard the "part freighter / part cruise ship" Aranui 5 is a trip for the bucket list!
Pitcairn Island & French Polynesia
From AUD $5705.00 Per Person
DURATION: 11 Days/ 10 Nights REGION: Australia, New Zealand & Pacific SHIP: Aranui 5
SPECIAL OFFER | Second traveller SAVES 50% or no Single Supplement! | Join the Aranui 5 on an adventure of a lifetime from Tahiti to remote Pitcairn Island.
Discovery Voyage: Cook & Society Islands
From AUD $4208.00 Per Person
DURATION: 9 Days/ 8 Nights REGION: Australia, New Zealand & Pacific SHIP: Aranui 5
Join the unique Aranui 5 on her 9-day discovery voyage from Papeete to the Cook Islands (Rarotonga and Aitutaki) and back again.
Austral Islands with Aranui
From AUD $5271.00 Per Person
SPECIAL OFFER | Second traveller SAVES 50% or no Single Supplement! | Located 600km south of Tahiti, the rarely-visited Australs are untouched and mysterious, where white sand clashes with the intense blue of the lagoons.
Select a departure date, available itineraries, austral islands, marquesas arts festival cruise, discover the marquesas, pitcairn & gambier - in the footsteps of the bounty mutineers, we love to talk travel, why travel with adventure life, recognized by.
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The Best Way to Visit the Remote Marquesas Islands Is on This Hybrid Cargo Cruise Ship
A single cargo-cruise ship provides a lifeline to the Marquesas Islands, one of the remote archipelagoes that make up French Polynesia.
"This trip is cursed," I said to the woman from the Aranui 5, a Polynesian hybrid cargo-cruise ship, when she called to confirm that, yes, I had COVID, and no, I would not be sailing for the Marquesas Islands the next day. I would be staying where I was: quarantined in a hotel room in Papeete , the capital of French Polynesia .
She laughed. "When I feel that way, I send out good energy, and I say, 'Hey! Curse! Go away!' "
The next evening, I watched from my balcony as the Aranui 5 glided out of the harbor and into the sunset.
The Aranui 5 — its name translates to "the Great Path" — has an unusual silhouette. Its bow deck is low and flat, stacked with shipping containers and surmounted by two yellow cranes. Its stern half holds the white superstructure of a cruise ship, honeycombed with balconies. Business in the front, party in the back. As the name suggests, there have been four previous versions of the Aranui ; this iteration is the fifth family-owned freighter to bear the name since 1960. Sometimes it sails to the Austral or Gambier Islands or to the Cook Islands or to far-flung Pitcairn, but the ship's most frequent and important route is to the rugged, remote, culturally proud Marquesas Islands — a French Polynesian archipelago nearly a thousand miles northeast of Tahiti that famously enchanted Herman Melville, Paul Gauguin, and the Belgian singer Jacques Brel.
Twice monthly the Aranui 5 is an ark that bears the stuff of daily existence to the Marquesas: pallets of food, drums of gasoline, building materials, Toyota trucks, cases of Tahitian Hinano beer, and whatever else is needed. The crew members are Polynesians, including some from the Marquesas, and locals traveling to or from school or work often sleep in dedicated dormitory cabins. The ship has a sense of homecoming.
My first attempt to visit the Marquesas on the Aranui 's 11-night voyage had been thwarted in March 2020 by the COVID shutdown. My second try fizzled in November 2021 for scheduling reasons. Surely the third time, in February 2022, would be the charm. My friend Bailey, exhausted by a pandemic spent running a microbrewery in Nashville and tending to her toddler daughter, was coming along. "WE'RE GOING TO TAHITIIIII!" I had texted after our predeparture PCR tests both came back negative.
So imagine my dismay when, 30 hours later, while waiting at the baggage claim, I learned my arrival test was positive. "You will need to quarantine for seven days," an official said as he photographed my passport and slid a serious-looking French-language document across the table for me to sign. "Go to your hotel, and do not leave."
Twice monthly the Aranui 5 is an ark that bears the stuff of daily existence to the Marquesas: pallets of food, drums of gasoline, building materials, Toyota trucks, cases of Tahitian Hinano beer. The ship has a sense of homecoming.
Fortunately, one of the many perks of being a travel journalist is that you get help with curses and logistics, and within a day, the endlessly patient professionals who'd been working on this trip since 2019 had cobbled together a plan. I would send Bailey off to the neighboring island of Moorea while I quarantined (my case was mild — thanks, booster shot), and then we would travel together for a week, flying to the islands of Taha'a and Bora-Bora. After that, Bailey would go home, and I would catch the Aranui 's next sailing. My two-week trip had ballooned into a month.
The first night after my quarantine ended, Bailey and I found ourselves on a sublimely peaceful islet near the island of Taha'a, sitting on the deck of an overwater bungalow at Pearl Resorts' Le Taha'a, drinking Hinanos and watching a pastel sunset turn the ocean to mother-of-pearl. Hey! Curse! Go away! We swam with rays and reef sharks. We toured a pearl farm, a rum distillery, and a vanilla farm.
At the freshly renovated Le Bora Bora, another property from the Polynesian-owned Pearl Resorts, we snorkeled and kayaked and lounged and watched sheets of rain sweep across the lagoon, the clouds clearing to reveal a full moon over the jutting, toothlike summit of Mount Otemanu, Bora-Bora's iconic peak.
Then Bailey went home, and, finally, almost unbelievably, I boarded the Aranui .
We sailed in the late afternoon and made our first landing the next day on Kauehi, in the Tuamotu Archipelago. The Tuamotus form the largest chain of atolls in the world. From airplanes and satellites, they resemble turquoise amoebas;from the ship, they were low, bright lines of sand that barely breached the water, all crowded with coconut palms.
As the Aranui entered Kauehi's 123-square-mile lagoon, the roll of the ocean ceased. Once the ship was at anchor, the 68 passengers and many of the 83 crew members motored to the atoll's only village, Tearavero. The gathering felt like a relaxed beach party. Local guys hacked open young coconuts and handed them out with paper straws. Women sat in plastic chairs in the shade, watching children play. The crew set up an awning, and a casual ukulele band formed.
I snorkeled over rippled white sand in warm, shallow water, and then I sat in the shade, listening to the crew and the villagers sing. Before this trip, I had not fully appreciated how lovely ordinary voices can be, offered unselfconsciously, just for the pleasure of singing.
"All French Polynesian people know how to sing," said Lehi Tehiva, one of our guides. "It doesn't matter what island they are from. They are all singers."
I've always felt odd about recommending destinations based on "the people," when people are by definition a mixed bag, no matter where they live. Pretending otherwise, even in praise, can seem reductive. But it's true that French Polynesia's warm, relaxed vibe comes as much from its residents as from its natural tropical splendor. People are welcoming and proud of their islands. And everyone can sing.
Unlike on most cruise ships, the Aranui' s crew and passengers hang out together on the stern decks and in the lounges. The arrangement, like the ship itself, is comfortable, inclusive, and lively.
When the ship was at sea, I divided my time between my simple, pleasant suite and a shaded chaise overlooking the pool, where I read Paul Theroux's 1992 book, The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific, which has a chapter about his voyage on an earlier Aranui. ("The Marquesas were a world apart," he wrote, and so it seemed, as we rolled onward and onward into the empty blue sea.) Unlike on most cruise ships, the Aranui 's crew and passengers hang out together on the stern decks and in the lounges. The arrangement, like the ship itself, is comfortable, inclusive, and lively. "We are a family here," more than one guide told me.
The next morning, as I stood on the top deck in the early light, I could see Nuku Hiva's striated coastal cliffs, which were reddish and stippled with dry vegetation. The island rose up to a mountainous ridgeline, its peaks topped with basalt spires and its flanks cut through with deep, jungled valleys. The administrative center of the Marquesas, Nuku Hiva is the archipelago's largest and most populous island, with almost 3,000 residents. When the Aranui docked and the bustle of unloading Nuku Hiva's share of the cargo began, islanders in Toyota pickups queued for their deliveries. Drivers with 4 x 4s were waiting to take the passengers on a tour of the island.
Our convoy went first to Notre-Dame, a Catholic cathedral built of volcanic stone in the main village, Taiohae. At the front, near the baptismal font, a wooden statue of a lei-wearing Virgin Mary held baby Jesus, who, in one arm, cradled a breadfruit. Historically, breadfruit was the essential food source of the Marquesas, especially valued because it could be fermented and preserved in specially dug pits for years as insurance against drought.
Behind the church was the grave of Bishop Hervé Marie Le Cléac'h, a French clergyman who'd been sent to the Marquesas in 1977 after stirring up trouble in Quebec. Le Cléac'h was the first to translate Mass into Marquesan, which had become a taboo language, forcibly supplanted by French and Tahitian. The year after Le Cléac'h arrived, an association called Motu Haka was formed to resurrect traditions that missionaries and colonizers had nearly eradicated: song, dance, tattooing, sculpture, tapa (a textile made from tree fibers that was once used for garments and now for decoration), farming, fishing, and traditional medicine. Le Cléac'h lent crucial support to the organization, which still exists today. "The missionaries stopped the culture, but a bishop rebirthed it," said Benjamin Teikitutoua, a retired Marquesan teacher and vice president of Motu Haka, who was a guest lecturer on the Aranui. "Some Marquesans thought the old ways were bad and pagan, so it was helpful that a priest said, 'No, this is okay. It's good.' "
Motu Haka's task was monumental. Not only had traditional practices been purposefully discouraged, and even banned, but the generations that could have passed down cultural knowledge had been decimated by disease. The population of the Marquesas is estimated to have been between 70,000 and 100,000 when Captain James Cook visited in 1774. In the 1920s, it was as low as 1,200. Today a little more than 9,000 people live across the archipelago's six inhabited islands. In rebuilding their culture, Marquesans salvaged what oral history they could and utilized decades-old ethnographies written by outsiders.
Related : French Polynesia Is Known for Its Stunning Beaches and Resorts — but a Younger Generation Is Working to Highlight Its Rich Traditions
Take, for instance, tattooing. In 1922, an American woman named (delightfully) Willowdean Chatterson Handy compiled and published a painstaking record of all the Marquesan tattoos she could find, designs that had been evolving over probably 2,000 years. (The Marquesas were the likely jumping-off point for the habitation of Hawaii and Rapa Nui, or Easter Island.) At the time, Handy knew she was documenting a dying art but could not possibly have guessed that, a century later, not only would tattoos in the Marquesas have come roaring back but artists on the islands would still be referring to her diagrams. There was even a tattoo parlor on the Aranui. A small, tantalizing sidebar on our daily schedules said, "Make a tattoo appointment with Moana at the restaurant."
Moana turned out to be a stocky, friendly Marquesan waiter who wore a necklace of huge, curving boar's teeth. I was curious how many takers he would have. The passengers didn't necessarily seem like the inking type, unlike the crew, who almost universally had gorgeous Polynesian tattoos: geometric patterns, Marquesan crosses, thick black bands of stylized manta rays.
Our next stop on Nuku Hiva was an archaeological site. Thirty thousand people had once inhabited Tohua Kamuihei, an extensive settlement of terraced stone platforms now mostly swallowed by the jungle. Here and there were ancient petroglyphs; wide-mouthed, lichen-fuzzed stone tikis; and pristine reconstructions of thatched shelters. There were pits for storing breadfruit and sacred sites where cannibalistic rituals had once taken place. Under a towering banyan tree said to be up to 600 years old, drummers and dancers performed, chanting and calling, their mostly bare bodies adorned with swishing fronds; the men wore necklaces of animal teeth. The sensation that we were watching something timeless was only dispelled when the applause ended and the dancers pulled their surgical masks back on. (The mask requirement has since been dropped.)
Lunch was at Chez Mamie Yvonne, a restaurant in the village of Hatiheu, where we filled our plates with breadfruit, pork, and smoky little red bananas that had been slow-roasted for hours in an umu, an underground oven. There was raw fish in coconut milk, too, and chicken stir-fried in a sweet soy sauce. Po'e, a chewy banana-and-coconut pudding, was dessert. A band played near the bar — guitars and ukuleles and pahus (drums carved from single pieces of wood) — and it took me a while to realize the musicians were the same performers who had danced under Tohua Kamuihei's banyan tree, only they were now in baseball caps and board shorts, singing so easily.
The performances I saw were joyful, triumphant, even defiant. This was something outsiders had tried and failed to suppress. This was something that belonged to the islands.
The next day, at the island of Ua Pou, where there was a school right on the beach, children swam out to the ship to play on the ropes. In the afternoon, they stayed for hours, splashing and shouting.
And so we continued on. "Pay attention to which island talks to you," Tehiva told us. Ua Huka was red and dry, populated by wild horses. Hiva Oa, lush and green, greeted us with a rainbow. This was the island made famous by Paul Gauguin, who spent his final two years there suffering from morphine addiction, spreading syphilis to young girls, and creating indelible artworks. I asked Tehiva what French Polynesians made of Gauguin. "Of his art, they are proud," he said, and seamlessly changed the subject to Jacques Brel, who is buried near Gauguin. Brel used his own small plane, Jojo, to help out locals, and so, Tehiva said a little pointedly, he is remembered fondly. Hiking from the ship to the cemetery, I fell into conversation with a German woman whose lifelong dream had been to come to the Marquesas. After surviving breast cancer, she'd taken the plunge, and she pulled up her pant leg to show me a fresh tattoo on her calf. "Everything about it felt right," she said. "For me it was a profound experience."
By the end of the trip, by my count, Moana had given tattoos to at least 10 passengers. I asked him if there were any tattoos that were reserved for Marquesans, deemed too special for outsiders. He furrowed his brow and shook his head. No. Later, when I mentioned this to Tehiva, he said, "It is because they are a giving people. They give."
Fortunately, they also sell. No landing was complete without a trip to a handicraft market. Tahuata, which resembles Kauai with its fluted green cliffs, is known for bone carvings. I bought a silky white pendant in the shape of a whale for my mother. On Fatu Hiva, where the specialty is tapa, I found a small version depicting an octopus. It now hangs in my office. On Ua Huka, which is known for its woodwork, I got my boyfriend a ukulele.
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Just as I hadn't expected to fall in love with the music in French Polynesia, I didn't know that I would also be moved by the dancing. Male dancers grimaced ferociously as they chanted and pounded their feet. The women took small, graceful steps, swiveling their hips and singing. The movements referenced pigs, birds, the ocean. Dancers regaled us as we left Papeete; they performed on the ship in Nuku Hiva and at the handicraft market in Ua Pou; crew members hosted regular classes for passengers. Unlike, say, ballet, Marquesan dance doesn't require superhuman flexibility or a fatless body. It asks for stamina, spirit, commitment. The performances I saw were joyful, triumphant, even defiant. This was something outsiders had tried and failed to suppress. This was something that belonged to the islands.
On the seventh night, I woke at 3 a.m. in an ominous sweat. What followed felt a lot like food poisoning but, since the other 67 passengers seemed fine, I am left with no choice but to blame the curse. So it was the fault of the curse that I didn't get to see the archaeological site at Te I'ipona, on Hiva Oa, with its nearly eight-foot-tall tiki, the largest in Polynesia. It was thanks to the curse that, still dehydrated and ill, I didn't get to do the nine-mile hike on Fatu Hiva that I'd been looking forward to. Instead, I sat on my balcony and watched the sun and clouds play over the island's green cliffs, and that had to be good enough.
The gods of travel are capricious. Sometimes they let you slide onto your flight with seconds to spare or nudge you down an unpromising alley where you find the best meal of your life. Sometimes they give you both COVID and a stomach bug in the space of one trip. The travel gods giveth, and the travel gods taketh away.
When you strike out for a vision of an imaginary paradise — Gauguin's paintings, brochure photos of palms on an atoll — it's easy to forget that you must take your body with you, that you will remain yourself no matter where you are, that you will always be vulnerable. In the Marquesas they know that, even if our voices aren't perfect, we are all singers. We're singers because we sing. And in that same way, perfect trips don't make us travelers. Traveling does.
Aranui offers 12-day itineraries from $3,572, all-inclusive.
A version of this story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Special Delivery.
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Is the Radisson boat tour the best for a river cruise? - Moscow Forum
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This post has been removed at the author's request.
In the winter? You have no choice.
Radisson boats are the best, yes.
And only radissons operate in winter (because only they can break the ice on the river).
This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity.
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