Aranui Cruises is offering discounts on summer sailings and has announced a bonus stopover in Bora Bora – often described as one of the most beautiful islands in the world – aboard its unique passenger-freighter vessel Aranui 5.
The dual-purpose ship, which is divided in half with one section that carries up to 230 passengers and the other comprising the cargo deck and hold, specialises in sailings to remote parts of French Polynesia and delivers essential supplies to the far-flung Marquesas Islands. It has also launched a new itinerary to the untouched Austral Islands, the southernmost archipelago in the region.
Departing from 1st July to 12th August, the line is offering a 20 percent discount or no single supplement and special child fares on four departures to the Marquesas. Departing 9th September, Aranui has extended its 20 percent discount or no single supplement offer on the Austral Islands voyage and added a new bonus stopover at Bora Bora, dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’.
The Marquesas Islands itinerary takes in all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas – Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva and Tahuata – and while crew and islanders load and unload cargo the passengers embark on excursions at each destination. The ship visits other islands on the way and depending on the sailing date, these include the flora and fauna rich island of Kauehi or fortress-like island of Makatea.
Highlights in the Marquesas include exploring the archaeological sites of the Taipivai Valley on Nuku Hiva, which is dotted with stone tikis and rock art, followed by lunch cooked in a typical Marquesan underground oven. Passengers also have the option to traverse the mountains of Ua Huka by 4X4 and take a hike to the ‘cross’ on the ‘cathedral island’ of Ua Pou where its 12 basalt summits rise to 3,745 feet.
For historians and art lovers, the cruise offers the chance to discover the stories of conquistadores, missionaries and French settlers who shaped the history of Tahuata, the smallest inhabited island. On Hiva Oa there is a visit to the former home of the artist Paul Gauguin, plus a visit to his grave, and on Fatu Hiva, the most lush and distant of the islands visited during the voyage, passengers can watch the sunset in the UNESCO-listed Bay of Virgins.
The Austral Islands, lying 300 miles south of Tahiti, are untouched and mysterious lands where white sand beaches meet blue lagoons and landscapes of sheer mountain tops contrast with green valleys and caves sheltering ancient burials sites. The itinerary calls at the five inhabited Austral isles and the September sailing is an ideal time of year to spot humpbacked whales, which visit the warm waters off Rurutu between August and October to mate and give birth in the island’s clear waters.
Although no freight is carried on this voyage, passengers will be immersed in local customs, such as seeing intricate ‘tifaifai’ patchwork quilts and a demonstration of volcanic ‘stone lifting’ by some of Rurutu’s strongest islanders. On Rimatara, guests will be welcomed with an ancient ceremonial walk through ‘purification smoke’ and watch the preparation of fara pae’ore leaves that are used to make cloth. On Rapa they can join the islanders in traditional dances before choosing to hike around the bay or to the remains of a mountaintop fort.
Prior to returning to Tahiti at the end of the voyage there is a bonus stopover on Bora Bora, described as the most beautiful island in the world by American author James Mitchner.
Back on the ship, activities include classes in local dances and languages, the art of weaving palm fronds, playing the ukulele and a cooking demonstration. As tattoos originated in French Polynesia Aranui 5 also has an on-board tattoo, or tatau parlour.
Aranui 5 sailings are sold through tour operators including Turquoise Holidays, Trailfinders and Audley Travel. The 12-day Discover the Marquesas Cruise starts from €4,623 per person, excluding discounts, and he 12-day The Austral Islands itinerary is from €5,497 excluding discount. Fares include all meals, wine with lunch and dinner and excursions.
Cruise correspondent Jeannine Williamson will be on the 9th September sailing and be writing an article for Our Man On The Ground Travel & Lifestyle.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Aranui Cruises