French Polynesia: Catch a freighter to paradise

By Megan Singleton

The Aranui III offers cruises around French Polynesia. Photo / Philippe Bacchet
The Aranui III offers cruises around French Polynesia. Photo / Philippe Bacchet

The Aranui III, a freighter/cruise ship which is based in Tahiti and takes intrepid travellers to the Marquesas Islands, was in Auckland earlier this year and opened its hatches for a few travel agents and media to have a look.

For 50 years, the Aranui has serviced the remote islands of French Polynesia and tourists have been tagging along for the past 20.

This state-of-the-art working ship can accommodate 170 passengers on its 14-day cruising itineraries, which combine daily hikes to amazing waterfalls, villages, beaches and mountain tops with dropping-off and picking-up supplies.

You're not going to find a casino or a cabaret, but you will find everything from carpeted suites with full-size bathrooms, queen-size beds and balconies, to bunk rooms that can sleep up to eight people.

The ship has a large open lounge with a bar and comfy chairs in the bow and an open-plan dining room upstairs where buffet meals are served. There's also a swimming pool at the stern.

Once onboard in Papeete, the Aranui takes a day and a half to get to the Marquesas, via Fakarava (a place famous for its diving). There's plenty of time to unwind, read a book, sleep, meet your fellow passengers and visit the captain on the bridge... and by the time you arrive you're refreshed and ready to explore.

Who will love this cruise?

Those who are not into the glitz and glamour of the huge cruise ships but want an authentic experience of Tahitian life.

Excursions include plenty of hiking, picnics, meeting local villagers, shopping at their craft markets, swimming at idyllic beaches, photographing waterfalls and archaeological sites and even riding horses.

Back onboard there are lectures for those interested in artist Paul Gaugin, who spent the latter part of his life in Tahiti, and on subjects like archaeology, culture and history - all taught by experts in their fields.

* For more information on Aranui cruises, see

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