Aranui 5 – the ‘Freighter to Paradise’

Now offering an expanded choice of island-hopping itineraries across French Polynesia for 2021

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Aranui 5, the passenger-cargo ship fondly known as the ‘Freighter to Paradise’, has long been associated with transporting passengers to the remote and enchanting Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia in the South Pacific.

New for 2021 Aranui 5 is expanding her reach and supplementing her regular schedule of 13-night cruises to the Marquesas Islands with the addition of two new itineraries, as well as continuing her annual call at Pitcairn.

One new option sails west from Tahiti to reach the Cook Islands and south to the unspoilt beauty of the Austral islands, whilst a second option takes a more detailed exploration of the Society Island archipelago and the Tuamotu islands to the east of Tahiti, including time on the usually hard to reach island of Makatea.

Cook Islands, Tuamotu island, Austral Islands – 4-16 Sept 2021 (13 days) costs from Euros 5,237 pp

Due to their relatively close proximity, the Southern group of the Cook Islands and the Austral Islands have a long-shared past of culture, language and trading ties with settlement on Rarotonga in the Southern Cook Islands by the people of Tubuai, in the Austral Islands dating back around 1,200 years.

On this 13-day cruise Aranui 5 will pay visits to Rarotonga, the largest and most populous of the Cook Islands where many important archaeological sites can be found, such as the sacred marae of Arai Te Tonga, and the Ara Metua, a 1000 year-old interior island road, paved with basalt or coral slabs that once encircled the island. There is time to snorkel in the crystal-clear lagoon waters on Aitutaki, and spot humpback whales, who gather in the waters around Rurutu in September to mate and give birth to their young. On Raivavae the white sand beaches have earned it the distinction of being called the ‘Bora Bora of the Austral Islands’ and visitors can shake a sea leg with Rapa’s unique dancers or take a shore excursion for a hike around the bay to the main village of Ahurei.

Society and Tuamotu islands – 8-19 May 2021 (12 days) costs from Euros 4,617 pp

Combining the high peaks of Moorea and Bora Bora with low lying Rangiroa and Fakarava this new 12-day itinerary visits some of the best-known islands and atolls in French Polynesia, providing a superb introduction to Polynesian culture and the main island of Tahiti. In the western Tuamotu Islands, a highlight will be a call at Makatea, where fewer than 100 inhabitants now live on what is the second largest raised atoll in French Polynesia, with spectacular cliffs rising 260 feet above sea level. Whilst on Raiatea (or Havai’i as it was originally known), in the Society Islands archipelago, visitors will see the cradle of Polynesian civilisation as it was from here that all the seafaring people who travelled to New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island departed. The 1,000-year-old marae temple complex of Taputapuatea is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and regarded as the religious and spiritual centre of all Eastern Polynesia. Close by, on the fabled isle of Bora Bora, Aranui 5 will be anchored for two days to allow plenty of time to savour its pristine beaches and visitors can try some water sports on the easy-going island of Moorea, which neighbours Tahiti. To the west, for a more authentic view of Polynesian life visitors will see the lesser known and seldom visited, yet equally stunning island of Maupiti and nearby Huahine, which retains the warmth and simplicity of an old Polynesia, unaffected by many of the trappings of modern world.

In search of Eastern Polynesia – Pitcairn with the Tuamotu Islands & Gambier – 9-21 January 2021 (13 days) costs from Euros 5,456 pp

The third departure from her regular schedule will see Aranui 5 make her annual 13-day cruise to the far-flung British outpost of Pitcairn, calling in at the Tuamotu islands, to the east to Tahiti, and the Gambier Archipelago. A highlight of Pitcairn island will see visitors immersing themselves in the living history and culture of the island, meeting some of the 50 remaining islanders, descendants of the first Europeans, the HMS Bounty mutineers, who, with their accompanying band of Polynesians settled there in January 1790. As the island can only be reached by sea it remains one of the most isolated islands in the world, and one who few have visited making a cruise aboard Aranui 5 a rare opportunity to visit. Further highlights will be the small island of Anaa in the Tuamotu archipelago, famed for its luminous jade lagoon with seemingly green clouds caused by the reflected light from the water. A feast of local fruits is on offer as the islanders of Hikueru serve up tales of the island’s great legends and the voyage continues through the black pearl farming lagoons of Aukena for a beach barbeque. On Mangareva, the largest island in the Gambier, be sure to see St Michael’s Catholic Church, where the altar is inlaid with exquisite, iridescent black mother-of-pearl.

The Marquesas Islands Cruise – 13 days from Euros 4,581pp

Except for these three specific departures Aranui 5 will make 18 scheduled cruises to the unique culture and landscape of the Marquesas in 2021, including one dedicated to the Marquesas Art Festival on Fatu Hiva, which travels over Christmas (16-28 December 2021).

On each voyage, Aranui 5 visits all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas – Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva and Tahuata with inclusive excursions in every port. Few visitors ever make it to these islands and Aranui 5’s arrival is a celebrated occasion in the islands’ small ports and remote communities, meaning travellers can expect the warmest of welcomes.

Highlights with include exploring the archaeological sites of the Taipivai Valley on Nuku Hiva, which is dotted with stone tikis and rock art, followed by an ‘Umu’ pork lunch cooked in a typical, Marquesan underground oven. Traversing the mountains of Ua Huka by 4X4 or riding one of the famed Marquesan horses that roam wild on this island. Taking a hike to the ‘Cross’ on the ‘Cathedral island’ of Ua Pou, with its 12 mighty basalt summits rising to 3,745 feet. Discovering the stories of conquistadores, missionaries and French settlers who shaped the history of Tahuata, the smallest inhabited island. On Hiva Oa there’s a visit to the former home of the artist Paul Gauguin, plus his grave and a replica of his ‘House of Pleasure’ and watching the sunset in the UNESCO World Heritage Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva, the most lush and distant of the islands visited on the voyage.

Aranui 5 accommodates 230 guests in 103 comfortable suites, staterooms and dormitory-style rooms, some with balconies. An onboard programme of insightful talks about life in the Marquesas takes place in the two spacious lounges, and there are also four bars – including the panoramic Skybar for relaxation. Meals are served in the dining room, where after the three-course dinners, the Aranui band performs. There is also an outdoor swimming pool, fitness room and boutique.

In 2021 a 13-day voyage on board Aranui 5 costs from Euros 4,581pp (including accommodation in a standard cabin, based on two sharing), all meals (incl. wine with meals) and scheduled excursions.

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