Article originally published in LUXURY Holidays & Corporate Travel magazine Issue 27, 2015.
Cruising in Tahiti. Three words that promise a holiday like no other. Drop them into the conversation, and wait for the envious remarks and heartfelt congratulations.
The thing is, cruising the gorgeous archipelagos that make up French Polynesia needn’t be a pastime restricted to tycoons and lottery winners. These beautiful islands are very accessible from New Zealand, and there are a growing number of cruise lines offering very attractive packages. If you long to see the sun set over Bora Bora or splash about in crystal-clear lagoons, you may be surprised at how many options there are.
As with other cruising holidays, practicality goes hand in hand with luxury. You board the ship, unpack your gear and make yourself at home in your cabin. For the next week or so you’ll be taken to a succession of stunning destinations, with no taxis or hotel check-in counters to navigate. Your water-borne hotel has everything you need, including fine dining and nightly entertainment. Every day is different but nothing’s an effort.
We’ve surveyed the latest offerings from the cruise companies that specialise in Tahiti. Here’s the pick of the tropical bunch.
The capital of French Polynesia, Papeete, is only a short plane trip away so you can be cruising the picturesque waters of the South Pacific in no time. Most cruise lines depart from the main island, soon after setting sail for the breathtakingly beautiful Tuamotu atolls, the far-flung Marquesas and the famed Society Island of Bora Bora.
As the international airline of Tahiti, Air Tahiti Nui prides itself on sharing the beautiful and unique attributes of the island nation’s culture, lifestyle and people with each and every guest, seamlessly blending the natural beauty of French Polynesia with the warmth of the Tahitian people to offer a memorable flight across the Pacific. Air Tahiti Nui offers excellent connections between Auckland and Tahiti, with three weekly flights year-round.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of their excellent connections onward to Los Angeles and France. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia is waiting for you. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of cruising amongst these impossibly beautiful tropical islands, you’ll find there’s a lot to keep you there. Chances are, you won’t want to leave.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
The fine art of cruising Paul Gauguin the artist found inspiration (and ended his days) in French Polynesia. Paul Gauguin the cruise line is equally at home in these parts. Their latest ship was specifically designed to sail the shallow seas of Tahiti and other parts of Polynesia, visiting the small ports that other ships can’t reach and providing a relaxing home for its guests. With five-star service and a selection of spacious suites and staterooms, this is a very engaging way to discover the beauties of Tahiti and the surrounding islands.
While Paul Gauguin is built on more compact lines than some of the gargantuan cruise ships that traverse the oceans, you won’t be lacking in luxuries. This ship is equipped with an extensive spa, onboard watersports marina and no fewer than three dining facilities. With cruises ranging from seven to 14 days, you’ll be surprised at how time flies. www.pgcruises.com
Powered by the trade winds Perhaps the most romantic way to discover French Polynesia is aboard Windstar’s graceful sailing yacht. A vessel like Wind Spirit is the ideal way to approach Tahiti’s deserted motus and shallow lagoons, with its billowing white sails and wide teak decks. The trade winds fill your ship’s sails as you visit one legendary island after another. Dive into warm lagoons, meander through lush rainforests and encounter one of the surviving heartlands of Polynesian culture.
The ships of the Windstar fleet are famous for their atmosphere. There are hidden nooks for quiet moments, so you can luxuriate on your own and watch the island peaks rise above the horizon. All staterooms come with ocean views, queen beds, flat-screen TV and a Bose Sound Dock for your iPod. Other onboard features include a spa, casino, lounge, library, watersports platform, pool and hot tub. www.windstarcruises.com
Cargo meets cruising Nostalgics pine for the glory days of sea travel when ships on a regular circuit supplied isolated isles. Booking a cabin on one of these workhorses offered a different type of cruise experience – one where the rhythms of a cargo ship mingled with the happy chitchat of holidaymakers.
Those days can be re-visited on the Aranui 5 – a cruise ship that also serves as a cargo freighter linking the islands of French Polynesia. With capacity for 254 passengers, the modern 126-metre long Aranui 5 offers a range of stylish accommodation options, from single staterooms to premium and deluxe categories. The ship dispenses a lifeline of food, fuel and other staples to remote island ports while passengers disembark and explore a range of complimentary excursions including hikes, 4WD sightseeing tours to main archaeological sites with lecturers, a visit to the Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel museum, and a picnic on a secluded beach in Bora Bora. www.aranui.com