Cathy and I are freshly back from French Polynesia. After Bora Bora , the Aranui 5 was our home for 12 days as we and 180 other passengers traveled to the beautiful, remote, rugged and friendly islands of the Marquesas Archipeligo. Talking about our ship experience seems like the right place to start.
The Aranui 5 brochures are accurate. The primary mission is to move freight. Each day is organized around the logistics of moving freight on and off the ship either by crane or barge. Some folks may find this an imposition. We considered it entertainment. There is a great view of the action from the Sky Lounge / Bar. An excavator was the largest item we saw loaded. You could feel the relief of the crew when that was successfully craned onto the ship. Other freight included lumber, frozen food, cars & trucks, fuel and a Ferrari red 6 person racing canoe with outrigger. Canoe racing is a sport of choice for inter island rivalries and this canoe looks like a winner.
Aranui 5 is a mid size ship without stabalizers and so it sways way more than a cruise ship in open seas. Bring your medication of choice for sea sickness.
That said, Aranui 5 is the only option to travel to the most remote of the islands that we visited, so how was our experience. The bottom line is that we enjoyed being passengers. Our cabin was a port side Superior Room with Balcony (#9432). We recommend that you book on the port side as we had the best views of the islands when at anchorage. Our cabin was well sized with excellent storage. Cabin service was excellent and friendly, and a big plus is free laundry twice during the trip.
The cuisine is distinctly seafood oriented with a set menu served plated for lunch and dinner. This suited us fine, and the quality of wine, food and baking is excellent and French influenced. Breakfasts are buffet style with continental and full British choices. Three lunches were onshore as part of 4×4 tours, highlighted by local foods prepared by local community groups. More about this in a followup blog.
The Aranui 5 stopped at 8 different islands. In most cases, the ship anchored in the lagoon inside the reef, and we barged to the pier. In one instance we barged right onto the beach. The barge and ship pitched a lot in the choppy seas. Getting into and out of the barge required some balance and timing. Cathy and I could not believe how the ship crew assisted even the most infirm without incident. This was not their first rodeo.
Watch for some followup blogs more focussed on the islands and their people, and of course the legendary South Pacific sunrises and sunsets.
Enough talk, here are some pictures of the ship experience.
Cathy and I fly into Papeete from Toronto via San Francisco on United. After overnighting in Papeete, we take a 1 hour flight on Air Tahiti to Bora Bora for a 5 day stay. Returning to Papeete, we board the Aranui 5, a hybrid freighter passenger ship for a 12 day, 3000+ kilometer round trip through the Tuamotu and Marquesas Archipelagos (map below). We spend our last night in French Polynesia on the island of Moorea, a short ferry ride from Papeete.