I’m not sure where to start when writing about our recent group tour to The Marquesas. There were so many new experiences and incredible sights that I know I’m not going to be able to capture them all in this report and it’s hard to do it justice!
Our group of twenty was a mix of Australians and New Zealanders from all kinds of backgrounds and it was great to get to know everyone over the first few days that we spent in Papeete. We stayed at the beautiful Te Moana Resort which was just gorgeous. I can absolutely recommend this resort – the rooms were spacious and well-appointed and the facilities and staff were excellent. The infinity pool with a swim up bar has gorgeous views across to Moorea and a stunning area for pre dinner drinks and nibbles on it’s own oasis.
I could have easily spent a week there on a lounger with my book but there were adventures to be had, so after 3 days of exploring Tahiti and Moorea, we boarded the Aranui 5 ready for our 12-day cruise up to The Marquesas Islands.
From the moment we stepped onboard the Aranui 5, the adventure began. We were welcomed by a beautiful dance group and band before we had even left port. The atmosphere on board was immediately casual, relaxed and welcoming with the crew eager to assist in any way they could.
Passengers on board were mostly in the 50+ age group, with many coming from Europe (Mainly France and Germany), Canada, America and of course Aussie’s and Kiwi’s.
I can’t adequately describe the beauty of Tahiti. The lush islands, the crystal clear lagoons, the white sand beaches – everything you see in the postcards is true. I have been to Tahiti several times and it never fails to impress.
Each stop is different and just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any better we would arrive at another island which offered something different visually. There are so many photo opportunities with incredible scenery and unspoiled landscapes. Each night the sunsets were stunning – something you just can’t do justice to on your camera.
What makes the Aranui 5 different is that it is a working freighter as well as a cruise ship. The original Aranui ship was purely a freighter, but also transported a handful of guests to the outer islands, however the call for more passenger accommodation meant that replacements ships were designed to accommodate more and more guests. The Aranui 5 now takes 254 guests and has a restaurant, bar, pool etc, but she also still carries freight to the isolated islands and their communities.
The Sky Deck was a favourite place to view the tenders and freight being on and offloaded onto the ports. From not thinking that I would be interested in the workings of the freight, I spent a lot of time watching and being amazed by the skills of the workers. There was such a variety of goods onboard for which the locals relied upon – fresh food, supplies for building, stock for the local stores. There was even a pony which spent a few days onboard travelling between the islands with a designated person to look after it onboard. If you are particularly interested and brave enough to face more heat there is an Engine Room Tour. The Open Bridge is also an excellent way to view the workings of the ship.
There were so many opportunities to be involved with the Polynesian culture onboard and ashore with the local communities. The dancing and singing in time to the drums offered something different on each island. The story-telling of their history by locals clad in gorgeous costumes was a highlight. Many of the community were involved, even some very cute children who really stole the show. Onboard Ukelele and dance lessons were offered with the crew and passengers displaying their acquired talents at the end of the cruise.
HISTORY, ART, BIRDLIFE, GARDENS
For lovers of history, art, birdlife and gardens, The Marquesas are a paradise! Churches, archeological sites, animals and birdlife are everywhere. Our group loved the plants, flora and fauna, carvings and learning about the Sacred Ancestral art.
With 3 meals a day there was no shortage of food. Lunch and dinner offered 3-course meals. Desserts were definitely a high point – I really wanted to pack the pastry chefs up and bring them home with me. The mixture of Polynesian flair and French cuisine meant there was something for everyone. If you did get hungry and needed a snack the onboard shop had chips, nuts, icecreams, and chocolate. Happy hour also provided plates of nibbles to get you through to dinner and if you fancied a burger and chips you could also order this on the pool deck. For the lobster lovers there is also an option to pre order this for dinner as an alternative to the normal menu.
There were plenty of modes of transport during our trip – 4 x 4 tours, local vehicles, tenders and of course your own feet. There were many days where walking around the villages and over the hills helped burn off the previous day's calorie intake. For any optional excursions such as the glass bottom boat you need to book early so you don’t miss out. The only excursions you paid for were things like diving or fishing.
What an amazing group of people the crew are, away from their families but they treat everyone onboard as family. Not only is your name remembered early on but also your food and drink preferences. The infectious laughs and singing while they work brings a smile to everyone's faces. There is a genuine caring for passengers whether they require assistance getting onto and off the ship from the strong tender men or if they just want to chat about the day gone by.
This was an amazing experience and I encourage anyone who has thought about doing an Aranui 5 cruise to absolutely do it! We saw and learned so much, enjoyed many a laugh and good conversation and we got to see a part of the world that most people never get to. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!