PHOTO: Aranui Cruises is celebrating its third decade of bringing passengers to the remotest of tropic islands. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
On Nov. 22, 1984, some 30 years ago, the freighter Aranui began taking on passengers for its 14-day circuit out of Papeete to the northern Tahitian archipelagos of French Polynesia. The Aranui 3, the third incarnation of the ship, still runs its far-ranging 14-day circuit of a far ranging region of islands that has captured the imagination of writers and artists from Paul Gauguin and Robert Louis Stevenson to Pierre Loti and Herman Melville.
When the Wong family first launched the cargo freighter in 1960, as a lifeline hauling supplies to the Tuamotu-Gambier Islands, it essentially opened these islands up to the resources of the outside world. This coming April 25, Aranui Cruises] will celebrate the anniversary of bringing cruise passengers along for the ride with a special sailing, which will include a special dinner show and firework-display, as well as commemorative giveaways.
The Aranui 3 sails 800 miles north of Tahiti to some of most spectacular and remote islands in the world. "For 30 years, Aranui has been offering discerning travelers the adventure of a lifetime across three French Polynesian archipelagos - the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands - and with transport, meals, accommodation and tours all included, it's still one of the best value ways to see Tahiti," said Jules Wong, marketing director for Aranui Cruises.
The Wong family, owners of Aranui Cruises, sensed a market for cruising in the 1980s and they spent several years modifying the ship to a mixed cargo and passenger vessel with the introduction of 12 cabins, a new galley, dining room, dormitory and other basic amenities. Since then, Aranui Cruises' vessels have carried more than 44,750 passengers, 534,511 tons of freight and sailed more than 917,800 nautical miles.
The Aranui 3 calls at Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Huka in the Marquesas, Takapoto and Rangiroa in the Tuamotus, and will add a stop at Bora Bora to its itinerary in 2015.
Each voyage includes on-shore experiences such as hikes to waterfalls and sacred ritual sites, a visit to Paul Gauguin's grave, snorkeling, picnics and more. There’s majesty though in the important job the freighter does in maintaining important cargo connection to these islands, and for passengers that’s part of the journey’s appeal.
The Aranui 3 has four different cabin categories - Suite, Deluxe, Standard and Class C - each providing different room configurations. The ship offers comfortable, air-conditioned accommodations for about 200 passengers, featuring 63 standard cabins, nine deluxe staterooms and 12 private balcony suites.
The cruise includes three meals with complimentary wine daily, guided excursions, picnics and meals on shore. Optional excursions such as scuba diving, horseback riding and fishing are additional. Prices start at $2,624 per person and do not include port tax, cruise tax and tourism tax, which may total up to $402.