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Is Aranui 5 the most authentic way to experience French Polynesia?

For more than 30 years, Aranui has been offering discerning travellers the adventure of a lifetime across the South Pacific. Explore remote islands, hike to sacred sites and follow in the footsteps of Bounty mutineers. 

The operator of mixed passenger-freighter vessel Aranui 5, Aranui Cruises is the world’s only soft adventure cruise provider to sail the virtually untouched Marquesas Islands. It provides a regular passenger-cargo voyage between Tahiti’s northern archipelagoes.

With local crew, cuisine and culture, Aranui is the only way to have a truly authentic French Polynesian experience at sea. The cruise line is run by French Polynesians for French Polynesia.

From the moment you board, enjoy a full immersion into the vibrant culture. You’ll have the chance to get a tatau, the ultimate Marquesas souvenir, in Aranui’s tattoo studio. Plus, a special insider’s view of some of the most remote places in the world. Allow the locals to show you around their island home.

Aranui 5: The “seventh” island

During a regular 3800-kilometre roundtrip voyage from Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands, the dual-purpose ship delivers freight to some of the most isolated islands in the world.

While visiting the six inhabited Marquesas Islands – Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva and Hiva Oa – Aranui 5’s sailors and crew unload cargo to an audience of eager villagers. Food, fishing equipment, electronics, building materials and vehicles are replaced with a bounty of island produce. This includes limes, coconuts, copra (dried coconut), fruit and fish, for the return journey to Tahiti.

While the crew unloads, guests spend the day exploring remote ports on 4WD adventures through winding mountain tracks and hikes to sacred sites. There’s also the opportunity to feast in local villages and witness brilliant displays of Marquesan culture. As a lifeline to the outside world, Aranui is a vital part of Marquesan life. So much so, locals often refer to the ship as the seventh island.

Aranui 5 at Ua Huka
Aranui 5 at Ua Huka © Aranui Cruises

Follow art and literary legends

French Polynesia’s Marquesas Archipelago is one of the most remote island groups in the world. It lies 1400 kilometres northeast of Tahiti and around 4800 kilometres away from the west coast of Mexico, the nearest continental land mass. For the past 60 years, Aranui, which translates as ‘The Great Highway’, has maintained a vital lifeline between the remote Marquesas and the outside world.

In the 1980s, Aranui started taking passengers along for the ride offering the rare chance to walk in the footsteps of art and literary legends such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Herman Melville and Paul Gauguin. With a regular, sustainable, flow of tourists year-round, locals have had a reason to continue making traditional arts and crafts. These include intricate bone and stone carvings and hand-crafted jewellery. This practice helps to preserve ancient Polynesian customs for future generations.

Aranui’s traditional Marquesas Islands itinerary sails roundtrip from Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, to the Marquesas Islands via the Tuamotus and Bora Bora.

Where Bounty mutineers sailed

Aranui offers adventures to every corner of the vast South Pacific. From Adamstown to Aitutaki and all five of French Polynesia’s stunning archipelagos. During Discovery voyages (where no freight is delivered), guests can take the ultimate seafaring adventure. Follow in the footsteps of the Bounty mutineers to Pitcairn Island via Hikueru, Anaa and Amanu in the Tuamotus and Mangareva and Aukena in the Gambier Islands.

Special cruises south offer the chance to be among the first to explore French Polynesia’s beautiful up-and-coming southern archipelago, the Australs. Located almost 500 kilometres south of Tahiti, the seldom visited Austral Islands are the missing link in the evolution of the Polynesian Triangle. Aranui’s dedicated Australs cruise visits Rapa Iti, the little sister of Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) as well as Raivavae – the Bora Bora of the south, Tubuai, Rurutu, and remote Rimatara. Aranui also offers itineraries to the Cook Islands via Raiatea and Bora Bora.

Raivavae arrival Aranui 5 guests credit Lionel Gouverneur
Arriving at Raivavae © Lionel Gouverneur

Onboard Aranui 5

When you aren’t ashore, you’ll be onboard immersed in Polynesian culture. Discover how to weave, dance, wrap a pareo, play the ukulele, and even draw your own tatau, a tradition that originated in the Marquesas.

There is also plenty of time to sit back and relax. Sunbathe on the deck with a good book in hand or swim in the pool. Enjoy exotic tropical drinks from the Veranda Bar overlooking the aft of the ship – the ideal location for an evening aperitif. Or for panoramic views, the Sky Bar offers a great vantage point to watch the cargo deck and the ocean beyond.

Peruse the library for a seafaring classic like Melville’s Moby Dick or Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Indulge in a lush spa treatment or mark your special adventure with a tattoo at the first tattoo studio at sea. The 126-metre dual-purpose ship also features conference rooms, a boutique and a gym.

Aranui 5 accommodation

Capable of carrying 250 passengers in air-conditioned comfort, Aranui 5 offers a range of accommodation options. Choose between a stateroom, premium or deluxe categories. Or for an ultra-luxe experience, book the Presidential Suite.

More than half of the ship’s rooms feature a private balcony and all are styled with a Polynesian flourish. Expect vibrant, tropical colours and traditional patterns and natural woods.

What’s included in an Aranui fare?

Packed with value, an Aranui 5 cruise includes:

  • shore excursions
  • related taxes (tourist, port, fuel, TDC)
  • three meals per day
  • lunch in local restaurants
  • complimentary French wine with onboard lunches and dinners
  • cultural dance shows
  • lecturers onsite and onboard
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