Many folks know that I love small ships. And one I have always been fascinated by is the Aranui. For years the Aranui has been making 13-night round-trip voyages from Papeete, Tahiti, to the Marquesas and Tuamou Islands. Its primary function is as a cargo ship carrying essential items to those who live on those remote islands.
However, the Aranui has always carried passengers as well and if you are one of those who likes the offbeat and unusual, then this trip might be for you. It is possibly the most unusual voyage that a passenger-carrying cargo ship of this generation makes.
Since 1984, the previous two Aranuis have been taking passengers on this journey to these enchanting Polynesian islands which are accessible by few other means. These are the same islands that inspired Paul Gaughuin, Herman Melville, Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson and Thor Heyerdahl, among others, in the past.
The new 386-foot Aranui 3 has replaced the Aranui II, carrying up to 200 passengers per trip. All passenger cabins are outside with private facilities. 63 cabins are standard Category A cabins with twin lower beds. The Suites and Deluxe A cabins have a queen-sized bed, small refrigerator, and bathtub. Additionally, most of the suites have a private balcony. There are also two dormitory-style areas that are co-ed. Both rooms are inside, and outside each room are public bathrooms.
The name “Aranui” means “the great highway” in Maori. The passenger areas include comfortable air-conditioned cabins, dining room, two lounges, library, outdoor swimming pool, covered outdoor bar and grill area, and spacious outdoor deck with chairs. Washing and drying machines are available on board. The Aranui is registered in France and is owned and operated by Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime.
Unlike most passenger-carrying freighter routes of today, this unusual itinerary has only two days at sea. Also, with the exception of a few sightseeing options, the majority of the shore excursion activities are provided to passengers at no additional charge.
Some folks do not like these cruises because there is no glitz nor glamor. The food is not gourmet. The shore excursions can be a bit rugged. But I just returned from similarly “no frills” trip to the Galapagos Islands and loved every minute of it.
Technically, the Aranui 3 is considered to be a freighter and thus it is primarily booked by companies that specialize in freighter travel. In the US and Canada, those companies would be the TravLtips Cruise and Freighter Travel Association (www.travltips.com), (800) 872-8584 and Freighter World Cruises (www.freighterworld.com), (800) 531-7774.
Photos reprinted from Romar Traveler