Enchanting Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia

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    Come explore the enchanting Marquesas Islands aboard the latest incarnation of our famed ships. Setting sail in the Winter of 2015, the new Aranui 5 represents the crowning jewel of a 30 year long pursuit of the ultimate passenger freighter.

    Redesigned and custom built with passenger comfort in mind, you will embark on a voyage of discovery following the paths of Paul Gauguin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Brel. Our Polynesian staff and crew will welcome you to these exotic, captivating islands they call home.

    The Aranui 5 continues our relaxed, friendly tradition with space to meet new friends in the bars and lounge or while relaxing on the deck or by the pool, as the islands seem to float by. If you are looking for privacy or romance, retreat to your balcony in our suites and deluxe staterooms. Watch the infinite colors of the sunset play in the sky and sea as another day draws to a close in the South Pacific.

    After a 3 course dinner, let the lively Aranui Band introduce you to Polynesian rhythms and teach you to swivel your hips to the infectious beat of the Tamure or the Tahitian Waltz.

    In these remote islands, our arrival is always met with great enthusiasm as we provide an essential link to the outside world. Copra, citrus fruit, fish and barrels of Noni are loaded and destined for Papeete.

    Watching the Aranui’s muscular crew perform their tasks like a tightly choreographed ballet is part of the attraction and charm of the voyage. Descendants of the greatest navigators of all time, the ancient Polynesians who settled these islands they called “The Land of Men”, you will get to know our lively and talented sailors as they assist you from ship to shore, on and off our whale boats and tenders. Join us as the new Aranui 5 continues to offer adventure voyaging at its best, with full amenities, seafaring stability, warm hospitality and a lifetime of unforgettable memories.

    All meals are included in the price of voyage. Meals are served in the dining room in an informal setting. Depending on the number of passengers, there will be on or two seatings. There is buffet breakfast. Lunch and dinner menus will vary depending on what fresh ingredients are available. Complimentary wine is provided at both lunch and dinner.

    For shore excursions, we will provide either a picnic lunch or a delicious meal at a local restaurant.

    Please Note:

    • Port Taxes and Charges vary depending on cabin type.
    • Single supplement, child rates and triple & quad share cabins are available – please contact us for more details.


    • Enjoy one of the most fascinating voyages anywhere on the planet
    • Visit remote islands rich in culture, history and scenic beauty
    • Be introduced to Polynesian paradise and the centuries-old customs and way-of-life that so enthralled early explorers like James Cook


    Day 01: Papeete, Tahiti (Saturday departure)
    Departure from Papeete.  There is a sense of excited anticipation on the dock as passengers board the ship and the last cargo is loaded. The voyage begins in true Polynesian style with a spirited Marquesan dance show and cocktails around the pool. As Aranui 5 heads northeast and Tahiti fades into the distance, there is plenty of time to settle in and meet your crew and fellow adventurers and get to know the ship’s lively and multitalented crew.

    Day 02: Tuamotu Archipelago – Takapoto
    After breakfast we get our first glimpse of the glittering blue lagoon of the Takapoto atoll. Once the ship has anchored, we go ashore by barge. After a short walk through the village and a visit to the brightly coloured church, we arrive at a picture-perfect white coral beach for a barbecue picnic lunch. With local musicians providing the soundtrack of the South Seas on ukulele and guitar, we spend a lazy afternoon snorkelling and swimming in the warm, translucent waters of the lagoon.

    Day 03: At Sea
    After a leisurely breakfast you might like to take a dip in the pool, sunbathe on one of the decks, indulge in a spa treatment or read or chat in the comfortable lounge. There is also a library, gym, boutique and four bars to explore, or you may choose to retreat to the privacy of your suite or stateroom and dream of the adventures that lie ahead.

    Day 04: Nuku Hiva (Taiohae-Hatiheu- Taipivai)
    At first light we sail into Taiohae’s spectacular bay, a giant volcanic crater surrounded by towering cliffs. As the Aranui 5 unloads at the dock, there is a chance to explore Taiohae, the small administrative capital of the Marquesas. After a tour of the Cathedral Notre Dame, famed for its stonework and wood sculptures, we get into 4WDs and head for the hills. Taiohae Bay is where the young sailor Herman Melville jumped ship in 1842. Following his escape route up the same winding mountain tracks and through jungle-like valleys, we arrive at the archaeological site of Kamuihei where a troupe of dancers perform in a magical setting on an ancient stone platform beneath a giant 400-year-old Banyan tree. In the village of Hatiheu we have lunch at Chez Yvonne, one of the best restaurants in the Marquesas, where the specialty is pork baked in an underground oven as well as traditional Marquesan delicacies including breadfruit, poisson cru, taro and sweet red bananas. In the afternoon we travel to the valley of Taipivai, where Melville wrote his famous book Typee. The area is dotted with stone tiki gods, sacred ritual sites (marae) and stone platforms (paepae) where the Taipi people built their houses, as well as petroglyphs of birds, turtles and fish. Meanwhile hikers can follow a steep trail to a ridge for breath-taking views of the beautiful Anaho Bay, where the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent three weeks during a South Seas voyage in 1888.

    Day 05: Ua Pou (Hakahau- Hakahetau)
    After a short overnight voyage, dawn reveals the extraordinary jagged pinnacles that have given Ua Pou the name ‘Cathedral Island’. Smiling locals turn out to greet the Aranui 5 at the dock in the small town of Hakahau. As the crew busy themselves unloading cargo, passengers can take a 40-minute walk for a bird’s eye view of the harbour before exploring the town. The cultural and agricultural centre on the waterfront is a highlight and an opportunity to taste a variety of local fruit and pick up some unique souvenirs including pieces carved from the exquisitely patterned volcanic flower stone. Before a traditional buffet lunch at Tata Rosalie’s Restaurant, we are treated to a performance by some of the finest dancers in the Marquesas, including the spectacular Bird Dance, for which Ua Pou is famed. In the afternoon we sail around the rugged northern tip of the island and drop anchor off Hakahetau where we go ashore by barge and spend a relaxed couple of hours exploring the village.

    Day 06: Tahuata (Vaitahu) & Hiva Oa (Atuona)
    Follow our expert guides to the mysterious jungle ruins of Puamau, where we visit one of the Marquesas’ most significant archaeological sites at Mea’e Ipona that is noted for its tikis (ancient human-like religious sculptures). These haunting and sometimes frightening statues remind us of the often fearsome ancient civilisations. Of particular interest is the largest tiki in the Marquesas that stands over two metres high, a six-fingered tiki that is said to hold significant spiritual power, and another that is a revered symbol of childbirth. Our next port of call is Atuona, the village where the French painter Paul Gauguin spent the last years of his life. It was also the home of Belgian singer/composer Jacques Brel who, like Gauguin, lived out his last days in this little piece of paradise. After entering Atuona harbour and docking at high tide, we visit the Gauguin and Brel museums, a replica of Gauguin’s ‘House of Pleasure’, and the final resting place of both men in the frangipani scented village cemetery high on a hill overlooking the bay. The more active can also join a one-hour hike to a spectacular viewpoint above the village or, if the weather is fi ne, sign up for an adventure on horseback. Lunch is another traditional Marquesan feast at Hoa Nui restaurant followed by free time to shop for local crafts or check out the General Store.

    Day 07: Hiva Oa (Puamau)
    This is the smallest of the Marquesas inhabited islands and was the first to trade with Europeans. Captain Cook named the island’s Resolution Bay after landing here in 1774. The huge church, built by the Vatican in the 1970s, is worth seeing for its wood carvings and stained-glass windows. The island is also famed for its bone carving and you will find plenty of bone jewellery among the handicrafts for sale here. While the Marquesans would once have carved objects from the bones of their ancestors, you will be relieved to find they now use the bones of cows, whales and pigs rather than humans! For lunch we head to Kokuu Beach, one of the most beautiful in the Marquesas, for a barbecue picnic followed by a relaxed afternoon spent swimming or lying in the shade of the pandanus trees.

    Day 08: Fatu Hiva (Omoa-Hanavave)
    The first European contact with the Marquesan people occurred here in 1595 when the Spanish, thinking they had reached the Solomon Islands, arrived at Fatu Hiva. It is the most lush and remote island of the Marquesas and also a centre of Marquesan crafts. In the village of Omoa we see women making tapa cloth in the traditional way by beating mulberry banyan or breadfruit tree bark. We are also shown how the women make the wonderfully fragrant umu hei bouquets that they wear in their hair. Ink drawings on tapa, hand-dyed pareos and monoi coconut oil are among the most highly prized souvenirs at Omoa’s arts and crafts centre. While the Aranui 5 sails up the west coast to one of the most beautiful bays in the world, the Bay of Virgins at Hanavave, those who are feeling energetic can make the 16-kilometre trip on foot. It is a moderately challenging but hugely rewarding mountain walk with a picnic stop at the top. The descent into Hanavave offers spectacular views of soaring volcanic peaks and the Aranui 5 at anchor in the bay below. Meanwhile those who have travelled to Hanavave on the ship have time to explore the village and enjoy a performance by local dancers.

    Day 09: Ua Huka (Vaipaee-Hane- Hokatu)
    Everyone gathers on deck at dawn to witness one of the most extraordinary maritime manoeuvres in the world when Aranui 5 makes a 180-degree turn in the narrow mouth of Vaipaee’s Invisible Bay. With no more than about 20 metres to spare on either side, it is a highly skilful operation in restricted waters. Once ashore, we visit an archaeology museum and an artisan market. Ua Huka is home to the Marquesas’ best wood carvers and here you will find a fantastic range of carved items including tikis, manta rays, turtles, bowls and ukuleles. The island, where the Marquesas’ first airstrip was built in 1972, is largely arid and home to many wild horses and goats. While here, we travel in flower decorated 4WDs to a large botanical garden and meet the extraordinary man behind it – Frenchman Léon Litchlé, who was mayor here for 30 years. After stopping for a wonderful dance show, we head to the restaurant Chez Celine Fournier in Hane for lunch. Tonight we all let our hair down on the pool deck for an evening of feasting, fanfare and frivolity – Polynesian night! It’s a chance to wear flowers in our hair, be entertained by fellow passengers and crew, and dance under the stars.

    Day 10: At Sea
    After an enchanting, enriching journey to the heart of Polynesian civilization, unwind or enjoy the various activities and lectures offered.

    Day 11: Rangiroa, Tuamotu Islands
    At Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world, we stop for a day of swimming and snorkelling or scuba-diving in the warm, turquoise lagoon. Described by some as an underwater jewellery box, these waters are noted for their stunning coloured corals and clouds of tropical fish. Here, there is also the chance to visit a pearl farm where you may find it hard to resist the temptation to buy the ultimate Polynesian souvenir – a perfectly formed, shimmering black pearl.

    Day 12: Society Islands – Bora Bora
    As the Aranui 5 sails into Bora Bora’s stunning blue-green lagoon, it’s not hard to see why this place is on the bucket list of so many travellers. Of all the islands in French Polynesia, it is arguably the most beautiful with its crystal waters and ring of islets emerging from the coral reef. The castle-like Mount Otemanu stands sentinel above impossibly perfect white sand beaches, and in the emerald waters a kaleidoscope of tropical fish swim among coral gardens. Here you have the opportunity to snorkel while the ship’s crew prepares a beach picnic. For an additional cost, you can sign up for a tour of the island by outrigger or bus, swim with manta rays and small sharks, go scuba-diving or take a thrilling helicopter ride over the lagoon.

    Day 13: Papeete, Tahiti
    Morning arrival in Papeete by 9:00am. Safe trip home with these memories.