Thursday, 12 January 2012

French Polynesian Marquesas Islands

The most remote archipelago in the world, the French Polynesian Marquesas Islands have long been an inspiration for artists, writers and adventurers who come for the region’s wild beauty and cultural heritage. Aranui 3, the only ship to sail the 2,200 mile round trip from Papeete to all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas archipelago, has just released its 2012 and 2013 dates and prices, including some special discounts.

Departing every three weeks, year-round, the Aranui 3’s 14-day adventure cruise follows in the footsteps of Paul Gauguin, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, to name just a few of its famous visitors. Famous 19th century French artist Gauguin, painted his last picture on Hiva Oa and is buried in Calvaire cemetery overlooking Atuona, capital of the south Marquesas group. The Gauguin Cultural Centre was opened in 2003 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the painter’s death and features numerous reproductions of his work and writing from his famous Tahitian period.

Aranui 3 offers travel in comfort. Doubling as a cosy passenger ship as well as a cargo carrier, she features 86 fully air-conditioned cabins (including 10 large suites with balconies), two comfortable lounges, a swimming pool and gym, while a full programme of lectures on Marquesan history, culture and art are all part of the experience. English is widely spoken onboard and all presentations are given in English and French.

The vessel, which has been in operation since 2003, delivers regular supplies - from bulldozers and beer to boats and brake pads - to the islands’ remote valleys, some of which are totally secluded and have no road access to the main villages.

While the ship’s crew loads and unloads cargo at each island destination, passengers are taken ashore by wooden whaleboat or barge and welcomed by locals with flower garlands, dancing and music. Four-wheel drive jeeps driven by locals then take participants on spectacular safaris over the mountains to explore mysterious, unspoiled jungles and to experience the fascinating and individual culture of each of the islands.

Prices for 2012 start from £3,100 per person sharing a standard twin-bedded outside cabin with private facilities, including all meals with wine, all land-based sightseeing excursions and taxes. However, during 2012, three departures on board the freighter-cum-passenger ship are being offered at a 10% discount: 17 March, 9 June and, for seniors aged over 60 only, 22 September, bringing the starting price down to £2,805 per person sharing a twin cabin.

Flights to/from Papeete, Tahiti are not included in these prices. Air France and Air Tahiti Nui fly to Papeete (via Paris and Los Angeles), with prices from around £1,750 return. 

For more booking details, be sure to check with the UK's luxury cruise specialists, The Cruise Line Ltd on 0800 008 6677.