Saturday, 4 June 2011

French Polynesia, The Distant Paradise


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 on Tahiti to all six inhabited islands in the Marquesas archipelago, has just released its 2012 and 2013 dates and prices, including some special discounts.

Aranui 3 offers travel in comfort. Doubling as a cozy passenger ship as well as a cargo carrier, she features 86 fully air-conditioned cabins (including 10 large suites with balconies) and can carry more than 2,000 tons of freight. Two comfortable lounges, a swimming pool and gym and 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 are being offered at a 10% discount: March 17, June 9 and, for seniors aged over 60 only, September 22, bringing the starting price down to £2,805 per person. For those planning ahead to 2013, there is a 10% early booking discount on sailings between January and March 2013 for bookings received by December 31.

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 pp return.

For more info, visit www.aranui.com or contact the UK's adventure-cruise specialists of The Cruise Line Ltd.