May 24, 2024

Cruising to Paradise – Part One

South Pacific Cruises almost always make their first stop at the Hawaiian Islands.

Few would argue that French Polynesia is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. These farflung islands have fired the imagination of anyone who has read or watched the screen version of Mutiny on the Bounty or gazed at the Tahitian paintings of Paul Gauguin.

They range from verdant volcanic islands to palm-fringed atolls. Stretching for hundreds of miles across the South Pacific, they were once connected only by seafaring vessels. Modern visitors can travel by jet plane to Pape‘ete on the island of Tahiti, but the ultimate for many is to cruise these waters and recapture the aura of making landfall at a lush tropical island encircled by a turquoise lagoon.

Whether lounging on the beach or exploring with an inland excursion, Polynesia is one of the world’s most exotic destinations.

Several small-ship lines, such as Windstar and Paul Gauguin Cruise Line, offer round-trip cruises out of Pape‘ete and these are dedicated to French Polynesia. However, for travelers preferring to cross the Pacific Ocean by ship, there are various itineraries offered by Princess Cruises and Holland America Line. These extended voyages depart from the West Coast ports of Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and their itineraries include Hawai’i, which is the northernmost island group of Polynesia. After making a port call at Honolulu and some of the other Hawaiian islands, such as Maui and the Big Island, the ship will head south to the Polynesian islands lying south of the Equator.

Pape‘ete, a former whaling port on the island of Tahiti, is the administrative capital of French Polynesia and a major port of call. It was still a primitive paradise when the French painter Gauguin arrived in the late 1800s to “live on fish and fruit” while pursuing his art. The modern world descended on Tahiti in the 1960s when planeloads of tourists began arriving. Fortunately for cruise aficionados, ships also call at the less-developed islands, such as Moorea and Bora Bora, where passengers are tendered ashore.

What better way to experience the languid pace and pristine beauty of these islands than by slowly cruising among them. Days are spent on shore, visiting cultural sites and snorkeling in reef-protected lagoons. Nights are spent on board the ship, travelling beneath a star-filled sky.

Avatar photo About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.