Paradise on a freighter

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The passenger freighter Aranui 3 is the best way to see the lush, raw beauty of the remote French Polynesian islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Marquesas. I sailed on the Dec. 13, ’03, voyage out of Papeete, Tahiti. With cabin space on board for only 200 passengers, the friendly Polynesian crew made us feel like family. Their pride in the Aranui 3 was immediately evident.

Our days were filled with new adventures led by well-trained multilingual guides. We hiked to archaeological sites, visited museums and churches and went swimming and snorkeling. One day we visited the cemetery which holds the French painter Paul Gauguin’s grave as well as that of the Belgian singer Jacques Brel.

Some landings were made by whaleboat while others were directly onto docks. Shore excursions using trucks, buses and 4-wheel-drive vehicles were included in the price. There were extra charges for scuba diving and horseback riding.

Another favorite pastime was watching the unloading and loading of cargo — a choreographed feat! The Aranui 3 is the lifeline for these islands. The size of the ship allows for visits to ports not frequented by the larger cruise ships.

Many evenings, the Aranui Band, which included the captain, entertained guests. There was also a fashion show featuring the native pareo (the local sarong for ladies) and a Polynesian night.

Picnics, some on the beach, plus meals in the island restaurants were real treats. The near-gourmet meals on board ship, served family style, were fabulous. Included with lunches and dinners was complimentary wine.

The new Aranui 3, in service less than a year, is well equipped for passenger comfort. It has a lounge/library, bars, freshwater swimming pool, boutique, exercise room and free laundry service. The cabins are spacious by cruise ship standards. There was a doctor on board as well as an English-speaking lecturer. Sophie Wong, a delightful lady who is one of the owners, served as hostess for the English-speaking guests.

Dress was informal — shorts, slacks, jeans and pareos.

Christmas Eve was celebrated poolside with a Polynesian Night buffet and a visit from Santa with gifts for the children. The ship was festively decorated for the occasion. Christmas Day was a delight with a beach picnic in an area where we enjoyed swimming and snorkeling.

Gratuities were pooled to be divided among crew members who had passenger contact. The price of the 16-day voyage was very reasonable: for a standard cabin, $3,500 per person, double occupancy, plus taxes.

This trip far exceeded my wildest expectations. The Aranui 3 sails 16 times a year, so a date would be available for any season.

For more information, call CPTM (Co. Polynesienne de Trans Maritime in San Mateo, CA, at 800/972-7268 or 650/574-2575) and ask for Sandy.

CAROYLN MULLOY
Laurel, MS

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

The passenger freighter Aranui 3 is the best way to see the lush, raw beauty of the remote French Polynesian islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Marquesas. I sailed on the Dec. 13, ’03, voyage out of Papeete, Tahiti. With cabin space on board for only 200 passengers, the friendly Polynesian crew made us feel like family. Their pride in the Aranui 3 was immediately evident.

Our days were filled with new adventures led by well-trained multilingual guides. We hiked to archaeological sites, visited museums and churches and went swimming and snorkeling. One day we visited the cemetery which holds the French painter Paul Gauguin’s grave as well as that of the Belgian singer Jacques Brel.

Some landings were made by whaleboat while others were directly onto docks. Shore excursions using trucks, buses and 4-wheel-drive vehicles were included in the price. There were extra charges for scuba diving and horseback riding.

Another favorite pastime was watching the unloading and loading of cargo — a choreographed feat! The Aranui 3 is the lifeline for these islands. The size of the ship allows for visits to ports not frequented by the larger cruise ships.

Many evenings, the Aranui Band, which included the captain, entertained guests. There was also a fashion show featuring the native pareo (the local sarong for ladies) and a Polynesian night.

Picnics, some on the beach, plus meals in the island restaurants were real treats. The near-gourmet meals on board ship, served family style, were fabulous. Included with lunches and dinners was complimentary wine.

The new Aranui 3, in service less than a year, is well equipped for passenger comfort. It has a lounge/library, bars, freshwater swimming pool, boutique, exercise room and free laundry service. The cabins are spacious by cruise ship standards. There was a doctor on board as well as an English-speaking lecturer. Sophie Wong, a delightful lady who is one of the owners, served as hostess for the English-speaking guests.

Dress was informal — shorts, slacks, jeans and pareos.

Christmas Eve was celebrated poolside with a Polynesian Night buffet and a visit from Santa with gifts for the children. The ship was festively decorated for the occasion. Christmas Day was a delight with a beach picnic in an area where we enjoyed swimming and snorkeling.

Gratuities were pooled to be divided among crew members who had passenger contact. The price of the 16-day voyage was very reasonable: for a standard cabin, $3,500 per person, double occupancy, plus taxes.

This trip far exceeded my wildest expectations. The Aranui 3 sails 16 times a year, so a date would be available for any season.

For more information, call CPTM (Co. Polynesienne de Trans Maritime in San Mateo, CA, at 800/972-7268 or 650/574-2575) and ask for Sandy.

CAROYLN MULLOY
Laurel, MS