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Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Classic Marquesas Cruise

2022 Saturday Departures - Example 12 Day Cruise aboard Aranui 5
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A Polynesian legend tells that the gods created the Marquesas Islands to be the roof of French Polynesia. Onboard the Aranui 5, travelers are taken to the heart of Polynesian culture and traditions, to islands that have remained untouched and where time seems to have stopped. In this 12-day classic Marquesas cruise, be fully immersed in all things Polynesian — from the warmth of its people to the richness of its history and culture, to the sights and sounds of its majestic islands. Explore the enchanting islands, dive into French Polynesia’s largest atoll of Tuamotu, indulge in the delectable Marquesan cuisine, and bask in the pristine beach of Bora Bora on this trip of a lifetime!
Bora Bora day 2 - private beach
  • Explore the second largest raised atoll in French Polynesia, Makatea
  • Take a stroll in the numerous villages in Marquesas Islands
  • Dive and snorkel in Tuamotu atoll, the largest in French Polynesia
  • Snorkel in the translucent lagoon of Rangiroa
  • Taste local Marquesan cuisine such as breadfruit and fei
Places Visited
  • South Pacific
  • Tahiti
  • Atuona
  • Fatu Hiva
  • French Polynesia
  • Hiva 'Oa
  • Makatea
  • Marquesas Islands
  • Nuku Hiva
  • Oceania
  • Papeete
  • Polynesia
  • Puamau
  • Rangiroa
  • Society Islands
  • Tahuata
  • Taiohae
  • Tuamotu Islands
  • Ua Huka
  • Ua Pou
Trip Type:
  • Small Ship
Activity Level: Relaxed

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Papeete, Tahiti | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Embark on Aranui 5 for this early morning departure at Papeete, Tahiti.

Day 2: Makatea or Mataiva, Tuamotu

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Surrounded by spectacular cliffs, rising 260 feet above sea level, this second largest raised atoll in French Polynesia is a sharp contrast from the typical low-lying corral-reef formation with a lagoon in the middle. It is also the only atoll in the Tuamotu with potable water which comes from its underground caves. Once a thriving island due to phosphate mining in the first half of the 20th century, it was mostly abandoned with only a few families remaining to keep watch. Today, the fewer than 100 inhabitants live from the culture of copra, fishing and the trade of coconut crabs.

Day 3: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy this day to unwind and relax on Aranui 5's sun decks or in the comfort of the air-conditioned lounge. Enjoy the views of the endless South Pacific Ocean as the vessel makes its way to the captivating Marquesas Islands. Lectures on Marquesan culture and history will send you back in time and give you full insight into this ancient civilization. During the cruise, you will also get the opportunity to learn how to move your hips like a true Tahitian! 

Day 4: Ua Pou (Hakahau)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
From the decks, observe the soaring mountain spires of Ua Pou. 

Legend refers to Ua Pou as the “pillars of the archipelago” and it is often called “The Cathedral Island”. These names become clear as the ship docks at Hakahau Bay surrounded by 12 basalt summits soaring as high as 1100 metres. Every island has its own special ambience and Ua Pou’s is one of mystery and magic. You are sure to see familiar looking faces as many of our crew members are from here. Energetic early risers can hike up the hill to the Cross for breathtaking views of the valleys and village below. The artisans’ centre is a short stroll into town and the offerings include works featuring the unique flower stone and a variety of carvings and children’s clothes. Before enjoying a Marquesan lunch, take in an excellent dance show, including the Bird Dance, a traditional Ua Pou performance.

Day 5: The Marquesas Islands: Nuku Hiva (Taiohae/Hatieu/Taipivai)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This island is the administrative centre of the Marquesas. The village of Taiohae stretches along the beach, which is like a magnificent amphitheatre created by the successive eruptions of three concentric volcanoes and dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. In the small village, all of the government services and residences, the hospital, bank and schools, are close by.  A lovely handicraft centre is located on the beach road. Your adventure in Nuku Hiva will include a tour of the Cathedral Notre Dame, famed for its stonework and wood sculptures.

In Hatiheu, you will visit the archaeological site known as Tohua Kamuihei, where public festivities once took place. Here you will see the paepae, immense stone platforms on which houses were built, and huge boulders carved with enigmatic petroglyphs. Under a giant banyan tree, enjoy a performance of traditional songs and dances, including the “Pig Dance”, which originated in Nuku Hiva. For lunch, try a traditional “Umu”, a Marquesan specialty where food is cooked in an underground oven.

Day 6: Ua Huka (Vaipe’e/Hane/Hokatu)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In this early morning light, the Aranui 5 will arrive in Ua Huka. This is one arrival not-to-be-missed! The maneuver entering the small bay and positioning the vessel for departure is truly impressive.

This island, the least inhabited in the Marquesas, is largely arid and home to many wild horses, goats and pigs. It is also a refuge for two endemic birds: the pati’oti’o and the pihiti, which are only found here. In the early morning, the Aranui 5 will execute a point-to-point 180-degree turn in the narrow mouth of Vaipaee’s Invisible Bay. With only metres to spare on either side, it is a skillful operation undertaken by the captain and the crew and is not to be missed.

From the dock, travel by 4WD to the village of Hane.  Along the way, you will stop to explore the Botanical Garden, the cultural centre Te Tumu, featuring a small museum with exquisite replicas of Marquesan artifacts, and a petroglyph museum and local woodcarvers’ studios in the fishing village of Hokatu. Look for the unusual carved black and white coconuts. In Hane, where a Marquesan lunch will be served, visit the Marine Museum beforehand and in the afternoon, hike to view red tuff tikis overlooking the bay.

Back on board, be sure to be out on the deck for more stunning views as the Aranui 5 sails along the coast of Ua Huka.

To end a perfect day, a sumptuous buffet dinner will be served on deck for your Polynesian evening under the stars.

Day 7: Hiva Oa (Atuona) & Tahuata (Kokuu)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Aranui 5 will arrive in Hiva Oa in this morning. Explore Atuona, the second largest village in Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and created some of his best work. A colonial store where he shopped as well as a replica of his infamous “House of Pleasure” and the adjoining museum are worth a visit too. Walk up the hill to the cemetery for a sweeping views of the harbor. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words: Paul Gauguin 1903. Also nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa: Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978.

In this afternoon, the ship will anchor in the small leaf-shaped island of Tahuata and delight in the fragrance of Tiare, Frangipani, and history.

In the year 1595, Spanish explorers landed in the village of Vaitahu and opened fire on a crowd of curious islanders, killing about 200. The island is also the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas in 1842. 

Beautiful Marquesan carvings and a stunning stained glass window can also be seen in the large church built by the Vatican. Tahuata is also famous for its exquisite bone and helmet shell carvings. 

Day 8: Hiva Oa (Puamau) & Tahuata (Vaitahu)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In Puamau, travel by 4WD to the most incredible archaeological site for “tikis” (ancient, human-like religious stone sculptures) outside of Easter Island. Once you reach Mea’e Iipona, your knowledgeable guides will tell you the stories of these haunting statues of ancient times. Surrounded by beautifully lush grounds, the site is overwhelming and has a lot of what Polynesians call “mana” (spiritual power). Only a small part of the site has been restored and most of it is still buried under massive trees and rocks.

After lunch on board, Aranui 5 will set sail for Tahuata, where you can enjoy a lazy afternoon relaxing at the beach or taking a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Day 9: Fatu Hiva (Omoa - Hanavave)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This is the lushest and remote island of the Marquesas. The only access is by sea since there is no airport on Fatu Hiva. It is also the island of the traditional cloth called “tapa.”

In the tranquil village of Omoa, women are pounding mulberry, banyan or breadfruit tree bark on logs. The bark is then dried and used as a canvas where the locals will paint ancient Marquesan designs. Fatu Hiva is also well-known for its hand-painted pareos (sarongs) and monoi, coconut oil infused with “Tiare Tahiti” blossoms, vanilla or sandalwood. Meet the skilled woodcarvers in the village at the large handicraft center. This will be another great opportunity to purchase Marquesan arts and souvenirs.

Before lunch, the Aranui 5 will sail to the other side of the island, the jaw-dropping Hanavave Bay, also known as the Bay of Virgins. Athletic passengers may choose to make the trip on foot. A memorable ten-mile hike will take you to the beautiful landscape of towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls. For hikers, a delicious lunch will be served at the top of a mountain. (Scale of difficulty 8/10)

For a moment of pure bliss, enjoy the romantic sunset in Hanavave Bay.

Day 10: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy sunbathing on the deck and sipping some cold drinks while the Aranui 5 is sailing through the crystal-blue waters en route to Rangiroa.

Day 11: Rangiroa (Otohu)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
From the decks, watch your approach and arrival to French Polynesia’s largest atoll and the second largest in the world. Playful dolphins can be seen greeting the ship as it enters Tiputa Pass, one of Rangiroa’s two channels.

Snorkeling and scuba diving excursions will be available (sign-up is required and an additional cost applies). Scuba diving in Rangiroa is rated as one of the best in the world (all levels welcome).

The Tuamotu atolls have a pristine environment and pure waters which are the ideal conditions for pearl farming. This will be an opportunity to visit a working pearl farm and learn how Tahiti’s famed jewel of the sea is produced. And if your dream is to bring one home, the small on-site store features a nice selection of loose and set pearls.

Should you decide not to go on any tours, enjoy Rangiroa’s white sand beach and translucent lagoon. The local “mamas” will have an excellent display of shell necklaces, key chains, and other small souvenirs for sale on the beach.

Day 12: Papeete, Tahiti | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
Disembark at Papeete, Tahiti in this morning for your continued journey home.

Photo Gallery

Lagoon of Bora Bora, French Polynesia Bora Bora day 2 - private beach Cabanas silhouette  on a Bora Bora cruise Bora Bora off-road excursion! Woman snorkeling in clear water in Bora Bora



Aranui 5

Dates & Prices

Per person starting at
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Class C
Approx. 135 sq. ft. and 285 sq. ft. Dormitory style accommodations, with two lower and two upper berths or four lower and four upper berths, porthole, one or two private bathroom with shower, wardrobe, sitting area.
Regular Stateroom aboard the Aranui 5
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Regular Stateroom
Approx. 120 sq. ft. Exterior cabin with one double bed or two twin beds, one bathroom with a shower, desk, one flat screen TV, and safe.
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Approx. 140 sq. ft. + 45 sq. ft. balcony. Exterior cabin with one double bed or two twin beds, one bathroom with a shower, make up table, desk, wardrobe, one flat screen TV, safe, under counter refrigerator, hair dryer.
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Superior Deluxe
Approx. 160 sq. ft. + 45 sq. ft. balcony. Exterior cabin with one double bed or two twin beds, one bathroom with a shower, make up table, desk, wardrobe, one flat screen TV, safe, under counter refrigerator, hair dryer.
Junior Suite aboard the Aranui 5
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Junior Suite
Approx. 200 sq. ft. Exterior cabin with a double bed or two twin beds, two windows that cannot be opened, one bathroom with a shower, make up table, desk, wardrobe, one flat screen TV, sofa bed, safe, under counter refrigerator, hair dryer.
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Premium Suite
Approx. 200 sq. ft. + 45 sq. ft. balcony. Exterior cabin with double bed or two twin beds, semi private day room with decorative screen and sofa bed, one bathroom with a shower, make up table, desk, wardrobe, flat screen TV, safe, under counter refrigerator, hair dryer.
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Royal Suite
Approx. 240 sq. ft + 100 sq. ft. balcony. Exterior cabin with a double bed or two twin beds, living room with sofa bed, semi-private bedroom with decorative screen, wardrobe, one bathroom with a shower, make up table, one flat screen TV, safe, under counter refrigerator, hair dryer.
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Presidential Suite
Approx. 440 sq. ft + 130 sq. ft. balcony. Exterior cabin with a double bed or two twin beds, living room with sofa bed, mini bar, walk-in closet, two bathrooms with a shower, make up table, desk, two flat screen TV, safe, under counter refrigerator, hair dryer.


- Fares for children traveling with parents is 50% of base fare
- Single Supplement: Not available in Single Stateroom and Class “C” Dorm
- Cruise fare does not include tourism, cruise, or port taxes, which vary by cabin type
- Triple/Quadruple occupancy - third & fourth adult sharing cabin less 25% from full tariff (Quad available in regular stateroom only)
- No one under 15 years old will be accepted in the Class “C”
- Children (14 years old and under) will be limited to no more than 15 per sailing

Cruise fare includes:
  • 11 nights accommodation in selected cabin type aboard the freighter/passenger ship Aranui 5
  • 3 meals with complimentary wine on board
  • Meals on shore are either picnics or at local restaurants
  • Guided tours

Cruise fare does not include:
  • Port, cruise and tourist taxes. Total will vary by departure and cabin type selected (please contact us for rate schedule)
  • Optional excursions such as scuba diving, fishing, horseback riding, and helicopter tours
  • Fuel surcharge
  • Any airfare
  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities and personal expenses


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