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EXPLORE THE REMOTE BEAUTY OF FRENCH POLYNESIA WITH AN ARANUI CRUISE


Aranui 1 in port
Aranui 1 in port

If you want to see some of the most isolated—and beautiful—places on Earth, consider an Aranui Cruise, which is about to mark its 40th anniversary of cargo cruising.


Aranui Cruises operates mixed freight and passenger vessels that serve the sparsely populated communities of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, providing ongoing cargo deliveries.


This year, the cruise line will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a series of events, culminating in a special birthday cruise in November.


Voyage 21 from November 16 to November 27, 2024, will be Aranui’s official 40th birthday cruise, featuring a dazzling Polynesian night at Nuku Hiva with a Marquesan show, fireworks, a local feast, and an official ceremony including partners and mayors from the Marquesas Islands.


Guests on the birthday cruise will receive unique souvenirs and enjoy special entertainment from local bands.


To celebrate the anniversary year-round, all guests who cruise on the mixed freight and passenger vessel Aranui 5 in 2024 will participate in birthday celebrations during every Polynesian Night and receive limited edition gifts.


“We are excited and proud to announce the celebration of 40 years of Aranui,” an Aranui Cruises spokesperson said.


“Serving the communities of the Marquesas Islands with our ongoing cargo deliveries, while providing countless, incredible memories for our guests and crew over the years, has truly been the experience of a lifetime.


"As we reflect on the past 40 years of adventure, we can’t help but feel incredibly grateful. 


“When we first started offering cargo cruising to the Marquesas 40 years ago, hardly anyone had heard of French Polynesia’s northern archipelago but we have watched on proudly as Aranui became an integral part of the island communities, even being called the ‘seventh’ Marquesas island by locals.


"Because of Aranui ships, many global tourists have had the chance to discover the fascinating culture, rich history and jaw-dropping beauty of these remote islands.


"And 40 years is just the beginning - we will be here to serve and sail the South Pacific for many years to come.”


To mark the occasion, Aranui Cruises worked with Australian-based filmmaker Guido Pezzimenti to create a short film which captures the spirit of Aranui and the people who call the islands home. You can view it below.



Looking Back: The History of Aranui Cruises 


Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime, also known as C.P.T.M, is a third-generation maritime company which operates the Aranui, a passenger-freighter vessel in French Polynesia.


Founded in 1954 by the patriarch of the Wong family, Mr Wing Wong, the company has been sailing and supplying the communities of French Polynesia for over six decades.


Sensing a market for a soft adventure cruise experience in the region, the company spent several years in the early 80s modifying a 40-passenger freighter into Aranui 1 - a mixed cargo and passenger vessel with 17 cabins, a galley, dining room, dormitory and basic amenities.


On its maiden voyage in November 1984, the new passenger-cargo ship carried 27 passengers on a 17-day cruise to the Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands. 


With increased demand for passenger sailings, Aranui 2, which could accommodate up to 90 passengers, made its debut in 1990. 


The custom-built Aranui 3, with 86 cabins and capacity for up to 200 passengers, followed in 2003 and cruised the South Pacific until late 2015, when it was replaced with the 254-passenger Aranui 5 (there is no Aranui 4, as the number is considered bad luck by the Tahitian-Chinese Wong family).


At the time of its first sailing and for many years after, an Aranui ship was the only way tourists could cruise to the isolated Marquesas archipelago.


To this day, Aranui remains a vital link connecting the isolated islands with the outside world, even continuing to carry cargo throughout the COVID pandemic. 


During Aranui’s traditional cargo cruise itinerary, the passenger-freighter dispenses a lifeline of food, fuel and other staples as guests disembark and explore eight islands including the six inhabited Marquesas Islands - Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Huka - and Tuamotu atolls such as Fakarava and Rangiroa. 


Historical photo of Aranui cargo
Historical photo of Aranui cargo

With a knowledgeable Polynesian crew, many who have been with the company for more than 30 years and call the Marquesas home, Aranui goes beyond the commercial aspect inherent with all shipping companies, to support the islands economically, culturally and socially. 


By providing a small and regular flow of tourists year-round for 40 years, Aranui’s presence in the Marquesas is a case study in sustainable tourism and has offered locals a reason to develop businesses and continue making traditional arts such as intricate bone and stone carvings and hand-crafted jewellery, helping to preserve ancient Polynesian customs for future generations.


Over the past 40 years, more than 79,000 guests from 35 countries have sailed on 645 voyages on an Aranui ship.


Guests have visited 25 islands from all five French Polynesian archipelagoes, as well as three islands in the Cook Islands and Pitcairn Island, while travelling a distance totalling more than 1,350,000 nautical miles.


More than 688,000 tonnes of freight have been delivered, and an estimated 5000 Polynesian tattoos inked onboard.


Aranui 3 and 5
Aranui 3 and 5

Cheers to the Next 40 Years of Adventure with Aranui Cruises 


As Aranui Cruises looks ahead, the cruise line will continue to serve the remote Polynesian population through cargo transport and authentic, immersive Polynesian cruise experiences. 


In 2024 and beyond, Aranui will continue to offer discerning travellers the adventure of a lifetime on regular roundtrip voyages from Papeete to the Marquesas Islands.


From 2025, the cruise line will expand cargo cruising to a new corner of French Polynesia, with plans to put the southern Austral Islands on the map in a similar fashion to the Marquesas, by working with the remote communities to develop their economy and tourism in a slow, sustainable way while opening up the beautiful islands for a privileged few to see.


With cargo delivery, as well as local crew, cuisine and culture, Aranui is the most authentic way to explore French Polynesia.


An Aranui cruise includes thousands of dollars’ worth of shore excursions such as hikes, visits to archaeological sites and local feasts, a weekly laundry service, three meals per day and complimentary French wine with onboard lunches and dinners. 


The current passenger-freighter, Aranui 5, features a restaurant, conference room, lounge, library, boutique, swimming pool, gym, spa, the first tattoo studio at sea and bars including the panoramic Sky bar and popular Veranda bar.

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