Aranui 5 Sails Through Dreamy French Polynesia
ARANUI 5 FACTS & FIGURES
Company: Aranui Cruises (Compagnie Polynesienne de Transporl Maritime)
Built: Huanghai Shipbuilding Company, Rongcheng, China (hull number K-19)
Country of Registry: Tahiti
Length: 410 feet
Beam: 85 feet
Draft: 17 feet
Speed: 15 knots
Propulsion: Two 8-cylinder MAK diesels that drive twin screws
Passenger Capacity: 206 double occupancy (254 max)
Passenger Space Ratio: 55.67
Normal Crew Size: 104
Nationality of Crew: French and Polynesian officers, Polynesian crew
Cabins: 103 in seven categories, comprising 570-square-foot Presidential Suite with separate sitting area, bedroom and lounge with built-in bar, two bathrooms and a long balcony; eight 340-sq.-ft. Royal Suites with bedroom, separate sitting area and large balcony; 20 245-sq.-ft. Premium Suites with bedroom, sitting area and balcony; three 160-200-sq.-ft. Junior Suites with bedroom and sitting area, one with balcony; 24 205-sq.-ft. Superior Deluxe cabins with a balcony; seven 185-sq.-ft. Deluxe cabins with a balcony; 40 Standard Staterooms (100-180 sq. ft.) with picture window or porthole. Also four 135-sq.-ft. Class C dormitories with four berths and a sitting area, plus one 285-sq.-ft. Class C dormitory with eight berths and deck passage for local inter-island passengers.
Superior Deluxe cabins and suites come with upgraded soap, shampoo and body lotion. All staterooms have a phone, flat-screen television, hair dryer, shower gel, body lotion, soap and shower cap. Three staterooms in Superior Deluxe category have modified layouts for handicap access.
Public Rooms: Sky Bar observation lounge overlooking the bow (seats 93); Card Room (seats 10); Veranda Bar encompassing games room and library (seats 97 with additional outside seating for 38 on adjoining deck); Conference Room (seats 103); Lounge with self-service complimentary coffee and tea areas and a snack bar with for-purchase items (seats 144); Restaurant (seats 248).
Facilities/Features: Fully air-conditioned; swimming pool; two elevators; medical center; boutique; gymnasium (separate weight and car- dio rooms); Wi-Fi (only available in public areas, fees apply); spa with massage room; self-ser-vice launderette (fees apply); 220-volt, European-style outlets (converters recommended for U.S. guests); library (with volumes in French, German and English); reception lobby; tattoo service.
Money Matters: Aranui 5 operates a cashless society with all onboard purchases made via the guest’s ID card; the account is settled at the end of the voyage with a credit card (Visa, American Express) or cash payment. All onboard pricing is in French Pacific francs and a currency exchange is available onboard (fees apply). Gratuities are not customary in the region and are entirely at the guest’s discretion.
Itinerary/Fares: Regularly scheduled 13-night voyages from Papeete, Tahiti to Fakarava (Tuamotu), Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata and Hua Uka (Marquesas), returning via Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Rangiroa (Tuamotu) and Bora Bora (Society Islands). Published, per person, double occupancy rates range from $4,180 for a regular stateroom on a 10-night voyage from Nuku Hiva to Papeete to $14,130 for a single rate in a Presidential Suite for the full 13-night voyage, plus taxes.
After emigrating to Polynesia, her owners, the Wong family, started a Papeete-based freight shipping line in 1953 that led in 1960 to their acquisition of the first Aranui, a cargo ship to serve the Tliamotu and Marquesas archipelagos. In 1984, Aranui Cruises (Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime) was formed when the Aranui 1 entered service with makeshift accommodations for 27 adventure-seeking cruisers. Desire to travel to these bewitchingly beautiful islands soon exceeded supply, and the larger, 90-passenger Aranui 2 followed in 1992. As demand further increased, so did supply with the advent in 2003 of the 200-passenger Aranui 3, a modern, purpose- built combiliner that was sold off to Middle Eastern owners in 2015 when the Aranui 5 came into service. (In keeping with Chinese superstition, there was never an Aranui 4, due to its designation as an unlucky number.)
The latest Aranui is fully air-conditioned and features fore and aft stair towers and a pair of elevators that connects decks 2 through 9. The uppermost passenger level, Bridge Deck (10), is accessed via a pair of aft-situated stairs and features an observation terrace forward of the wheelhouse, which is open for visits from guests, navigation and sea conditions permitting.
Sky Deck (9) begins with the Sky Bar observation lounge, which boasts a panorama of forward-facing, full-length windows. This space is empty throughout the day, making it the ideal spot for curling up with a good book or gazing out at the sea. Although the bar opens up for happy hour, most of the evening activities take place on the terraces and in the lounges in the aft portion of the ship. Sky Deck continues with cabins and suites to a covered, horseshoe-shaped terrace overlooking the stern.
Sun Deck (8) contains more cabin and suite accommodations and an even larger stern terrace, and on Pool Deck (7) there are more accommodations that lead to a large lido deck with a saltwater swimming pool and an open-air bar. Hie pool area is especially popular late in the day when guests return from excursions to enjoy a refreshing dip or an ice-cold drink at the bar.
Veranda Deck (6) has more accommodations and the Veranda Bar, which encompasses the games room and library’, where books and DVDs are available in French, German and English, most focusing on the lore and
history of Polynesia. In addition to liquor and soft drinks, Keurig-style espressos are available for purchase at the bar, which also serves as a sheltered, open-air terrace with cushioned rattan chairs at the stem of the ship.
Boat Deck (5) has more accommodations, plus the Conference Room (where most of the English shore talks and lectures are held) and Lounge (where the French and German talks are held). The Lounge is an attractive space with its bright green furnishings, rich, wood- toned accents and banana leaf-patterned carpeting, but no less than 16 support pillars in its center severely hamper the sightlines. The room’s aft portion features a self-service tea station on the starboard side, coffee on the port side and a snack bar on the forward port side that has odd, limited hours (as listed in the daily program) and an equally limited selection of for-purchase food items.
Upper Deck (4) is dedicated to accommodations and the Restaurant, where breakfast and lunch are each offered in one leisurely seating. Breakfast consists of a buffet with eggs (scrambled, hard-boiled and usually some form of omelette or frittata), wonderful fresh fruits, bacon, fresh-baked breads, yogurt, cheeses, cold cuts and pastries. A fixed menu, full-service lunch usually includes a salad or soup, a main course (fish or meat) and a dessert. And while the Restaurant is large enough to more than handle the ship’s complement all at once, to ease the flow, early and late dinner times are staggered by a half-hour. As with lunch, dinner is a three-course affair, often featuring Polynesian and Marquesan specialties, such as poisson cru (marinated raw fish), curried goat and roasted plantains. The cuisine, while limited in selection, tends to be flavorful and well-prepared, utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients, albeit with a French flair. Those with special diets such as vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free can be accommodated with advance notice, but due to galley limitations, the Aranui 5 cannot provide kosher cuisine. Wine, beer, soft drinks and water are included with lunch and dinner, and without exception on our cruise, the wait staff was cheerful, welcoming, attentive and efficient.