September 25, 2012 – Having been designed with passenger comfort in mind with two bars, a pool and some of the finest cuisine one could find on the seas, the Aranui III is without argument unique among cargo-passenger freighters. However, few vacationers trek to French Polynesia’s most remote archipelago for the onboard amenities. The real draw of the Marquesas Islands is the cultural experience, which starts from the moment of embarkation with a crew that is not only friendly and outgoing, most passengers cite them as the defining element of the entire travel experience.
The Marquesas Islands is not your typical travel destination, and the Aranui experience – which is crewed almost exclusively by Marquesan sailors – is just about as atypical as you can get. Unlike most ships, where uniformed crewmen follow a strict code and are discouraged from fraternizing with guests, the Aranui encourages passengers to develop friendships with its colorful crew, who are permitted to dress in plain clothes and express their own individuality. This creates a level of comradery between guests and crew that is practically unheard of elsewhere.
The conviviality aboard the Aranui is evident from the first night as passengers are invited to relax and share drinks and stories with the crew at the end of their shifts. While crewmen often engage in contests with each other over whom is most liked by passengers, the relationships they forge with travelers from all corners of the globe are genuine. When their travel mates for the past two weeks finally disembark in Tahiti at the end of the voyage, the crew are as sad to see them go as guests are sad to leave.
Some of the deepest friendships between passengers and crew continue long after the cruise has ended. The crew is delighted to receive written letters and electronic correspondence from past guests on whom they’ve made an impact. Generally, each crew member is known to maintain regular dialogue with at least 4-5 past guests. Some keep in touch with as many as 20 and have visited with old friends in their respective home countries during their own vacations.
Travelers aboard the Aranui III have many opportunities to get to know their crew, both onboard as well as onshore, where the more experienced crew members double as tour guides, showing their new friends around. These tours are unscripted and often differ based on the personality of the guide as each brings their own interests and passions into the experience.
Questions about Marquesan tattoos and their symbolism are sure to invoke prolonged conversations as each crew member shares with great enthusiasm the meaning behind their tattoos (most have at least a couple, while some are covered from head to toe). Passengers interested in getting tattooed in the Marquesas can make a reservation at the front desk and take advantage of several books on Marquesan tattoos in the ship’s library with a boat full of sailors eager to help them decide.
Toward the end of the cruise, guests are permitted to invite their favorite crewmen to join them in the main dining room – a culturally rewarding experience for passengers that brings great honor to the sailors who are selected.
“While panoramic views of the Marquesas’ volcanic island landscapes are perhaps the best selling point in our brochures, it’s our unique crew which passengers can’t stop talking about long after the journey ends,” said Jules Wong, marketing director for the Aranui III. “And since word of mouth plays such a vital role in our sales, we’ve come to the same conclusion that our passengers ultimately reach – the Aranui’s dedicated crew is our number one asset.”
Learning about the exploits of Paul Gauguin and following in the footsteps of Herman Melville as he escaped from the captivity of a cannibalistic tribe are enticing draws for prospective guests, but discovering it through the eyes of the cannibals’ descendents makes the trip truly memorable (but fear not, cannibalism has not been practiced in the Marquesas for over a century).
Rates for the 14-day expedition range from $2,234 – $5,594 per person, based on double occupancy. Rates do not include airfare, port tax, cruise tax and tourism tax, which may total up to $350 depending on stateroom category, as well as a $100 fuel surcharge.
The cruise includes three daily meals with complimentary wine, guided excursions outlined in the itinerary, picnic and meals on shore. Optional excursions such as scuba diving, horseback riding and fishing tours are additional.
To book the Aranui III “Freighter to Paradise,” call 800-972-7268 or visit