Aranui 5, which made her maiden voyage around French Polynesia in December 2015, will leave the Thales Australia shipyard on Garden Island on Friday looking spick-and-span after a scheduled drydock.
The fully air-conditioned, custom-built 254-passenger-cum-cargo vessel which delivers supplies to remote villages offers one of the few remaining cargo cruise experiences in the world.
There are 11 new destinations in 2021, including a maiden voyage to the Cook Islands, an expanded Pitcairn itinerary and the first dedicated Society Islands cruise.
The 2021 programme gets under way from Papeete on January 9 on a 13-day revamped cruise to the Tuamotu, Gambier and Pitcairn Islands, including a new Tuamotu atoll, Hikueru, an overnight stay at Adamstown and a maiden visit to Pitcairn’s Oeno Island, which has pristine white sand beaches.
The 13-day inaugural Cook Islands cruise departs Papeete on September 4 and the 12-day Society and Tuamotu cruise departs May 8. When Aranui 5 anchors at Makatea on May 11 during this cruise, it will be almost 50 years since the company’s last visit as a local inter-island trader during the phosphate boom. Just 8km long and 5km wide, Makatea has a population of fewer than 100.
During 2021, there will be 18 of the company’s original 13-day round cruises to the Marquesas. While Aranui 5 off-loads cargo, there is a wide range of complimentary excursions for passengers, including 4WD tours, hikes and visits to archaeological sites.
‘French Polynesia is home to some 118 islands across five archipelagos and in 2021 we will be cruising to no less than 21 of them, as well as four destinations in the Cook Islands and Pitcairn,’ Laurent Wong, regional representative Australia and New Zealand, said.
Ian Menzies, owner of the Ultimate Luxury Cruising and Adventure agency in Sydney, inspected Aranui 5 in drydock this week.
‘We have sold cruises to nearly 2,000 passengers in the five years the ship has been in service,’ Menzies said.
His verdict of the drydock: ‘Really impressive.’