Aranui Austral Islands Cruise

AranuiThe passenger-carrying freighter and mini cruiseship Aranui will cruise from Tahiti to the Austral Islands from January 19th to the 27th next year. The Aranui is well known for its regular 15-day cruises to the Marquesas Islands, and the trip to the Australs is exceptional. Passengers will have a chance to disembark on Rurutu, Rimatara, Tubuai, Raivavae, and Rapa, islands seldom seen by outsiders. Rapa is the southernmost island in the South Pacific and one of the most isolated.

Passengers travel in reasonable comfort aboard the Aranui and prices are reasonable. Standard cabins for the Australs cruise start at US$5,270 for two people or US$3,952 for single occupancy. There's also an air-conditioned "Class C" dormitory where you pay only US$1,490 per person. Add US$190 per person in taxes. These fares include all meals and most shore excursions. Of course, airfare to Tahiti is additional.

Another possibility is to take both Aranui cruises back to back. If you book the first Marquesas Islands cruise of the season (from February 3-17, 2007), you'll receive a 10 percent discount on both trips. French Polynesia only allows a one-month stay for visitors from North America, Australia, and New Zealand, so careful planning would be necessary. The Aranui usually departs Tahiti around 11 am in the morning, so if your flight arrived at Papeete on January 18th or very early on January 19th, you'd need to depart on the night of February 17th or on February 18th, immediately after the second cruise. I'm considering doing something like that myself. Update: The 2007 Australs cruise is sold out.

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