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Review: Aranui 5 Marquesas Islands Cruise

Posted by Marilyn & Bob on July 21, 2023



To book your Aranui 5 French Polynesia cruise contact Expedition Cruise Specialists today on 1800 90 20 80 (+61 7 4041 2101 from outside Australia).


Find out more about Aranui 5


See the Marquesas Islands Itinerary


Aranui 5 Cruise Review


Marilyn & Bob from Queensland, Australia travelled on Aranui 5’s 12-day Marquesas Islands Cruise in June 2023.


Aranui 5, is the cruise ship with a difference. Actually, it has more than one difference. Firstly, it is small, no more than 250 travellers. Secondly, it also carries cargo as well as passengers. Thirdly, it goes to islands that few other ships visit. Fourthly, it has what must be the happiest crew to be found on any ship afloat.

Aranui 5 takes its cargo and passengers to various islands in French Polynesia. Our 12-day Marquesas islands cruise took us to Rangiroa and Makatea, which are part of the Tuamotus and then on to six of the Marquesan Islands: Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva. We will start with the first and last islands we visited, Rangiroa and Makatea. You could not get a greater contrast in two islands that are only 30 kilometres apart. Rangiroa is the world’s second largest atoll, just a string of small islands (motus) strung around a lagoon. This lagoon is so large in fact that I did not realise we were in one. The islands on the far side are out of sight. The one that the ship stopped at was typical of atoll islands; low, only a few metres above sea level and narrow. It was only a short walk from the lagoon to the ocean.

And now the contrasting Makatea, an ex-phosphate mining island with the reef around it only extending a few metres from the shore. The bottom drops away so sharply that ships cannot anchor there. Aranui 5 drifted gently offshore with the skipper keeping it in more or less in the same place with gentle touches to the throttles and bow thrusters. Where we landed there is only a narrow stretch of flat land. Next comes the cliffs. For most of the island these rise around 200 metres, straight up. Makatea looks quite well covered from the water but I thought it would be less so when we progressed inland. This wasn’t the case and our walk across the island, just over four kilometres, was in shade most of the way. The excursion offered the choice for passengers to walk across and back, walk across and get a ride back or go over and back in a car.





Next stop the Marquesas Islands. High, rugged and spectacular, the only variation is in the amount of green coverage.

First up, Nuku Hiva, the island which has the main town of the group. Compared with some of our later ports this was a very easy job for the skipper to bring Aranui 5 alongside the wharf. Once we loaded into a fleet of (mostly) Toyota four door utes, with extra seating in the back for another four, our convoy set off, up and down and around the island. When we were not weaving up hairpin bends, we were weaving down.  

Not to be missed on this island is the archaeological site Kamuihei, where there is a giant banyan tree with a stage below. It is where a Marquesan group performed for us, and what a performance. It is not to be missed. Lunch was typical island fare of pork, goat, chicken, fish with salads and breadfruit. This was a worthwhile excursion, as long as you are not prone to car sickness.





On to the island of Ua Pou. Impress your friends by giving this island’s name the correct pronunciation. It is called "Wapoh”. Once docked, it was all action stations for the cargo handling crew. Two small and two large forklifts were lowered to the dock and then the cargo was craned off. Numerous containers and various bits and pieces were taken ashore. Plenty of locals gathered on the dock to collect their goods. We found it very easy to just sit and watch the activity.  

But we couldn’t sit for too long as there was walking to be done. First it was up to the cross for a good view over the village and the bay. Then down in the bay, where young school children were getting lessons on paddling the outrigger canoes.  Later in the day, when school was over, a bunch of older kids came down to the dock to swim. The ship had three hawsers (thick ropes) leading from the stern to the same bollard. This gave the kids a wonderful opportunity for some fun. They would walk out on one line while hanging on to another for support. And then fall in. As I have observed on other islands, the children are lousy swimmers but are drown proof. It was good to see that the Aranui skipper was quite happy to let the kids have a lot of fun with these mooring lines.  





Next stop, Ua Huka. Definitely only a daylight manoeuvre to moor in the bay here. Two cargo barges were lowered into the water, one on either side, with the ship’s stern mooring lines on them. These barges then headed to the shore, allowing a crew member from each barge to leap ashore with the mooring lines to drop the loop over the bollard before jumping back on the barge. Not an easy task. The ship was now anchored securely in the middle of the bay. After watching a car being delivered ashore by barge it was time for the day’s activities. Into the 4WD utes for a drive to an arboretum (small botanic garden). Here we were introduced to some of the local trees and fruits. From there we were driven to a cultural museum and also a small sea museum. The latter I found very interesting. Then lunch and walk/drive back to the ship.   





After Ua Huka we went to the Island of Hiva Oa. The day’s main activity was a visit to a cemetery, getting there either by bus or foot. Here we could see the graves of both Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel. Then, back to the ship for lunch and a lazy afternoon. Anyone wanting to go to the village could catch the bus. We chose to go for a short walk near the dock and then watch the cargo handling. Nowhere near as uninteresting as it sounds. Next day an early start while the ship rounded the eastern most point of the island and anchored off Puamau. Anyone wanting to go could load into the 4WDs again and be taken to an archaeological site called Te I’lpona. This has been very well restored in a beautiful setting. Definitely worth the visit.  





That afternoon we cruised down from Hiva Oa to Tahuata and dropped the anchor in a large bay. Into the barges once again for a visit to the village of Vaitahu and the catholic church.

Our next stop was Fatu Hiva, where we anchored in the bay off the village of Omoa. This was a day for the energetic. Those who wished to do so could walk from this village over the hills to Hanavave – a hike of some 15 kilometres. Around the half way point a picnic lunch was waiting for them. While they were walking there, the ship upped anchor and motored to Hanavave. While the ship’s literature put this down as a difficult walk, the general consensus was that it was not all that difficult, the weather was on the walker’s side as it was overcast.  

Our final stop of this memorable journey was Makatea. After a busy day exploring, we motored away from the island at about 5:00 PM, heading for Papeete. Tonight was our last dinner on board, and it came with an unexpected and wonderful surprise. The dining room doors opened, and we walked in to be greeted by the kitchen and dining room staff, lined up on either side clapping us in and singing. This delightful gesture was just so Aranui. A fantastic finish to a great 12 days.





The Nitty Gritty


We learned a few things on this voyage that could be useful to other people considering this cruise.

When making the arrangements we were told that we could deposit our luggage at the dock at 9:30 AM but we could not board until 12 noon. When we dropped off our bags at about 10:30 AM, we were told we could board immediately.

Obviously, we knew we could select the type of cabin that we wanted and then, almost at the last minute, we found we could also select the deck that we wanted. If you book a cabin with a balcony we would suggest choosing the starboard side if available. The ship berths on the starboard side and passengers going ashore when anchored out also load into the barges on this side.





The captain and the other officers usually eat with the rest of the crew but if they are invited to dine with travellers they are happy to do so. Four of us made the invite and the skipper, 1st and 2nd officers and the chief engineer all dined with us. They were really nice people and we had an enjoyable evening with them talking about how the ship works, their families and life in general.

For travellers who like going hiking there are some organised hikes varying in length from four to 15 kilometres. On most islands there is a cross up on a hill which generally has a dirt road or track up to it. These lookouts typically provide wonderful views of the bay and the island.

Be warned if you want to purchase and bring handicrafts home to Australia you need to do your research as most are made of wood, seeds and tapa and may result in some questions from customs and quarantine!


Our Aranui 5 Cabin

Our cabin aboard Aranui 5 was a Superior Deluxe cabin, #8405, located on the starboard side of the ship. The most outstanding feature of our cabin was how soundproof it was. We were so surprised there was not even any noise when other people flushed their toilet. The only time we could hear voices was if we had our door to the balcony open and even then they were not loud. The cabin was much roomier than we thought it would be and with the extra space on the balcony it was very comfortable. There was more than ample space for our clothes, suitcases and bits and pieces. The en suite was also larger than anticipated and was well supplied with soap, shampoo and conditioner.





Dining Aboard Aranui 5

On our trip we were amazed at the sweets, they were exceptionally presented and the Captain shed light on this, telling us that there was an expert on board teaching their staff about desserts and presentation. How lucky were we. Fruit is always available at breakfast but if you want more it is hard to get on the islands. There is a bounty of handicrafts to buy but very little fruit, although there is plenty growing. We managed to get some occasionally.

Tahitian Poisson Cru, or ia ota in Tahitian, is the national dish and there was a demonstration on board on how to make it and a tasting after. This was the best “raw fish” dish we tasted. It was available in various iterations every time we went to restaurants on Islands for lunch. 

Unless you are a very big eater, food was plentiful with three courses for lunch and dinner and a buffet for breakfast. The food was predominantly French with some pasta and local fare. 

The three course lunches and dinners were really good. Everyone received the same entrée, main and sweets, there was no choice but this was fine as long as you were not a particularly fussy eater. The food was varied and very nice, we never heard anyone complain about it. Travellers with special dietary needs were catered for. The wines were all French – reds and whites. They did somewhat match wines with the meal, ie whites with fish, but we were able to change this if we wanted reds. There was one bottle shared between four travellers each meal, and after that bottle was finished you had to pay for more. I was lucky because Bob does not drink wine, so I only had to share with three people!  

There were tables for two, four, six or eight people and I think the tables could be adjusted to larger groups. It wasn’t necessary to reserve a table, you sat where you wanted to. We occasionally arrived later for dinner and so chose to sit with a French couple. As we don’t have any French language skills it was up to them to test their English, which they did and were most gracious as their English was not that good. 





Dress Code aboard Aranui 5

Dress was casual at all times on the ship. Aranui 5’s cabins are air-conditioned with little or minimal adjustment, so if you feel the cold then you need to take this in to account. In the bar, dining room and all other inside areas of the ship are air conditioned, so once again dress according to your needs. For excursions on shore, long skirts are not a good idea because of getting in and out of the barges and the utes that go to various places. Of course, when walking light clothes are a good idea. We did not have any trouble with flies, mosquitoes, sand flies etc.

Medical Team

There was a Doctor and Nurse who not only attended to people on the ship but came along on all excursions with their very big medical kit container. One of them always went on the hikes, we were most impressed.

Aranui 5 Pool

The ship’s pool was small, which is to be expected, and people did not go in it when the ship was moving as the water sloshed about. It had good stairs to accommodate older people. 


Our Verdict


It was a fantastic cruise, we really enjoyed it and would recommend other people to seriously consider doing this trip. Aranui 5 is an excellent ship going to out-of-the-way but worthwhile places to visit. The other group that contributed to us having a good time were the other passengers. They were a diverse group, from different countries and backgrounds. People were very friendly and we made some good friends who we will keep in contact with.



Marilyn & Bob (above with Wenda from Aranui Cruises) travelled on Aranui 5’s 12-day Marquesas Islands cruise in June 2023. 

Some photography in this review has been provided by Marilyn & Bob, other images have been sourced from Aranui Cruises. Images may not be reproduced without consent from the photographers.

Coral Expeditions launches Culinary Adventures

Posted by Andrew Castles on July 14, 2023


Sure to appeal to explorers and ‘foodies’ alike, Australia’s Coral Expeditions has launched two new culinary expeditions setting sail in late 2024. Discovering Western Australia’s beautiful South-west region, the ‘Whales & Trails’ cruise includes gourmet experiences in the Margaret River wine region, while the ‘Bounty of the Southern Ocean’ programme follows a food and wine tasting-trail between Adelaide and Melbourne.

Travellers will cruise aboard Coral Expeditions’ blue-water flagship, the 120-passenger Coral Adventurer. Launched in 2019, this expedition ship was purpose-built for cruising in the waters of Australia and the South Pacific and features five stateroom grades, ample deck space and common areas, a flexible range of excursion tenders and an attentive Australian & New Zealand crew, including the best expedition teams in the business.


Whales & Trails of Western Australia

10 Nights Fremantle to Fremantle aboard Coral Adventurer

Departs Fremantle 05 October 2024


See the Itinerary


In partnership with Australian Geographic, this inaugural Whales and Trails expedition explores the imposing South-West coastline with adventures on both land and sea. Following the migratory trail of the Humpback, Southern Right and Blue whales, travellers will step ashore each day to experience the renowned vineyards of Margaret River, sections of the iconic Cape to Cape coastal walk and short walks amongst the native wildflowers in full springtime bloom around Dunsborough and Albany. 

In Esperance, travellers will be able to stroll the silica white sands at Lucky Bay – voted #1 Beach in the world. Expert guides will lead the way and share connections with traditional owners in small coastal communities and learn of their history and heritage.  



A highlight of this expedition will undoubtedly be the signature winemakers dinner event at famed Leeuwin Estate Winery. This unique dining event will pair Leeuwin Estate’s exceptional “Art Series” wines with a six-course menu featuring locally-grown regional cuisine.



Expedition Highlights


·      Whale watching at Flinders Bay, renowned for its frequent whale sightings and explore the sheltered haven of Point Ann in search of Southern Right Whales and their calves

·      Enjoy a swim in the pristine waters of Hamelin Bay, surrounded by the curious stingrays and other marine species

·      Traversing the scenic coastal vistas on a morning trek along a section of the renowned Cape to Cape trail

·      Walk among native wildflowers in bloom around the coastal landscapes from Dunsborough to Esperance

·      Stroll the silica white sands in the company of native kangaroos at Lucky Bay – voted #1 Beach in the world

·      Learn about Indigenous coastal culture and traditions of the region and share stories whilst we forage for native tucker on ancestral lands

·      Wander the community led Art Trail of Ravensthorpe and hear how collective community engagement has changed the face of this historic goldfield’s town

·      Gain valuable insights from onboard Guest Lecturers Micheline and Curt Jenner who will share their scientific and conservation knowledge of whale research in Western Australia.


Expedition Prices

Prices are per person, twin share in Australian Dollars. Enquire for single traveller prices.


Coral Deck Stateroom: $9,200 per person

Promenade Deck Stateroom: $11,100 per person

Explorer Deck Balcony Stateroom: $14,600 per person

Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom: $16,300 per person

Bridge Deck Suite: $20,800 per person





Bounty of the Southern Ocean

8 Nights Adelaide to Melbourne aboard Coral Adventurer

Departs Adelaide 01 December 2024


See the itinerary



You’ll savour the freshest of seafoods, experience native ingredients and organic produce accompanied by world class wines, craft brews and artisanal spirits on this 8 night expedition from Adelaide to Melbourne. Foodies will love the opportunity to Indulge in wild ocean farmed abalone on Kangaroo Island and freshly caught Australian lobster in the traditional fishing outpost of Robe. You will also about the myriad culinary and medicinal uses of fungi, and sample native indigenous bush ingredients found in the wild. A highlight will be the opportunity to meet passionate local producers, growers and distillers and share their handicrafts and stories while sampling their artisan products. Connect with nature as they enjoy a leisurely circumnavigation around the remote seal colony of Lady Julia Percy Island and take in the spectacle of a sunset sail by of Victoria’s famed Twelve Apostles. Coral Adventurer’s expert guides will lead the way and will be joined onboard and ashore by local characters.



Enjoy a special ‘Tastes of the Southern Ocean’ dinner onboard Coral Adventurer in the historic fishing township of Port McDonnell. Hosted by a preeminent regional chef and showcasing the best of South Australian premium wines including pairings from Eden Valley, Barossa, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. 



Expedition Highlights

·      On Kangaroo Island sample award-winning, locally farmed sustainable Abalone and taste locally made wines and regional produce

·      Indulge in freshly caught Australian Lobster in the quaint fishing port of Robe and explore the old-world charm of this historic town 

·      Discover the remarkable world of fungi as you learn about their ecological importance and myriad uses with an off-the-grid entrepreneur 

·      Savour artisanal produce paired with premium wines at a local vineyard in the Limestone Coast

·      Circumnavigate a remote island seal colony?on Lady Julia Percy Island  

·      Discover indigenous hinterland bush food and hear how local families seek to educate on the viability of endemic species in food production

·      Learn about the innovative cooperative approach to sustainable agribusiness on the Great Ocean Road  

·      Sail past the Twelve Apostles at sunset and raise a glass to this iconic landscape

·      Enjoy guided walks through the protected wetlands of Phillip Island, understanding the importance of this sensitive and essential ecosystem

·      Hear from a passionate chef, one of the forerunners of championing wild foods as you dine on locally sourced Philip Island produce.


EARLYBIRD SAVINGS: Take 10% off the below prices when you book and deposit this expedition by 31 July 2023.


Expedition Prices

Prices are per person, twin share in Australian Dollars. Enquire for single traveller prices.


Coral Deck Stateroom: $7,300 per person

Promenade Deck Stateroom: $8,800 per person

Explorer Deck Balcony Stateroom: $11,700 per person

Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom: $12,850 per person

Bridge Deck Suite: $16,500 per person


To find out more about these new culinary expeditions, or secure your place, contact the team at Expedition Cruise Specialists today on 1800 90 20 80 or email us.


Swan Hellenic Launches 2024 Schedule with 20% Savings

Posted by Andrew Castles on July 04, 2023


For 70 years, the name Swan Hellenic has been synonymous with small ship discovery cruises, and their long and storied history continues in 2024 with a range of expedition cruises around the world aboard their state-of-the-art expedition ships. And, for a limited time, you can save 20% on a selection of expeditions when you book and deposit your 2024 cruise with Expedition Cruise Specialists before 31 July 2023.


See the full 2024 Swan Hellenic Cruise Calendar


The newly-minted 2024 schedule features an exciting range of culturally-rich and wildlife-focussed itineraries from eight to 21 days in duration to all corners of the globe. A highlight of the year-round schedule is the addition of two new cruise destinations for Swan Hellenic, with new expeditions scheduled for both Cuba and West Africa’s Bijagós Islands. Of course there’s polar expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic on offer, making use of the ships’ highly-rated Polar Code classifications, and an incredible range of ‘Rest of the World’ cruises exploring exclusive exploration opportunities in areas such as Brazil, Africa, Madagascar and the Mediterranean


Featured Itineraries


NEW Cuba Discovery Itinerary - departs 30 April 2024

Set sail on this 10-day Cuba Discovery cruise aboard the new SH Diana and explore the unique heritage of Cuba.


NEW West Africa’s Bijagós Islands - departs 30 April 2024

Explore the remote beauty of West Africa's Bijagós Islands on a captivating 9-day expedition aboard the new SH Vega.


Secrets of Sicily - departs 20 August 2024

Discover history at the heart of the Mediterranean on this fascinating 9-day Sicily Highlights with Malta & Lipari cruise on board the new SH Diana.


From Magna Graecia to Greece - departs 28 August 2024

Imagine sailing through the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, discovering ancient cities, charming islands, and stunning landscapes aboard a new luxury ship.


Extraordinary South Africa - departs 06 November 2024

Explore the best of South Africa abroad the 5-star expedition ship SH Diana on this 8-day South Africa Discovery cruise.




Swan Hellenic Cruises operates a fleet of three modern expedition ships, all launched in the past two years. Sister-ships SH Vega & SH Minerva accommodate just 152 expeditioners in a range of suites and cabins, will the slightly larger SH Diana maxes out at 192 travellers. All three of these boutique ships feature the same distinctive comfort and Scandi-design interiors, extensive deck space and dedicated expedition facilities, including a dedicated presentation and lecture theatre, and an expedition mud room. 

All three ships feature three dining venues from which to choose – the Swan Restaurant, Club Lounge and Pool Bar & Grill, and there’s also a state-of-the-art gym, spa, panoramic sauna, club room and swimming pool.


See a Swan Hellenic Sample Dinner Menu



Over recent years, there has been what you might call an arms race in the design of new expedition ships, where the focus is seemingly on ‘more and more of everything’. More restaurants to choose from, more entertainment options, more gadgets and more travellers. While this change has made the concept of expedition cruising more (there’s that word again) accessible to more travellers it can result in the expedition experience being diluted and the destination becoming less important than the ship itself. Gladly, I don’t see Swan Hellenic falling into this trap.

Speaking to Swan Hellenic’s Australia & New Zealand General Manager Brigita Devries recently, it was evident to me that while Swan Hellenic’s ships have all the bells and whistles travellers desire in 2023, it’s still the love of exploration and true expedition cruising that drives the company. Brigita assured me that the focus would always be about maximising the expedition experience, if lunch had to be delayed for a wildlife viewing experience, or a day’s itinerary changed to take advantage of a local festival, the expedition experience will always take precedence.


To find out more about Swan Hellenic’s 2024 cruise schedule, and how you can save up to 20% off brochure fares when you book by 31 July 2023, contact the knowledgeable team at Expedition Cruise Specialists today on 1800 90 20 80.