Ask the average Westerner to name an area famed for it’s beautiful and exotic islands and many would name the Pacific Islands, specifically Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands.
But how accessible is this part of the globe by passenger ship? Those in the know will be aware of the service provided by the vessel Aranui 5.
It is a mixed passenger/ cargo vessel that went into service as of 12 December 2015 between Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. With a homeport of Papeete, French Polynesia, the Aranui 5 replaced the Aranui 3 which went into service in 2003. Apart from supplying cargo to the six ports in the Marquesas Islands, Aranui 5 also operates a passenger service and tourist cruise as part of its 14-day itinerary. It also stops at the islands of Rangiroa and Takapoto in the Tuamotu Islands before returning on its 13th day to the famous Society Island of Bora Bora.
The service, in fact, dates back to 1959. Most of the predecessors of the current vessel, had the name Aranui followed by a number (the name means “great highway” in the Maori language). The company has an interesting history.
Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime, also known as CPTM, is a third generation maritime company which operates the service. Founded in 1954 by the patriarch of the Wong family from Tahiti, first as Wing Man Hing and subsequently as CPTM, its ships have been plying the waters of French Polynesia for over six decades. Originally, it serviced the Tuamotu and Gambiers Archipelagos, supplying and conducting trade between these islands and Tahiti.
In 1978, the commercial line to the Marquesas Islands was added to its shipping route, and in 1984, the Aranui I was converted to accommodate passengers, creating Aranui Cruises.
At the time of its first sailing and for many years after, the Aranui was the only ship to bring tourists to the Marquesas, putting them on the map and creating an interest in this little known archipelago.
Over the past thirty years, it has helped revitalize the long forgotten Marquesan culture and contribute to the local economy by introducing these islands to nearly 45,000 international passengers, thereby establishing itself as the premier and most in-depth cruise to the Marquesas.