An Unusual Cruise In The South Pacific

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Many years ago, when I was between jobs, I booked a 64-day cruise around South America from Los Angeles on a passenger freighter. It held 125 passengers in cruise ship luxury. The ship belonged to the Delta Steamship Lines and was of American registry.

I have yet to take another more restful and enjoyable cruise. Over the years, passenger freighters have become few. Recently, I became aware of a very modern passenger freighter sailing out of Tahiti carrying 200 passengers, which supplies 10 islands in the Marquesas group. The ship docks in the mornings and you have most of the day to explore these out-of-the-way islands.

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Cruising on passenger freighters gives travelers the unique opportunity to travel with smaller group of people -- only 125 in the case of this particular trip -- and see lesser known spots along well-tread routes.

The ship is the Aranui 3 and features a well-equipped gym, a swimming pool, two fine bars, a library, two lounges and a full program of onboard activities. Your fare includes French wines with lunch and dinner, most shore excursions, picnics and banquets on the islands plus lectures.

There are special marine facilities onboard for fishing and snorkeling. The dining room features panoramic views with varied menus of French and Polynesian cuisine. Life onboard is never stuffy and you don't have to dress up. You're cruising through some of the most beautiful islands in the world. There is much to do or nothing to do, depending on your desires.

The ship sails from Papeete, Tahiti at 11 a.m. on the first day and the next 14 days are filled with surprises of fantastic natural tropical beauty as you stop in Fakarava, Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, Ua Huka, Nuku Hive, Rangiroa and back to Papeete at 9:30 a.m. on day 15. There are only two sea days. The rest you can spend ashore exploring these islands, which are not tourist swamped. The people are very friendly and you are welcome everywhere. This is a perfect way to escape civilization.

The ship is French registered, 386 feet long and began service in 2003. The cabins are very modern and well equipped and some have balconies. You will think you are on a cruise ship, believe me. The forward part of the ship carries freight and the aft section is for passengers.

Fares for the cruise portion of your trip are $3,657 per person for a standard outside cabin and go up from there. Several categories offer balconies and those begin at $5,198 per person. All feature private facilities. Add an additional $285 and up for taxes depending on your cabin selection on the ship.

From Los Angeles, the flight to Tahiti takes eight hours. You land in Papeete. I suggest staying a couple of days there, giving yourself time to see the beauty of that island, and be sure to take the 30-minute ferry ride over to Moorea and spend a day there. It is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. You can hire a car and guide to take you around. The food and water is safe.

This venture into the South Pacific will always be remembered. It is always summer weather with beautiful skies and the bluest water you will ever experience.

To find out more about Freighter World Cruises contact your favorite travel professional.

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