Fans of cruising can visit many of the South Pacific's top islands, such as Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, the Tuamotus, Fiji and the Cook Islands, via cruise ship. Itineraries and ships vary by destination. Here's a sampling of what's available:
The South Pacific Region
A number of cruise ships call on the islands of the South Pacific (including lesser-known islands such as Noumea, Ouvea and Isle of Pines in New Caledonia) throughout the year as part of world cruises or on itineraries that also include Australia, New Zealand or Hawaii. These include Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Oceania and Seabourn. Paul Gauguin Cruises also does a 17-night South Pacific Discovery Cruise.
The islands of Tahiti are one of the most popular cruise destinations in the region. Several ships visit the islands. They include the m/s Paul Gauguin, a 320-passenger luxury ship, offering varied seven to 14-day itineraries within French Polynesia (including the Society, Marquesas and Tuamotu islands) and the neighboring Cook Islands year-round, as well as 13-night cruises that include Tahiti, Fiji and the Cook Islands once or twice year; the Royal Princess, a 670-passenger cruise ship, offering 10-day roundtrip sailings from Papeete and 12-day cruises between Hawaii and Papeete; and the Aranui 3, a combo freighter/passenger ship that makes scheduled two-week runs from Papeete to the Marquesas.
Fiji is not as popular a cruise destination as Tahiti, with somewhat limited options. Two small cruise operators, Blue Lagoon Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises sail between the islands and numerous operators offer yacht charters. In addition, a few large cruise ships, from Royal Caribbean, Princess and Holland America, call on Suva, Lautoka or Denarau a few times a year, as does Paul Gauguin Cruises.
The Cook Islands
Paul Gauguin Cruises offers a 11-night Cook Islands and Society Islands itinerary several times a year that calls on both Rarotonga and Aitutaki, while several of the major cruise lines, such as Holland America and Seabourn, make calls on Rarotonga from time to time on cruises from Los Angeles, Sydney or Auckland.
Papua New Guinea
One of the South Pacific's most untamed and adventurous destinations, Papua New Guinea, is accessible via 11-night sailings by Australia-based Orion Expedition Cruises, which operates culture- and adventure-centric itineraries several times a year on its two luxury expedition-class vessels Orion and Orion II.
Orion Expedition Cruises also offers 12-night itineraries that visit the islands and atolls of Micronesia, such as Truk, Yap and Palau.