The start of the wave season heralds in some of the most luxurious ships to our waters.
The South Pacific, in particular, is one of our favourite island destinations, boasting crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, it really is a scene from a movie.
But what the luxury lines do to stand out from the crowd, is take their guests to the more remote parts of the islands. Because of the size of ships, and intimate setting, travelling with a luxury line means caviar on a canoe or perhaps a private dinner on the beach. We take a peek at the best island luxe areas on offer this season for cruise passengers seeking a five star tropical experience.
SILVERSEA and The Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
Think of Moby Dick, Paul Gauguin and author Herman Melville. They’re synonymous with the islands of French Polynesia – namely Fatu Hiva, the Northern and Southern islands of The Marquesas.
First settled over 1000 years ago, and European contact recorded in 1595 when the Spaniards sailed through, these islands not only dazzle with their beauty, but also carry an enormity of cultural history, attracting some of the world’s most famous artists, authors and composers.
A visit to these islands (also referred to as Hiva Oa) offers the chance to view a life size replica of Gauguin’s house in the Paul Gauguin Cultural Centre. Fatu Hiva is also a desired location for the ornate wood-carvings and tapa cloth paintings produced by the local women, and Hiva Oa is known for the handful of stunning archaeological remains.
The high volcanic and remote landscape also make for a stunning backdrop against the surrounding azure waters.
WINDSTAR and The Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia
Still in French Polynesia, luxury cruise line Windstar is seizing the famous trade winds that have enticed sailors for centuries. The tropical breezes inflate the ships’ sails, like the Wind Spirit and carry passengers through the Society Islands and Tuamotu Islands, known for their serenity and untouched beauty.
Pristine snorkelling reefs and vibrant lagoons are popular spots for day visitors and animal lovers can be delighted with rare sightings of species found nowhere else on earth in the Fakarava region.
With 78 atolls and islands making up the Tuamotu Archipelago, stretching 1600kms from east to west, this is the world’s longest chain of islands. The word Motu refers to the smaller islets in amongst the islands and are famous for drift snorkelling and diving, as well as the rare and beautiful black pearls.
OCEANIA and The Hawaiian Islands
Luxury cruise line Oceania is offering the chance to explore the best of Papua New Guinea, Hawaii’s outer islands and the islands surrounding New Caledonia. In PNG, choose between the lush rainforest and fascinating tribal cultures in the east, where human habitation dates back roughly 45,000 years. The island of Alotau is appreciated for their snorkelling and adorable small towns, as well as natural features of hot springs, mud pools, sprouting geysers and active volcanoes. Tourists can also swim under fresh waterfalls that sit at the base of stunning mountains and peninsulas.
Hawaii’s Big Island, Hilo is found on the windward side of the islands, where Oceania sets sail. The giant Kilauea Volcano is majestic and provides a plethora of lava formations to marvel at. Tourists are also left spellbound by the Akaka Falls, a waterfall that cascades into a stunning fresh water swimming hole. And the Japanese Gardens, created in the 1900’s known as the Liliuokalani Gardens offer a beautiful way to spend a day.
New Caledonia also offers an abundance of possibilities for Oceania passengers, and remains pristine with its surrounding islands, including Maré Island. This stunning natural coral atoll, created by shifting tectonic plates is a magnificent combination of lush rainforest and limestone rock that result in natural freshwater pools that glow bright azure blue. These hidden lagoons and gorgeous grottoes are framed by palm trees and French Pine trees. But it’s the locals who make this area so special when they embrace passing ships with traditional songs and welcome ceremonies filled with warmth and local wares for sale.
SEABOURN and The Orchid Isles
Luxury Cruise Line Seabourn is offering an itinerary this season that sails through the majestic Orchid Isles getting up close and personal with pristine tropical rainforests, a must for bird-lovers and for exploring remote coastlines where few tourists have trodden before. This is Indonesia at its most wild and wondrous.
Bali Barat National Park is home to around 150 species of tropical birds making this a journey for any bird-enthusiast and spells a chance to spot the Bali myna or the Bali starling with only around fifteen Bali starlings believed to exist today in the wild.
Numerous other tropical bird and eagle species can be spotted by tourists when they visit the
limestone hills of Teluk Brumbun. For passengers wanting to explore the underwater world of Indonesia, then the snorkelling off Menjangan Island is a marvel of tropical fish and coral reefs.
Passengers can choose to drive westward along the coastline to West Bali National Park where treks to mangroves and protected monsoon forests will awaken the senses. Local black and grey monkeys will entertain while lizards, chickens and birds will delight. Passengers will be shown the local plants that are used for traditional Balinese medicine, and a short local boat ride opens up a world of underwater colour at Menjangan Island, known for its snorkelling spots, filled with bright fish and electric clams.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS and French Polynesia
For a different style of tropical paradise, Tahiti’s black sand beaches are a sight to behold, up against the stunning blue waters of the South Pacific.
Raiatea is the second largest island of French Polynesia and boasts lush green valleys, filled with local tropical fruits and spices. Waterfalls and underwater playgrounds are a must for visitors. Calm bays and moorings are great for a day of water sports, while canoe rides are popular for those wishing to venture inland on the river to sight dense bamboo forests.
Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven” and “sky with soft light” is considered sacred and offers a fascinating history of ceremonies during ancient times.
Bora Bora in French Polynesia is one of the most luxurious islands in the world to visit. With five star villas floating over aqua waters, and an abundance of water sports and activities, this is a holiday-maker’s paradise.
Bora Bora, sits proudly in the centre of a colourful lagoon, surrounded by islets inside a protective coral ring, making it ideal for scuba diving, especially at Tupitipiti Point.
Or spend a day on top of the water admiring the once-volcanic Mount Otemanu. Stunning small villages, archeological sites, and old Army bunkers left over from WWII make for a popular cultural excursion, as well as the delicious local French cuisine.
CUNARD and The Trobriand Islands
The Trobriand Islands, sitting just off Papua New Guinea’s east coast is fast growing in popularity, due to its magical combination of lush rainforests, coral reefs and hidden cave systems.
Kiriwina is the largest of the Trobriand Islands and is part of the Milne Bay province, where daily life for locals is almost frozen in time. Belief systems include the idea that pregnancy is caused by ancestral spirits and magic spells play an important role in local culture. The role of local chief and also rainmaker are of upmost importance.
The local currency of the Trobriands can include the trade of root vegetables such a yam, which is also used as a building material.
The game of cricket is also a unique sport to behold here, with locals adapting it to their own rules and often becomes a vibrant, animated event.
While the Trobriand Islands remain very basic in terms of infrastructure and amenities, they make up for it with warm welcomes and advanced handicrafts and man made tools. The local handicrafts are regarded as works of art by many for their intricate designs and craftsmanship.
If you’re not snorkelling or diving a hike to Kalopa Cave is recommended, for its series of long caves that contain burial sites and skeletons filled with local legend and tales of giants and ancestors.