Tonga is made up of 171 islands (around a third of which are inhabited) and is the only remaining monarchy in the Pacific. Captain Cook came upon the islands in 1773 and was so impressed at the reception that he named them the Friendly Isles. Not much has changed since. Family, community and the church are still the backbone of daily life. The capital Nuku’alofa is the largest city in the country, though you’re still likely to see pigs and chickens roaming the streets. The Vavau group of islands is an aquatic playground with tranquil lagoons, coral reefs, deserted beaches and hidden coves. Tonga is perfect for island hopping, swimming, snorkelling or just chilling out.
Who goes there: Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, P&O World Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
Cruisers like: Tonga remains an authentic destination where life goes on in the same way it has for centuries. The country’s beaches, villages and towns are still largely untouched by major tourist developments. For an authentic taste if island life drop into the Talamahu Market in Nuku’alofa which sells fresh produce, craft work and cooked food. Catch a glimpse of the Tongan royal family at the Centenary Chapel’s regular Sunday service. Or get up early to watch the fishing boat fleet landing their catch at the colourful Tu’imatamoana Fish Market. For something really different catch up with Tonga’s famous fishing pigs who farm in the shallows north of Mu’a.
Best for: Couples, families with young children, older cruisers, adventure sports types and those who enjoy getting off the beaten track.
Getting around: Public transport options on Tonga are limited – and often confusing. Around the major towns taxis are fine, but you might consider hiring a boat and skipper when travelling around the smaller islands.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.