Day 1 - Morning departure from Papeete, Tahiti (10:00 a.m.)
Day 2 - Takapoto, Tuamotu Archipelago - Takapoto is a small atoll with no reef pass. The ship will anchor outside the reef and you will go ashore by tender. A 15-minute walk takes you to a beautiful white sand beach for a picnic lunch and entertainment by local musicians. Enjoy the tropical fish as you swim or snorkel in the blue lagoon. Back on board in the afternoon, you set sail for Marquesas.
Day 3 - At sea - Relax with a book on one of the outside decks, swim in the small pool, or enjoy the immense South Pacific. Balmy evenings mean reading in the lounge/library or chatting in the lounge with an authority on Marquesan culture or archeology. You'll probably spend many evenings socializing in the Sky Bar with your fellow adventurers from around the world. The spirited Polynesian crew treat you like welcomed guests and proudly introduce you to their rich culture. Almost every night, they sing and strum hypnotic Polynesian rhythms on their ukuleles.
Day 4 - Nuku Hiva - Sail into Taoihae's spectacular bay, a giant volcanic amphitheater dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. As the Aranui unloads, you can explore Taiohae, the tiny administrative capital of the Marquesas. Taiohae Bay is where a 23-year-old sailor, Herman Melville and a buddy jumped a whaling ship in 1842. Follow their escape route by jeep along steep, winding dirt mountain roads to the villlage of Hatiheu to visit the archeaological site of Kamuihei. Have lunch at Yvonne's Restaurant where the specialty is pig baked in an underground oven. After lunch, travel to Taipivai (Typee) Valley. Hidden amidst the bamboo and vanilla vines are undiscovered archaeological treasures. The area is dotted with stone tiki gods and sacred ritual sites (me'ae) and immense stone platforms (paepae) where the Taipi built their houses. Enigmatic petroglyphs of birds, sacred turtles, and fish are carved on huge boulders. Hikers can take a steep trail to visit the Paeke site. Non-hikers can return to the Aranui, which is anchored in the bay, or relax on the beach. The ships whaleboats will transport you from the beach to the ship.
Day 5 - Ua Pou, Marquesas - From the deck, you'll see the soaring mountain spires of Ua Pou. Whenever the Aranui stops, villagers greet it. As the muscular crew unload supplies—from cements to sugar—and loads sacks of copra (dried coconut meat), you'll enjoy the tiny town of Hakahau with its church with a hand-carved wooden dais. You can meet some talented woodcarvers and hike up a hill for a breathtaking view of the distant cloud-covered mountains. At Rosalie's Restaurant, you'll taste your first Marquesan lunch: breadfruit, a Marquesan staple, along with curried goat, barbecued rock lobster, poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and soaked in coconut milk), taro and sweet red bananas. Enjoy an excellent dance performance including the Bird Dance, traditional to Ua Pou.
Day 6 - Tahuata - On this leaf-shaped island, the air is thick with fragrant scent of tiare, frangipani, and history. In the tiny village of Vaitahu, Spanish explorers landed in 1595 and opened fire on a crowd of curious islanders, killing about 200. When the first missionaries came in 1797, the generous local chief left his wife with missionary John Harris, with instruction that he treat her as his own wife. Harris fled the next day. Tahuata is also the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas in 1842. The huge church, built by the Vatican, is decorated with beautiful Marquesan carvings and a stained glass window featuring the Marquesan cross. The craft center features the amazing intricate carvings in bone and shell for which Tahuata is famous.
Hiva Oa - You have plenty of time to explore Atuona, the second largest village in Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and did some of his best work. You can visit the colonial store where Gauguin shopped and go into a replica of the Impressionist's infamous House of Pleasure. As you walk up a hill to the cemetery, you'll have sweeping views of the harbor. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words: Paul Gauguin 1903. Nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa: Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978. Enjoy another lavish Marquesan lunch at Hoa Nui restaurant.
Day 7 - Fatu Hiva - This is the most lush and remote island of the Marquesas. It's also a center of Marquesan crafts. Guides lead you through the village of Omoa; see women hammering mulberry, banyan or breadfruit bark on logs. They dry it, and then paint ancient Marquesan designs on their famous tapa cloth. Fatu Hiva is also well kown for its hand-painted pareus (sarongs) and monoi, a perfumed coconut oil scented with tiare blossoms and sandalwood. Skilled woodcarvers will invite you into their home/studios. The Aranui sails to the other inhabited village. Hanavave is on the Bay of the Virgins, which is one of the world's most beautiful bays. Some athletic passengers may choose to make the trip by foot. On this ten-mile hike you'll have unforgettable views of towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls.
Day 8 - Hiva Oa - Travel by foot or jeep to the most important archeological sites for tikis (ancient, human-like religious sculptures) other than Easter Island. Trained guides will show you the mysterious jungle ruins of Puamau and tell the stories of these haunting statues of an ancient civilization. Enjoy a swim at the local black sand beach if water conditions permit.
Day 9 - Ua Huka - In early morning, the ship will execute a point-to-point turn in the notable Invisible Bay of Vaipaee—not to be missed! Visit a museum with exquisite replicas of Marquesan art. Optional tours (at additional cost) will explore the island by four-wheel drive vehicles or you can choose to ride the famed Marquesan horses. Explore the mountain landscape with heart-stopping views of the Pacific. Wild horses brought from Chile in 1856 thrive there, outnumbering the islands 476 residents. Have a Marquesan lunch at a local restaurant and visit studios of wood carvers. Back on the Aranui, it's Polynesian night with dancing and buffet dinner on the decks.
Day 10 - Nuku Hiva - Ua Pou - The Aranui docks at Taiohae in the morning. You can take Le Truck to the town center and spend free time there. At noon, the ship sails to Ua Pou, returning to Hakahau. Last chance to buy Marquesan crafts!
Day 11 - At Sea
Day 12 - Rangiroa, Tuamotu Archipelago - On lovely Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world, picnic on a golden beach; swim and snorkel in a translucent lagoon. "Rangi" is an underwater jewel box with stunning colors of coral and clouds of tropical fishes. You'll have the opportunity to purchase black pearls from local black pearl farmers. These rare black pearls are French Polynesia's main economic resource.
Day 13 - Bora Bora, Society Islands - The Aranui 5 will anchor in the magnificent lagoon of Bora Bora under the watchful eye of the castle-like Mt. Otemanu, which pierces the blue sky. Bora Bora is best known for its palette of blue and green lagoon, studded by the ring of islets that make up its reef. Relax on a beautiful white sand beach or snorkel the crystal waters accompanied by colorful reef fish. Enjoy a picnic lunch prepared by the faithful crew and augmented with Tahitian dishes. Optional excursions (at additional cost) are available for scuba diving, island tours by outrigger or bus, swimming with the sharks and manta rays, or a helicopter ride over the lagoon.
Day 14 - Morning Arrival in Papeete, Tahiti.