Aranui 3

Aranui 3

Aranui 3

Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Aranui 3
Cruise Style
Ship SizeSmall

The Aranui 3 offers 2-week itineraries from Papeete to the Marquesas year-round. As a combination of passenger and cargo ship, it’s the lifeblood of the many small islands where it calls. Wine is included with both lunch and dinner. While the ship is comfortable, it’s also very casual and even includes one dorm-like multi-passenger cabin.Read More

The Aranui 3 is a mixed passenger-cargo vessel operating between Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. While the ship has most of the facilities of a typical mainstream cruise ship (restaurant, pool, gym, lounge, and library), it’s the experience of being part of the lifeblood of these distant islands that makes the journey unique. The Aranui 3 calls at ports with names few have ever heard and would be hard-pressed to find on a map: Hakahau, Taiohae, and Atuona, and the tiny settlements on the islands of Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva, and Hiva Oa. And there are half-dozen more little known ports on the itinerary. As the cargo is being unloaded at each port—and the Marquesan crew is loading on the copra, pearl shells, and other island produce—passengers are free to wander around the town or take excursions to villages where the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Herman Melville lived more than a century before. There are visits to ornate churches, artisans’ workshops, and the former house and grave of artist Paul Gauguin who spent his last years on the island of Hiva Oa. Entertainment is provided by the ship’s Polynesian musicians, and an expert on Marquesan history, anthology, art, or some other specialty subject accompanies each cruise.

A single-ship cruise line, the Aranui 3 company offers 14-day itineraries through the Marquesas Islands from Tahiti, departing every other Saturday and returning two weeks later on Friday. The ship carries both cargo and passengers and provides a lifeline to the less-visited islands in the Marquesas. Additionally, it’s the easiest and simplest way to visit a variety of these islands. It’s a one-of-a-kind ship with a mostly local, Polynesian crew.

Although the fares are not cheap, they are relatively all-inclusive. Fares include meals (with wine) and excursions in ports, and they are comparable to a land-based vacation of similar length. Alcoholic beverages and the (usually) slow Internet service are not included in the cruise rates. The only real drawback to the cruise is that the cargo needs of the ship occasionally come before the passengers’ needs, so you might have a short stay in a port in order to move more quickly to the next island that has more goods for delivery.

  • 6 passenger decks
  • 1 dining room
  • Wi-Fi
  • safe
  • refrigerator (some)
  • 1 pool
  • Gym
  • 1 bar
  • 2 lounges
  • Laundry facilities
  • laundry service
  • Internet terminal


The itinerary goes to islands that are exotic and little visited, so bragging rights are well-earned
It’s a comfortable, laid-back experience (as long as you enjoy that)
Wine is included at lunch and dinner
Both cabins and bathrooms are pretty basic, so don’t expect luxury accommodations
There’s no organized entertainment other than an occasional performance by the ship’s band
Cuisine is good but not gourmet
Internet service is particularly slow

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins


Aranui 3 has four different cabin categories—Suite, Deluxe, Standard, and “Class C” cabins—each providing different room configurations. The Suites are large outside cabins (some with a balcony) and have queen-size beds, a refrigerator, and bathroom with a tub. Deluxe Cabins are large outside cabins with a queen-size bed, refrigerator, and bathroom with a tub. Standard Cabins are outside cabins with two lower berths and bath with only a shower). The Class C option is a dormitory-style room with upper and lower berths, air-conditioning, and shared facilities. Each room has a safe.

Bathrooms are fairly basic and small; extras include complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and soap.

The ship is not wheelchair-accessible.

Food & Drink


One dining room accommodates all passengers for a buffet breakfast, open-seating lunch, and single-seating dinner at 7 pm. Passengers receive complimentary unlimited wine during lunch and dinner. While on shore, guests are sometimes provided with lunch at local restaurants or picnics provided by the crew. Also available on board is a guest lounge open 24 hours a day with a coffee and tea station, as well as a bar with other beverages available for purchase.


One main bar is on the Sun Deck and offers frozen drinks, specialty cocktails, and freshly made fruit juices in addition to wine, beer, soda, and water. Several nights throughout the 14-day trip passengers can enjoy the lively music of the Aranui Band, which is comprised of staff members from various departments on board, in the bar.

Spa & Fitness

There is no spa aboard Aranui 3.

Key cruising tips


Entered Service
Number of Cabins
Passenger Capacity
Crew Members
Passengers to Crew Ratio
Gross Tons
58 feet
386 feet
800/972–7268 or 650/574–2575

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