(5 p.m AEST) -- Cargo cruising has received an upgrade with the arrival of Aranui 5, a custom-built, dual-purpose freighter and passenger ship with more comfortable cabins and recreational facilities.
Sailing into its new home, Tahiti, the 254-passenger Aranui 5 sports a record number of balcony cabins for such a vessel -- more than half of the ship's rooms (60) feature a private balcony, which is five times more than offered on its predecessor, Aranui 3.
Premium and deluxe categories, as well as some single staterooms, have been added for the first time, styled with Marquesan-inspired décor and Paul Gauguin prints.
The new cruise freighter also has suites with king beds, a swimming pool with a whirlpool, fitness room, spa, and four bars including the popular Sky bar. Other airconditioned public spaces include a restaurant, two conference rooms, lounges, a library, a computer room and a boutique.
Aranui 5 cruised into Papeete yesterday, with the peaks of Moorea in the distance and a traditional water jet welcome from local tug boats. It will spend a month in port making final preparations for its inaugural voyage on December 12, which coincides with the Marquesas Art Festival, held every four years.
Aranui Cruises' regional representative for Australia and New Zealand, Laurent Wong said: “Guests travelling on our maiden voyage will truly have the trip of a lifetime as the first to enjoy the luxurious comfort of our new freighter as well as experiencing the Marquesas during a time of brilliant colour and activity."
The freighter's 14-day roundtrip cruises from Papeete will visit Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Huka in the Marquesas, Takapoto and Rangiroa in the Tuamotus and the Society Island of Bora Bora. Along the route, it dispenses food, fuel and other staples to remote island ports while passengers disembark and explore complimentary excursions such as hikes, 4WD tours, a visit to the Paul Gauguin museum and a picnic on a secluded beach in Bora Bora. Fares include all meals, excursions and wine with lunch and dinner onboard.
Aranui 5 replaces Aranui 3 -- there was no number 4 as it is considered bad luck by the third generation Tahitian-Chinese family who owns Aranui Cruises.
--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor