Avid Cruiser Voyages: The South Pacific

Nestled in the Pacific Ocean are some of the most historically significant and visually stunning islands on the planet. We’re not talking about Hawaii, as stunning as the Hawaiian Islands are. We’re referring to the magnificent splendor of the South Pacific.

Rather than being a destination in its own right, the South Pacific is a collection of islands and atolls that can be offered as an independent itinerary, or as part of longer repositioning voyages between North America’s Pacific Coast and Asia.

Paul Gauguin Cruises’ namesake ship was custom-built to sail the spectacular waters of the South Pacific. Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

The most famous South Pacific port of call is without a doubt the port of Papeete, Tahiti. Located in French Polynesia, Papeete has long been the homeport of Paul Gauguin and its intimate ship of the same name, which has specialized in South Pacific sailings almost exclusively since its launch in 1997.

While Paul Gauguin offers some fantastic and unique roundtrip sailings in the South Pacific, it is far from being the only company to offer South Pacific sailings. Many cruise lines include this vibrant region of the world in their transpacific crossings, as ships reposition from North America to Asia and Australia and New Zealand. These crossings can often last well over 30 days due to the distances that have to be covered to cross the vast Pacific Ocean. A handful of cruise lines also include the South Pacific on their westbound World Cruise sailings.

If you’re willing to do a little digging, you can find a remarkable number of voyages to this region. One-way sailings between Papeete and Hawaiian ports like Honolulu are popular not only for their relatively short length (roughly two weeks’ time) but also for the chance to experience two of the Pacific’s crown jewels in a single sailing. Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean are just a few of the lines to offer multiple departures from Hawaii to Tahiti.

Of course, if you’ve flown all the way to the South Pacific, you’ve nearly reached the beautiful countries of Australia and New Zealand, which is why a handful of cruise lines offer closed-loop sailings from each country to the South Pacific and back.

Royal Caribbean, for example, offers a 9-night itinerary in January and April of 2013 aboard Rhapsody of the Seas that departs roundtrip from Sydney, Australia and calls on Isle of Pines, New Caledonia; Lifou, Loyalty Island; Noumea, New Caledonia; and the aptly named Mystery Island in Vanuatu.

Soak up the sun in the South Pacific. Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

Don’t like to fly? Don’t worry. There are plenty of voyages that depart from mainland ports in the United States and Canada sailing roundtrip to the South Pacific, as long as you have the time to spare. Of note: Holland America’s 34-night Tahiti and the South Pacific, sailing on April 6, 2013 aboard the Oosterdam and departing from San Diego, California and concluding in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Tahiti and the South Pacific may seem remote and far-off, but they’re some of the most readily accessible voyages in the world, with ships, prices and lengths to suit any preference. Of course, their stunning natural beauty and rich cultural history doesn’t hurt, either.

Once you discover the South Pacific, you’ll certainly plan to return. No one comes away unchanged from this exotic region of the world.

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