All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Following breakfast, I was able to check out a few of the ARANUI 5’s eight different cabin categories. At the bottom of the tier (and not available for inspection), there are 285-square-foot eight berth dormitories with two bathrooms and a shower. There are also 135-square-foot four berth dorms.
Standard staterooms feature a porthole and measure 120-square-feet. They can be configured with two twins or a queen bed.
Deluxe and Superior Deluxe Staterooms have a private balcony and respectively measure 140- or 160-square-feet.
In addition to their verandas, Deluxe and Superior Deluxe staterooms have a safe and refrigerator.
Also not available for inspection were 160- to 200-square-foot Junior Suites, which have two picture windows.
Next up, Premium Suites measure 200-square-feet and have a bedroom with a king or two twin beds and a sitting area with a sofa bed. They also come with a fridge and safe.
My favorite staterooms are the 240-square-foot Royal Suites that occupy the forward corners of Decks 5 — 8. They feature a bedroom with two twins or a king-sized bed.
Royal Suites also have a separate living room with a sofa bed, picture windows overlooking the bow and a walk-in closet.
Royal Suite verandahs have a windbreak forward with a window overlooking the bow and an open balcony aft.
Royal Suite WCs are also a bit larger than those in lower categories.
The largest and most lavish of ARANUI 5’s staterooms is the 440-square-foot Presidential Suite on aft/starboard Sky Deck (9). Divided into three sections, it features a separate bedroom with access to the balcony.
The Presidential Suite balcony measures 130-square-feet.
Accessed via the bedroom, the Presidential Suite has a large full bath as well as a smaller powder room that is adjacent to the living room.
The Presidential Suite has its own in house coffee maker, among other “perks”.
The center portion of the Presidential Suite has a dining nook and built-in bar as well as a sofa bed.
Ideal for families, the Presidential Suite has a living room with a sitting area and enough extra space for a roll-away bed.
It was a scorching but gorgeous day with just the right amount of clouds to provide a dramatic contrast with the deep blue, equatorial sky.
I enjoyed the breeze and the hypnotic vantages of the sea from Bridge Deck.
It was also fun to linger for a while in the wheelhouse and sip a cup of coffee with the ship’s welcoming French first mate, Guillaume Acher. ARANUI 5 has an open bridge policy that is an especially nice plus on her long sea days.
I peeked at the uppermost level, Compass Deck (11) which is for crew only. There is a helipad in front of the funnel casing but not for actual landings, rather just for loading supplies.
Before heading back into passenger territory, I took a quick photo of the stern from the ship’s highest vantage.
That evening, as the embers of another beautiful sunset began to fizzle out over the ship’s wake, the ARANUI’s crew paraded out to welcome us. From there, it was off to dinner, then to reset the clock ahead by 30 minutes to Marquesan time. A very long and adventurous day at Nuku Hiva loomed.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Shortly before dawn, the ARANUI 5 had arrived at remote Taipivai on Nuku Hiva, the largest island and administrative capital of the Marquesas, which were discovered by South American tribes some 2,000 years ago before they continued onward to the lower parts of Polynesia. The Marquesas were first encountered by Europeans on July 21, 1595 when Spanish explorer Alvaro de Medana de Neira stopped at nearby Fatu Hiva. At its peak, Nuku Hiva boasted a population of up to 100,000 prior to its colonization, which basically decimated the local people with disease and rampant alcoholism. Today, the island has 2,600 residents.
Fortunately, our tour host Ita Ata (aka Steven) prepped us for our first excursion and the equatorial heat. It was already hovering near 30 Celsius (well over 90 Fahrenheit) when I stepped out on deck at 6:30 AM.
We clambered into the barges and got ready for our first “beach landing” in the same spot where Herman Melville made his initial Marquesan contact.
Steven had also warned us about the “no no’s” (tiny, bloodthirsty flies) on the beach, so we made quick work of debarking that barge, Iwo Jima style.
Moments later, we were off in 4x4s driven by the locals. Our course would take us through a long valley and then up a series of switchbacks over a verdant ridge to the first stop, the archaeological site of Kamuihei.
Kaumuihei boasts a huge banyan tree that was considered sacred in ancient Polynesian culture. The heads of captured enemy soldiers were once propped in its numerous nooks and crannies. Human sacrificial victims and those waiting to be eaten (mainly women and children) spent their last hours tied up in this and nearby tree tops.
We had time to explore the tohua or ancient gathering spot, which has been painstakingly restored over the years.
There are numerous petroglyphs on the site, which were easier to distinguish with a little water poured on them.
The mana or spiritual power of this place was almost as prevalent as the heat and humidity. As we clambered along a short network of trails, I zapped myself with some extra Heiva (a Tahitian insect repellent made from local seed oils and floral extracts) and, for good measure, some DEET-enhanced Off. Once bitten, forever shy.
Our visit concluded with a ritual dance ceremony underneath that banyan tree.
From Kamuihei, it was a short ride to the stunningly beautiful beach of Hatiheu, where Robert Louis Stevenson made his first landing in 1888. We had some free time to wander or just lay back and gaze up at the sky.
On the way back to Taipivai for lunch, we paused for a few photo stops but pictures just can’t do the place justice.
The Polynesians and especially, the Marquesans, are fond of umu-style cooking where they wrap the meat (in this case, a hog) in banana leaves and bury it for several hours atop heated stones.
In addition to the hog, there was fried fish, the ubiquitous poisson cru, roasted goat and all sorts of other local specialties like purple potatoes, delicious plantains and much more.
A momentary deluge cooled things off as we dined.
After lunch, we piled back into our various 4x4s and meandered over yet another ridge to Taoiahe, the Nuku Hiva’s main town. From the mountainside, there was yet another spectacular view, this time featuring the ARANUI 5.
The final stop on our tour was the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was constructed in 1973, replacing a prior church built in 1848 atop sacred ancient grounds.
Today’s Notre Dame is known for its rosewood carvings and stones from each of the six inhabited Marquesas islands. After a photo-op, our friendly driver Eitan returned us to the ARANUI 5, which was discharging a load of cargo at the far end of Taoiahe.
With a couple hours before the ship was due to sail (to the sheltered Taioahe anchorage, where she would spend the night), I joined a colleague for a run along the waterfront. Despite the heat, it was so nice to break free and test the legs on equatorial terrain.
We made it all the way to the other side of the bay and back, tallying up 4 miles before re-embarking ARANUI, taking a dip in the pool, having dinner and resting up for yet another full day.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Our host Rani urged us to be up on deck for the ARANUI’s arrival in Ua Pou. Those of us that heeded were so glad we did! You could practically hear the orchestral swells of Dimitry Tiomkin, Basil Poledouris or maybe even a young John Williams as we approached this otherworldly landscape pierced by a series of jagged spires.
Look closely and you might spot King Kong or one of James Bond’s nemeses hidden in the mist that slightly obscures the phalluses of Ua Pou.
We joined the 8:00 AM English-speaking hike to the white cross on the neighboring mountain.
It was well worth the view, despite the wilting heat.
From the white cross, we walked to the cultural center in the village of Hahahau where the locals had gathered to sell their wares and provide samples of the native fruits.
Once sated, I took the beach route back to the ship.
After a work out and a refreshing swim, I headed back out for some views of our unique combi-liner, which, by the way, is nicknamed the “Seventh Island” for servicing all six of the inhabited Marquesas islands.
It would also appear that her prominent bow bulb serves as a mini-island of sorts, as well.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."