Day 1 – Papeete Aranui Cruise 2010

Day 1: April 7 – Depart Papeete

We had to wake up very early in the morning from Bora Bora (4:30 AM) in order to get to Papeete in time for the start of our trip to the Marquesas. Because we were to board the ship between 7:30 and 10 AM we scheduled ourselves to leave on the first 50-minute flight from Bora Bora at 7 AM. Since the airport in Bora Bora is on an island this meant the shuttle boat was to leave at 5:45 in the morning from the main town. Although the 20-minute shuttle didn’t really leave until 6 AM we had plenty of time to check in for our flight and purchase a few postcards at the airport gift shop.

We were met upon our arrival in Papeete by a friend who was kind enough to drive us to the bank and then to the Aranui 3 port. The Aranui 3 is a half cargo and half cruise ship that makes a number of 15-day voyages annually to deliver goods and bring passengers to the Marquesas Islands. The original Aranui that serviced the Marquesas Islands is almost 40 years old and has since been renamed. It doesn’t, however, handle long trips as it now only services areas around Papeete. The Aranui 2 was sold to a company in Africa where it is still in use today.

The Aranui 3 follows its predecessors in servicing the Marquesas Islands with the goods they need. The front half of the Aranui 3 can hold up to 4000 tons of cargo and is complete with two large cranes that can together load and unload up to 70 tons at a time. The main purpose of the ship is to transport cargo to the Marquesas Islands. Although it does transport copra, noni, and other goods back to Tahiti, for the most part, the ship simply carries 3000 tons of seawater back which simply helps balance the ship for the return voyage.

When we arrived at the cruise terminal it was amazing to see the cargo ship in action as it prepared itself for its voyage to the Marquesas Islands. Cargo was busily being loaded and prepared for the voyage with the use of the two large cranes on the front deck. Passengers loaded their bags onto a conveyor belt in the rear of the ship that wisked belongings up to an attendant on the main deck of the ship who then transported them to the rooms. On the cruise section of the vessel, it can accommodate up to 180 passengers although on our particular voyage there are only about 110 cruise passengers due to us traveling in low season. Both the front half of the ship and the back half of the ship were both working simultaneously to prepare for the launch of the trip. Everyone seemed to be working smoothly to achieve their respective tasks essential for the voyage.

After checking on the boat we had a bit of time before a 10 AM welcome cocktail in the bar on one of the top decks of the ship. Our children were happy to sit down with some fresh Tahitian made Mango, Banana, Pineapple or Grapefruit Juice while other passengers enjoyed a Rum Punch. It was also at this time that we really started to enjoy the air-conditioned boat. For so many weeks we have not been around air conditioning in the 28 to 34 degree Celsius weather. It was the first time we were able to sit down and enjoy a nice cool place that was not in a vehicle or the reception room of a business office.

Our children were also anxious to walk around the ship and explore every room. The Aranui 3 is a freighter with cruise passengers and so it is not as large as other cruise vessels. It did not take long to explore the ship and see the facilities it offered.

Since our family has 5 children and 2 adults we had to take up three cabins on the ship. Most cabins only accommodate 2 people with a few that accommodate 3. The standard rooms consist of two single beds while the rooms that fit an additional person have a bunk that pulls down. As a result, we were fortunate enough to get three cabins beside each other on the lower passenger deck.

Our cabins were located on the lower B deck of the ship. The only thing on this level apart from cabins is the exercise room and laundry room. It is also the deck that is just slightly above the waterline and so one can hear the splashing of water up against the side of the ship constantly. As the ship pulled out of Papeete it was impossible for our young 4 year old to take a much-needed nap because he was too excited to see the water splashing up against the porthole window and to see the waves outside. For hours it looked like we were sitting inside of a washing machine looking out at the water from outside splashing up against the window. The children were absolutely mesmerized by the rolling waves that splashed up against the side of the ship and our window.

On the next, A deck above are located more standard cabins along with the children’s video room/play room. Because of the configuration of the cabins on the ship, everyone is fortunate enough to get an ocean view room. The bottom two levels are portholes while the limited number of suites have larger windows or balconies.

The next deck of the ship houses the reception area, infirmary (doctor’s office) and Marquesian Library. The library at the front desk has a collection of books specific to the Marquesas Islands and people’s experiences to this part of the world. Books on Paul Gaugin, Herman Melville, and others are standard.

Finally, the next two decks are for the Restaurant and then the Lounge, Library and Swimming Pool. The swimming pool is a popular place for our children as they like to splash around in the fresh water. Within only a few hours of us lifting anchor, the kids were determined to make the swimming pool their first stop. The swimming pool is very cleverly designed. It has tall sides to contain the splashing water as the ship rolls from side to side, forward and backward. To one end of the pool, there is an area within the pool that when the ship is still, is not more than a few puddles of water. But when the ship is moving around, this area transforms the entire pool into a wave pool as. The water sloshes out of the pool into this wading area and then tumbles back like a waterfall into the swimming pool as the water slides back. It is a constant motion while the ship is cruising along and extremely exciting for the children.

Our first day was fairly simple with a lunch that seemed more like a full-on dinner, an orientation session and then another big meal for dinner. By the evening we were extremely exhausted and our children were begging to get some sleep. With the rolling action of the ship, our 6-year-old Orin fell asleep at the dinner table and our 8-year-old Dailin decided that he would skip Dinner and head straight to bed. He wasn’t feeling too good. The rest of the kids along with Mom and Dad were quick to follow them for an early night sleep.
Authored by Norm Schafer, Victoria BC

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