Updated: Jan 28
From the first moment we stepped aboard the Air Tahiti flight at Los Angeles, we could sense that we were beginning a fantasy vacation. We were heading to Papeete, Tahiti, to board the Aranui, a freighter that would take us on a 12-day "cruise" of the Marquesas Islands, a very remote island chain in the South Pacific (they were the setting for an early season of “Survivor"). The islands have been a haven, or at least stopping off point, for some of the most famous names associated with Polynesia, including Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson and Paul Gauguin. It was very alluring to us to sail those same waters and know that we would be docking at the exact place where the young Herman Melville jumped ship and that we would see the inspirations for Gauguin's art and Stevenson's adventure stories up close. Since there are very few tourist facilities on the islands, we were happy to know that, for the most part, our fellow passengers would be the only other tourists we would see for almost two weeks. And best of all - our tickets were thousands of dollars cheaper than we would have paid for a luxury cruise. See www.aranui.com
Before our flight took off from Los Angeles, we could actually smell and see what was to come. On boarding, each passenger - male and female - is presented with a diminutive white Tahitian flower with a hypnotizing and potent aroma. The entire plane is filled with the scent. The airplane seats are turquoise blue in anticipation of the beautiful sea that surrounds Tahiti. The pillow cases are different shades of the Tahitian flower and the blankets are an ocean-hued turquoise too. Coach travel rarely feels like this. Yes, this was going to be a great trip - even if we weren't quite sure what to expect on a freighter.
The magic continues at the Intercontinental Hotel in Papeete, a modern resort complex facing the mountains of Moorea (another honeymoon favorite) across the straits. Each guest is greeted with a tropical fruit drink and a friendly hello. It's the perfect place to spend a day unwinding after the the long flight from the mainland before boarding the freighter. See www.tahiti.intercontinental.com.