Tahiti Cruise

| December 8, 2008

A Tahiti cruise also includes Moorea, Bora Bora and other islands in Polynesia known for their rugged and exotic beauty.

Few places in this world stir the imagination as much as a Tahiti cruise to the Society Islands, a small volcanic chain almost as far south of the equator as the Hawaiian Islands are north of it. In that sense, a Tahiti cruise is nearly a doppelganger of the Hawaiian Islands, or arguably a "Bizarro World" version of them.

Both chains have the same stunningly beautiful reefs and sharp jungle-covered mountain ridges jutting into the sky, but in the Society Islands the beaches have black sand instead of white, the hottest months are November through February and water flows down the drain in a counter-clockwise motion.

Still, the similarity between a Hawaii and a tahiti cruise to Huahine, Rangiroa, Raiatea, Bora Bora and Moorea is substantial -- just take away the plethora of hotels, roads and cars and picture what Hawaii must have looked like when it was first being inhabited by the Americans.

Tahiti is in a volcanic island chain, just like Hawaii. The islands were each created by the same volcanic rupture far below the sea, but were created in different places as the earth's crust moved. Therefore, Tahiti is the oldest island and has the most gentle, sloping mountains and the least noticeable lagoon. Each island has a lagoon (unlike the older Hawaii Island chain) which is a substantial coral reef that is created when the island is first born. The lagoon stays in place as the middle of the island erodes eventually creating a ring of wave-breaking reefs and islands, creating a shallow lagoon completely encircling the main island in the middle.

It is these lagoons that make the Tahiti islands so unique and beautiful. They encircle the entire islands, especially Bora Bora, and they are teeming with coral reefs and exotic fish -- like rays, piper fish, sharks and small, colorful tropical fish. Snorkeling or scuba diving in these islands is incredible. Generally, the current through the lagoon allows you to just jump in the water from one of the reef islands (also known as a motu) and drift back to the island with no effort required at all.

The history of the Tahiti cruise began with Windstar, which virtually had the only year-round ship in the islands for many years during the 1980s. During the 1990s Renaissance Cruises made a deal with the French government financing the building of their ships, and in exchange they agreed to keep two mid-size cruise ships there. Renaissance no longer exists as a company, but one of these ships still sails there.

Pacific Princess (Princess bought the Renaissance ship back in 2002) is currently one of only two ships sailing out of Papeete, Tahiti all year round. Another one is the Regent Seven Seas Paul Gauguin, which went there in 1998 and has been there ever since. The ship is eventually scheduled to leave the Regent fleet in 2010, but it will remain in Tahiti under new management for an as yet undetermined time. The last full-time Tahiti ship is Star Clipper's Star Flyer sailing 7-day and 10-day cruises.

Other cruises to Tahiti come on as various ships visit the area on sporadic schedules but do not stay year-round. These include occasional visits by Holland America, Seabourn, Crystal and Star Clippers.

Prices for a 10-day South Pacific cruise on Pacific Princess is a bargain at about $100/day per person. Naturally, airfare can be expensive as it is about a 10-hour flight from the U.S. West Coast. Star Clippers will cost you closer to $300/day. The Paul Gauguin is the most luxurious starting at about $450/day.

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