28 Feb 2016
It was exciting to see the Aranui 5 moored at the pier in downtown Papeete. It had been 8 years since we had taken the Aranui 3 on the same voyage and we were anxious to have a look at the Aranui 5. Ship embarkation was in the downtown area of the city between 7am and 8:30am. The goal is to have everyone on-board by 9am so that we could all become familiar with the ship, watch a Marquesian dance and musical performance and conduct the customary mandatory abandon ship drill before setting off from the dock at 12 noon.
I was surprised when we walked up to the Aranui check in point with our luggage, to see a familiar face. Mila, who worked on the ship when we sailed many years earlier and who is on her 12th year with the Aranui, smiled and greeted us like long lost friends. It was amazing that she remembered our names and even the names of at least two of our 5 children that were part of her kids club when we sailed the Aranui years before.
By 9 o’clock it looked like everyone was on-board and so I headed to the pool deck where the Marquesian performance took place. A local group that all have jobs in Papeete but are from the Marquesas islands, were decked out in tattoos and traditional clothing. Some of the men were tattooed from head to toe. The men also do all of the drumming for their the traditional dances. They then sing with the ladies with a deep guttural chanting that is so unique to this set of islands. It was the perfect way to start our 14 day journey to the remote islands of the Marquesas.
As we left the port and were headed toward the reef that was protecting the harbour, I asked my wife if she had motion sickness medication. To my surprise she had only brought a few tablets of Gravol with her. Enough for only a few days. As we exited the pass into the open ocean, the rocking motion of the ship reminded her that she she needed to take her medicine, something that would make her drowsy but less sensitive to the motion of the ship.
At 12:30, we made our way to the dining room for lunch. It was refreshing to have a delicious salad, followed by a hot cooked meal of fish on a bed of vegetables and quinoa. Each lunch and dinner is served with cold water, wine (which neither Kirsten nor I drink), French bread, desert and a Polynesian smile. The food was absolutely delicious and reminded me of the decadent French and Polynesian cooking we had enjoyed years earlier on the Aranui 3.
Having only slept for about four hours in the previous three days, I decided that I would have to skip the afternoon dance classes and instead opt for an appointment with my pillow. With the low lying clouds in the air, I needed to take some medicine for the headache that was starting to form. I could only sleep for a few hours though, but it was enough to keep me refreshed and ready for the rest of the evening.
At 6pm, we had the opportunity to listen to the ship’s guide in English as she spoke about the ship, commonly asked questions and the activities for the following day. While the larger group of French travellers held their meeting in the Lounge, the group of English speaking guests, met in the smaller conference room.
Our guide helped us understand the processes, features and schedules on-board the Aranui 5 before explaining what we should prepare for the following day on the atoll of Takapoto. Being that it is a sparsely populated atoll with a beautiful blue lagoon in the centre, we will be sure to bring water shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses and a beach towel to shore.
Following the briefing, Kirsten and I took an opportunity to tour around the ship a bit more. We checked out the laundry room, spa, and 2 small fitness centres decks 2 as well as the doctor’s office and reception desk on deck 3. We had to register for an early or late dining time at the front desk which we were not initially asked to do when we boarded the ship. We had the option of choosing lunch at 12 noon and dinner at 7:30pm or a 12:30pm lunch and 8pm dinner. We registered for the early dining time. Breakfast on most days is 6:30 to 8:30am and is buffet style so hopefully we can get up early enough for that.
Following an equally delicious 3 course dinner of salad, lamb and an eclaire with the company of two other couples, Kirsten was back to her room for some sleep while I headed to the lounge to watch a documentary on French Polynesia (in French).
It was a relaxing and full day to start our Aranui 5 cruise experience.