Variety Cruises, Greece’s leading small ship cruise company, has launched two new cruises in Tahiti, the first time the company has operated in the destination. Sailing round-trip from Papeete port, Tahiti, the seven-night and 10-night itineraries uncover the hidden wonders of the world-famous Society Islands of French Polynesia with a maximum capacity of just 49 passengers. The company is the first cruise line to add the destination of Makatea to its official itinerary.
“There is something about magical civilizations that has always intrigued me,” said the company’s CEO Filippos Venetopoulos. “Being Greek, of course this is something I grew up with, being surrounded by the wisdom of the ancient philosophers. French Polynesia also envelops my soul. Much like how Greece can capture you, these islands seem to give you something you never knew you needed. I couldn’t be more thrilled to share that with the world, and thus, create, a better life at sea, one cruise at a time.”
Locals say that the Tahitian islands are all embraced by Mana (a life force and spirit that surrounds us) which visitors sense immediately upon arrival. Island hopping allows voyagers to see every landscape, from geometric ridges strung with waterfalls on the high islands to flat, desert-like atolls where lagoons far outsize the landmass.
“The Islands of Tahiti is pleased to offer a warm welcome (maeva) to Variety Cruises as they launch their new voyages this coming year,” said Kristin Carlson, managing director for Tahiti Tourisme North America. “We look forward to travelers coming to the destination to experience the Mana, or spirit of the islands, aboard their intimate yachts, perfectly suited for exploring our paradise.”
Variety Cruises will be sailing Tahiti with the Panorama II, a 50-meter, two-masted motorsailer with a maximum capacity of 49 guests. Panorama II has classic lines and wooden finishes and consists of 25 passenger cabins, dining areas decorated with warm colors as well as a deck for sunbathing and an outdoor bar and sundeck. Being on a small boat, passengers have access to private beaches and secluded locations that other (larger) cruise ships do not.
The seven-night cruise, Tahiti & the Pearls of French Polynesia, takes passengers through Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and Moorea. This itinerary launches February 3, 2023 and operates through December 2023. Optional activities include a visit at the UNESCO protected site of ancient Marae (an open-air temple) of Taputapuatea, snorkeling excursions with stingrays and sharks, observing and feeding the sacred blue-eyed eels of Faie Bay, as well as lagoon explorations.
The 10-night cruise, Tahiti, the Society & Tuamotu islands, allows a deeper discovery of the Tuamotu islands. This cruise takes passengers through the same route of the seven-night cruise and then onwards to rarely visited Makatea, Rangiroa, Tetiaroa and Mo’orea. The highlight here is the island of Makatea, best described as a raised island of coral unlike any other destination found in French Polynesia.
The limestone cliffs tower over the coast and the island’s interior shows significant vegetation, complete with a few species of endemic birds and a peculiar expanse of limestone holes. In the early 20th century, important reserves of phosphate were discovered in these naturally occurring holes, and for over 50 years the island was the center of a thriving phosphate mining business. The mining ceased in the 1960s, and the island went from a population of thousands to less than 100 inhabitants. Today, this sleepy but spectacular island is home to three species of threatened endemic birds: the beautiful Makatea fruit dove, the impressive imperial pigeon, and the comely singer extraordinaire, the reed warbler.
On-the-ground activities include: visiting a beach with rock pools and an incredible grotto, swimming deeper inside the grotto into an underwater cave system that opens out to reveal a spectacular watery cathedral, full of weird and wonderful stalagmites and stalactites. Among the stalactites and stalagmites that adorn Makatea’s Vaimarui cave, hangs an amazing elephant leg-shaped stalactite accessible by swimming in the fresh and transparent water. The legend pretends that it brings happiness to those who touch it with their left hand and make a vow.