51 Night Cruise sailing roundtrip from San Diego aboard Amsterdam.
The third Holland America Line vessel to bear the name Amsterdam, this elegant, mid-sized ship features a three-story atrium graced by a stunning astrolabe. While on board, enjoy America’s Test Kitchen cooking shows and hands-on workshops. Thrill to our exclusive BBC Earth Experiences presentations and activities. Rejuvenate at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon. Work out at our Fitness Center. And savor our delectable array of specialty restaurants.
Highlights of this cruise:
San Diego, California, US
Easygoing San Diego embodies the Southern California surfer town fantasy, with its more than 300 days of sun, mild year-round temperatures and accessible, sporty pastimes and tourist attractions. You can hike the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to get a glimpse of whale migrations, go sailing in the bay and, of course, surf the famous swells of Del Mar, Oceanside and La Jolla (among many other superb spots). But the sixth-largest city in the United States is surprisingly nuanced, with distinctive neighborhoods: Old Town, North Park, Point Loma and Coronado are all within a few miles of the port, while the bustling Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy are within walking distance.
And while there are lots of things to do for everyone—from visiting the country’s largest urban park to taking in the famous horse-racing season in Del Mar to riding the charming Old Town Trolley—definitely don’t pass up the chance to investigate San Diego’s quickly growing reputation as a culinary destination. Its inventive new restaurants and huge craft-brewing industry are something to be explored.
Honolulu, Hawaii, US
Sitting pretty on Oahu's south shore, the capital of Hawaii—and gateway to the island chain—is a suitably laid-back Polynesian mash-up of influences and experiences.
Modern surfing may have been invented along the crescent beach of Waikiki long before the glossy high-rise hotels arrived to dominate the shoreline, but the vibe is still mellow and it's still the go-to neighborhood. These days, the city adds dining, shopping and cocktails to its repertoire, all done with a view of the iconic Diamond Head in the distance.
But away from the Waikiki crowds, you get the scoop on the "real" Hawaii: brick Victorian buildings, including America's only royal palace; thriving Chinatown nightlife; sacred temple remains on distant bluffs; and the wartime memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor, including the USS Arizona Memorial.
Of course, the real Hawaii can't be quantified so easily. It's everywhere—in the volcanic nature of the soil, in its lush bounteous flora, and in the positive spirit of the people, who know there's real raw magic in their gentle islands.
Lahaina, Hawaii, US
Most of Polynesia has stories of the cultural hero and demigod Maui. In Hawaii, he's given credit for fishing up the islands from the ocean floor. He's also the one who caused the sun to move more slowly and who lifted the sky so people had room beneath. It's a long and complicated tale, snaking through dozens of variations.
But to the rest of the world, the word Maui just means the perfect island paradise, and Lahaina is the gateway to its most photogenic areas.
So how beautiful does a place have to be to win the title of paradise of paradises? Well, start with enormous stretches of beach, some full of surfers, some off bays packed with whales, some sporting nothing but your own footprints. Toss in two volcanic craters, one with a road that takes you from sea level to 3,055 meters (10,023 feet) and through tunnels of jacaranda trees. Then there's the rain forest, which you can experience on a scenic drive so full of twists and turns and waterfalls that 83 kilometers (52 miles) can take most of the day. At the end, though, you're rewarded with yet more falls, plus cool ponds perfect for a soak.
Yeah, Maui knew what he was doing when he pulled this island out of the sea.
Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii, US
The oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai, sits under a steady blast of trade winds that sweep in abundant moisture. Expect a wet, tropical climate—especially in the eastern and central areas—complete with swamps and rain forests.
In 1778, when Captain James Cook discovered Hawaii—never mind that plenty of people already lived here—the British explorer sailed right past Oahu, the first island he sighted, and disembarked in Kauai. He and his men spread a few diseases, traded nails for provisions, and left, never to return to Waimea.
Kauai only gets about a quarter as many visitors per year as Oahu, yet it may be the island we all know best, thanks to its amazing topography, full of perfect waterfalls and lush knife-edged mountains. It’s called the Garden Isle for good reason and Hollywood can't get enough of this backdrop, from White Heat in 1934, all the way through Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the 1976 remake of King Kong. If you want to star in your own gorgeous tropical idyll, pack for Kauai.
Hilo, Hawaii, US
Water and fire reign here: This is a land of verdant rain forests bisected by sparkling falls. But the fiery element flares along the volcanic coast of Kohala and the roaring furnace of the Kilauea volcano: Lava has continued to seep from the crater since its last eruption in 1983.
Nature is Hilo's blessing, as well as its challenge. The beautiful crescent bay served as a funnel to two major tsunamis that battered the city—tragedies that are never forgotten and hopefully never repeated. (Hilo's Pacific Tsunami Museum remains a leader in safety education.)
Once a busy fishing and farming area, Hilo blossomed into a commercial center for the sugarcane industry in the 1800s. Today’s town—its waterfront rebuilt since the last destructive wall of water in 1960—flourishes as a hub of galleries, independent shops, farmers markets and homegrown destination restaurants. A world-class astronomy center has joined this mix, underlining the awe unfolding through the telescopes atop Mauna Kea (the world's tallest peak from base to summit, outstripping Everest by 1,363 meters, or 4,472 feet!). Meanwhile, leafy Banyan Drive celebrates more earthbound stars with its arboreal Walk of Fame. Look up, look down: Wherever you glance, Hilo looks good.
Kona, Hawaii, US
Both culturally and geographically, Hawaii's Big Island divides into exact halves. The east is jungly, dark and prone to lava flows. The other side, the Kona side, grows all the coffee, and everyone wakes up really, really early. You might even see someone break the speed limit there, which is inconceivable elsewhere in the islands.
Much of this drier region almost resembles a desert. But the shapes of the hills and the way rain snags on ridges means Kona holds hundreds of microclimates. That's how the coffee growers have flourished: Variations of only a few feet in altitude can result in very different brews. Some farms cover barely an acre; others sprawl enough to encompass two or three varietals. Either way, the beans are babied—from bush to cup—by hand.
Thankfully, plenty of places exist to play and burn off a little caffeine around Kona. History lies thick on the ground, from Kamehameha's heiau (temple) to the sacred buildings of Puuhonua O Honaunau ("The Place of Refuge") to the bay where Captain Cook breathed his last. Whales love the Kona side, spinner dolphins live up to their names, and giant mantas slowly barrel roll up from the depths. Half an island is world enough.
Tabuaeran (Fanning Island), Kiribati
Fanning Island, also known as Tabuaeran, which means "heavenly footprint" in the native Polynesian language, is a ring-shaped coral reef surrounding a protected lagoon in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. Its non-Polynesian name derives from the American explorer, Edmund Fanning, who discovered the then unpopulated island in 1798. Tabuaeran later fell under British rule from 1889 through 1979 until it gained independence and became part of the Republic of Kiribati.
Celebrated for its white-sand beaches, blue-green waters and friendly residents, Tabuaeran is a paradise for snorkeling, surfing and sunning. One of the closest landfalls is the Hawaiian Islands, though even they sit some 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) away. The island has even played the part of the proverbial desert island on television, appearing in the closing shot of Gilligan's Island. While the atoll may have been a stopover for the Polynesians who first settled Hawaii, unlike those more popular Pacific islands, it has retained its feeling of being a remote outpost into the 21st century.
Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa
Pago Pago’s small size belies its historic stature and epic setting. The city—or more accurately, cluster of several fishing villages—lies along the shore of Pago Pago Harbor, which was carved from thousands of years of volcanic-crater erosion on Tutuila Island. The fjordlike harbor, one of the most stunning in the South Pacific, is bordered by steep and lush hills and dominated by Rainmaker Mountain.
The protected harbor site was selected in 1872 by Commander R.W. Meade for a fuelling station for the U.S. Navy. Meade negotiated the real estate deal with a Samoan high chief and the resulting naval base at Pago Pago was in use from 1900 to 1951.
Pago Pago itself is tranquil as far as capital cities go, though there is commerce and activity in the areas of Fagatogo and Utulei. The hills near the seafront are dotted with houses, while a variety of shops line the street that runs in front of the dock itself. The best views of the harbor and downtown can be had from the summit of Mount Alava in the National Park of American Samoa.
Apia, Upolo, Samoa
The remote Polynesian nation of Samoa, surrounded by dragonfly-bright seas, boasts a dramatic volcanic landscape with vibrant green jungles. The country has two major landmasses: Upolu, the most populous of the Samoan islands, and Savai'i, the third-largest Polynesian island. Samoa's capital, Apia, sits midway along Upolu's north coast. This sprawling metropolitan area features a waterfront promenade and Beach Road, an avenue curving along the harbor where the Royal Samoa Police Band marches and hoists the national flag at Government House on weekday mornings. Check out their sharp ensembles, which feature navy lavalava (kilts) and robin's-egg-blue dress shirts. Adventurers will want to make a splash at Palolo Deep National Marine Reserve near Apia harbor, while bookworms make a beeline to the home and grave of Robert Louis Stevenson. But perhaps the best way to experience fa'a Samoa (the Samoan Way) is by visiting the small villages scattered throughout the two islands. Here, you'll see locals still living in traditional fales—round thatched homes with no walls, all the better to enjoy the ocean breeze—and cooking on umus, "ovens" of hot stones placed in shallow holes in the ground.
Savusavu, Vanua Levi, Fiji
Known as the hidden paradise of Fiji, the striking harbor town of Savusavu is located on the south coast of Vanua Levu Island. Backed by green hills and featuring a bustling marina and attractive waterfront, the town was originally established as a trading center for products like sandalwood, bêche-de-mer and copra. Today the town is known for its burgeoning eco-tourism infrastructure, which has spawned several luxury resorts. The surrounding waters mean an abundance of scuba diving and yachting. On land, there are historic hot springs, waterfall hikes, bird-spotting in the Waisali Rainforest Reserve and visits to traditional villages. There are several key landmarks too, including the 19th-century Copra Shed Marina, which now serves as the local yacht club, and the Savarekareka Mission, a chapel built around 1870 by the first Roman Catholic mission on Vanua Levu. Of course, it’s also possible just to relax and enjoy the palm-lined pristine beaches and the town’s assortment of restaurants, cafés and bars.
Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands
In the time before time, the people who would become the Fijians were shaped of wet earth, pulled from the sea on a giant fishhook and given more than 300 islands to live on. Or if you want to be a little more prosaic, the people of Fiji were part of the great Lapita migration, which began somewhere around Taiwan and headed east. The first boats to arrive stopped migrating when they found this maze of islands formed by the earth turning itself inside out with volcanoes.
The new Fijians spent a couple centuries involved in internecine war and developed the bad habit of using clubs to bop all strangers. But strangers kept showing up for the simple reason that Fiji, especially the southeast coast of Viti Levu, was geographically wonderful: the kind of spot that made mariners chuck their anchors and start trying to make a living as a settler. And who knows, maybe the Fijians just had tired arms, but by the time missionaries came, powers had shifted and the bopping had stopped.
Today that southeast corner of the largest island in Fiji, the city of Suva, holds three-quarters of the nation’s population. It’s also shielded by shimmering green mountains opening to a calm sea, a land lush with afternoon rains.
Dravuni Island, Fiji
During the great age of exploration, when sailors were poking into every unknown corner of the globe, nobody went to the islands of Fiji, including Dravuni, some 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the south of the main island of Fiji. Ships would sail up far enough to see perfect beaches, blue-hole reefs and mountains big enough to be called mountains, but not so big you'd kill yourself hauling a cannon up one.
But then the Fijians would appear. Enormous people, faces tattooed in intricate designs, each carrying that one essential of Fijian life: a dark wooden club studded with shark teeth. The cannibal’s best friend.
Most of the stories of head-hunting and cannibalism were set in Fiji, where the greatest honors were given to those who brought home the most enemy heads. Since the residents of the archipelago’s 300 islands had been warring with each other for centuries, they saw in the arrival of representatives of the outside world an exciting (and potentially tasty) development.
But all things must pass, even cannibal rituals. Life on Fiji changed and these days, Fijians still come down to meet ships and they still carry war clubs, but instead of looking for lunch, they’re looking to yell "Bula!" in greeting to as many people as the day allows.
Lautoka is not in a logical position to be one of Fiji’s busiest ports. Ports are usually found in bays or harbors; here it's just the open Bligh Water (yes, that Bligh, who, after his crew mutinied in Tahiti, proceeded to pull off one of the greatest sailing feats in history, which included not letting his remaining men get turned into the Fijian daily special).
Lautoka has a nice, fading colonial vibe with a 100-year-old sugar mill still in operation. The juxtaposition of Muslim mosques and Hindu temples in town, though, captures recent Fiji history in a nutshell. Indo-Fijians, many of whose ancestors had been brought over from India by the British in the 19th century as indentured laborers, eventually amassed enough power to begin buying up local stores and land. When the native Fijians noticed the imbalance, it led to a coup, a countercoup and, in 2006, a counter-countercoup. (Don’t fret: Visitors will not notice a thing. Democratic elections have resumed and all’s well.)
Only 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Lautoka’s hustle and bustle is the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park. In an almost magical exception to what usually goes on in the South Pacific, this park contains a fully protected, unlogged cloud forest. Hike to the mountaintop and enjoy endless blue-green views of all those Fijian islands the great European explorers missed from fear of headhunters and cannibals.
Champagne Bay, named so because the water bubbles up at low tide, is on the northeast coast of Espiritu Santo, the largest island in Vanuatu. The island's fascinating blend of Pacific island culture and World War II history explains its allure for some visitors; the immaculate white-sand beaches and azure seas attract divers and snorkelers; and the tropical rain forests bring hikers and bird-watchers.Many physical traces of the American forces that arrived here in 1942 have become compelling attractions, too, such as the distinctive Quonset huts dotted around the town; the 200-meter (654-foot) shipwreck of the ss President Coolidge, which sank when it hit two mines in 1942; and Million Dollar Point, where the U.S. Army deliberately dumped a million dollars' worth of military machinery and goods into the sea, and which divers can still explore today. The town's port and adjacent markets are busy and vibrant, as is the bustling high street, and the diverse population includes many indigenous Ni-Vanuatu as well as residents of Chinese and European descent.
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Located on the scenic island of Efate—population around 45,000—Port-Vila is the capital of Vanuatu. A vibrant and multicultural city, it’s set around a charming bay with views of Iririki and Ifira islands, as well as just the right amount of bustle along its main streets and a pleasant waterfront. Host to Vanuatu's largest harbor and airport, the city is popular with cruise-ship visitors and serves as a great base for all kinds of activities and tours across Efate. In addition to enjoying the many pristine beaches, sandy bays and clear waters that lie along the rugged coastline, it's possible to hike through rain forest jungle and verdant countryside plus admire the island’s many cascading waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers. The port also offers opportunities to learn about the local culture and customs at institutions like the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, the Ekasup Cultural Village and the island’s many markets and restaurants, which offer everything from local to Australian and American cuisine.
Mystery Island, Vanuatu
Offering an alluring blend of nature and tranquility, the small island of Anatom (aka Aneityum) is one of the South Pacific's lesser-known but dependable tropical hotspots. The southernmost island of Vanuatu, its diminutive size (159 square kilometers, or 61 square miles) and lack of modern amenities—there's no Internet nor even running water or electricity—lends the place something of a Robinson Crusoe-esque atmosphere. Although it's possible to walk around the entire island in less than an hour, there is much to explore in a day trip. As well as taking advantage of the many soft, sandy beaches and the sparkling azure waters and coral reefs, it's possible to hike the many trails that crisscross the island's sandalwood-studded and mountainous interior. In addition, you can visit the village of Anelghowhat (or Anelcauhat) on the south side of the island, which has discarded whaling-industry equipment, former irrigation channels and the ruins of missionary John Geddie's church. It's also possible to visit picturesque Port Patrick, climb to the top of the extinct volcano Inrerow Atahein, or Inrerow Atamein (853 meters, or 2,800 feet), and admire various waterfalls dotted around the island, such as the impressive Inwan Leleghei. Off the shore of Anatom is the unpopulated Mystery Island, where cruise ship tenders moor and passengers get to spend some quality beach time on a deserted island paradise. Islanders from Anatom paddle out to meet the visitors and set up temporary shops near the dock, where they grill fish and sell a few snacks and souvenirs.
Nuku Alofa, Tonga
Nuku'alofa, the financial and commercial hub of Tonga, is usually visitors’ first taste of the kingdom. Located on the northern coast of Tonga’s largest island, Tongatapu, it’s a charming, idiosyncratic city with a lively infrastructure that combines a slew of pleasant cafés and restaurants with historic churches and long, stunning beaches. It’s an easy city to navigate on foot, and the surrounding island can be explored equally easily with a car or motorbike, both of which can be rented locally. Head to the water and take advantage of some of the world’s finest snorkeling, or venture out to sea on a whale-watching charter between June and November (or watch for free from several local viewpoints). Land options can include a round of golf or a cultural experience such as the Tongan ancient village. On Sundays, when the city shuts down, it’s possible to take a day trip to nearby islands. Visit the upscale eco-resort Fafa or the lower-key Makaha‘a Island; you can reach both by local ferry or even by kayak if you’re feeling adventurous.
Vava U, Tonga
The Vava’u (va-vuh-OO) island group is part of the Kingdom of Tonga—an even larger collection of tropical Pacific Ocean islands. With an ideal year-round climate that’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling, diving and sailing, the islands—which are mostly uninhabited—boast a varied set of attractions for visitors that only begin with their famed white-sand beaches lapped by turquoise waters (with visibility down to 30 meters, or 100 feet) and enchanting coral reefs teeming with abundant marine life like tropical fish, dolphins and sea turtles. In addition to these simple but highly memorable watery pleasures, the Vava’u islands offer tropical forests, limestone cliffs and caves to explore, traditional villages to check out and a wealth of activities ranging from sea kayaking and gamefishing to yachting. Not only can you spot humpback whales (between July and October) and take in the unique atmosphere of historic cemeteries, you can also enjoy a hike up Mount Talau. The island’s tourism infrastructure extends to boutique resorts and ecolodges, as well as plenty of cafés and restaurants, particularly in the main city of Neiafu.
Once known as the "Savage Island" due to the unfriendly welcome given to explorer Captain Cook in 1774, Niue is a small South Pacific island known for its large raised coral reef and its tiny capital "city," Alofi. While it uses New Zealand currency (bring it with you, there are no ATMs on Niue) and many of its inhabitants primarily reside on the "mainland," Niue has been a sovereign state since 1974, and it is considerably more welcoming now than in Captain Cook's time. It takes only a few hours to cover the whole island, which is dotted with scenic sea tracks that connect coral reefs, caves, chasms and rain forest. Niue is also well connected with the rest of the world: The entire nation is a free Wi-Fi hotspot, though be warned that the arrival of a cruise ship and its many Internet-using passengers can slow speeds considerably. Coconuts and tropical fruits are a staple in the Niuean diet, and even the local seafood mainstay uga translates to coconut crab. Should your visit to the island fall on a Sunday, you'll find most everything closed for church services, but you can head to the Washaway Café, home to the only self-service bar in the South Pacific—and open only on Sundays.
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are a South Pacific nation with a traditional Polynesian culture and governmental ties to New Zealand. Of the nation's 15 islands, Rarotonga is the youngest, geologically speaking, and it serves as the point of entry for most visitors. The landscape hints at the relaxed lifestyle its 10,000 residents enjoy: There's only one main road—without a single stoplight—following the 32-kilometer (20-mile) perimeter.
The island's most visible landmark is a towering granite pinnacle known as the Needle, which rises from razor-backed ridges. Rarotonga’s other main calling cards are its Muri Lagoon, a dazzling patchwork of soothing blue hues, and its extraordinary people. Cook Islanders have a passion for Polynesian drumming and dancing, which they perform with an old-school, hip-swinging intensity that gets even bystanders’ hearts racing. The singing at Sunday church services is equally inspiring.
The capital, Avarua, has fewer than 6,000 people and a handful of shops, restaurants and bars. While scooters are the primary mode of transport, the convenient bus line loops around the island in 55 minutes, which simplifies independent sightseeing and trips to the beach. Sports activities range from leafy treks across the island to diving among lionfish and moray eels.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
When you first see Bora-Bora from the ship as it navigates Teavanui Pass, you'll be astonished. Brilliant blue water in far too many shades to count and palm-dotted white-sand motus (islets) encircle a lush island topped by craggy Mount Otemanu. Close your eyes and open them again. Yes, it’s all real. This South Pacific isle with its exotic Tahitian-French allure has been captivating honeymooners and vacationers from the time the first overwater bungalows were built here nearly 50 years ago.
For years, Bora-Bora has also drawn a multitude of divers eager to scope out its array of reef fish, rays and sharks. It's hard to compete with the sheer drama of the water, or with shape-shifting Mount Otemanu, which looks completely different from every angle. In fact, Vaitape, the island's largest city with a population of about 5,000 people, doesn’t even try to compete. Not much changes in this sleepy port, where a few black-pearl shops, boutiques and galleries join a weathered church and several small cafés. Yes, you might want to buy a pearl and you should definitely sample the poisson cru (raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice). But to be honest, the best spot on Bora-Bora is anywhere out on the lagoon.
Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Most first-time visitors to French Polynesia end up on one of the three best-known Society Islands: Tahiti, Moorea and Bora-Bora. And repeat visitors often head to the Tuamotu Archipelago or the Marquesas Islands, to scuba dive, seek out traditional Polynesian culture or learn about the cultivation of Tahitian black pearls. One of the sleepier Society Islands, Raiatea—located adjacent to Tahaa and within viewing distance of Bora-Bora—offers travelers all those things and more.
Cruise lines have discovered the quiet allure of Raiatea, French Polynesia’s second-largest island, home to a flower so rare it grows nowhere else on Earth. Its landscape is dramatic and mountainous—its tallest peak tops 1,000 meters (3,330 feet)—fitting for a place whose name means "faraway heaven." Tahitians consider this their sacred island, and a journey here will take you to sites associated with legends and lore. But adventure seekers will also find plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, diving and exploring by horseback, while shoppers can browse a handful of shops and the daily market in the port of Uturoa.
Papeete, French Polynesia
When Captain James Cook first sailed to Tahiti in 1769, he and his crew all thought they’d found paradise. Cook hinted at it in his journals, in coy language that would have been acceptable in his day; his men felt considerably less reserve, and returned home sporting tattoos and stories of a people who ate what fell from trees, and lived lives of freedom unknown in Europe. All without much need for clothes.
Although all of French Polynesia is sometimes referred to as Tahiti, Tahiti proper is only one island, ringed by a reef that turns the water shades of blue even sapphires can’t come near. Rivers flow down from its high peaks, and every night, the sun goes down behind the neighboring island of Moorea, outlining the mountains like a laser show.
Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, is a bustling business and government center, with black-pearl shops on almost every corner. As you move into the countryside, time starts to slip, and it's just the changeless ocean and the almost unchanged forests—and much the same sensation that made Cook think he'd found heaven on earth.
Moorea, French Polynesia
Shaped like a heart and crowned with emerald-green spires, Moorea is easy to love. The Magical Island, as it's nicknamed, is celebrated for its untamed landscape and symmetrical side-by-side bays (called Opunohu and Cook's); it was said to be the inspiration for the mythical isle of Bali Hai in James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. Its languid lagoon seems without end, wrapping this 132-square-kilometer (50-square-mile) isle in shades of liquid blue, from pale aqua to intense turquoise. Dolphins and stingrays glide through the waves alongside snorkelers and divers exploring the stunning undersea scene. Venture inland to the valleys and another aspect of island life becomes clear: agricultural abundance, with crops that include pineapples, bananas, taro, sugarcane, coffee and cotton. Moorea has shopping, too, mainly for lustrous Tahitian black pearls and brightly patterned pareus (wraparound skirts).Wherever you head, you'll find the South Pacific you have dreamed of, moving to the leisurely pace of island time. It can be hard to believe Moorea is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Tahiti’s bustling capital, Papeete.
Avatoru, Rangiroa, French Polynesia
The world's second-biggest atoll, Rangiroa, is a wonderfully languorous and remote place to explore. It's beautiful: The stark whiteness of the bleached coral contrasted against the turquoise water creates vivid delight for the eyes. The lagoon here is vast and dazzling, ringed by gorgeous white-sand islets accessible only by boat and just perfect for lazing away a long afternoon. The majority of visitors come here to dive, but Rangi (as locals call it) offers more ways to explore its magnificent lagoon than to just go deep: Opt instead for a relaxed snorkel, or take a glass-bottom boat out for a cruise.
The port town of Avatoru may seem middle-of-nowhere quiet to most
Westerners, but this is the hub of the Tuamotu Archipelago. The town's paved roads, shops and even gourmet restaurants are not standard amenities on other atolls in this far-flung island group. But should you prefer to not spend the day in the water, there are experiences to be had on terra firma. Head to a small site overlooking Tiputa Pass to watch the daily performances of dolphins dancing in the waves created by the strong current. Or stop in at a pearl farm to learn how the famed black pearls are cultured—and then treat yourself to a bit of shopping afterward.
Fakarava, Tuamotu, French Polynesia
Arriving by sea, you'll experience the innumerable shades of blue that are the lagoon encircling Fakarava, one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia's Tuamotu Archipelago. Once you step ashore, you'll notice the beaches alternate between whitest white and palest pink sand, with a backdrop of coconut trees swaying gently in the tropical breeze. And while this pristine paradise—which counts only around 800 residents on an island 60 kilometers (37 miles) long and 21 kilometers (13 miles) wide—has a healthy tourism industry, it's also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. That designation means Fakarava, as well as its six neighboring atolls, are entirely protected—both onshore and in the surrounding waters. No wonder then that Fakarava is famous for its incredible snorkeling and diving. A lagoon excursion, which also spirits you to the atoll's most beautiful beach—one accessible only by boat—is a great way to complete your Seven Seas fantasy.
Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia
The dramatic landscape of the Marquesas is like nowhere else in French Polynesia. Formed by volcanoes, islands like Nuku Hiva—home to the charming port town of Taiohae—don't have a barrier reef or lagoon to protect them. As such, the sea crashes directly up onto the shore, creating wild scenery that has inspired artists and writers from Paul Gauguin to Herman Melville.
At the base of craggy, soaring peaks, Taiohae may be the main "city" in this far-flung island group, but don't expect tall buildings or massive resorts. Instead, Taiohae has a peaceful village vibe with an air of tropical languor. There's not much to do other than wander and shop. And shop you should, as the Marquesans are known for their excellent handicrafts. On Nuku Hiva you'll find skilled carvers working in wood, bone and volcanic stone to create true pieces of art.
Beyond Taiohae are opportunities to explore Nuku Hiva's wild interior—replete with sharp basalt pinnacles and lush, green river valleys—by either horseback or on foot.
N - Interior Stateroom
MM - Large Interior Stateroom
M - Large Interior Stateroom
L - Large Interior Stateroom
K - Large Interior Stateroom
HH - Large Oceanview Stateroom (Fully Obstructed View)
J - Large Interior Stateroom
I - Large Interior Stateroom
H - Large Oceanview Stateroom
G - Large Oceanview Stateroom
FF - Large Oceanview Stateroom
F - Large Oceanview Stateroom
EE - Large Oceanview Stateroom
E - Large Oceanview Stateroom
DD - Large Oceanview Stateroom
DA - Large Oceanview Stateroom
D - Large Oceanview Stateroom
C - Large Oceanview Stateroom
CA - Suite
BC - Vista Suite
BB - Vista Suite
B - Vista Suite
A - Vista Suite
SB - Neptune Suite
SA - Neptune Suite
Please note, while prices and inclusions are accurate at time of loading they are subject to change due to changes in cruise line policies and pricing and due to currency fluctuations. Currency surcharges may apply. Please check details of price and inclusions at time of booking.