On Location: The South Pacific Islands
The unrivalled beauty and mysterious island cultures of the South Pacific islands have long held a deep allure with Australian travellers, and there is no better way to explore these remote islands and experience the diverse cultures than by cruise ship. A South Pacific cruise is the ultimate island getaway, offering you the opportunity to discover untouched forests, pristine white-sand beaches, crystal waters filled with reefs, and diverse sea life.
If you haven't yet had the opportunity to explore these beautiful islands, then make sure you read on and find out everything you need to know to choose the right South Pacific cruise for you.
When to Go
The answer to this does depend on where you are going specifically, and what you are after, but generally speaking the best time to go seasonally is during the dry season, from May to October - it is still warm in the South Pacific, and it makes for a perfect getaway from the Australian winter. The Australian summer period, from November to April, is the wet season in the South Pacific, and it tends to be warmer and more humid, and there are often heavy rainstorms going hand-in-hand with extreme heat. It also pays to keep in mind that tropical storm season generally runs from November to March.
The South Pacific islands have been culturally and geographically divided into Polynesia (meaning "many islands") and Melanesia (meaning "black islands"). The Polynesian islands consist of Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island, while the Melanesian islands are made up to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
- Best for: culture, volcanoes, diving
Vanuatu is well known for its dramatic landscapes, friendly locals, postcard-perfect beaches and rumbling volcanoes, and as such, it is thought of as a dream tropical destination. This might explain why so many South Pacific cruises include Vanuatu ports of call in their itineraries! During your time in Vanuatu, you will be able to sample the gourmet local fare, visit traditional villages, go diving through shipwrecks and explore active volcanoes.
The Republic of Vanuatu is made up of a cluster of 83 islands, lying some 1,750 km's east of Australia. A number of cruise lines visit Vanuatu year-round, while some only cruise there during the Australian summer cruise season, but among them you will be able to choose from P&O Australia, Carnival Cruise Lines Australia, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. The main ports of call visited by these cruise lines include Wala, Port Vila and Mystery Island - which is its name, not a surprise stop on your itinerary!
- Best for: beaches, culture, diving, food
New Caledonia presents an alluring blend of Pacific Island charm and French sophistication, offering a culturally rich experience to all travellers. Lying south west of Vanuatu, it is an overseas territory of France, and it is this mix of Melanesian and French cultures that gives the island chain an elegant balance when it comes to hospitality and cuisine.
New Caledonia is made up of the main island of Grand Terre, the third largest in the Pacific (after Papua New Guinea and New Zealand), and an atoll of small, sparsely populated islands including the Loyalty Islands and the Isle of Pines. It is also home to the second largest double barrier coral reef in the world, after our own Great Barrier Reef.
Princess Cruises, P&O Australia, Carnival Cruise Lines Australia and Royal Caribbean International are among the cruise ships that sail to New Caledonian ports, including Noumea, Lifou, the Isle of Pines and Mare.
- Best for: culture, diving, families
Renowned for its white-sand beaches, friendly locals and magnificent soft coral diving, Fiji is a perfect cruise destination for families and couples alike. You will be able to spend your time diving and snorkelling through reefs brimming with colourful marine life; touring traditional villages and exploring the pristine natural environments.
Fiji, east of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, is a Melanesian country made up of over 300 tropical islands. Only 110 of these islands is inhabited, but over 87% of Fiji's population actually only lives on two of the major islands - Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. It is an incredibly diverse region, and offers lots of opportunities for exploration. The main ports of call for a Fiji cruise include Suva, Lautoka, Port Denarau and Dravuni Island, and Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line Australia, Holland America Line and Captain Cook Cruises all offer itineraries in and to the area.
French Polynesia & Tahiti
- Best for: diving, culture, surfing and hiking
French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and atolls, spanning more than 2 million square miles of the South Pacific ocean. Tahiti is the region's largest island, and is part of the archipelago of the Society Islands. It is also one of the more popular cruise stops in French Polynesia - and for very good reason!
Tahiti is famous for its plam-fringed, white-sand beaches, its turquiose-blue lagoons and its magnificent coral reefs. And for all of these reasons, and more, it is definitely a cruise stop we recommend! Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Oceania Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Celebrity Cruises all offer cruise itineraries that visit French Polynesia, with the main ports of call being Tahiti (Papeete), Huahine, Rangiroa, Bora Bora, Moorea and Raiatea.
Papua New Guinea
- Best for: culture, adventure, hiking, snorkelling
Papua New Guinea is a culturally and geographically rich destination that offers a rewarding experience to all travellers - and it should definitely be on your South Pacific cruise list! Located north of Australia, it encompasses half of the island of New Guinea and several offshore islands, and it is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Over 820 indigenous languages are spoken in Papau New Guinea, with the most common being Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu.
In recent years, more and more cruise lines have been adding PNG itineraries to their list of sailings, including Princess Cruises, P&O Australia and APT Cruising, so you have numerous options to consider if you want to explore this beautiful area.
Vanuatu and New Caledonia are by far the most popular destinations for South Pacific cruises, but there are plenty of other options in the region should you have already been to these beautiful islands. Whether you are wanting to cruise the South Pacific islands for the first time, or are seeking to explore somewhere new - like Papua New Guinea - there is a tropical island getaway with your name on it. All you have to do is call your Cruising Specialist on 1300 954 661 to find your perfect itinerary and get your spot onboard locked in!