The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

The ma­jor­ity of pas­sen­gers are from the US but on the Jan­uary cruise de­scribed, the next most-rep­re­sented mar­kets were Canada, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia. As well as three restaurants and a trio of bars, the ship has an in­ter­net cafe and wide­spread Wi-Fi cov­er­age for per­sonal de­vices, a Deep Na­ture Spa of­fer­ing Poly­ne­sian mas­sages with vol­canic stones and treat­ments based on hy­drat­ing monoi oil, li­brary, small casino and bou­tique. A seven night round-trip of the So­ci­ety Is­lands from Papeete is the sig­na­ture voy­age; longer itin­er­ar­ies take in des­ti­na­tions such as the Tuamo­tus, the Mar­que­sas, Cook Is­lands, Tonga, Fiji, PNG and Indonesia. All but two cat­e­gories of ac­com­mo­da­tion in­clude bal­conies or ve­ran­das. Vir­tual tours at More: Wil­trans In­ter­na­tional, 1800 251 174; wil­ Air Tahiti Nui flies from Auck­land to Papeete; ser­vices con­nect with trans-Tas­man flights. The air­line has re­freshed its 32-pas­sen­ger busi­ness­class cabin with lie-back seats and en­hanced food and bev­er­age of­fer­ings. More: air­tahit­ • have had enough sun, sea and sus­te­nance from waiter Glenn’s float­ing bar, a raft-like con­trap­tion dec­o­rated with palm fronds and pan­danus leaves that greets each ar­rival as they wade ashore, along with straw-hat­ted Les Gau­guins and Les Gau­guines stand­ing in the shal­lows, strum­ming ukule­les.

Most of us have snorkelling equip­ment from the on­board ma­rina cum aquatic deck (from which kayaks, stand-up surf­boards and wind­surfers can be taken out at cer­tain an­chor­ages) and so we float in the warm wa­ter peer­ing at co­ral and fish.

Of course, when I re­turn to my deckchair, Juan Miguel’s mates are wait­ing for me with the big­gest co­conut (and smiles) imag­in­able. “Small one for you!” they cry, all but col­laps­ing with laugh­ter. Oddly, my bag re­mains un­touched. But, hang on, here comes a her­mit crab race and I seem to be bang in the mid­dle of the track.

Then on Bora Bora there is a longish ten­der hop for a half-day at a pri­vate beach where the lo­cal landowner has strung chan­de­liers made from crushed cans in a grove of trees. The wa­ter here is deeper than around the motu and a sand shelf drops just out from shore, form­ing a perch to swing your legs be­fore tak­ing the plunge.

I se­ri­ously con­tem­plate hid­ing be­hind the palms and never re­turn­ing to re­al­ity.

Other stand­outs? There’s an evening cata­ma­ran sail off Moorea with Cap­tain Tibo at the helm to see the sun­set deepen from rosy pink to tan­ger­ine and watch swal­lows swoop­ing about in great loops. The hori­zon seems eerily close and we all slurp rum punches from plas­tic cups and wrig­gle our bare toes and won­der if we can ever go back to shoes and socks.

As for qual­ity ship­board hours, with a shore visit daily it is a mat­ter of or­gan­is­ing suf­fi­cient time to en­joy the

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