Unforgettable Travel Company

French Polynesia Small Ship Cruises 2024/25

Divided into five archipelagos with over 100 islands, including popular Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Mo’orea, French Polynesia has extraordinary appeal with its spectacular sandy beaches and surreal lagoons, and diverse culture. Visitors often fall in love, not only with its beautiful scenery but the friendly, welcoming people, over more than two-thirds of which live in Papeete, Tahiti. That’s where most journeys in this enchanting region begin, but to really immerse yourself in the magic, you’ll want to travel from there to get a glimpse of a variety of islands, their contrasting scenery and cultures, by embarking on a small-ship cruise. 

Our sleek two-masted sailing cruiser provides access to the lagoons so that you can experience islands that larger ships can’t reach. Plus, her maximum capacity for just 49 guests ensures that everyone will enjoy personalised service and plenty of space to roam about, relax, dine, and mingle. Almost anywhere on this elegant vessel, you’ll be able to gaze out at the awe-inspiring passing views, with her 25 spacious cabins featuring a mix of windows and portholes. There are large windows in common areas like the comfy lounge, and on the upper deck, you can relax while surrounded by the brilliant turquoise sea in sun-exposed and semi-covered spaces.

Our Cruises in French Polynesia

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Ports of Call

  • Papeete 429 x 429

    Papeete

    The capital city of French Polynesia, Papeete is a multicultural centre with a cosmopolitan air embedded among striking natural beauty. Here you can relax on sunny, idyllic beaches and sample delicious Tahitian cuisine at one of the many fantastic food trucks and eateries serving local delicacies. Fresh seafood and produce are abundant here, with fish like tuna and mahi mahi some of the mainstays. Be sure to visit the local market too. Just a stone’s throw from the waterfront, the Papeete public market offers everything from Tahitian black pearls and colourful handcrafted items to local vegetables and fruits, flowers, vanilla beans, and monoi products.

  • Bora Bora 429 x 429

    Bora Bora

    One of the world’s most photogenic destinations, Bora Bora is a French Polynesian dream with unrivaled beauty and a romantic atmosphere that makes it especially popular among honeymooners. Its legendary lagoon is encircled by tiny islets and backed by rainforest-covered basaltic peaks. Mount Otemanu’s lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus. The underwater world is just as breath-taking, with colourful fish darting in and out of coral gardens as giant manta rays glide past. Snorkelling, diving, parasailing, and lagoon tours are just a few of the popular activities, although simply gazing out at the surrounding scenery is a favourite pastime too.

  • Huahine Island 429 x 429

    Huahine

    Known as the “Garden of Eden,” Huahine offers beautifully lush landscapes that include vanilla orchids, coconut plantations, watermelon fields, banana groves, and breadfruit trees. If you were stranded here, you’d find plenty to sustain yourself. It’s made up of two islands, Big Huainhe, which has a livelier atmosphere and opportunities for shark feeding, while Little Huaine to the south is more rugged and isolated for those who want to get away from it all, soaking up the sun on postcard-perfect beaches and swimming in turquoise lagoons.

  • Raiatea 429 x 429

    Raiatea

    The second largest of the Society Islands covering 92 square miles, Raiatea, which means “faraway heaven,” is considered the birthplace of Polynesia. Widely regarded as the region’s most sacred island, it’s volcanic and mountainous, with its mountains blanketed in green soaring above 3,000 feet up to the peak of celebrated Mount Temehani, where the beautiful flower symbol of the island, Apetahi Tiare, blooms only here. This off-the-beaten-path island and its neighbour Tahaa, part of the same volcanic complex, is sure to be a highlight with the unique culture and crystal-clear lagoon for exploring coral gardens with tropical fish and underwater caves.

  • Mo orea 429 x 429

    Mo'orea

    The “sister island” of Tahiti, Mo’orea is triangular-shaped, lying just 12 miles away across the Sea of Moon. It’s encircled by a lagoon with stunning pale green waters and fringed by a cobalt blue sea. Cutting into its north end are Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay, the latter backed by jagged Mt. Mouaroa. Between them, Mt. Rotui soars for more than 2,000 feet while saw-toothed mountain ridges run across the island. Some of the world’s most stunning black and white sand beaches are found here. Some say the deep bays and rugged peaks were the inspiration for James A. Michener’s mythical isle of Bai Hai.

  • Tuamoto 429 x 429

    Tuamoto

    The Tuamotu archipelago, translating to “islands on the ocean’s back,” has been compared to the backs of surfacing whales. Each island has hundreds of tiny islets which are limestone, sand, and coral strung together forming rectangular or circular shapes with white enclosed blue lagoons. They’re spread over more than 700,000 square miles and a must-experience for divers with the atoll lagoons a protected underwater paradise. It’s the cradle of the Tahitian cultured pearl, with pearl farms floating on the cerulean water. Some of the atolls feature only endless white sands and several acres of coconut plantations, but there are larger atolls like Rangiroa, the world’s biggest.

 
Panorama in Costa Rica

Our Cruise Ships in French Polynesia

MS Panorama

Panorama’s passengers enjoy her sleek beauty, comfort and state-of-the-art safety features, with many vantage points for taking advantage of sweeping, unobstructed ocean views that live up to her name. Her billowy white sails are seductive, while the 24 spacious, en-suite cabins provide a sanctuary for guests that ensure a peaceful night’s rest.

Panorama II Life on Board

Life On Board a French Polynesian Cruise

What better way to get in touch with Polynesian culture than exploring the islands of Tahiti by sea, as the region’s people have for thousands of years. Admire the beauty of the islands and their lagoons from the comfort of a private air-conditioned cabin with ensuite bathroom, each with a window. Enjoy swim stops with opportunities to discover varied Pacific sea life, or perhaps try your hand at fishing!

With three delicious meals included daily you’ll be ready to explore each port of call or join one of several optional shore excursions. Highlight meals include a local theme night and a fun barbecue. Avid birdwatchers will want to pack their binoculars and keep an eye out for a number of striking endemic species. With just 25 guest cabins and a maximum of 49 guests onboard, the ship offers guests an intimate experience

 

Excursions

  • Snorkelling Sting Rays 429 x 429

    Snorkel with Rays and Sharks

    Stingrays and blacktip reef sharks are just some of what is waiting to be discovered in Bora Bora’s stunning lagoons. This excursion brings you to a vibrant coral garden to snorkel among marine life in shallow, clear waters before venturing to the stingrays and sharks, watching from the boat, or getting into the water with them.

  • Taha a 4 x 4 429 x429

    4X4 Tour of Taha'a

    This excursion brings you to Taha’a, which shares a gorgeous lagoon with Raiatea. You’ll explore the lush interior – don’t forget your camera as there will be plenty of postcard-perfect photo-ops, including magnificent views of Haamene’s turquoise bay. Discover vibrant tropical greenery, sample local fruits, visit a traditional vanilla plantation and a pearl farm.

  • Raiatea Guided Tour 429 x 429

    Guided Tour of Faraway Heaven

    A guided tour of this “faraway heaven,” as Raiatea is often called, is a place of pilgrimage with many cultures believing the island to be the Polynesian’s birthplace. This excursion starts by paddling a kayak through the only navigable river in the region, followed by a visit to an ancient marine temple and a picnic.

  • Caves Makatea 429 x 429

    Underwater Caves of Makatea

    Located in the Tuamotu Archipelago, Makatea is home to a complex system of partially submerged caves that form a labyrinth beneath the island. They were used for purification during ritual ceremonies and are laced with stalagmites and stalactites. You can enter Vaimarui cave with its elegant leg-shaped stalactite by swimming through the fresh, transparent waters.

  • Diving Rangiroa 429 x 429

    Dive the Blue Lagoon

    One of the most popular attractions in Rangiroa is the Blue Lagoon, with small islets covered in palm trees bordering the natural pool that’s like a lagoon in a lagoon. This excursion will bring you to dive among its lemon sharks and blacktip reef sharks in remarkably translucent blue waters.

  • Moorea Hike

    Three Coconuts Hike

    One of the most popular hikes on Mo’orea is the Three Coconuts Pass trail. A guided trek will bring you on the moderate 4-mile route that winds through lush rainforest bringing views of the island’s peaks and a waterfall. Along the way, you’ll learn about bird and plant life from your expert guide.

 

Q&A

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From

Muno our Small Ship Cruise Specialist

How do I get to French Polynesia?

Part of the appeal of a cruise in French Polynesia is its sheer remoteness. The South Pacific is a dreamer’s destination, sitting thousands of miles from the nearest continent, eternally associated with adventure, discovery, and epic landscapes. Our small ship cruises operate out of the Polynesian capital Papeete on the largest and most populous island Tahiti. Despite its remoteness, Papeete is well-connected with long-haul flights from North America, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. 

 

How big are the ships?

At UTC we operate only small ship cruises. With a preference for attentive service and adventurous itineraries, we work exclusively with ships that carry at most 45-50 passengers, with high crew-to-guest ratios and a high-end, 4-5* quality of cabins and communal areas. As well as ensuring our guests are well looked after onboard, these smaller ships can also access areas that are impossible for the largest ships, ensuring our routes stay fresh and engaging year on year.

What islands do the cruises visit?

Beginning and ending in Papeete (French Polynesia’s only major international gateway), cruises typically take in the Tahiti Islands (Tahiti and Moorea), before crossing northwest to the Society Islands: Taha’a, Raiatea, Huahine, and the staggering, world-famous resort island of Bora Bora. Longer cruises may also cross north to the Tuamoto Island group, taking in Tikehau, Rangiroa, and Makatea before returning to Papeete via Tetiaroa. 

 

What kind of activities are included?

As detailed further above, the cruises have more than a taste of expedition about them, focusing on the breathtaking natural scenery of Polynesia, both on land and under the sparkling sea. Divers and snorkelers will find plenty of opportunities to interact with rays, sharks, and gorgeous natural lagoons packed with tropical fish. On land, explore the lush forests and soaring volcanic landscapes on energetic hikes or by intrepid 4×4 jeep rides. Note that excursions are typically kept optional, allowing you the freedom to choose which you’d like to participate in mid-cruise. 

 

When is the best time for sailing?

The South Pacific is known for being hot, humid, and tropical year-round. The established dry season for Polynesia however is between April and October, when you’ll find the highest percentage of clear skies and warm sunshine. With less wind and rain around, these months also see the calmest waters for cruising: particularly beneficial on longer itineraries that involve ocean crossings between island groups. The Pacific Islands are known for their many festivals and cultural events, so whenever you travel you’re likely to encounter some local color along with the magnificent scenery.

 

Why book with Unforgettable Travel Co.

  • 100% Financial Protection

    100% Financial Protection

    We are a licensed and fully bonded tour operator financially protected by both the Civil Aviation Authority (ATOL) and the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT). All clients that travel with us are fully financially protected.

  • Destination Experts

    Destination Experts

    Our travel experts live and breathe the destinations they specialise in. This shows in their passionate to create hand crafted trips for our clients. We don’t offer cookie cutter trips, just truly unforgettable journeys unlike any other.

  • The Best Guides

    The Best Guides

    What makes our trips extraordinary is the unique immersive experiences we include. We pride ourselves in our black book of sought after expert guides, game rangers and local contacts who believe in our philosophy, unforgettable.

  • We Care

    We Care

    From the moment you book your trip, we are on hand 24/7 to assist you throughout your journey. With regional offices around the world, we have ground logistics teams on hand to help you every step of the way.