The best kind of cruise holiday is one that makes you feel a world away, without even having to go far at all. With a sultry slew of South Pacific islands right on our doorstep, it's the perfect cruising destination complete with sparkling seas, swaying palms and cultural encounters that come with a sweet, tropical touch. Island getaways don't get much better than this. Here are our favourite South Pacific cruising destinations.
The sunlit water glimmers in a thousand shades of aquamarine and turquoise in the lagoons that encircle the islands of New Caledonia, including the Isle of Pines. The reef diversity of the lagoon is a phenomenon that grants it World Heritage status, and diving or snorkelling offers a journey through a wonderland of vivid marine life. Explore hidden beaches and deserted atolls, or enjoy gourmet cuisine shaded by palm trees – just one aspect of the country’s delicious French and tropical fusion.
Charmingly low-key and vibrant with culture, the archipelago of Tonga is a destination where immersion in daily life is the main attraction. Island time is a given, tourist traps are nonexistent, and the friendly locals are more than happy to demonstrate how to relax into their leisurely pace of living. The region’s volcanic history is evident in Tonga’s stunning sea caves, where scuba diving is a must. Float free through crystal water, where you might be lucky enough to meet a sea turtle or hear the whale song of the local humpbacks.
The chic resorts and restaurants of Port Vila offer an intriguing contrast to the traditional ambience of the outlying islands, but it’s a distinction that ensures there’s something for everyone in Vanuatu. Smoking volcanos are a common backdrop to scenes of island splendour, and the experience of getting up close and personal with the molten magma of Mt Yasur is an encounter you’ll never forget.
Fijians traditionally use dance and song to relay stories in a practice known as meke. The performance could be a graceful fan dance or a heartpounding war whoop from fearsome warriors – but don’t let the latter fool you. Fijians are known as the friendliest folk in the world, and beaming smiles and joyful cries of ‘bula!’ will accompany you throughout these exquisite islands.
French Polynesia’s islands are flung like a scattering of jewels across the waters of the South Pacific, each more beautiful than the last. Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea hardly need an introduction; the scenes of enchanting overwater bungalows and luscious waterfalls feature in the daydreams of many. Meanwhile, the archipelago’s
far-flung islands, like Taha’a and Raiatea, present the opportunity to get off the beaten path while lingering in paradise.
There is only a slight scattering of low-key accommodations on offer in the Solomon Islands – just one aspect that makes this island paradise a haven of authentic experiences for travellers. Adventurous souls can hike, surf and dive to their heart’s content, with no crowds to disturb their exploration of dormant volcanoes situated not so far from gorgeous reefs. Insights into traditional culture are easy to come by and cast everything into wonderful perspective.
Dazzling beaches are just the beginning; Samoa’s islands boast a paradise of jungle terrain perfect for exploration. These dense, emerald forests conceal waterfalls that
plummet from magnificent heights into rock pools. Visit Savai’i and be thrilled by the power of the Alofaaga Blowholes, or swim in the waters of the To Sua Ocean Trench, a beautiful swimming hole. The cheerful locals are fiercely proud of their traditions and happy to teach others of ‘the Samoan way’.
Enigmatic stone figures dot the hills of Easter Island, some buried to the neck and others up to 10 metres in height. No-one knows why the ancient Rapa Nui people
erected the moai statues, but today their mystery, plus a little island splendour, is why people come. Although tourism is on the rise, the island retains a blissful seclusion. The fantastic snorkelling, diving and surfing options offer a powerful drawcard, but the island’s mystical atmosphere is what makes it unforgettable.