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Island-hop in paradise: Cruises return to French Polynesia

July 20, 2021
4 min read
Island-hop in paradise: Cruises return to French Polynesia
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The remote islands of French Polynesia are finally accessible again to cruisers, thanks to Windstar Cruises.

The small-ship cruise specialist on Thursday became the first traditional cruise line to restart French Polynesia sailings since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic with voyages out of Tahiti.

Windstar restarted sailings out of Tahiti with a seven-night trip on its 148-passenger Wind Spirit -- a partly sail-powered vessel that has been based year-round in French Polynesia for several years.

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The sailing is bringing calls at the nearby French Polynesian islands of Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Huahine.

Windstar is one of two traditional cruise lines that normally offer French Polynesia voyages year-round. The other line that does so, Paul Gauguin Cruises, plans to restart sailings in the region on Aug. 28.

Tourists also can cruise around French Polynesia on an unusual hybrid vessel called Aranui 5 that is part cargo ship, part passenger vessel. Designed to deliver goods to remote French Polynesian islands but also built with passenger cabins, Aranui 5 has been welcoming paying passengers on board since August 2020.

All French Polynesia cruises came to a halt in March 2020 after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. Paul Gauguin Cruises restarted sailings in the region soon thereafter but later shut down again after the region closed to tourists amidst surging COVID-19 cases worldwide.

The 148-passenger Wind Spirit can operate on sail power as well as motors. (Photo courtesy of Windstar Cruises)

The latest restart of traditional cruising in French Polynesia comes as cruising is resuming in a growing number of places around the world. In just the last few weeks, cruising finally has restarted in the Caribbean after a 15-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and on Monday, the first big cruise ship sailed for Alaska in nearly two years. Cruising is ramping up in Europe, too.

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French Polynesia, meanwhile, soon will be home to more cruise vessels offering regular sailings than normal. Windstar traditionally bases just one of its six ships in the region. But starting on Sept. 19, it'll have a second vessel -- the 312-passenger Star Breeze -- based in Papeete, Tahiti, too, for an extended period.

Star Breeze will remain in French Polynesia through March 2022.

In a statement on the restart last week, Windstar president Christopher Prelog said there was pent-up demand for trips to the destination from honeymooners and people celebrating anniversaries who had been cut off from cruises in French Polynesia for much of the past year.

Windstar is offering a mix of seven-, 10- and 11-night French Polynesia sailings over the next months and also packaging the cruises with Air Tahiti Nui flights from Los Angeles and pre-cruise nights in a hotel.

For now, Windstar is requiring that all passengers on the sailings be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The line also is implementing other new health and safety measures, including social distancing and mask-wearing requirements.

Windstar currently has three of its six ships back in operation. The line's 148-passenger Wind Star restart sailings in Greece on June 19. Star Breeze resumed Caribbean trips on July 10.

The line's three other vessels -- Wind Surf, Star Legend and Star Pride -- are scheduled to restart operations on Aug. 8, Sept. 4 and Nov. 3, respectively.

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Featured image by Roger Paperno
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more