Freighter Travel Goes Upscale: Aranui Changes the Numbers Game

SEPTEMBER 22, 2015
Eric Anderson, MD & Nancy Anderson, RN
Cruise passengers are used to changes in numbers. Some older cruisers who had sailed on the celebrated Queen Elizabeth, for example, were pleased to seek out the Queen Elizabeth 2, the QE 2, to arrange their deckchairs  and chat and reminisce with other passengers about the past, and wonder at the future.
Cruise passengers can be romantics and not want to find an old favorite upstaged by a newcomer with essentially the same name but, like a pope or a monarch, given a follow-up number. But comfort, safety, and convenience are powerful forces, which is why the middle-aged man we saw yesterday driving his great-great grandfather’s 1914 Buick conceded he did it out of loyalty but regretted it didn’t have anti-lock brakes, seat belts, or airbags. We think all this when Joan Hanselman-Wong, a San Diego-based area sales manager for the Aranui Comagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime, shows us what the Aranui 5 will look like, and, yes, it will be a lot more lavish than the Aranui 3 we sailed on.
Top: Joan Wong and Aranui 5. Bottom Aranui 3.
The Aranui 5 is scheduled to begin sailing in November 2015. It is being constructed in China. The original Aranui was purchased from a New Zealand ship owner in 1959. Its name in Maori language meant “Great Highway” – so apt its new owners kept the name. As trade grew between Papeete and the islands the ship became too small. The Aranui 2 was a converted German ship with strong hull-plates to handle Baltic ice but, in time, it also became too small. The Aranui 3 was built in Romania, still a working ship, but re-classified for passengers. There is no Aranui 4; 4 is an unlucky number in China. Even the number 5 may be awkward for a ship working in French Polynesia where its name would be pronounced as Aranui Cinq to be theoretically overheard by a chatterbox, “The Aranui sank? Oh my god. What went wrong?”
The freighter market has changed. Not so much the workload, just the preferences of passengers who sign up for soft adventure cruises. Say marketing and advertising companies about this group, “They want it softer and with greater comfort.”
Placed in service in 2003, the Aranui 3’s length is 386 feet against the 5’s 413 feet. The 3 carries 200 passengers and the 5 will carry 254 but both ships have a similar cruising speed of 15 knots.
Says Michael Wong, an Aranui sales associate and one of Joan’s four children, “You have to satisfy demand. People want what they want! We found our passengers asked for more suites than we could offer so we reconfigured the 5 differently with more suites, fewer simple cabins -- but we put in more balconies and made the ship more upscale. The Aranui 5 will have 14 more cabins. And it will have an option that has always been available but not well known: the convenience of a 11-day cruise for Americans living in the Midwest or East Coast who may have to spend two days getting to Papeete in contrast to lucky Americans who live closer such as on the West Coast”
Check details about the 11-day cruise with the San Mateo, CA office. We understand the shorter cruise flies you on to Nuka Hiva, the first Marquesas island on the cruise. The airfare from Papeete to Nuku Hiva adds $600 to your total air fare but the cruise is $300 less, so the convenience of getting the trip all within a two-week work vacation ultimately costs $300 more per person. And vacation-deprived Americans might say it was worth it. It wouldn’t be an issue with Europeans like the French with their five-and six-week vacations
Serenity in the South Pacific; a sail boat drifts into harbor A working ship gets ready to deliver to one of its islands.

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