Cruise the Pacific and Oceania aboard Le Soleal

Overview

Enjoy an unforgettable experience in the heart of the Pacific. Aboard the 264-guest Le Soleal, cruise From Hanga Roa, Easter Island, to Papeete, French Polynesia. Along the way, discover the mysterious moais of Easter Island, call at the Pitcairn Islands, where the mutinous crew of the Bounty landed, explore the Gambier Islands, with their multicolored lagoons, then finish with a flourish at the enchanting isle of Moorea, one of the pearls of French Polynesia and a true postcard from paradise.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1, Mar 8, 2020
Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Arrive in Hanga Roa, the main town of legendary Easter Island and its only urban area. Embark on Le Soleal between 4:00 and 5:00 pm. Dinner and overnight on board.

Bathed by the Pacific Ocean, this picturesque Chilean town is an excellent base for exploring the island’s spectacular treasures, particularly the moai, the famous enigmatic monumental statues. The Polynesian Hanga Roa culture and its traditional houses are a sheer delight. As evening approaches, wend your way to the charming fishing port where, weather permitting, you can admire the captivating light of the setting sun.

Day 2, Mar 9, 2020
Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Two excursions are available today. One includes exploring Ahu Akivi, whose moai faces the ocean and offers a commanding view of the western part of the island. Its seven moai, all about 14 feet tall and approximatively 12 tons each, are remarkably similar. Built in 1460 BC, probably at a time when the statue cult was beginning to unravel, it is one of the “youngest” ahus of the island and was completely restored in 1960 by archaeologist William Mulloy. Continue your excursion toward Puna Pau, a quarry in a small crater or cinder cone on the outskirts of Hanga Roa in the southwest of the island. Puna Pau was the sole source of the red scoria that the Rapa Nui people used to carve the pukao (topknots) that they put on the heads of some of their iconic moai statues. The stone from Puna Pau was also used for a few nonstandard moai and for some petroglyphs. From this site, the tour continues toward Huri a Urenga, one of the few inland ahus of the island. The inland ahus are generally thought to have astronomical significance. The four-hand single moai here faces the sun as it rises behind a hill (Poike) at the winter solstice. Finally, continue toward Hanga Roa Village, where you will have time at leisure to explore the village independently, discovering its church decorated with spectacular carved wooden statues, a unifying vision of Christianity and indigenous spirituality. Also, you may visit the colorful handicraft market before joining your tour vehicle to drive back to the quay of Hanga Piko, to be tendered back to your ship.

The other excursion explores the impressive Ahu Tahai, a complex constituted of three different ahu sites: Ahu Ko Te Riku, Vai Ure and Tahai. Ahu Ko Te Riku is a beautiful single statue placed on a platform, dating back to 690 BC. The statue is in good condition and has beautiful white eyeballs with dark pupils. This complex is believed to be one of the oldest ancient statue sites on Rapa Nui. Continue toward the Sebastian Englert Museum, an anthropological museum dedicated to the conservation of the Rapa Nui cultural patrimony, housing the only female moai as well as one of its coral eyes.

Next, drive up to the Ceremonial Village of Orongo, one of the most significant archaeological sites in Rapa Nui National Park. It was the center of the birdman cult established in an attempt to restore the society after the collapse of the moai culture. Clans would gather at the village each year, and their champions would compete in a kind of triathlon to elect island’s religious leader. The village consists of some 53 houses and a small square entry overlooking the ocean, where the clans would live during the ceremonies. Remaining the last period of ancient times, this was an historical landmark in the Rapa Nui culture. Finally, drive down toward Hanga Piko quay, with a final stop at a look-out point to observe the impressive crater lake of the Rano Kau, being the second oldest volcano on the island and dating back over 2.5 million years. It is known because of its cliff and for its huge caldera containing one of the island’s three fresh water lakes.

Day 3, Mar 10, 2020
Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Depart from Hanga Piko quay toward the restored Ahu Tongariki. This magnificent platform is the largest on the island and holds fifteen moais. This site was completely destroyed by a tsunami in 1960, and was restored in 1992-95 by Claudio Cristino of the University of Chile. From this site, the tour continues on to the volcano of Rano Raraku, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Enjoy a half-mile guided hike up by the walls of the volcano where 95% of the moais were carved. Today you will find 394 statues in various stages of completion. For those wanting to explore deeper, follow a second steep trail independently up to the crater of the volcano, where you will find a quarry where the locals extracted the hard volcanic rock to create nearly all of the existing, immense moais. The volcano crater has an interior of more than 164 feet in depth. Its high 650-foot walls are a natural reservoir used throughout time by the island's inhabitants. It conserves an enclosed garden of priceless Polynesian and native species that constitutes an appropriate microclimate for the main preservation of flora on the island.

Afterwards, continue toward Anakena Beach, located on the northeast coast, 15.5 miles from Hanga Piko quay. Once in Anakena, it will be easy to understand why the first king of the island, Hotu Matu'a, landed at this beach and started one of the most amazing megalithic cultures the world has seen. Anakena has four ahu sites; two of them have been reconstructed and the other two attest to the weathering of time. The first ahu, Ature Huki, was restored by Heyerdahl in 1955 and the other is Ahu Nau Nau, restored by the archaeologist Sergio Rapu. Enjoy your lunch surrounded by the palm trees with a Rapa Nui folkloric performance. If time allows, you may take a swim at the beach before heading back to the quay. A stop will be made in Hanga Roa Otai point, should you wish to visit downtown independently.

Days 4-5, Mar 11-12, 2020
At Sea

During your days at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness center. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. These days without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, to do some shopping in the boutique, or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observer marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest, and entertainment.

Day 6, Mar 13, 2020
Sailing along Ducie Island

This lost atoll in the heart of the Pacific Ocean merits special attention. It was discovered by the British Captain Edward Edwards in 1791 and named after Baron Francis Ducie, a captain in the British navy. Located about 300 miles from Pitcairn Island, it is one of the most remote islands in the world. Very few ships have approached it, and it has apparently never been permanently inhabited. Sailing away from this coral atoll, you will be able to admire from afar the volcanic island of Pitcairn, whose summit culminates at about 1,100 feet and which has around fifty inhabitants.

Day 7, Mar 14, 2020
Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands

If you’ve got a taste for adventure and you love discovering wild, remote lands, you’ll definitely be won over by the Pitcairn islands. This tiny British territory is mainly composed of atolls right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Rimmed by steep cliffs several hundred feet high, volcanic Pitcairn Island is best explored on foot. In Adamstown, the only village on this 2-square-mile land, you’ll meet the 50 sole inhabitants of the entire archipelago. The stop at Pitcairn is subject to weather and sea conditions.

Days 8-9, Mar 15-16, 2020
Sailing Around Temoe Atoll / Rikitea, Gambier Islands

Sailing around the Temoe Atoll is breathtaking. Trapezoidal in shape, it is the most easterly atoll in French Polynesia. In administrative terms, it belongs to the Gambier Islands and has been uninhabited since 1838, when missionaries moved all the inhabitants to Mangareva. There are several ancient Polynesian remains and archaeologists are attempting to preserve the integrity of the former heritage of the atoll by faithfully rebuilding certain coral monuments. In the waters around the atoll, it is common to see shoals of tuna or sea bream following the coastlines—a unique and marvelous spectacle. The next day, discover the tall island of Mangareva, an unusual place tucked between sky and sea, surrounded by a magnificent coral reef, and boasting an abundance of vegetation. Located in the Gambier archipelago, it is the cradle of Catholicism in this part of the world and boasts an exceptional cultural heritage, as demonstrated by the vestiges of 19th century religious buildings here. Nestled in the heart of this historic site with idyllic landscapes is the small village of Rikitea, where one of Polynesia’s wonders, Saint Michael’s Cathedral, stands proudly, entirely built from coral and timber. Renowned for the quality of its immaculate black pearls, this small corner of paradise will gladly reveal its most beautiful treasures to you.

Days 10-11, Mar 17-18, 2020
At Sea

Enjoy another two days at sea as you cruise toward Moorea.

Day 12, Mar 19, 2020
Cook Bay, Moorea

Lush, emerald vegetation contrasting with the limpid turquoise of the ocean, charming wooden bungalows scattered along pristine beaches...the beauty of Moorea is sumptuous, unchanged since James Cook discovered the island in 1769. Edged with coral, this small island is renowned for its natural gardens of tropical flowers as well as its pineapple plantations. It's total relaxation in the middle of a paradise lost, fragranced with Tahitian gardenias. Today you can enjoy a number of optional excursions: wander along the two bays that slice through the coral island, or head off to explore the Belvedere, which offers a breathtaking view over the majestic volcanic peaks of the island, including Mount Rotui. With a marine biologist specializing in dolphins and whales, encounter the many dolphins and rays that swim gracefully in the lagoon. You can also board a tour boat for snorkeling and whale watching, or join a photo safari with a local professional photographer.

Day 13, Mar 20, 2020
Papeete

Arrive in Papeete and disembark in the early morning. Capital of French Polynesia, Papeete is on the northwest coast of the island of Tahiti. You’ll find a relaxed atmosphere here, where urban buzz combines with the legendary laid-back Polynesian lifestyle. Culture is not lacking. You can enjoy sites narrating the history of the archipelago, including the colonial cathedral and the Maison de la Reine Marau. The Vaipahi public gardens will win you over by their abundant plant life. The large municipal market offers local specialties: fresh fruit, spices, and all kinds of fish abound on their stalls. Depart on homeward-bound flight.

Highlights

Highlights

Discover Easter Island's impressive Ahu Tahai and its monumental statues listed as Archaeological Heritage by UNESCO
On Pitcairn, visit the museum and its great collection of items from the Bounty
Visit one of the most renowned pearl farms at Mangareva and Saint Michel’s Cathedral in Rikitea
A lecturer passionate about Rapa Nui and Orongo culture will be on board
Option of diving and/or snorkeling with an experienced instructor on board

Details

Length: 13 days
Cost From: $6170  
Arrive: Hanga Roa, Easter Island
Depart: Papeete, Tahiti
Lodging: 14 nights aboard a 264-guest vessel
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Archaeology, Cultural Adventures, Snorkeling, Photography, Diving, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

14-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours, snorkeling
Cruise collection 2020 brochure

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