The fantasy: To hop a tramp steamer and idly meander between exotic South Seas ports. Alas, a dream of the past. Or is it?
The new Aranui III roams French Polynesia, unloading cargo and loading copra in the ruggedly beautiful Marquesas Islands. But the freighter also accommodates 200 passengers in suites, cabins and a dormitory, and boasts a pool, gym, library, bars and lounge. French-registered and ported in Tahiti, Aranui III made her maiden voyage March 1.
As most islands have no docks, passengers are hoisted in and out of longboats by tattooed Polynesian crewmen and sometimes must wade ashore. Schedules follow the tramp steamer credo: to deliver goods to island residents and to take the adventurous to the places that captivated Paul Gauguin, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson--and fans of TV's "Survivor," filmed last year on Nuku Hiva.
Fifteen-night voyages from $1,980 to $4,950 per person, including meals with wine. Aranui III, Compagnie Polynesienne de Transporte Maritime, (650) 574-2575, (800) 972-7268, or book through travel agents; www.aranui.com.