How to Choose Your Cruise: French Polynesia and Pacific

Imagine the bluest water and a warm, scented breeze. Then contrast it with hypnotic fire dancing against a backdrop of ancient, active volcanoes. Even the most imaginative descriptions interpretations are no match for the islands of the Pacific, where nature harmonizes with cultural traditions.

French Polynesia is a collective of more than 100 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, including the Marquesas,, the Society Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago. Melanesia consists of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. Collectively, these regions contain most of the South Pacific’s islands, which stretch from the eastern shore of Australia to the west coast of South America.

Snorkeling in the Society Islands opens new worlds./Shutterstock

The geography may be unfamiliar, but the appeal is obvious: These havens are far removed from everyday life. Visitors can learn about the local cultures, luxuriate on idyllic stretches of sand or look beneath the surface of the waters to discover a variety of animal and plant life, all reminding us of the wonders of our planet.

The challenge of choosing a South Pacific Silversea cruise is not the why of it but the where. Here is your guide to departure and arrival ports in the South Pacific as well as the nuances of the itineraries.

French Polynesia and Pacific cruise turnaround ports

You’ll feel as though you’re over the rainbow in Tahiti with its surreal colors./Shutterstock

Silversea uses a handful of ports to embark and disembark guests from their adventure into the islands of French Polynesia and Pacific.

Papeete, Tahiti:  Papeete, the capital of the islands of French Polynesia, is on Tahiti, the largest island and a popular turnaround port for such sailings. Halfway between Los Angeles and Sydney, Tahiti is equally removed from the U.S and Australia, although its time zone is the same as Hawaii’s.

Besides its commercial cruise port, Papeete is home to Faa’a International Airport, making it a busy crossroads for visitors and locals throughout the South Pacific and a convenient place to begin or end a transpacific adventure. Alluring black and white sand beaches also result in one of the island’s most eye-catching souvenirs: the black pearl.

Lautoka, Fiji: Lautoka, the second-largest city in Fiji and also a cruise port, is home to lush parks and botanical gardens, bustling markets and an iconic Hindu temple. Visitors also can glimpse everyday Fijian life through its traditional villages and local bus tours, which stop at the tucked-away Saweni Beach. The still-functioning Lautoka Sugar Mill, in operation for nearly 120 years, is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. There are no public tours, but the rail lines are still visible throughout the island. If you’re spending time there, be sure to pack rain gear because Fiji experiences frequent showers. The wet season, when rain occurs most days, typically is November through April.

Valparaíso, Chile: The capital of the region of the same name, Valparaíso is a European-influenced epicenter of culture and of the country’s naval operations. Steep elevation changes make for stunning vistas, whether you’re at the top of the city looking down to its massive port on the South Pacific Ocean or at sea level looking up at its rainbow of cliffside homes and steeples.

At the home of the late poet Pablo Neruda, a visitor “chats” with the Nobel winner’s silhouette in Valparaíso, Chile. /Rodrigo Fernández/Wikimedia Commons

Cruisers looking for longer Pacific itineraries might begin or end their journey in Valparaíso, a 23-day sailing to or from Tahiti. If  you’re headed to the South Pacific, pack your sandals, but for Valparaiso, pack your walking shoes and spend some time in this multilayered Chilean city. It was once the home of poet and Nobel Prize-winner Pablo Neruda. It’s now a popular museum offering stellar views. “If we walk up and down all the stairs of Valparaíso,” Neruda wrote, “we’ll have walked all round the world.”

The Cairns, Australia, Esplanade at sunrise./Shutterstock

Cairns, Australia: Cairns, at the far north of Queensland, may be best known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The city prides itself on its many outdoor offerings, including the world-renowned reef Daintree reef system under the Coral Sea; its Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest, which Sir David Attenborough called “the most extraordinary place on Earth.” Al fresco bars, cafes and markets are concentrated along the dreamy Cairns Esplanade, making it an ideal outing day or night. From Cairns, Silversea explores Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands before docking in Fiji. Also on offer is a sailing that begins in Cairns and ends in Darwin, Australia; it’s typically a 2.5-hour nonstop flight, but this expedition cruise includes many incredible ports along the way.

The frilled lizard in Kakadu National Park, Darwin, Australia, may look fierce, but they’re mostly harmless. /Shutterstock

Darwin, Australia: Darwin is the gateway to Kakadu National Park, a dramatic collection of natural marvels and the largest of Australia’s national parks. Darwin is also the capital of the country’s Northern Territory and a hub of Aboriginal art and culture. Port Darwin has a harbor on the deep water Beagle Gulf of the Timor Sea, named for the HMS Beagle, on which naturalist Charles Darwin sailed in the early 19th century. But Darwin also is one of the most modern cities in Australia, rebuilt in 1975 after Cyclone Tracy devastated much of it. Darwin is closer to Indonesia than it is to Melbourne in southern Australia.

Classic French Polynesia cruise itineraries

Board the 392-guest Silver Shadow for a luxurious getaway from Tahiti into the wild blue yonder.

2025

Nuka Hiva is part of the Marquesas./Shutterstock

Round trip Papeete:  This 11-night tour of French Polynesia includes eight ports of call and five sail dates (Jan. 26, Feb. 19, March 2 and 26, and April 6). Two sea days allow a welcome pause from the excitement of stops in far-flung islands such as Fakarava in the Tuamotu Archipelago; Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas; Rangiroa; Raiatea; Moorea Island; and an overnight on Bora Bora in the Society Islands

Two sail dates (Feb. 6 and March 13) are 13-night cruises that include the Cook Islands and calls in Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

Expedition-style cruise itineraries in the Pacific

Silversea guests bound for a Pacific expedition will board the 254-passenger Silver Cloud for 2024.

Darwin, Australia, to Lautoka, Fiji

The Yasawa island chain may look familiar to fans of the “Blue Lagoon” movies./Shutterstock

Embarking in the north of Australia, passengers on this three-week expedition to Fiji can expect 20 thrilling ports of call across five countries. Onboard guides will train guests to spot wildlife as they sail toward the remote islands of Australia and Papua New Guinea, including the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala.

It’s then on to the Solomon Islands, which are home to natural wonders including the Marovo Lagoon, one of the world’s largest saltwater lagoons and a double barrier reef system, which is ideal for snorkel trips.

Spend two days in enchanting Vanuatu, often honored as one of the world’s best beaches, before calling on Yasawa, an island chain in Fiji open to tourists only since 1987 and location of both “Blue Lagoon” films.  

Lautoka, Fiji to Papeete, Tahiti

Which South Pacific cruise is right for you? This story will help you sort it out.
The view from Mt. Talau in Tonga/Shutterstock

A leisurely two weeks takes guests on this South Pacific sailing to Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia. Some ports of call, such as Ringgold Isles in Fiji, are mostly uninhabited. In Tonga you can spot humpback whales, hike Mt. Talau, or spend the day at a vanilla plantation. If you didn’t think island hopping across some of the most picturesque places in the world could get any better, your ship will cross the International Date Line mid-voyage, essentially blessing guests with an extra day of vacation.

Papeete, Tahiti, to Valparaíso, Chile

Guests onboard this autumn South Pacific expedition to South America are in it for the long haul, spending 23 nights on Silver Cloud sailing from Tahiti east toward the Valparaíso. Along the way, passengers can set foot in 13 ports across three countries, with 10 restorative days at sea sprinkled throughout. An overnight in Adamstown, the capital of the Pitcairn Islands, is a neat way to see the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. Besides shore excursions to experience the towns and villages, guests onboard this expedition sailing can also enjoy kayaking, hiking, and Zodiac tours that let them take in the stunning South Pacific scenery.

2026

Silversea has just announced 17 new voyages in French Polynesia for 2026. Guests on the Silver Whisper will visit the Society and Marquesas islands as well as the Tuamotu Archipelago. These seven- and 14-day sailings will depart from Papeete, Tahiti.

The week-long sailings will focus on the Society Islands and include ports in Moorea, Raiatea, Huahine and Bora Bora. Experts in the history, culture and geology of these ports will paint a picture of both the windward (Îles du Vent) and leeward (Îles Sous le Vent) islands .

The 14-day itineraries includes the Society and Marquesas Islands as well as tje Tuamotu Archipelago. These journeys also depart from Papeete but will include Morrea and an overnight call in Raiatea (Society Islands), plus Fakarava and Rangiroa (Tuamotu), Nuku Hiva and Fatu Hiva (Marquesas), among others.

The 14-day trip includes an electric bike journey in Raiatea, whale watching in Morrea and an optional barbecue and musical performance on a private island.

For more information, check out this page.