Papeete the largest cruise port in French Polynesia (overseas territory of France since 1946). It is located on Tahiti Island (the largest of Windward Islands) and annually handles around 2 million cruise ship tourists. Papeete Town has total area approx 17 km2 (7 mi2) and population around 26,000.
City's growth was boosted after moving the nuclear weapon test range from Algeria to the attols Mururoa and Fangataufa - approx 1500 km (930 mi) to the east of Tahiti. This led to the building of Faaa International Airport - opened in 1962, and located just 5 km (3 mi) southwest from downtown Papeete. Faaa is currently the only international airport in French Polynesia. Faaa Airport is served by the airlines:
- Air Tahiti (domestic inter-island flights only), Aircalin (Noumea New Caledonia)
- Air Tahiti Nui (connecting with Auckland NZ, Los Angeles USA, Paris, Tokyo)
- Air France (with Paris, Los Angeles USA)
- Air New Zealand (with Auckland)
- French Bee (with Paris, San Francisco USA)
- Hawaiian Airlines (with Honolulu)
- LATAM Chile (with Easter Island, Santiago)
- United Airlines (with San Francisco USA)
Regularly scheduled ferries connect Papeete with Moorea and Bora Bora. Port's high cruising season is June-August. Papeete is included in the cruise ship schedules of major luxury cruise companies like Princess, Oceania, Silversea, RSSC-Regent, Seabourn, Windstar. Papeete is often visited on repositioning cruises between Australia and Alaska (usually via Hawaii).
As homeport for Paul Gaugin Cruises, Papeete serves turnarounds (roundtrip itineraries) by MS Paul Gaugin to French Polynesian destinations in Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands. In Papeete are also homeported two of world's most famous "cargo cruise ships" - Aranui 3 (2002) and Aranui 5 (2015). Both are Ro-Pax vessels offering Papeete cruise itineraries (2-week long roundtrips) visiting ports in Marquesas and Society Islands.
In 2018, the cruise port reported a record season with handled 1070 ship calls (including 140 roundtrips). In 2019, cruise shipping traffic increased by ~15%. In 2018, Port Papeete started offering new fly-cruise package via partnership with the airlines United (USA Chicago-based) and French Bee (France Paris-based).
Papeete cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Tahiti Island dock at Papeete - port town on island's northwestern coast. Papeete cruise terminal is located in Papeete Harbor at Port de Plaisance. The facility has berthing capacity four cruise vessels simultaneously. Under construction is a new cruise terminal facility, that will increase port's capacity as both number of ships and GT tonnage (vessel size). When completed, at the new terminal will be able to dock larger liners with passenger capacity up to 2400.
Taxis usually are not available between 8 PM and 6 AM. In this period tourists usually pay up by 30% higher than usual taxi rates. “Le truck“ is a regularly scheduled large bus service, also used by most of the locals. Port's parking area is in front the cruise terminal.
Right next to the cruise terminal is Tahiti's Tourism Office, providing tourists with information on all available for booking guided city tours and cruise shore excursions. Downtown's streets are very congested, and road traffic is often an issue. A freeway starts close to downtown (Pomare Blvd).
Papeete tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- The Lagoonarium: located seven miles away from Papeete, direction West. Explore the wonderful marine life from underneath.
- The Municipal Market: big area with fresh vegetables and fruits. Find and buy interesting Tahiti items – handcrafts, food or souvenirs. You can listen to native music during lunchtime or join the Sundays festivals.
- Point Venus: located six miles away from Papeete, direction East. It is romantic place known since 1769. this was the year when Captain James Cook observed the Venus transit across the sun. you spend great time at the beach, have a picnic or buy something from the souvenir and handcraft shops.
- Paul Gauguin Museum: reproductions of Paul Gauguin’s works
- Arahurahu Marae: explore this amazing religious site with its old temples and statues.
- Beaches: Sofitel Maeva Beach, Mahana Park, Paea, Taharuu.
- Cathedral of Notre Dame de Papeete: consecrated since 1875 and renovated in 1987.
- Museum of Tahiti: located on former sacred “marae”. Discover the Polynesian history with its artifacts exhibitions
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