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Cruises to Rarotonga

Rarotonga (Photo:wallix/Shutterstock)
Rarotonga (Photo:wallix/Shutterstock)

About Rarotonga

The island of Rarotonga lies at the heart of New Zealand's Cook Islands, its beautiful lagoon sheltered by an encircling reef system. While narrow sandy beaches ring the island, the center is dominated by dramatic, lush green mountains reminiscent of "Lord of the Rings," which was filmed at least in part in New Zealand (proper; not here).

While most of the ports are in French Polynesia -- and within a few hours of each other by cruise ship (like Moorea and Tahiti) -- it takes a full day to sail to Rarotonga and another day to get back. So why is this out-of-the-way port a mainstay on South Pacific itineraries? For starters, the sea days are a nice benefit for those who consider their ship as much a destination as the ports; plus, we found the day's journey down and another back increased anticipation and whet the appetite for a change of pace from French Polynesia.

The island is also a bit more polished and prosperous than the islands of French Polynesia, and well developed for tourism; this is once place where it's easy to do your own circle island tour on the local bus system. Finally, it's a financial relief for shoppers. While food and goods are expensive throughout French Polynesia, Rarotonga offers lower prices on just about everything from fried fish lunches at roadside stands to souvenirs and jewelry -- mainly because it is closer to main importer New Zealand than, say, Bora Bora is to France or even the mainland U.S.

Verdant Rarotonga is a perfect choice for safaris and hikes, particularly because there are no snakes, wild animals or poisonous insects on the island (just watch out for mosquitoes with the munchies). Watch out for carvings and maraes, or sacred sites. But water babies will find plenty to do in the shimmering lagoon, including windsurfing, diving and glass-bottom boat tours.

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DAY 1: Vancouver

50 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
San Francisco, San Diego ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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DAY 1: San Diego

45 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Hilo, Honolulu ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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DAY 1: Barcelona

113 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Malaga, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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DAY 1: Tahiti

11 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Tahiti
Visiting:
Huahine, Aitutaki ...
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Cruise Line:
Paul Gauguin Cruises
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126 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Venice
Visiting:
Dubrovnik, Catania ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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140 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Belize City ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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23 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Lima
Visiting:
Easter Island, Adamstown ...
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Cruise Line:
Silversea Cruises
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117 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Genoa, Marseille ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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115 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Genoa
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Marseille, Barcelona ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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80 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Belize City ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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119 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Malaga, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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27 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Tahiti
Visiting:
Bora Bora, Rarotonga ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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12 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Lautoka
Visiting:
Fiji, Suva ...
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Cruise Line:
Silversea Cruises
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52 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Lisbon, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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48 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Lisbon, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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56 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Lisbon, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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121 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Rotterdam
Visiting:
Porto, Ponta Delgada ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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120 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Rotterdam, Porto ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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81 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Scoresby Sund
Visiting:
Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island ...
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Cruise Line:
AIDA
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84 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Hamburg
Visiting:
Isle of Portland, Lisbon ...
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Cruise Line:
AIDA
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59 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Belize City ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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64 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Rotterdam, Porto ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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18 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
Tahiti
Visiting:
Bora Bora, Aitutaki ...
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Cruise Line:
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
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54 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Lisbon, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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49 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:
London
Visiting:
Rotterdam, Porto ...
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Cruise Line:
Cruise & Maritime Voyages
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Why go to Rarotonga?

Pros:

A rich heritage, cafes and a variety of water activities are offered alongside the lagoon

Cons:

It usually requires a full day at sea to reach and another to travel back from

Bottom Line:

The scenic hikes, blue lagoon and white beaches do not disappoint

Rarotonga Cruise Port Facilities?

Tour operators set up at the tender dock; there are a few shops and takeaway (sandwich) stands within a stone's throw, the main town of Avarua is within walking distance, and much more bustling with shops and restaurants.

Good to Know?

If you are prone to seasickness, you may want to pack your choice of meds as the ride to and from Rarotonga can be choppy (calls sometimes get canceled due to sea conditions -- occasionally at the last minute, which means you'll have to do the trip there and back anyway). Barring a freak storm, it should be the only real "roughness" you'll experience while cruising in this region.

Rarotonga is a tender port, and since ships often miss calls here due to rough water conditions, climbing in and out of tender boats can be tricky; be cautious and follow the instructions of your ship's staff. Another note: Some public restrooms do not stock toilet tissue, so you'll want to carry something in your purse or pocket.

Getting Around?

On Foot: The town of Avarua is about a 15-minute walk from the harbor. After disembarking your tender, head toward the left.

By Rental Car: Hertz, Avis and Island Rental are among the companies that rent cars and scooters on the island; remember to drive on the left side of the road. Expect to pay about $65 NZD for the day (or approximately $46 U.S.).

By Bus: This almost perfectly round island is easy to navigate by bus as they only run in two directions: clockwise and "anticlockwise." There's a bus stop in town at Cook's Corner, and stops include the golf club and a waterfall. Bus tickets cost $2.50 NZD one-way, $4 NZD roundtrip.

By Taxi: A few taxis will line up at the dock, but they're limited. Expect to pay about $2 per kilometer; if there's no meter, be sure to agree on a fare before setting off.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The New Zealand dollar is the standard, though U.S. dollars are widely accepted. The exchange is about $8 U.S. to $10 NZD, but check xe.com for the latest rates. There's an ANZ Bank ATM at Cook's Corner in the town of Avarua, within walking distance of the tender port.

Language?

The official language is Cook Islands Maori. English is widely spoken -- with fabulous Down Under accents -- but learning a few local phrases (kia orana means "hello") is sure to spread smiles.

Where You're Docked?

Ships anchor in Avatiu Harbor, on the northern side of the island of Rarotonga.


Rarotonga Cruise Reviews

Vasco da Gama (Cruise & Maritime Voyages)
FelberTrev
Sail Date: Oct 2019
Went to Titikaveka by bus, visited a Garden , had lunch at Charlies... Read More
Willfish
Sail Date: Nov 2018
Nice little island but not much to see unless you do a tour. Plenty of local taxi's near the port offering tours of the island - all very expensive, but got to do it once.... Read More
waggie1856
Sail Date: Oct 2018
..... Read More
Captain Ricky
Sail Date: Jan 2018
We did not have as much time here as we would have liked because of rough tendering that took a lot of time. But there is a city bus that goes around the island. You can take it in either direction, get on or off... Read More
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