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Cruises to Rarotonga

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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We found you 17 cruises

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Noordam
Noordam

34 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

786 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
ItineraryShipReviewsFull Details
Oct 8, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Zuiderdam
Zuiderdam

50 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Sep 28, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Zuiderdam
Zuiderdam

45 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 3, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Noordam
Noordam

69 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 8, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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16 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Dec 22, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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47 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 1, 2022
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59 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
Jan 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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80 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
Jan 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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27 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
Feb 7, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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17 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

16 Reviews
Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
Dec 3, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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14 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Crystal Cruises
Feb 3, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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105 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Crystal Cruises
Jan 5, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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89 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Crystal Cruises
Jan 21, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

11 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Paul Gauguin Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

11 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Paul Gauguin Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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140 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
Jan 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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13 Night
Cruise to Rarotonga

Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
Apr 12, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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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
Went to Titikaveka by bus, visited a Garden , had lunch at Charlies... Read More
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FelberTrev
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
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Willfish
..... Read More
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waggie1856
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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Captain Ricky

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