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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.

  • More about Rarotonga

  • Why go to Rarotonga?

  • Rarotonga Cruise Port Facilities?

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Noordam
Noordam

48 Night
South Pacific Crossing & New Zealand CollectorDetails

794 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 8, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Noordam
Noordam

34 Night
South Pacific CrossingDetails

794 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 8, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Volendam
Volendam

56 Night
Tales Of The South PacificDetails

561 Reviews
Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Sep 27, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin

11 Night
South Pacific CruiseDetails

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

94 Night
Grand Australia & New Zealand VoyageDetails

561 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Jan 3, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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36 Night
Grand Australia & New Zealand VoyageDetails

561 Reviews
Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Mar 2, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

51 Night
Tales Of The South PacificDetails

561 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 2, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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116 Night
116 Night World CruiseDetails

336 Reviews
Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Jan 5, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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126 Night
126 Night Round World CruiseDetails

168 Reviews
Leaving:Trieste
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Jan 6, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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72 Night
World CruiseDetails

336 Reviews
Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Jan 5, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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70 Night
World CruiseDetails

336 Reviews
Leaving:Barcelona
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Jan 7, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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114 Night
114 Night Round World CruiseDetails

168 Reviews
Leaving:Barcelona
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Jan 13, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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114 Night
114 Night Round World CruiseDetails

168 Reviews
Leaving:Marseille
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Jan 12, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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92 Night
World CruiseDetails

336 Reviews
Leaving:Marseille
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Jan 6, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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93 Night
World CruiseDetails

336 Reviews
Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Jan 5, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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More about Rarotonga

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
Not much to do but walk the town. We tried to rent motor scooters but this required going to the police station, taking a written drivers test followed by a test in a vehicle. Not worth the hassle.Read More
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dsafety1
Nice Cross-Island hike. Enjoyed that, cafe lunch, & bus back to port.Read More
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7figtrees
Took a taxi around the island. Very pretty Island. Clean, safe, enjoyed our day.Read More
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Blackjack33
Nice islandRead More
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Taildrgr

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