Reportedly designed according to the principles of feng shui (the line's owners are Chinese Tahitians), Aranui 5's 108 cabins are surprisingly plush for a freighter, and the spread of categories -- from a presidential suite to dormitories shared by up to eight people -- puts sailings within the budgets of a broad swath of passengers.
Since the forward half of the ship is a flatbed reserved for carriage of cargo, all cabins are at the rear of the ship, spread over eight decks. Every cabin is an outside cabin with either a balcony or porthole, and what would have been interior staterooms are instead used as staff accommodations (differentiated from passenger rooms by cream rather than dark brown doors).
Interiors feature local art prints, dark wood furniture and white bed linens embellished with traditional Polynesian patterns, while fretwork screens and brass embellishments in some cabins are a nod to the owners' Chinese heritage. All staterooms have air conditioning, showers (no bathtubs), closets and chests of drawers, and several power outlets (voltage is 220/50 cycle, using French-style two-pin plugs). With the exception of dormitories, all cabins also have mini-fridges, electronic safes and flat-screen TVs. In higher categories, arrangements of artificial flowers and beside lamps are fixed to chests and nightstands respectively.
Bathrooms feature wood veneer-paneled walls and showers integrated into a tiled floor. Two hooks on the back of bathroom doors, metal wall racks and under-counter shelves and/or cabinets provide ample storage for personal items and ship-issued toiletries. Each cabin has a hair dryer, plus Aranui-branded shower gel, body lotion, facial soap and a shower cap. Guests in Superior Deluxe and higher categories also receive a pouch with soap, body lotion and monoi oil from the local brand used in the spa.
There are two connecting cabins on Deck 2, four on Deck 3 and eight on Deck 9. The ship also has three Deluxe Superior cabins for passengers with limited mobility (two on Deck 4, one on Deck 3), but because of the frequency of wet landings and the rigorous nature of many of the shore excursions, this cruise is recommended only for the agile and active.
Class C: These co-ed dormitory-style cabins on Deck 4 are configured for either four or eight adult passengers, with either two or four sets of upper and lower berths. Four four-passenger dorms, with about 135 square-feet of shared interior space, have one bathroom and a shared closet. The 285-square-foot, eight-passenger dorm has two bathrooms, a sitting area and shared closet. European millennials and locals traveling between islands are most likely to book this category.
Stateroom: On decks 2, 3 and 5, the 40 standard cabins are Aranui 5's most basic private accommodations. They have portholes, and at around 120 square feet are just wide enough to fit a king or two twin beds, a pair of nightstands and a desk. While maximum occupancy for most of these cabins is two passengers, two on Deck 2 are single occupancy, and six cabins on Deck 2 have upper and lower berths and can sleep four.
Deluxe: Seven outside cabins on decks 7, 8 and 9 share the same layout as Superior Deluxe suites but at 140 square feet are slightly smaller, with no sitting area. Balconies, however, are the same size, 45 square feet. Maximum occupancy is two passengers.
Superior Deluxe: With room for up to two passengers, these 24 exterior cabins on decks 3, 4, 8 and 9 measure at least 160 square feet. A small sitting area with two armchairs and a table leads to a 45-square-foot balcony, also with a table and two chairs.
The ship's handicapped-accessible cabins, on decks 3 and 4, fall under this category, although none have balconies. Each has a door wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, with braille numbers and a low grab bar. The desk, night tables and light switches are at sitting height, and in the bathroom a large wet area comprises a spacious shower with an integrated sink and a removable teak stool.
Junior Suites: Despite their name, this pair of 200-square-foot cabins on Deck 6 shares the same layout as Premium Suites but don't have balconies.
Premium Suite: These 21 balcony cabins on decks 6 and 7 are around 200 square feet and follow the typical ship layout, with a bathroom and closet on either side of the doorway. Then the bedroom, which is separated from the sitting area by a fretwork screen, leads to a roughly 45-square-foot balcony. The sitting area has a coffee table, armchair, desk and sofa bed.
Royal Suite: Located on decks 5 through 8, these eight cabins, which sleep as many as three, measure 240 square feet, and feature a 100-square-foot balcony and a sitting room separated from the sleeping area by a floor-to-ceiling wooden screen. A room service of continental breakfast is included in the fare for a Royal Suite.
The sitting room is outfitted with a desk with drawers, a Futon-type sleeper sofa, two armchairs and a coffee table. A cabinet conceals life jackets, the safe, a mini-fridge and ice bucket. The king-sized bed (or pair of twins) backs up to an upholstered wall and faces another with a mounted flat-screen TV above a large, low chest with nine drawers. On the other side of the wall is a dressing area, with a mirror, dressing table with drawers and a stool, and a bank of closets large enough to easily accommodate your cruise wardrobe. (Note, however, that each closet has only six attached hangers, so consider bringing your own to maximize capacity.) Sliding-glass doors lead from the bedroom and dressing area to a balcony large enough for a table, two chairs and two chaises. (Some balconies have a side window with views of the cargo bed.) The bathroom has a large step-in shower with curtain.
Presidential Suite: On Deck 9, this 440-square-foot suite, which sleeps up to three, is essentially three connecting cabins converted into a bedroom with a king-sized bed, a lounge with a built-in bar, and a living room with a sofa bed. There are two full bathrooms (one ensuite to the master, the other off the living room), two flat-screen TVs and a walk-in closet. A 150-square-foot balcony borders all three rooms. There's a Nespresso-style coffee maker and upgraded toiletries; a room service of continental breakfast is included.