French Polynesia to refuse mega-ship stopovers

Destination repositions cruise focus on small to medium-sized operators

Mega-cruise ships will be black-flagged from stopping in Tahiti under new directives set out by French Polynesia.

Effective 1 January 2022, French Polynesia will deny cruise ship operations in its waters, banning “very large capacity” vessels of 3,500+ passengers and refusing them to stop. Vessels of this capacity are now considered “not suited for our destination,” both in terms of capacity and size, Tahiti Tourisme said.

Instead, the destination will favour year-round turnarounds of small- to medium-capacity cruise ships (of up to 700 passengers), while also allowing turnarounds for ships repositioning through the Pacific with up to 2,500 passengers aboard – the capacity of the future Papeete cruise terminal.

Bora Bora | Credit: Stéphane Mailion Photography

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Transpacific ships with capacities of between 2,500 and up to 3,500 passengers will be limited in stopping at Papeete due to the stress they place on maritime infrastructure, services and the environment. Vessels of this size will be directed to Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea where they can be accommodated.

Only a small number of cruise lines operate throughout the year in French Polynesia, including Paul Gauguin Cruises, Aranui and Windstar. Regular visitors include the likes of Ponant, Lindblad Expeditions, Oceania Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Silversea, among others.

The destination’s new positioning is the result of a “shared vision of sustainable and inclusive development integrated into the 2021/2023 recovery plan for French Polynesia as well as in the tourism development strategy,” Tahiti Tourisme said.

“Aware of the strategic location of French Polynesia, in particular the Port of Papeete on the transpacific route, exemptions may be granted, exceptionally, to vessels of higher capacity in technical transit on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea.”

Moorea, Tahiti | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

In 2019, Bora Bora limited the number of cruise passengers able to visit its lagoon to 1,200 per day.

Lead image: Fakarava, French Polynesia | Credit: Jim Winter

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