To celebrate its 30th anniversary, next year the cruise line Ponant will be setting course for these little bits of France nestled away in the Pacific. A guaranteed change of scene.
Planning for the new destination has been underway since 2014, so that the stopover would be ready for the cruise line’s anniversary. On 26, 27 and 28 September 2018, the Austral cruise liner will sail to the Wallis & Futuna Islands for the first time as part of its “30th Anniversary Cruise in Polynesia”, which begins on 24 September and ends on 6 October 2018.
Stopover on Alofi, a paradise island overlooking Futuna
The 13 day and 12 night itinerary will set off from Lautoka in Fiji on its way to Papeete. During the cruise, passengers will enjoy a three-day stopover on the French Wallis & Futuna Islands. The first stop will be on Alofi, a paradise island overlooking Futuna that is also a French Overseas territory. With sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise waters that are a safe home for an array of undersea wildlife, it’s an enchanting setting for passengers who can also take in the coast road.
Next the cruise is off to Futuna to visit Villa Malia de Leava church, known for its annual celebration of the Virgin Mary, the village’s patron saint.
Colonial architecture and crater lake
The next day, the cruise will land in Mata Utu, the administrative capital of Wallis, where passengers will discover the colonial architecture of the King’s palace whose grounds are the venue for traditional festivities. They will then visit Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, a cathedral built in the 19th century and seat of the diocese of Wallis & Futuna. The stopover will conclude with a walk along the shore of Lalolalo lake. 82m deep, it is without doubt the most impressive of Wallis’ crater lakes.
New itineraries planned for 2020
“Ponant fell in love with this region, and is staying true to its philosophy of going the places other cruise lines won’t. Visiting Wallis & Futuna for our 30th anniversary is also a symbolic choice, as our fleet is registered there”, explains Hervé Bellaïche, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Ponant.
The passengers, “mostly French-speakers and loyal customers”, will be sailing aboard the Austral. Like the other ships in the fleet, the 142m yacht embodies an atmosphere that blends luxury, privacy, and well-being. The company wanted the cruise to be an intimate affair, and so limited the number of cabins available to just 132, all with a balcony. The 210 passengers will have at their disposal a full range of luxury services: two restaurants (one fine dining), pool, outdoor bar, terrace, and fitness suite and spa.
Passengers will also have the pleasure Olivier de Kersauson’s company, the French sailor who has travelled with the company regularly over the years, and who will give several talks from the gangway or the theatre.
In light of this unprecedented cruise’s success – “customers were falling over each other to get on board”, Hervé Bellaïche confides – the cruise line is not dismissing the possibility of planning new itineraries to Wallis & Futuna in 2020.