Best time to cruise the South Pacific

Penny is keen to take her first ever cruise and thinks the South Pacific is a good place to head, but isn’t sure when is best to go.

Q. Penny

I’ve never cruised before, but I’m keen to give it a go. I’m thinking the South Pacific might be a good area to start, as it’s quite close by and I believe I can sail from Australia, meaning I don’t need an expensive international flight. Given the recent cyclone that hit Fiji, I’m not sure when it’s best to go. Can you give me any advice?

A. Thanks to its crystal-blue seas and its relatively close proximity to Australia, the South Pacific is a popular choice for Australian travellers. There is also a lot of diversity among the different groups of islands, meaning that there is often something to suit just about everyone.

Within Melanesia are the more mountainous islands of New Guinea, the Solomons Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji. Polynesia, which is possibly the group of islands that people most associate with the South Pacific, includes Hawaii, Bora Bora, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and many more. And possibly the group that is least well known for being part of the South Pacific is Micronesia, which sits north of the Equator and includes the nation states of Yap, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

Given the expanse of the area, the weather can vary greatly depending on where you are cruising, but it does enjoy a year-round tropical climate.  For Melanesia and Polynesia, the dry season runs from May to October, so there’s very little rainfall during these months. However, this is when the trade winds pick up, so the seas could be a little choppy and the sea breezes can be a bit chilly.

The wet season is between November and April and thanks to the increase in temperature and rainfall, the humidity can be difficult to bear.

North of the Equator, these seasons are reversed.

The type of cruises you can take in the area also vary greatly and while it’s well serviced by the large cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Holland America, there are several small ship options in each of the areas.

There are many options that depart from Australia, with Sydney and Brisbane being popular ports from which to sail. For an idea of the cruises on offer, visit Cruiseguide.com.au.

Obviously the South Pacific is popular with families, so if you don’t want to be overrun with children on your chosen cruise, steer clear of school holidays. And remember, it’s not just Australian holidays in December and January, Europeans and Americans often enjoy their annual holiday in this area in July and August. This is also when it’s most expensive.

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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