Got the winter blues? Don’t worry, it’s not chilly everywhere, and we’ve got the perfect combination of sunshine, relaxation, and adventure to cheer you right up.
While Tahiti and Fiji receive most of the attention, it’s the lesser-known Cook Islands which epitomize that South Seas destination you always dreamt of. With no traffic and fewer tourists to contend with, visitors have their very own islands to lose themselves in.
There are a lot of islands in the South Pacific, but only one of them is that island. It’s that one you’ve always wanted to find: all big, green mountains spilling down into blue lagoons with barely a house in between; that’s big enough to get lost in, but small enough you’ll know your way around in a day or two.
I grew up on Rarotonga and always wondered why so few travelers came – how it’s flown under the radar is anyone’s guess. Fiji can get crowded, Tahiti’s expensive – but the Cook Islands are neither.
That’s the beauty of the place. Sure, there’s five-star hotels on lagoons but there’s still more pigs on the roads than cars. There’s no high-rise anywhere – no building’s taller than a coconut tree, it’s the law. There’s no traffic lights and the speed limit is set at 30mph. On Rarotonga you won’t find a chain hotel, nor will you be transported to a private island resort by helicopter – as is often the case in Fiji.
For a tiny island that’s 27-square-miles in size, and circumnavigable in barely 40-minutes, you can still get lost.All it takes me is a small detour from the main coast road to the 1000-year-old inland road, Are Metua to leave the modern world behind. Here locals farm taro plantations, with their pigs tied to coconut trees. Every time I return, I discover a new path into a valley I haven’t seen before.
The Cook Islands are as sophisticated as any South Pacific destination. Tourism is its staple industry, and you’ll find everything from luxury safari tents to romantic five-star villas. Rarotonga also has the best nightlife in the South Pacific, though it never comes at the expense of its sleepy lifestyle.
It’s home to the best sunset bars and restaurants in the whole Pacific set on the sand on Rarotonga’s west coast at Aorangi. They’re all located close to each other – like the Waterline Restaurant & Bar, Wilson’s Bar and the Shipwreck Hut.
But it’s the locals that have always made the Cook Islands special. Crime is almost non-existent, and you won’t find friendlier souls. Family is sacred (yours are just as important), and the Cook Islanders are the extroverts of the South Pacific – they love to socialize, so it’s little wonder there’s every type of restaurant, café, and bar. You can try everything from fish caught that morning at a café 16-feet from the lagoon, to gourmet Polynesian-fusion meals in restored colonial buildings.
The best plan to enjoy Rarotonga is to have no plan. Hire a scooter (there’s no safer place to try it for the first time) or car and follow the road right around. Rarotonga’s encircled by a barrier reef, so there’s safe swimming options all over. Many visitors prefer the widest section of the lagoon at Muri – it’s where you’ll find some of the fanciest accommodation options (and a bustling night market). You’re surrounded by four tiny, uninhabited motu (islets) you can swim to.
Though you need never leave Rarotonga, it’s worth taking the 45-minute flight north to Aitutaki. Travelers wanting to get away from it all can lose themselves here amongst the island’s eight tiny, peaceful communities (there’s just 1,400 locals) and on one of the South Pacific’s most celebrated lagoons. This lagoon (unlike Bora Bora’s) isn’t home to five-star chain resorts, instead it’s home to uninhabited motu (islets) owned by locals where there’s no-one around but the occasional fisherman. Aitutaki is a honeymooner’s dream: the Cook Islands’ most awarded romantic resorts can be found here, and most activities revolve around escaping to someplace of your own within the lagoon.
For Robinson Crusoe bragging rights, consider flying just a little further (but still under an hour) to little-visited gems like Atiu and Mangaia – both islands receive less than 100 visitors a year, and you’re almost guaranteed to have the island for yourselves.
We caught up with Lindsey Wallace, Founder and CEO of award-winning Linara Travel, which specializes in travel to the sublime islands of the Indian Ocean – the Maldives, the Seychelles and Mauritius. Learn all about visiting these exotic destinations and the special features each has to offer.
Q: Describe the islands of the Indian Ocean for travelers considering vacationing there.
Maldives are coral islands, meaning they are completely flat, surrounded by coral reefs, and are home to the most luxurious overwater villas in the World! There are over 1,100 islands in the Maldives. Each resort is on its own island in the Maldives so selecting the best one for travelers is critical. Some resorts are better for couples, families, snorkeling, diving while some have a more casual barefoot feel, a more traditional elegance, or are more modern and chic. Maldives is great for travelers wanting privacy, luxury, and beautiful water.
Seychelles are largely granitic islands, meaning they have huge granite mountains and boulders that line the beaches. There are 115 islands in the Seychelles. There are rare flora and fauna on some of the islands in the Seychelles. Island hopping is popular as the main islands of Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue offer varying sites, national parks, and activities. Seychelles is great for travelers wanting stunning scenery, the ability to experience unique flora and fauna, and sailing and island hopping.
Mauritius is a large volcanic island with a diverse economy. A number of luxury resorts dot the beaches and this gives Mauritius the largest selection of activities and cultural excursions. While perhaps not quite as pretty as Seychelles or Maldives, Mauritius offers great value for money and a wide range of activities, especially if combining with a safari in Southern Africa.
Q: What is the best time of year to visit?
Maldives is a year-round destination. It gets more rain in the May to August time period but often that rain is like the dry season in other destinations where it receives a couple hours of rain in the afternoon or evening a few times a week. The rest of the year typically sees very nice weather. It’s always warm weather and warm water in the Maldives. Surfing is best from May to October.
Seychelles is very nice for most of the year but does get rain from December to February. Outside of this period it's usually very nice. The weather is always warm and the water is always a nice temperature.
Mauritius experiences a larger range of temperatures and can be a little cool from June to August. Mauritius does get some rain from December to February as well.
Q: What travel services do you offer for the islands?
We have specially negotiated rates at all the luxury resorts and we we arrange transfers and excursions in our destinations. We have amazing guides and access to unique experiences.
You will get better rates booking through us than directly due to the volume we provide the resorts. We work closely with the resorts to ensure travelers receive the best room locations, butlers, and wait staff. This helps give travelers a better resort experience!!!
Q: What air routes do you recommend?
Maldives - Emirates Airlines is the most popular with flights via Dubai. There are flights from over 10 cities in the US to Dubai every day and then multiple flights each day between Dubai and Maldives (4 hours). Other airlines that fly to the Maldives are Etihad, Qatar, Turkish, British Airways, Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific, Sri Lankan Air, Bangkok Air, and more!
Seychelles - Emirates Airlines is the most popular as well. There are flights everyday between Dubai and Seychelles (4.5 hours). There are also flights on Etihad Air, Turkish Air, Sri Lankan Air, Ethiopian Airlines, and Kenyan Airways.
Mauritius - Emirates Air has flights as do a number of carriers out of the Middle East, Europe, and South Africa.
Q: Tell us about some of your favorite luxury resorts on the islands and their innovative features.
Maldives has an amazing array of luxury resorts. Some of my favorites are:
Q: What are the most popular things to see and do on the islands?
Maldives - Snorkeling, diving, spas, surfing, and watersports. Some of the best anywhere!
Seychelles - Unique bird, animal, and plant life. Stunning unique granite beach scenery.
Mauritius - Activities such as golfing and hiking.
Q: Where are the best locations for snorkeling?
Maldives - Resorts such as Raffles Maldives Meradhoo and Outrigger Konotta Maldives have amazing house reefs for snorkeling. Resorts in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in the Baa atoll are conveniently located to Hanifaru Bay – a famous snorkeling spot for seeing manta rays. We love Amilla Fushi and Finolhu Resort in the Baa atoll.
Seychelles - Six Senses Zil Pasyon has the best snorkeling house reef in the Seychelles. Neighboring Cocos Island (a 10-minute kayak ride from Six Senses Zil Pasyon) is great for snorkeling as well.
Mauritius - The South of the island has some fun spots for snorkeling although they are not the
same caliber as the coral and fish of the Maldives or the fish life of the Seychelles.
Q: What other water sports are popular in the Islands?
Maldives - In addition to snorkeling and diving, a number of resorts are conveniently located to great surf spots. The crystal clear waters make kayaking, windsurfing, and all watersports a lot of fun.
Seychelles - A great destination to sail around and island hop. We can arrange sailing vessels from small day trips to large luxury catamarans to full on yachts.
Mauritius - Kitesurfing is a popular water sport in the Southern portion of the island.
Q: What unique dining experiences can travelers enjoy here?
Maldives - Meals in restaurants that are located underwater, overwater, treetop restaurants, underground, on a private deserted island, or on a remote beach. The unique dining options create long-lasting memories.
Seychelles - A fusion of African, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines have created tasty seafood cooked in an array of vibrant sauces and curries. Fruit bat curry is a tasty, unique dish!
Mauritius - A melting pot of African and Asian cuisine with a variety of vibrant food.
It’s freezing outside – the snow’s falling and there’s no end in sight till April… Maybe even May. So what can you do to find somewhere warm and sunny – why not change your hemisphere? When it’s winter in the north it’s summer in the south, and we’ll show you the best places to find the right amount of sunshine.
Kokomo Private Island Resort, Fiji. Everybody knows, a little place like Kokomo. Okay, okay, cheesy song from the Beach Boys, but there’s nothing cheesy about this resort which opened last year. Take a seaplane from Fiji’s main airport, and you’ll land beside your own tiny island oasis. There’s a casual open restaurant built on the water where the chef cooks what was caught yesterday. Go diving on coral reefs completely unaffected by bleaching, catch huge game fish, or just relax on the sand outside your private villa.
Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Argentina. You’ll find this sunny little gem in the heart of Argentina’s Lakes District. Take a 25-minute drive along the shores of Moreno Lake and you’ll find a resort (with a golf course) nestled between two lakes. In summer, the elevation means the temperature stays below 90 degrees and humidity remains low. This area is the best on Earth for fly-fishing, or take a swim in the lake. Spend your evenings outside in the resort’s dining patio, looking out to the Andes.
Byron Bay, Australia. Perhaps you’re no surfer – maybe you don’t have an interest in surfing at all, but nowhere spells ‘summer’ more than an Australian surf town, and no surf town’s quite like Byron Bay. Sample the vibe of a village with 18 beaches around it where everyone lives for waves. Bronzed Aussies walk through town on their way to the surf, tourists take lessons (there’s more than 10 surf schools here if you’re up for the challenge), while afternoons are spent at beachside bars and cafes watching the waves (Crocodile Dundee Paul Hogan once lived here and you can down a cocktail at the bar his best buddy once owned, The Beach Hotel).
Cook Islands. How they slip under the radar is anyone’s guess, but these 15 islands set in an area of ocean the size of western Europe populated by barely 15,000 inhabitants are a beachcomber’s paradise. There’s high-end romantic resorts on the island group’s most iconic island, Aitutaki, while main island, Rarotonga, has the right mix of sunset bars and atmospheric restaurants while still being home to empty beaches and an almost entirely undiscovered mountainous hinterland. There are islands 40 minutes away that are visited by fewer than 20 people each year.
Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. There’s no better antidote to all that Northern Hemisphere chill than time spent on the savannahs on an African bush safari, and there’s nowhere better to come face-to-face with wild animals while escaping the crowds of South African and Kenyan safari camps than Mana Pools. After a change in government, Zimbabwe has opened back up to tourism. At Mana Pools, take walking safaris with lions, leopards and elephants or float down the mighty Zambezi River amongst hippos and crocodiles.
Tanna, Vanuatu. Want to feel like you’re an adventurist while not giving up any of your creature comforts in five-star lodgings by the beach? Then come to Tanna. Barely 60 minutes by plane from Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, Tanna is still dominated by locals who live in tribes in grass huts in the forests (called Cargo Cults, they worship everyone from the Queen Of England’s husband, Philip, to American WWII deserters). You’ll get to snorkel and swim in clear blue waters along a deserted coastline. Though the biggest thrill is taking a 4WD safari to active volcano, Mt Yasur, to sit by its crater as dry lava spits out into the air at sunset as you sip champagne.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Don’t consider it unless you’re willing to blow some serious cash, but if luxury in the sunshine is your thing, nowhere on Earth does it better than Bora Bora. Fly from Tahiti and take a speedboat to a private island retreat. You’ll find some of the most iconic luxury resorts here – where Hollywood stars flee – all built on tiny atolls in the lagoon (the most revered are the Four Seasons and St Regis). Book an overwater bungalow. Ride a cruiser bike to breakfast, then spend your day in a hammock, or in the lagoon, before sunset drinks looking back on volcanic peaks, Mt Otemanu and Mt Pahia.
Cape Town, South Africa. Not only is Cape Town one of the world’s prettiest seaside cities (it’s surrounded on three sides by ocean and dwarfed by the kilometre-high Table Mountain), it’s also one of the most affordable gourmet cities of the Southern Hemisphere. Populated by Europeans, African and Asians – there are more than 200 restaurants in a city which reflect this multi-culture. Cape Town is also surrounded by some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best wine regions, especially Stellenbosch. Be sure to try the unique Cape Malay cuisine – a combination of Malaysian and Dutch food.
Queenstown, New Zealand. Nowhere does golf in summer in the Southern Hemisphere in one region better than the Queenstown region. You’ll find seven of New Zealand’s best courses all within a 45-minute drive of each other. But these aren’t ordinary courses – courses like The Hills and Jacks Point are some of the world’s top courses, playing out beside enormous lakes, and between mountains in the region’s world-famous landscape (immortalised in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy). The average high temperature in summer is a comfortable 75-degrees, and courses are surrounded by wineries perched on cliff tops.
Samoa. You’ve been stuck inside all winter and all you want to do is soak in the rays and work your lily-white skin into something resembling colour. Where’s the best place to go do nothing? Samoa. These are islands built for slumber in the sun. With beaches spread across its main two islands – Upola and Savaii – there’s always somewhere to sunbake. But it’s the villages here you won’t believe. Drive through them (slowly) and you’ll find a nation deep in slumber. In Samoa, sleeping is a national pastime.
With so many stunning islands littered all over the South Pacific, it’s hard to know which ones you should visit on an ocean cruise. We look at the best locations you can get to, with the most striking landscapes and lagoons, that are guaranteed to please every kind of cruiser.
These are simply some of the most picturesque islands on Earth. There are two main cruise companies (contact your travel agent for more info!) that operate an itinerary which takes in most of Tahiti’s Society Islands. Fly to Tahiti and your first stop will be the island of Moorea, just 28-miles west, where much of the Mutiny On The Bounty movies were filmed. Here, you can swim with dolphins and rays in a sheltered lagoon.
While Moorea is world-famous, the other islands of the Society Group are virtually a secret (except Bora Bora). Huahine and the twin islands of Ra’atea and Ta’haa receive few visitors – yet their lagoons are as stunning as Bora Bora’s. Ta’haa, in particular, is right off the grid, with mile-high peaks dropping into the lagoon, and locals living in tiny, basic villages. Every cruise here culminates with a visit to Bora Bora – where you’ll spend time in the world’s most famous lagoon, using uninhabited islets for barbeques and sun-downer drinks.
How New Caledonia doesn’t receive much more fanfare is anyone’s guess. It’s barely 2,000-miles east of Australia (the closest of all the South Pacific island groups) so getting there is easy aboard a cruise ship from Sydney (it’s one of the most popular destinations in the South Pacific from Australia).
The reason why New Caledonia is so perfect for cruising is that it’s protected inside the world’s largest lagoon, surrounded by one of the world’s largest barrier reefs. You can spend time in the French-style capital of Noumea with its European cafes, restaurants and clubs, then venture south-east to the Loyalty Islands. The Isle Of Pines is the most popular of these islands – it’s encircled in a lagoon with white sand bays, and a natural swimming pool separated from the ocean (called Oro). There are caves to explore all over the island.
Though equally beautiful, but less visited, is its neighbor, Mare. Here locals live in tiny villages with little tourism infrastructure. Visiting cruisers get to see right inside the simple communities of the island – as well as spending time exploring caves and snorkeling over World-Heritage-Listed coral.
If these islands aren’t on your bucket list, revise your list! Take a two-week journey aboard one of the last passenger/cargo combined vessels left on the planet to the world’s most isolated island archipelago, The Marquesas. You’ll need to fly to Tahiti, where a boat will ply its way north-east for 870-miles. It visits six of the 12 islands of the Marquesas (the rest are uninhabited), stopping at tiny villages where locals still live subsistence lifestyles.
You’ll get to hike across remote mountain passes, swim in front of villages with local children and attend boisterous church sessions with locals dressed up to the nines. Aside from infrequent and expensive domestic flights, this is the only way to visit these islands – so don’t expect to see other tourists.
Many travelers won’t get past the main island of Efate – with its bustling capital, Port Vila – but it’s worth remembering that there’s 83 islands that make up Vanuatu. These are some of the wildest islands left in the Pacific – on some islands you’ll spend time with cargo cult tribes who still live in the rainforests in simple grass huts. While on one island – Pentecost – should you time it right, you’ll see locals jump from platforms with vines around their ankles to bless their yam harvest (this is where the concept for bungy jumping came from).
Keen divers should consider Espiritu Santo – it’s home to the sunken WWII troop carrier, SS Coolridge, considered the world’s best wreck dive site. While on Tanna you can visit an active volcano, Mt Yasur – standing right on the crater’s edge as dry lava is ejected. You’ll also find one of the world’s top-rated beaches – Champagne Beach on Espiritu Santo; while Tales Of The South Pacific author James A Michener got his inspiration for his novel (and the musical) South Pacific from time spent on Espiritu Santo during WWII.
Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.
Creativity, innovation and gracious service are the hallmarks of Crystal’s culinary philosophy. Our European-trained staff is immediately familiar with your every preference, whether sparkling or still water, or the exact preparation of a filet.
Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.
Silversea’s small luxury ships are designed for those who delight in the thrill of discovery while indulging mind and body in the most lavish surroundings imaginable. All accommodations are spacious, ocean-view suites that include butler service, and most include private verandas. Silversea voyages and cruise expeditions sail to over 900 destinations on all seven continents, more than any other cruise line.
Our ships may travel to every corner of the globe, taking in an exciting variety of cultures and landscapes, but some things remain unchanged wherever we take you: our exceptional personalized service, impressive accommodation and the atmosphere of luxurious indulgence on board. Our Fleet Even the largest of our nine ships accommodates only six hundred and eight guests and some are much smaller still. Every voyage feels intimate and exciting, sailing to over nine hundred destinations on all seven continents. Silversea’s purpose-built expedition ships are designed specifically for navigating waters of some of the world’s most remote destinations and transport you to the furthermost boundaries of the planet. With all-inclusive dining, service and shore excursions, this is expedition cruising at its very best. Award-winning itineraries make for the perfect combination of adventure and comfort.
With the aim of amplifying guests’ onboard experience in line with the successful design of Silversea’s flagship, Silver Muse, the lengthening project has brought the ship to an exceptional standard: among other improvements, stylish décor enhancements have brought superlative comfort and a sense of spaciousness to public areas and suites; the ship’s pool deck has been enlarged; a new eight-restaurant arrangement has increased dining options, with the introduction of Spaccanapoli, Silver Note, Atlantide, and Indochine, as well as the renovation of La Terrazza; and a number of new amenities have upgraded the onboard offering, including the Arts Café, Tor’s Observation Library, the Zagara Spa, the Panorama Lounge, and the chic Dolce Vita lounge.
Silversea’s luxurious suites offer you more space in greater style. Ours is one of the highest space-per-guest ratios of any luxury cruise line. Every suite features an ocean view, many a private veranda, and triple occupancy suites are also available in some suite categories.
With the importance of food in Italian culture you would expect dining to be a high priority at Silversea. And it most assuredly is. Moreover, gastronomic excellence is a given, thanks to our partnership with the prestigious Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux. No matter where you dine, their influence is readily apparent in the great diversity and freshness of your selections. And every ship also features a diversity of dining venues. The main dining room, The Restaurant, is an open-seating venue where you can dine whenever you please, and where impromptu dinners with new-found friends is a matter of course. After all, with our worldly crowd of international travelers, socializing is one of the things people love most about our luxury cruise ships.
Our voyages not only take you to the four corners of the globe but keep you entertained as you get there. A varied and exciting enrichment program will invigorate mind, body and soul, so from the tips of your taste buds to the depths of your soul, be prepared for a sensory rollercoaster of discovery while not only aboard but also ashore. No one knows the world like we do. Our travel experience is a second to none and after 23 years in the business, traveling from pole to pole, we truly believe that our in-depth knowledge of our regions is worth a thousand travel guides. So we have carefully sourced some of the world’s most renowned artists, experts and guest speakers who will travel on select voyages in order to offer culturally immersive experiences from a unique perspective. These carefully curated parties and performances have been designed with our partners to engage, enlighten and enrich your time with us, so that whatever your passion, you can indulge it on board.
Bring your family along and enjoy up to 50% family savings on your 3rd and 4th guest under 18.
Our staff-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one, means service excellence is guaranteed. All our guests are pampered equally, with butler service in every suite category. Our excellent-value, all-inclusive fares mean that once you step onboard you can enjoy yourself however you wish without thinking of the cost. Dining, entertainment and almost all of your discretionary onboard expenses are included.