The South Pacific covers a mind-blowing 11 million square miles, which can make it challenging to plan a trip that captures the essence of the islands. That’s where cruises shine — you can see multiple islands in one go, on perfectly planned itineraries while relaxing in ultimate comfort.
Before you begin browsing, be aware that most South Pacific itineraries depart from Australia or New Zealand. Still, a few of the best South Pacific cruises do depart from the US — we’ve divided our top picks by embarkation location.
The South Pacific spans from the top of Australia to Hawaii and consists of about 83 islands. While some are well-traveled by tourists, others are smaller and harder to access. Altogether, they’re divided into three regions: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.
Is Hawaii part of the South Pacific?
Yes, Hawaii is technically part of the South Pacific because its main islands are positioned in the top of the Polynesian triangle. However, Hawaii isn’t in the South Pacific Ocean — it’s in the North Pacific Ocean.
Which cruises sail the South Pacific?
Best South Pacific cruises from the US
Holland America Line
Best South Pacific Cruises from Australia and New Zealand
Best South Pacific cruises departing from the islands
Paul Guaguin Cruises
Best South Pacific cruises from the US
Depart from San Diego or Seattle and sail through the Pacific to Hawaii before reaching Tahiti and Marquesas. Dock at islands like Kiritimati (Christmas Island), Bora Bora, Raiatea, Moorea, Papeete and more.
You'll find itineraries that range from 18 days to 30+
Stay overnight in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia
Enjoy BBC experiences that highlight the natural world
It specializes in offering trans-Pacific cruises that depart from Hawaii and end in Australia, docking at islands in Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Fiji along the way. You can return home boasting that you've crossed our world's largest ocean — with photos and lifelong memories to prove it.
Cross the international date line
Witness Kava Ceremonies with fire-walking, tribal drumming and other rituals in Fiji
Enrich your cruise with Discovery at Sea's educational programs
Crystal Ocean Cruises
These ultimate luxury cruises depart from Los Angeles and end in Aukland, New Zealand. You'll dock at boutique ports in Western Samoa and Tonga, to set foot on exotic shores circled by sapphire waters. Its world cruises, which last 100+ nights, will take you from LA to Rome or London, with plenty of South Pacific ports along the way.
Everything — including gratuities, alcohol and shore excursions — is included in your fare
Expert historians and lecturers abound on board
Its mid-sized ships mean you won't get lost among the crowd
Best South Pacific cruises from Australia and New Zealand
Depart from Sydney or Aukland to see surrounding islands. Snorkel through the Great Barrier Reef then sail further on towards Papeete, Bora Bora and Hawaii. Many of Celebrity's itineraries highlight ports on the coast of New Zealand, from Milford Sound to Christchurch, Wellington and more.
12-day itineraries available
Celebrate Christmas on board one of its holiday routes
Excellent for budget and family travelers, its itineraries spend less time sailing and more days at port exploring New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, where Mystery Island awaits. It's got some of the largest cruise ships at sea, and a wealth of South Pacific itineraries to choose from.
Nonstop fun on board, from rock climbing walls to bumper cars and casinos
Staterooms for every budget
It's been voted Best Cruise Line overall for 16 years running in Travel Weekly's Readers' Choice Awards
Best South Pacific cruises departing from the islands
Paul Gauguin's smaller, specially-designed ships will take you to ports in Tahiti, Bora Bora and Fiji that larger lines simply can't access. Breathe vanilla ecstasy in Taha'a and marvel at panoramic peaks in Mo'orea. Bonus? Many of its cruises include flights from Los Angeles in the fare.
More than 70% of the staterooms have private balconies
No more than 332 guests onboard
Local Tahitians on board will entertain you with music and stories
When is the best time to cruise to the South Pacific?
The best time to visit the South Pacific is during the dry season, from May to October. During this time, there’s less rainfall and humidity, and the climate is more temperate. However, this is also peak time for tourists, so cruise fare might be more expensive during the dry season due to increased demand.
In contrast, November to April is the wet season, which sees more rainfall and higher probability of tropical storms. On the plus side, there are fewer tourists, so you might be able to find cheaper tickets — though you might have fewer itineraries to choose from.
December, January and February — while technically in the wet season — also tend to be pretty busy in the South Pacific, due to the winter holidays. If you’re hoping for the fewest crowds and the cheapest fare, cruise the South Pacific in the shoulder seasons of October to November or February to April — but be sure to bring sunscreen and an umbrella.
What are the must-do cruise excursions in the South Pacific?
While exploring ports in the South Pacific, dive in head-first if you can — the region is known for its stunningly clear water, perfect for snorkeling and watching wildlife. Here are some of our favorite cruise excursions in popular ports:
Take part in a traditional Kava ceremony
Watch a Kokoda cooking demonstration
Tour the highlights of its capital city, Suva
Trek through the jungle
Go on a safari adventure
Hike to the Faarumai waterfalls
Visit Point Venus, the outlook of Captain James Cook’s astronomer
Explore the Vaipahi Gardens
Ride a 4X4 up Mount Otemanu
Spot sharks and stingrays aboard a glass-bottom boat
Sunbathe on a motu (little islets surrounding Bora Bora)
Visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on the Bay of Islands
Snap photos of the historic railway station in Dunedin
Go on an Art Deco walking tour in Napier
Tour Marlborough’s Vineyards in Picton
Ride the Wellington Cable Car in Wellington
How we chose these cruises
When choosing cruises for this list, we looked at the quality of routes available from each cruise line, prioritizing well-paced itineraries with port stops at key destinations around the region.
We also considered onboard dining and weighed the number, variety and overall quality of restaurants against passenger reviews. Finally, we weighed cabin amenities against each price point, looking for cruise lines that are known to deliver the highest value.
Additionally, we sought out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.
If a South Pacific cruise is on your bucket list, we don’t blame you. Folks who travel there claim that the azure waters and laid-back lifestyle surpass all expectations. While you’re shopping around for the perfect itinerary, check for discounts that could apply to your fare.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. Since you’ll be sailing in international waters and entering foreign countries, you’ll need a passport for your South Pacific cruise.
It depends on where you’re starting from. Folks in close proximity to San Diego and Seattle might find Holland America Line to be most cost-effective, since they won’t have to hop on an airline, at least for departure. On the other hand, if you’re game to purchase air fare to Australia, Royal Caribbean tends to have the best deals on cruises through the South Pacific — especially if you’re sailing with a family.
Still, it’s worth checking out Paul Gauguin’s cruises, even if they might appear more expensive at first glance, since airfare is often included in the price of your cruise.
Current South Pacific cruise deals
Hurtigruten cruise sale - explore norway, alaska and more + buy 1 get 1 50% off cruise fares
Alex Keshen is the global travel publisher at Finder and has been living, breathing and, of course, writing about all things travel for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and has appeared in Travel Weekly and the Huffington Post. A master of maximising her annual leave and finding the best bargains around, she can’t remember the last time her backpack weighed more than 10kg and is happy to share her tips and tricks to help you travel better.
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