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Polynesian Stepping Stones

From the black pearls of Manihiki and the secluded Line Islands, to the exceptional opportunity to spot the incredibly rare and beautiful Atiu Swiftlet and Rimatara Lorikeet, this is a voyage of impressiveness. From Aloha to au revoir, the gentle breezes and soft sounds of the South Pacific wait amid paradisiacal atolls, world-class snorkelling and legendary sacred sites..
24 September, 2018 to 12 October, 2018 Make a booking request for Polynesian Stepping Stones, departing on 24 September, 2018

Prices quoted here are often dependent on currency fluctuations. Please check with (01432 507450 or info@small-cruise-ships.com) for the very latest price, which may well be cheaper than the one advertised here.

Adventurer Suite £ 7045 GBP pp
Even guests who plan to spend only sleeping hours in their stateroom will appreciate the distinctive touches of this cosy Silversea accommodation. Dimensions: 157-167 sq ft / 14-15m2 with 2 portholes. All Adventurer Class staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. Two portholes (15.75'' / 40cm in diameter). Sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with tub/shower combination, Writing desk, Flat screen television with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone
view cabin photo
Explorer Suite £ 7430 GBP pp
Deck Four forward is home to eight Explorer Class staterooms. Enjoy a separate sitting area and the passing scenery through a view window. Dimensions: 175-190 sq ft / 16-18m2 with view window. All Explorer Class staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. View window (31.5'' x 31.5'' / 80cm x 80cm). Sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with tub/shower combination, Writing desk, Flat screen television with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone
view cabin photo
View Suite £ 8123 GBP pp
The perfect backdrop for breakfast in bed. As spacious as a Veranda Suite, but with a view window and Deck Three location. Dimensions: 192 sq ft / 18m2 with view window. All suites and staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. View window, Sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Triple capacity that can accommodate young children on sofa bed, (View Suites 310, 311, 312, 313), Marbled bathroom with tub/shower combination, Writing desk, Flat screen television with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone
view cabin photo
Vista Suite £ 8585 GBP pp
A quiet sanctuary. The sitting area has plenty of room to relax. Large picture windows frame panoramic ocean views. Some Vista Suites can accommodate three guests. Dimensions: 192 sq ft / 18m2 with large picture window. All suites and staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. Large picture window: 47'' x 43'' / 120cm / 110cm, Sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with tub/shower combination, Writing desk, Flat screen television with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone
view cabin photo
Veranda Suite £ 10664 GBP pp
A Silversea signature. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto a private French balcony. Each spectacular sunset feels like it is yours alone. Dimensions: 206-216 sq ft / 19-20m2 including French balcony (16 sq ft / 1.5m2). All suites and staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. French balcony with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, Sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, (Suites 512 and 513 have a fixed queen bed), Marbled bathroom with tub/shower combination, Writing desk, Flat screen television with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone
view cabin photo
Expedition Suite £ 12743 GBP pp
Settle in to sumptuous surroundings and feel instantly “at home”. The spacious floor plan is similar to a Silver Suite, but with two view windows. Expedition Suites can accommodate three guests. Dimensions: 388-397 sq ft / 36-37m2 with two view windows or two large picture windows. All Expedition Suites feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. Two large picture windows (Deck 4 suites), Two view windows (Deck 3 suites), Living room (with convertible sofa to accommodate an additional guest), Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with full-sized bath and separate shower, Walk-in wardrobe with personal safe, Writing desk, Two flat screen televisions with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone
view cabin photo
Silver Suite £ 15746 GBP pp
Stylish and sophisticated. Spacious and welcoming. With separate dining and living rooms, two French balconies, and preferred midship location, Silver Suites are a favourite of returning Silversea guests. Silver Suites can accommodate three guests. Dimensions: 422 sq ft / 39m2 including 2 French balconies (30 sq ft / 3m2). All suites and staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. Two French balconies with floor-to-ceiling glass doors, Living room (with convertible sofa to accommodate an additional guest), Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with full-sized bath and separate shower, Walk-in wardrobe with personal safe, Vanity table with hair dryer, Writing desk, Two flat screen televisions with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone, Laundry service, Afternoon canapés upon request, Dinner at officer's table
view cabin photo
Grand Suite £ 17825 GBP pp
Expertly designed and exquisitely appointed. At 618 square feet (57 square metres), the Grand Suite is ideal for entertaining friends or enjoying quiet time alone on your private veranda. Grand Suites can accommodate three guests. Dimensions: 618 sq ft / 57m2 including veranda (86 sq ft / 8m2). All suites and staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. Teak veranda with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors, Living room with sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with full-sized bath and separate shower, Walk-in wardrobe with personal safe, Vanity table with hair dryer, Writing desk, Two flat screen televisions with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone, Laundry service, Dry cleaning and pressing, Afternoon canapés upon request, Dinner at officer's table, Four hours of Internet service per suite, per voyage segment, Two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment
view cabin photo
Owner's Suite £ 19827 GBP pp
The name says it all. A stylish apartment. Prestigious and classic. For those whose standards are higher than most. Owner's Suites can accommodate three guests. Dimensions: 728 sq ft / 67m2 including large veranda (158 sq ft / 15m2), All suites and staterooms feature: Butler service, champagne upon request, refrigerator and bar setup stocked with your beverage preferences, European bath amenities, fine bed linens and down duvets, premium mattresses, a choice of nine pillow types, spa robes and slippers, personalised stationery, umbrella, hair dryer, WiFi Internet access (fee applies) and daily suite service with nightly turndown. Large teak veranda with patio furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass doors, Living room with sitting area, Twin beds or queen-sized bed, Marbled bathroom with full-sized bath and separate shower, Walk-in wardrobe with personal safe, Vanity table with hair dryer, Writing desk, Two flat screen televisions with interactive video, on-demand movies and music, and satellite news programming, Direct-dial telephone, Laundry service, Dry cleaning and pressing, Afternoon canapés upon request, Dinner at officer's table, Four hours of Internet service per suite, per voyage segment, Two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment
view cabin photo

Polynesian Stepping Stones itinerary:

show reverse itinerary
Day 1 — Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA
Embark the Silver Explorer and depart on your exciting Expedition — “Polynesian Stepping Stones”. Once you have settled in and before Silver Explorer leaves the pier, you will attend a mandatory safety drill. During a special sail away party take say good-bye to downtown Honolulu and watch the Aloha Tower disappear in the distance. Later you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and this evening you can enjoy the delights of a specially prepared menu in The Restaurant.
Days 2-4 — At sea, crossing the North Pacific
During our voyage south, unwind after your long flight to Honolulu and the first day of activities on Hawai’i. Our lecturers will introduce you to the Polynesian and Western exploration of this part of the Pacific, the wildlife to be encountered and the different cultures present today. Attend workshops and seminars and let our chefs prepare delicious culinary specialties on the Sun Deck or in The Theatre. We will be crossing the Dateline (for the first time) and will miss September 28 this way…
Day 5 — Weston, Fanning, Kiribati
The Line Islands have been of importance to whaling and guano harvesting in the 19th century, while telecommunication and military installations have been important in the 20th century on Christmas and Malden. Because of population pressure on the main island of the Republic of Kiribati, voluntary resettlement has taken place and we will find that Fanning is now settled by some 2,000 Micronesians. Silver Explorer will drift in front of English Passage and we take our Zodiacs to go ashore near Weston Point. This is where the administration seat is and we can walk to see the local homes and their seaweed plantations. We will have the opportunity to see a folkloric presentation, acquire local souvenirs and go swimming in the protected bay just southeast of Weston Point.
Day 6 — London, Christmas Island, Kiribati
Christmas Island was named by Captain Cook –and there even is a Cook Island. Used to produce copra –dried coconut meat- and as a military base in the 1940s-60s, this Christmas Island has been declared a Wildlife Refuge in 1975 and has large seabird colonies. Birders will also be interested to see the endemic Christmas Island Reed Warbler known as the Bokikokiko. Some of the 18 seabird species we hope to see include Christmas and Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Phoenix Petrels, Black Noddies and Little White Terns. Pending permission we might visit Cook Island for birding and swimming and Motu Tabu for birding –both are important breeding grounds and especially at Motu Tabu one has to be very careful where to step as Wedge-tailed Shearwater like to breed in burrows. One of the attractions to anglers is bonefishing in the lagoon.
Day 7 — At sea
Having visited two of the inhabited Line Islands, our lecturers will use the sea day to talk about the uninhabited islands and their importance to wildlife or the early Polynesian seafarers that not only stopped on the islands for a short while, but actually settled them during centuries. When not attending a lecture or relaxing on the Sun Deck, get help from the onboard photographer during a workshop or look for whales and dolphins.
Day 8 — Malden, Kiribati
When Malden was visited in 1825 it was found to be uninhabited, but Lt. Malden –after whom the island is named- discovered remains of former (Polynesian) settlements. One reason they could have survived on this island is that they found large seabird colonies of at least 11 species, including Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Lesser Frigatebirds, Sooty and Grey-backed terns, as well as Blue-grey Noddies across the island. The Polynesians could have lived off the birds, but the resulting guano was harvested from the mid-19th century until 1927. A railroad system (using sails and the prevailing winds for propulsion) was used to transport the guano to the western point of the island to be loaded onto barges. We intend to land near this point and walk or hike across the island –using in part the old railroad embankments- and to see some of the remains of the Polynesian structures. 21 archaeological sites with more than 70 structures can be found mostly occurring along the north coast. Remains of the British nuclear testing observation unit dating back to the 1950s are close to the landing site. Despite an extensive white beach on Malden’s western side, swimming and snorkelling will be offered from anchored Zodiacs.
Day 9 — Starbuck Island, Kiribati
Seen by Captain Starbuck in 1823, it took more than 45 years before guano-digging took place on this small island. Guano harvesting stopped in the late 19th century, but when overpopulation in Tarawa forced the Kiribati government to look for resettlement areas in the late 20th century, this uninhabited island was considered for a while, even palm trees were planted –less than 30 were still growing in 2016. We hope to go ashore and explore the ruins of the former guano camp, look for the remains of various shipwrecks dating from the 19th century, as well as some of the seabird colonies that created the guano deposits. The WWF estimated in 2001 that –depending on the season- up to six million Sooty Terns call Starbuck their home. Starbuck has been declared a Wildlife Sanctuary, to protect the turtles that come to nest, the marine life and the 16 species of seabirds that use the island. Snorkelling off the islands shore very much depends on the sea conditions, but would be offered from our Zodiacs.
Day 10 — At sea and crossing the dateline
Heading in a south-westerly direction Silver Explorer will once again have to pass the dateline! This time we gain a day and have the fourth of October twice. On our first fourth of October you can attend lectures about the Cook Island and perhaps the pearl industry, taste some of the culinary specialties prepared by our chefs, or simply relax on the outer decks. Enjoy the wide open space of the South Pacific.
Day 11 — Manihiki, Cook Islands
According to many, Manihiki is the most beautiful of the Cook Islands. Known as “The Island of Pearls”, it is a triangular atoll in the Northern Group composed of 40 tiny islets encircling a lagoon four kilometres wide. This completely enclosed body of water is the source of the island’s greatest asset —black pearls. At the pier you will be welcomed by representatives of the villages with speeches, prayers and dances. During an excursion across the lagoon you can learn first-hand how the pearls are made by taking an informative pearl farm tour, or use the occasion to swim and/or snorkel over and around the pearl lines. The villagers will have prepared a local lunch and will be available to show and sell you some of their finest pearls.
Day 12 — Suwarrow, Cook Islands
Suwarrow is a coral atoll in the centre of the Cook Islands, roughly 1300km south of the equator. Although its name goes back to a Russian visit in the early 19th century the island is considered Crown Land and as such Queen Elizabeth II is the official owner. The island has a rich history and has had a number of solitary ‘caretakers’. One of them, New Zealander Tom Neale, lived here for a total of 16 years. His experience during his first two periods was written up by him and became a bestseller as “An Island to Oneself”. In 1978, the island was declared a National Park of the Cook Islands due to the plentiful marine and bird life it supports. Today the island’s population consists of 2 caretakers (from April to October) and millions of birds. Sooty Terns, Masked Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Brown Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, and noddies nest on most islets, and the atoll is also an important wintering site for Bristle-thighed Curlews, making this a paradise for our bird-watchers. Humpback whales frequent the waters surrounding Suwarrow and green turtles come into the lagoon using the beaches to deposit their eggs ashore. The atoll’s islets are home to large populations of coconut crabs. Silver Explorer has received a special permit to visit this outstanding atoll and we intend to make the most of our time ashore and in the water.
Day 13 — At sea
Today will be a day to scan the seas for humpback whales, especially since the area northwest of Aitutaki is known as an area where they congregate. Our lecture staff will have time to prepare you for our visit to Aitutaki and Atiu, and talk about the natural history, seabirds, and underwater creatures, as well as the early settlers of the Cook Islands and their interesting stories.
Day 14 — Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Aitutaki is rightly known as one of the most spectacular destinations in the Cook Islands. Its reef completely encompasses a large turquoise lagoon. We go ashore using our fleet of Zodiacs -but before stepping on land, a local warrior appears and challenges all visitors. Once we have each stepped across a special stone at the landing site, we are free to do as we please on the island. Our excursion continues aboard local boats, crossing the lagoon to the small islet of Tapuaetai for a delicious barbecue luncheon in a lush South Pacific setting. Look for Red-tailed Tropicbirds, grab some snorkelling gear to see what is underwater at Honeymoon Islet or let your stroll along the beach continue out onto a sand cay. Birders will be looking for the Blue Lorikeets among the coconut palm trees in Arutanga.
Day 15 — Atiu, Cook Islands
Atiu is locally referred to as “Enuamanu” –the land of birds- and birders will love the opportunity to look for the Atiu Swiftlet, which not only is endemic to the island, but breeds in only two of Atiu’s caves. Other special birds are the recently introduced Rarotonga Monarch –an endangered species endemic to the Cook Islands- and the Kuhl’s or Rimatara Lori. This bird is only known from a handful of islands, and –if we have not seen it on Christmas Island- would be another highlight for birders. We will be welcomed by representatives of Atiu’s five villages, which incidentally are all located at the centre of the island. There will be several options to hike across the island looking for birds, exploring caves and photographing the small secluded beaches of this Makatea-type island. Atiu is also famous for its Arabica coffee and the local bush beer.
Day 16 — At Sea
Silver Explorer will sail in a northwesterly direction to reach French Polynesia and the Society Islands. Our lecturers might talk about the different explorations and approaches of the British and French and their overseas colonies of the 19th century, or perhaps about some of the famous writers or painters that made the Pacific their home.
Day 17 — Raiatea, French Polynesia
Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven”, is not only famous for its stunningly beautiful bays and landscapes, but also its rich culture and history. The Silver Explorer will anchor in Faaroa Bay and guests can travel by Zodiac up the Faaroa River, the only navigable river in the whole of French Polynesia. Raiatea launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand. Our journey takes us alongside dense tropical rainforests with trees that dip gracefully into the water, to a Botanical Garden where we will go ashore with a local guide to learn more about the island’s plant life. A scenic driving tour past a vanilla plantation takes us to the dramatic and well maintained Marae Taputapuatea. As Raiatea was considered to be the religious centre of Polynesia, this is a highly significant marae site with many associated legends involving both the sacred and magical. In the afternoon we will make a Zodiac landing on the sandy beaches of tranquil Moto Iriru to swim and snorkel above colourful underwater gardens or drift snorkel through the more challenging Iriru pass.
Day 18 — Bora Bora, French Polynesia
One cannot adequately describe the spectacular beauty of Bora Bora’s emerald-green hills and tranquil sapphire-blue lagoons. Be on deck while we enter through the only pass into the lagoon and drop anchor in front of Vaitape, Bora Bora’s main village. Select from a variety of excursions and activities today. Enjoy a leisurely, open-air ‘le truck’ tour of Bora Bora’s highlights: ancient marae stone temples, the Faanui Protestant Church, scenic lookout points with spectacular vistas of the lagoon and distant islands, old WWII remnants and popular Matira Beach. Sample local fruits, watch a pareo demonstration, and stop at Bloody Mary’s before returning to the ship. Alternatively, use specially designed, open-air, off-road vehicles, to circle the island and visit some of its most dramatic sites that are only accessible by four-wheel drive. Veer inland following a trail that leads up the mountain to an amazing panorama. From this height, you can view Bora Bora’s breathtaking multi-coloured lagoon. See canons remaining from the American’s presence during WWII. Perhaps the most spectacular way to see Bora Bora is from the air on a helicopter flyover. This optional excursion includes 15 minutes of actual flight time aboard a 5-seat “Squirrel” helicopter. Circle the island to enjoy spectacular views of lagoons fringed with white sandy beaches and linked to smaller islets. Fly low over the reef to see rays and sharks skimming through the water. At one point, the aircraft climbs over the velvety green peaks, providing incredible views. Of course, you may choose instead to simply spend the day swimming and snorkelling in this idyllic tropical paradise.
Day 19 — Papeete, French Polynesia
After breakfast, disembark Silver Explorer.
Please Note:
Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your Expedition Leader and Captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather and wildlife activity. Expedition Team members scheduled for this voyage are subject to change or cancellation.

Polynesian Stepping Stones reverse itinerary:

show main itinerary
Please Note: *
Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your Expedition Leader and Captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather and wildlife activity. Expedition Team members scheduled for this voyage are subject to change or cancellation.
Day 19 — Papeete, French Polynesia *
After breakfast, disembark Silver Explorer.
Day 18 — Bora Bora, French Polynesia *
One cannot adequately describe the spectacular beauty of Bora Bora’s emerald-green hills and tranquil sapphire-blue lagoons. Be on deck while we enter through the only pass into the lagoon and drop anchor in front of Vaitape, Bora Bora’s main village. Select from a variety of excursions and activities today. Enjoy a leisurely, open-air ‘le truck’ tour of Bora Bora’s highlights: ancient marae stone temples, the Faanui Protestant Church, scenic lookout points with spectacular vistas of the lagoon and distant islands, old WWII remnants and popular Matira Beach. Sample local fruits, watch a pareo demonstration, and stop at Bloody Mary’s before returning to the ship. Alternatively, use specially designed, open-air, off-road vehicles, to circle the island and visit some of its most dramatic sites that are only accessible by four-wheel drive. Veer inland following a trail that leads up the mountain to an amazing panorama. From this height, you can view Bora Bora’s breathtaking multi-coloured lagoon. See canons remaining from the American’s presence during WWII. Perhaps the most spectacular way to see Bora Bora is from the air on a helicopter flyover. This optional excursion includes 15 minutes of actual flight time aboard a 5-seat “Squirrel” helicopter. Circle the island to enjoy spectacular views of lagoons fringed with white sandy beaches and linked to smaller islets. Fly low over the reef to see rays and sharks skimming through the water. At one point, the aircraft climbs over the velvety green peaks, providing incredible views. Of course, you may choose instead to simply spend the day swimming and snorkelling in this idyllic tropical paradise.
Day 17 — Raiatea, French Polynesia *
Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven”, is not only famous for its stunningly beautiful bays and landscapes, but also its rich culture and history. The Silver Explorer will anchor in Faaroa Bay and guests can travel by Zodiac up the Faaroa River, the only navigable river in the whole of French Polynesia. Raiatea launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand. Our journey takes us alongside dense tropical rainforests with trees that dip gracefully into the water, to a Botanical Garden where we will go ashore with a local guide to learn more about the island’s plant life. A scenic driving tour past a vanilla plantation takes us to the dramatic and well maintained Marae Taputapuatea. As Raiatea was considered to be the religious centre of Polynesia, this is a highly significant marae site with many associated legends involving both the sacred and magical. In the afternoon we will make a Zodiac landing on the sandy beaches of tranquil Moto Iriru to swim and snorkel above colourful underwater gardens or drift snorkel through the more challenging Iriru pass.
Day 16 — At Sea *
Silver Explorer will sail in a northwesterly direction to reach French Polynesia and the Society Islands. Our lecturers might talk about the different explorations and approaches of the British and French and their overseas colonies of the 19th century, or perhaps about some of the famous writers or painters that made the Pacific their home.
Day 15 — Atiu, Cook Islands *
Atiu is locally referred to as “Enuamanu” –the land of birds- and birders will love the opportunity to look for the Atiu Swiftlet, which not only is endemic to the island, but breeds in only two of Atiu’s caves. Other special birds are the recently introduced Rarotonga Monarch –an endangered species endemic to the Cook Islands- and the Kuhl’s or Rimatara Lori. This bird is only known from a handful of islands, and –if we have not seen it on Christmas Island- would be another highlight for birders. We will be welcomed by representatives of Atiu’s five villages, which incidentally are all located at the centre of the island. There will be several options to hike across the island looking for birds, exploring caves and photographing the small secluded beaches of this Makatea-type island. Atiu is also famous for its Arabica coffee and the local bush beer.
Day 14 — Aitutaki, Cook Islands *
Aitutaki is rightly known as one of the most spectacular destinations in the Cook Islands. Its reef completely encompasses a large turquoise lagoon. We go ashore using our fleet of Zodiacs -but before stepping on land, a local warrior appears and challenges all visitors. Once we have each stepped across a special stone at the landing site, we are free to do as we please on the island. Our excursion continues aboard local boats, crossing the lagoon to the small islet of Tapuaetai for a delicious barbecue luncheon in a lush South Pacific setting. Look for Red-tailed Tropicbirds, grab some snorkelling gear to see what is underwater at Honeymoon Islet or let your stroll along the beach continue out onto a sand cay. Birders will be looking for the Blue Lorikeets among the coconut palm trees in Arutanga.
Day 13 — At sea *
Today will be a day to scan the seas for humpback whales, especially since the area northwest of Aitutaki is known as an area where they congregate. Our lecture staff will have time to prepare you for our visit to Aitutaki and Atiu, and talk about the natural history, seabirds, and underwater creatures, as well as the early settlers of the Cook Islands and their interesting stories.
Day 12 — Suwarrow, Cook Islands *
Suwarrow is a coral atoll in the centre of the Cook Islands, roughly 1300km south of the equator. Although its name goes back to a Russian visit in the early 19th century the island is considered Crown Land and as such Queen Elizabeth II is the official owner. The island has a rich history and has had a number of solitary ‘caretakers’. One of them, New Zealander Tom Neale, lived here for a total of 16 years. His experience during his first two periods was written up by him and became a bestseller as “An Island to Oneself”. In 1978, the island was declared a National Park of the Cook Islands due to the plentiful marine and bird life it supports. Today the island’s population consists of 2 caretakers (from April to October) and millions of birds. Sooty Terns, Masked Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Brown Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, and noddies nest on most islets, and the atoll is also an important wintering site for Bristle-thighed Curlews, making this a paradise for our bird-watchers. Humpback whales frequent the waters surrounding Suwarrow and green turtles come into the lagoon using the beaches to deposit their eggs ashore. The atoll’s islets are home to large populations of coconut crabs. Silver Explorer has received a special permit to visit this outstanding atoll and we intend to make the most of our time ashore and in the water.
Day 11 — Manihiki, Cook Islands *
According to many, Manihiki is the most beautiful of the Cook Islands. Known as “The Island of Pearls”, it is a triangular atoll in the Northern Group composed of 40 tiny islets encircling a lagoon four kilometres wide. This completely enclosed body of water is the source of the island’s greatest asset —black pearls. At the pier you will be welcomed by representatives of the villages with speeches, prayers and dances. During an excursion across the lagoon you can learn first-hand how the pearls are made by taking an informative pearl farm tour, or use the occasion to swim and/or snorkel over and around the pearl lines. The villagers will have prepared a local lunch and will be available to show and sell you some of their finest pearls.
Day 10 — At sea and crossing the dateline *
Heading in a south-westerly direction Silver Explorer will once again have to pass the dateline! This time we gain a day and have the fourth of October twice. On our first fourth of October you can attend lectures about the Cook Island and perhaps the pearl industry, taste some of the culinary specialties prepared by our chefs, or simply relax on the outer decks. Enjoy the wide open space of the South Pacific.
Day 9 — Starbuck Island, Kiribati *
Seen by Captain Starbuck in 1823, it took more than 45 years before guano-digging took place on this small island. Guano harvesting stopped in the late 19th century, but when overpopulation in Tarawa forced the Kiribati government to look for resettlement areas in the late 20th century, this uninhabited island was considered for a while, even palm trees were planted –less than 30 were still growing in 2016. We hope to go ashore and explore the ruins of the former guano camp, look for the remains of various shipwrecks dating from the 19th century, as well as some of the seabird colonies that created the guano deposits. The WWF estimated in 2001 that –depending on the season- up to six million Sooty Terns call Starbuck their home. Starbuck has been declared a Wildlife Sanctuary, to protect the turtles that come to nest, the marine life and the 16 species of seabirds that use the island. Snorkelling off the islands shore very much depends on the sea conditions, but would be offered from our Zodiacs.
Day 8 — Malden, Kiribati *
When Malden was visited in 1825 it was found to be uninhabited, but Lt. Malden –after whom the island is named- discovered remains of former (Polynesian) settlements. One reason they could have survived on this island is that they found large seabird colonies of at least 11 species, including Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Lesser Frigatebirds, Sooty and Grey-backed terns, as well as Blue-grey Noddies across the island. The Polynesians could have lived off the birds, but the resulting guano was harvested from the mid-19th century until 1927. A railroad system (using sails and the prevailing winds for propulsion) was used to transport the guano to the western point of the island to be loaded onto barges. We intend to land near this point and walk or hike across the island –using in part the old railroad embankments- and to see some of the remains of the Polynesian structures. 21 archaeological sites with more than 70 structures can be found mostly occurring along the north coast. Remains of the British nuclear testing observation unit dating back to the 1950s are close to the landing site. Despite an extensive white beach on Malden’s western side, swimming and snorkelling will be offered from anchored Zodiacs.
Day 7 — At sea *
Having visited two of the inhabited Line Islands, our lecturers will use the sea day to talk about the uninhabited islands and their importance to wildlife or the early Polynesian seafarers that not only stopped on the islands for a short while, but actually settled them during centuries. When not attending a lecture or relaxing on the Sun Deck, get help from the onboard photographer during a workshop or look for whales and dolphins.
Day 6 — London, Christmas Island, Kiribati *
Christmas Island was named by Captain Cook –and there even is a Cook Island. Used to produce copra –dried coconut meat- and as a military base in the 1940s-60s, this Christmas Island has been declared a Wildlife Refuge in 1975 and has large seabird colonies. Birders will also be interested to see the endemic Christmas Island Reed Warbler known as the Bokikokiko. Some of the 18 seabird species we hope to see include Christmas and Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Phoenix Petrels, Black Noddies and Little White Terns. Pending permission we might visit Cook Island for birding and swimming and Motu Tabu for birding –both are important breeding grounds and especially at Motu Tabu one has to be very careful where to step as Wedge-tailed Shearwater like to breed in burrows. One of the attractions to anglers is bonefishing in the lagoon.
Day 5 — Weston, Fanning, Kiribati *
The Line Islands have been of importance to whaling and guano harvesting in the 19th century, while telecommunication and military installations have been important in the 20th century on Christmas and Malden. Because of population pressure on the main island of the Republic of Kiribati, voluntary resettlement has taken place and we will find that Fanning is now settled by some 2,000 Micronesians. Silver Explorer will drift in front of English Passage and we take our Zodiacs to go ashore near Weston Point. This is where the administration seat is and we can walk to see the local homes and their seaweed plantations. We will have the opportunity to see a folkloric presentation, acquire local souvenirs and go swimming in the protected bay just southeast of Weston Point.
Days 2-4 — At sea, crossing the North Pacific *
During our voyage south, unwind after your long flight to Honolulu and the first day of activities on Hawai’i. Our lecturers will introduce you to the Polynesian and Western exploration of this part of the Pacific, the wildlife to be encountered and the different cultures present today. Attend workshops and seminars and let our chefs prepare delicious culinary specialties on the Sun Deck or in The Theatre. We will be crossing the Dateline (for the first time) and will miss September 28 this way…
Day 1 — Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA *
Embark the Silver Explorer and depart on your exciting Expedition — “Polynesian Stepping Stones”. Once you have settled in and before Silver Explorer leaves the pier, you will attend a mandatory safety drill. During a special sail away party take say good-bye to downtown Honolulu and watch the Aloha Tower disappear in the distance. Later you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and this evening you can enjoy the delights of a specially prepared menu in The Restaurant.
* = Indicative
Map for Polynesian Stepping Stones
Silver Explorer, the ship servicing Polynesian Stepping Stones

Silver Explorer

Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition

Length: 108 metres

Passenger Capacity: 132

Built / refurbished: 1989 / 2008

The purpose-built Silver Explorer expedition ship (formerly the Prince Albert II) has been designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of earth’s polar regions. A strengthened hull with a Lloyd’s Register ice-class notation (1A) for passenger vessels enables Silver Explorer to safely push through ice floes with ease.

A fleet of Zodiac boats allows guests to visit even the most off-the-beaten path locations and an expert Expedition Team provides insight and understanding to each unforgettable Silver Explorer cruise adventure.

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Cabin layout for Silver Explorer
• Visit Christmas Island - a Wildlife Refuge since 1975

• On Starbuck Island go ashore and explore the ruins of the former guano camp, look for the remains of various shipwrecks dating from the 19th century, as well as some of the seabird colonies that created the guano deposits

• Visit Manihiki - the most beautiful of the Cook Islands

• Visit Suwarrow atoll and make the most of your time ashore and in the water

• Enjoy Aitutaki - one of the most spectacular destinations in the Cook Islands. Its reef completely encompasses a large turquoise lagoon

• Have a chance to see the spectacular beauty of Bora Bora’s emerald-green hills and tranquil sapphire-blue lagoons
Enquire now about Polynesian Stepping Stones

Travel on the Silver Explorer

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