Cruises to Tonga: What You Need to Know
Tonga is part of a diverse region of islands scattering the South Pacific Ocean. One of the best ways to experience the island nation, as well as other South Pacific countries, is by cruise. Cruises to Tonga depart from Australia and New Zealand, as well as from Tahiti in French Polynesia. You’ll also find Tonga on the itinerary of round-the-world voyages. So if you’re dreaming of cruising to Tonga, find out which parts of Tonga are you going to see and how you can experience the islands on port days in this guide to taking a cruise to Tonga.
Tips for Taking a Cruise to Tonga
- Look for cruises departing from Auckland, Sydney and Tahiti, which have the largest range of cruises to Tonga
- Book your shore excursions independently, which is much cheaper than booking on the ship – more advice on that below!
- Note that the whale season in Tonga is between June and October
- Bring snorkelling equipment and swimwear on shore excursions
- Prepare for sea days – there’s a significant number of sea days on South Pacific cruises
For more tips, see the 10 Tips for Taking a Cruise to Tonga & the South Pacific.
Cruises That Go to Tonga
When planning your cruise getaway, you’re going to want to know which cruise itineraries feature Tonga! Cruises to Tonga depart from Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Tahiti and San Diego, while round-the-world cruises that feature Tonga typically depart from London.
Cruises from Sydney
Royal Caribbean features Tonga on the itinerary of their 8-10-night South Pacific cruises from Sydney and Brisbane, typically during Tonga’s whale season.
Carnival Cruises runs a cruise across the Pacific, from Sydney to Honolulu, Hawaii! The 18-night cruise takes you on a Transpacific journey, stopping at New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Tonga.
Cruises from Auckland
P&O Cruises offers a few shorter voyages starting and ending in Auckland, calling at both Nuku’alofa and Vava’u on a 10 to 11-night itinerary.
Celebrity Cruises offers a yearly cruise to Tonga on a 13-night round-trip from Auckland, sailing to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
Cruises from Tahiti
Crystal Cruises offers a 14-night cruise of the South Pacific, starting in Papeete in Tahiti and ending in Auckland. The cruise includes port days in Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand and, of course, Tonga.
Paul Gauguin Cruises offers small-ship 12-13-night cruise from Tahiti, exploring Tonga, the Cook Islands, Fiji and French Polynesia.
Silversea sails from Papeete, Tahiti to Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu and Neiafu in Vava’u, as well as Mounu Island of the Vava’u Group on a 14-night cruise ending in Sydney.
Cruises from the US and UK
Holland America Line runs 20-63-day cruises across the South Pacific starting in San Diego and ending in Sydney, visiting both ports of call in Tonga along the way.
Viking Ocean Cruises features Tonga is on the itinerary of their 119-day Viking World Wonders cruise that departs from Los Angeles and ends in London.
Columbus with Cruise & Maritime Voyages runs a round-the-world 120-day London to London cruise, which features Tonga!
For more information on each cruise, see the 10 Cruises That Visit Tonga.
Tonga Port of Call: Nuku’alofa
The port of call on most itineraries visiting Tonga is in Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga. Nuku’alofa is on the island of Tongatapu, which is a 260km2 (100 miles2) island that is packed with historic attractions, such as the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, known as the “Stonehenge of the South Pacific”. The island also has an array of natural wonders, such as the amazing water displays of the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes, the beautiful ‘Anahulu Caves, the Hufangalupe Landbridge and the flying fox sanctuary in Kolovai. Finally, you’ll want to experience Tongatapu for the culture, where vibrant markets and incredible handicrafts can be discovered in Nuku’alofa and travellers can immerse in Tongan crafts and cultural centres and visit schools on guided tours.
Shore Excursions from Nuku’alofa
While shore excursions can be booked through your cruise, you’ll find booking tours independently will save you a ton! Here are a few shore excursions from Nuku’alofa worth considering:
- Small-Group Tongatapu Tour – Tonga Travel Troupe
- East Coast & ‘Anahulu Cave Tour – Teta Tours & Travel
- Pangaimotu Island Tour – Tonga Travel Troupe
- Tongatapu Island Tour – Tonga Holiday Villas
- Nuku’alofa City Tour – Teta Tours & Travel
See more details about each tour, as well as more shore excursions, in the 10 Best Tonga Shore Excursions.
Must-Dos in Nuku’alofa
Aside from organised shore excursions, cruise ship passengers can enjoy one of the many amazing activities available from Nuku’alofa, from whale swimming to cultural tours.
- Swim with humpback whales
- Go on a snorkelling excursion boat tour
- Scuba dive among corals and caves
- Go on a fishing charter
- Do an island day trip
For more information on activities in Nuku’alofa, see 10 Must-Dos in Nuku’alofa.
Tonga Port of Call: Vava’u
Vava’u is the second northernmost island group in Tonga, home to some 50 islands compacted together across its archipelago. Cruise ships will anchor in the Port of Refuge and do tender runs between the cruise ships and the town of Neiafu throughout the day.
Neiafu is the second-largest town in Tonga, home to a vibrant market, quaint craft shops, restaurants and where many water activities across the island group depart. Water activities here include whale swimming, scuba diving, game fishing, yacht sailing and boat tours to natural attractions like Swallows’ Cave, as well as to mesmerising snorkelling spots.
On land, guided tours can take you to historical and natural points of interest across the main island of Vava’u, as well as its causeway-connected islands full of villages and tropical plantations. A highlight is also the ‘Ene ‘io Botanical Gardens which offers an interesting garden tour, as well as cultural feasts, a beach and cultural demonstrations.
Must-Dos in Vava’u
- Swim with humpback whales
- Do a boat tour to Swallows’ Cave, Mariner’s Cave and more
- Tour the ‘Ene’io Botanical Gardens
- Do an island land tour of Vava’u
- Explore Neiafu
For more details on each experience, as well as more must-dos, see 10 Must-Dos in Vava’u.