The South Pacific -- home to the famous islands of Fiji, Tahiti and Bora Bora -- is typically one of the first places that come to mind when someone envisions "paradise." Crystal-clear waters, unspoiled white-sand beaches and coral reefs are just the beginning of what this network of islands scattered between Australia and Hawaii has to offer.
The South Pacific is a popular honeymoon destination, and rightfully so. Cruises provide a romantic atmosphere as guests sail to various islands; some even offer the opportunity to stay for a night in one of the popular overwater bungalows.
Lucky for cruisers, island-hopping is easy thanks to the short distances between them. This allows you to experience the diverse scenery and cultures throughout each of the island chain's three main regions: Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.
Beaches across the South Pacific are not only breathtaking, but also ubiquitous -- from miles of open sand, to smaller secluded coves and grottos.
You'll also be tempted to snorkel off the beaches, as well as in the many lagoons that dot the islands. More active adventure-seekers can partake in activities such as hiking, kayaking and scuba diving. Some ports also offer sightseeing tours of ancient temples and villages.
For a closer look at the islands' culture, passengers can tour museums and even attend theatrical shows. The Museum of Tahiti, for example, offers an in-depth look at Polynesian history while showcasing ancient artifacts. In Moorea, the Tiki Village Theatre hosts Polynesian dance performances and other cultural demos revolving around artisan crafts and farming.
Regardless of what region you visit, the South Pacific enjoys a tropical climate year-round. The dry season -- May to October -- sees little-to-no rain and plenty of sunshine.
French Polynesia is the most popular region and consists of five archipelagos: The Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and Huahine), Austral, Tuamotu, Gambier and the Marquesas Islands (a filming location for reality TV show "Survivor").
In the mountainous region of Melanesia, you'll find the popular islands of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji.
Micronesia, as the name implies, is the smallest region and includes four islands: Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap. Most Micronesia itineraries also include stops in Melanesia.
Most French Polynesia itineraries begin and end in Tahiti's capital city of Papeete. Cruises to Melanesia generally run between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Papua New Guinea also serves as a starting point for most Micronesia itineraries.
French Polynesia has earned itself the title of most popular South Pacific cruise region, offering the most variety of cruising styles for different tastes and budgets.
The smaller regions of Melanesia and Micronesia remain less trafficked, with fewer options available. Select cruises between Australia and Hawaii or elsewhere in North America also afford the opportunity to explore more than one region in the South Pacific.
Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to the South Pacific. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (they select for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from a brand you like, then you can get the best price for a specific cruise to the South Pacific. Last minute cruises deals to the South Pacific appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually 1-2 weeks in advance. Taking a cruise to the South Pacific in the shoulder season (before or after the peak season) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal.