• TRAVEL NOTICE: Learn more about COVID-19
  • Newsletter
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • Cruise Tips
  • News
  • Deals
You may also like
Dismiss
East Asia Cruise Tips
East Asia Cruise Tips
Seto Inland Sea Cruise Tips
Landscape of Islands on the Seto Inland Sea, Mitoyo City, Shikoku, Japan (Photo: F.F.YSTW/Shutterstock)

Seto Inland Sea Cruise Tips

Seto Inland Sea Cruise Tips
Landscape of Islands on the Seto Inland Sea, Mitoyo City, Shikoku, Japan (Photo: F.F.YSTW/Shutterstock)
Sue Wallace
Contributor
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

The Seto Inland Sea is often referred to as the Mediterranean of Japan. And with good reason: it has a mellow climate, stunning scenery and fabulous seafood.

The sea is dotted with about 3,000 islands -- large and small, inhabited and deserted -- and it's a spectacular sight to cruise around the calm, emerald-blue waters shimmering in the sunlight. From a distance, some of the tiny islands resemble bobbing mushrooms and the coastal scenery will vary from lush forests and manicured farmlands to small fishing villages.

Stretching between the main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu in the west of the Japanese archipelago, the 400km waterway connects the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean.

It is part of the Setonaikai National Park, one of the first national parks to be designated in Japan.

Cruising these waters is a great way to escape Japan's bustling high-tech cities and discover the nation's charms at a gentler pace.

Featured Videos

See all videos
Our Favorite Things Aboard Viking Venus

Our Favorite Things Aboard Viking Venus

Regent Seven Seas Splendor Returns to the Seas

Regent Seven Seas Splendor Returns to the Seas

Wonder of the Seas Construction Update: Sea Trials

Wonder of the Seas Construction Update: Sea Trials

Wonder of the Seas Completes Sea Trials

Wonder of the Seas Completes Sea Trials

Scarlet Lady Video Ship Review (2021)

Scarlet Lady Video Ship Review (2021)

60-Second Video Tour of Virgin's Scarlet Lady

60-Second Video Tour of Virgin's Scarlet Lady

Carnival Mardi Gras: Free Dining on the Lido Deck

Carnival Mardi Gras: Free Dining on the Lido Deck

Carnival Mardi Gras: RedFrog Tiki Bar & Summer Landing

Carnival Mardi Gras: RedFrog Tiki Bar & Summer Landing

Carnival Mardi Gras' Excel Suite and Loft 19

Carnival Mardi Gras' Excel Suite and Loft 19

Live From Carnival's Mardi Gras: The French Quarter

Live From Carnival's Mardi Gras: The French Quarter

BOLT: We Try Carnival Mardi Gras' Roller Coaster at Sea

BOLT: We Try Carnival Mardi Gras' Roller Coaster at Sea

NCL's Restart: What It's Like On The First Norwegian Cruise Ship Back in 16 Months

NCL's Restart: What It's Like On The First Norwegian Cruise Ship Back in 16 Months

Here's What It's Like Onboard the First Large Cruise Ship to Alaska in 21 Months

Here's What It's Like Onboard the First Large Cruise Ship to Alaska in 21 Months

Perfect Day at CocoCay: Here's How We Spent 2 DAYS at Royal Caribbean's Private Island

Perfect Day at CocoCay: Here's How We Spent 2 DAYS at Royal Caribbean's Private Island

Our Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Experience: March 2020 vs. July 2021

Our Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Experience: March 2020 vs. July 2021

Back on Celebrity Silhouette: Here's What It's Like On One Of Our Favorite Ships 15 Months Later

Back on Celebrity Silhouette: Here's What It's Like On One Of Our Favorite Ships 15 Months Later

Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules

Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules

Celebrity Millennium -- Video Tour & Ship Review (2021)

Celebrity Millennium -- Video Tour & Ship Review (2021)

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of The Magic Carpet

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of The Magic Carpet

Q&A: Cruisers and Crew Chat About The Joy of Cruising's Return

Q&A: Cruisers and Crew Chat About The Joy of Cruising's Return

Celebrity Apex -- Eden

Celebrity Apex -- Eden

Celebrity Apex -- The Retreat

Celebrity Apex -- The Retreat

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of the Infinite Veranda Cabin

Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of the Infinite Veranda Cabin

Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director

Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director

Celebrity Apex -- Pools & Resort Deck

Celebrity Apex -- Pools & Resort Deck

Celebrity Apex -- Embarkation Process (2021)

Celebrity Apex -- Embarkation Process (2021)

Live From Adventure of the Seas: What's the Same, What's Different and What's Better?

Live From Adventure of the Seas: What's the Same, What's Different and What's Better?

5 Reasons MSC Cruises' Yacht Club Is Worth The Splurge

5 Reasons MSC Cruises' Yacht Club Is Worth The Splurge

Video Highlights From The Impractical Jokers Cruise 4 (2018)

Video Highlights From The Impractical Jokers Cruise 4 (2018)

Love Luxury Resorts? Here's Why You Should Cruise Seabourn

Love Luxury Resorts? Here's Why You Should Cruise Seabourn

5 Crazy Cruise Deck Attractions For the Adrenaline Junkie

5 Crazy Cruise Deck Attractions For the Adrenaline Junkie

MSC Virtuosa Ship Tour: What It's Like Onboard MSC's Newest Ship (May 2021)

MSC Virtuosa Ship Tour: What It's Like Onboard MSC's Newest Ship (May 2021)

Video Scenes From The Golden Girls Theme Cruise 2019

Video Scenes From The Golden Girls Theme Cruise 2019

River Cruising: Video Q&A With John Waggoner On American Countess, American Queen Steamboat Company's Newest Ship

River Cruising: Video Q&A With John Waggoner On American Countess, American Queen Steamboat Company's Newest Ship

How River Cruising Allows You To Explore Like A Local

How River Cruising Allows You To Explore Like A Local

5 Ways A Seabourn Cruise Will Make You Feel Special

5 Ways A Seabourn Cruise Will Make You Feel Special

Inside Look 2018 Ship-Hop: A Cruise Vacation For '90s Lovers

Inside Look 2018 Ship-Hop: A Cruise Vacation For '90s Lovers

5 Best Onboard Spots For Wine And Tapas

5 Best Onboard Spots For Wine And Tapas

Cruise Embarkation Tips: What NOT To Do On Your First Day

Cruise Embarkation Tips: What NOT To Do On Your First Day

Best Spots For Adults On A Disney Cruise Ship

Best Spots For Adults On A Disney Cruise Ship

The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Suites at Sea - Video Guide

The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Suites at Sea - Video Guide

4 Best Places To Get Craft Beer At Sea - Video Guide

4 Best Places To Get Craft Beer At Sea - Video Guide

Sneak Peek: Disney Fantasy Highlights For Kids - Video Tour

Sneak Peek: Disney Fantasy Highlights For Kids - Video Tour

7 Can’t-Miss Experiences on Allure Of The Seas

7 Can’t-Miss Experiences on Allure Of The Seas

Highlights From Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Highlights From Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Harmony Of The Seas Cabins - Video Tour - Cruise Critic

Harmony Of The Seas Cabins - Video Tour - Cruise Critic

Cruise Critic Tries The Ultimate Abyss Slide On Harmony Of The Seas (POV Video)

Cruise Critic Tries The Ultimate Abyss Slide On Harmony Of The Seas (POV Video)

HRH Prince Phillip Visits Cunard's Fleet

HRH Prince Phillip Visits Cunard's Fleet

Best Time for Seto Inland Sea Cruises

The Seto Inland Sea region has a moderate climate with a stable year-round temperature and relatively low rainfall levels. Japan's typhoon season is from July to October but gentle seas are the norm.

Seto Cruise Lines

Ponant, Silversea, Seabourn and Windstar venture to the Seto Inland Sea visiting bigger ports and hopping between islands.

Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Crystal and Azamara offer cruises calling at Japan's popular ports and islands.

Seto Cruise Itineraries

Seto's Inland Sea itineraries have something for everyone.

Art lovers, nature worshippers, cycling and hiking devotees as well as scenery fanciers are all catered for with itineraries offering tours tailored to popular interests.

Garden lovers can visit some of Japan's most stunning gardens and history buffs can immerse themselves in the tales behind striking temples and shrines. Many cruises start in Osaka and finish in Sapporo.

Itineraries usually include an international port of call mid-cruise to conform to the maritime law of cabotage (the right to operate sea, air, or other transport services within a particular territory). South Korea often features.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan (Photo: f11photo/Shutterstock)

Seto Cruise Port Highlights

Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb in 1945 and has been rebuilt. The Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum is a tribute to those who lost their lives.

Takamatsu is the capital of Kagawa, Japan's smallest prefecture and the gateway city to Shikoku Island. The port city is also home to Ritsurin Koen, a Japanese-style landscape garden famed for its exquisite waterfalls, chestnut trees, ancient teahouse and ponds full of carp.

Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku is known for its hot springs and onsens, which are among the oldest in Japan. Soak in the famous Dogo Onsen Honkan hot spring bathhouse, which dates back to 1894.

Naoshima Island is an art lover's paradise that includes the vibrant polka-dot pumpkin creations by Yayoi Kusama and the underground Chichu Art Museum, home to works by artists as diverse as Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter de Maria. Naoshima is one of a dozen islands that participate in the Setouchi Art Triennale. It is also home to the Benesse Art Site, which aims to bring contemporary art and architecture to the inland sea using the islands as the 'canvas for its activities’.

Itsukushima also known as Miyajima, which means  'shrine island' in Japanese, is home to the famous floating torii gate at the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine. The first buildings were erected around the 6th century and the shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Treasure.

Seto Inland Sea Tips

Book Your Cruise Early: Japan is on the hot list for cruising and there are a limited number of cruises available that often sell out far in advance.

Extend Your Pre- and Post-Cruise Stay: Spend a few extra days discovering Japan's charm before and after your cruise. Experience robot cafes, enjoy traditional tea ceremonies or learn how to master chopsticks on pre- and post-cruise packages that usually include Tokyo and Kyoto.

Look for the Most Scenic Routes: The most scenic stretch of the Inland Sea is between Hiroshima, Okayama on Honshu Island and Takamatsu on Shikoku island.

Watch Out for Sea Life Galore: There are more than 500 marine species in the blue waters including the amphidromous ayu (or sweetfish), the horseshoe crab and the finless porpoise.

Updated October 10, 2019

How was this article?

Featured News

1
Captain Kate McCue to Helm Celebrity Beyond in 2022
5
When Are Cruise Lines Around the World Expected To Resume Service?
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.