cruise report-11 Day Circle Japan with Nebuta & sum festival
I wasn't able to find much info on this cruise which we loved so I am just doing a brief writeup. Please let me know if this is not right place and where I should post.
Best option in my opinion for Narita to Yokohama: Limousine bus (Direct to YCAT (Yokohama City Air Terminal ) from Narita airport) Fare: 3600 yen per adult 2000 yen for those under 25! Duration: approx 85~110 minutes TIP: Ask about HAMA tix – 4 adults roundtrip only 11,000 yen ***toilets on bus -I didn’t use or check but I asked about. There are other discounts for round trip even if you cannot use HAMA tickets due to timeframe. Easy because it is right outside the airport right by the counter that sells the tickets, no rolling suitcases yourself until you’re off the bus!
Stay at Associa Shin Yokohama 2-100-45 Shin Yokohama, Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken, 222-0033 before cruise– right by Shin-Yokohama station-Hotel is in Cubicplaza shopping building and attached to Shin-Yokohama Station (NOT to be confused with Yokohama Station which I did right up till I was leaving for trip!) Cubicplaza itself has shopping as well as restaurants on top 2 floors. First few floors have the open food areas, Starbucks etc . Lots of other food places nearby and pharmacy etc. Hotel was fine except beds were horrible, gave me back pain after 2 nights. Staff was friendly and helpful. TIP: fresh made onigiri in 2nd floor of Cubicplaza building. Also nearby is foodcourt like place with lots of smaller restaurant choices outside of Cubicplaza main building. Go towards Pharmacy and then keep walking to see it. Not convenient to Yokohama port at all! We decided to take taxi which wasn’t cheap but didn’t want to deal with the train transfers etc.
Stayed at Hotel JAL City Kannai Yokohama 72 Yamashita-cho Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa-ken, 231-0023after cruise close to Nihon-Odori station which is 3 to 4 stations stops from Yokohama station. About 15 minutes walk to port for cruise terminal. Once you walk to port area, keep walking to Red Brick buildings then Yokohama World Porters shopping mall and across the street is Cup Noodle Museum. Wharf area has ferris wheel and other activities and another nearby shopping mall where there is a Pokemon Center for Japan only merchandise. Minato Mirai 21 area.
TIP: rent a pocket WiFi, it is so useful. We rented from Japan Wireless whose prices were lower than most. Worked in every port except Kochi at first but later worked as well. Very useful for keeping in touch with home, checking email etc and with directions etc. Picked ours up at post office at Narita (you can choose hotel etc, we wanted to be able to use it right off the plane) and returned in post box at airport.
Princess Diamond M826 11 day Japan We had cabins C108/IE Middle Forward & C111/IE Middle Forward
The times printed on website was slightly different than when we got on ship. The timetable was provided first day and I’ve updated below.
Sat, Aug 4 Tokyo (Yokohama), Japan 04:00 pm
Sun, Aug 5 At Sea
Mon, Aug 6 Akita, Japan 07:00 am to 10:30 pm
Tue, Aug 7 Aomori, Japan10:00 amto 10:30 pm
Wed, Aug 8 At Sea
Thu, Aug 9 Sakaiminato, Japan 06:00 am to 04:30 pm
Fri, Aug 10 Busan, South Korea 07:00 am to 05:30 pm
Sat, Aug 11 Kanmon Straits, Japan 05:00 am 07:00 am (at sea)
Sun, Aug 12 Kochi, Japan 07:00 am to 11:30 pm
Mon, Aug 13 Tokushima, Japan 07:00 am to11:30 pm
Tue, Aug 14 At Sea
Wed, Aug 15 Tokyo (Yokohama), Japan 06:15 am
Impression of Ship: Diamond Princess is a bit older, I believe its maiden voyage was in 2004. It is not a huge ship but kind of nice for this trip which made it cozy. You run into people you recognize etc. The cruise director staff were great, lots of activities. We’ve cruised before but never felt as engaged as this trip perhaps because it is a little bit smaller. As previous cruisers pointed out: the majority or cruisers were Japanese with rest from all over the world. It was not an issue at all if you learn a few phrases to interact. They even had an activity to pair up native Japanese and non-Japanese cruisers and my team won, it was a fun activity.
The food was ok with special recipes by Curtis Stone on some or all nights (repeats). I would say it was not at the level of the Baltic Cruise I went on with them on Emerald Princess. I would give it a B+ whereas the Emerald I would give an A and just the level of cuisine. Staff were great as usual. The Horizon court also didn’t have as much to offer. They did offer some Japanese food options but in dining room it was the same every night – REALLY? Like not to offer at least one thing different every night? I would have tried them! There were some special Chocolate Journey desserts which were delicious that you should always get! The cabins were a little outdated. The highlight of Horizon Court area is the pizza place! Had a slice one day because I wasn’t full and didn’t like the buffet stuff. I wish I had gotten the chef’s name – one of the best pizzas I had! Did not try any of the grill stuff. You can see some wear and tear in the cabins. The showers were awful! Only 2 settings, one was so weak it was more dripping down which forced me to use the more powerful setting which was bit too much! 2 Formal nights.
DO NOT PAY for their bottled waters! Just bring a water bottle and you can get water from Horizon court. Just takes a little time to refill your cups and pour into your own water bottle. Also once you’re in a port and find a convenience store, bottle watered is super cheap unlike in Europe. The bar service guys by Explorer’s lounge were awesome. We hang out there a lot or by the side of the lounge. Look for Lester, super friendly and once after we ordered and then just got water, he gave us bar snacks without asking! We also won champagne twice from games/activities and just asked them to open the champagne and share with everyone at the event since only my son sips a little champagne and the rest of us don’t care for it.
For Port information: Princess had PAID shuttles from every port EXCEPT Tokushima. More on that later in that section. $5 to $10/person for shuttle but depending on port.
Also we did not venture out beyond the main area since we were mostly interested in the festivals. We also did not join any Princess excursions as price was prohibitive for family of 4. We also wanted to be very relaxed so not getting up super early etc took time to have some breakfast.
Also Princess doesn’t like to list ahead of time the names of the piers for some reason. In Yokohama it is the Osanbashi pier. This is important in Tokushima, I’ve listed pier names in each port section. Also each port has their food specialty, do try them as I’ve had one of the best udons in one of the ports and wished I remembered to take pictures etc
Akita (August 6, Monday 7am – 10:30pm) Nakajima Berth 2 & 3
• Kanto festival still happening when we’re there (8/3-8/6) In addition, there are Kanto competitions, held during daytime on the last three days of the event right by Senshu Park. Place: Chuo Dori Street, Akita City. About a 12-15 minute walk from JR Akita Station This is where the Princess shuttle bus dropped us off.
• We did not do anything near the port as we took the shuttle.
• Senshu Park is is nice.
• Route Inn's Hotel Grantia Akita Spa Resort - Short 8 minute walk away from JR Akita Station. You will immediately notice the hotel building the moment you are on the river stretch as it towers over the few buildings that are around the corner. 600 Yen in case you don’t get a chance to go to onsens far away, an interesting experience – we did this to pass some time while waiting for night time festivities and it was kind of too late to take shuttle to go back and forth.
• Akita’s Specialty Goods Shop- with many goods to choose from is only a five-minute walk from the west entrance of Akita Station. You will find local sake and wine, as well as a variety of local arts and crafts such as kabazaikucherry bark art and magewappa woodwork.
• Rose ice cream – refreshing and delicious kind of like sherbet but much better, sold by little old ladies with a cart
• Floor 12 of building of specialty shop – fantastic crab restautant with set lunches, can’t remember name but theres a giant crab in lobby pointing out the restaurant
my Impression of port: Had a welcome center as soon as you got off ship (which set us up to expect the same in other ports but no one else had it). Nice port, night time festival was crowded and exciting with food stalls etc like you’ve read about.
Aomori (August 6, Tuesday 10am-10:30pm) Okidate Wharf
• Warasse, a Nebuta festival museum, displays large lantern floats actually used in the festival along with other festival items. At the gift shop in the lobby, they and sell Aomori apple cider and juice very delicious. Right outside are festival good stalls and there was a young Shamisen player who performed periodically – very good musician.
• We dined on sushi – very fresh in a nearby fish market.
• OK a complaint about the shuttle here, they stop running at 5pm even though we are at the port till 10pm or later. Some excuse about a bridge not being available but yet we chose to stay out to see the festival during night and took a taxi back. Best taxi driver ever, drove us up to the gangway! So anyways how come the taxi can get to the ship but shuttle bus can’t?
• Found the Aspam too crowded
• Nebuta Festival: stop by the visitor center to get a map of the route of festival. Unlike other ports, this one wasn’t as crowded maybe since it was the last day of the festival. I’m not sure if they normally parade during the day or because it was last day they did it in afternoon and at night. We ended up going towards a big intersection and was able to see all the floats well. At night, the floats are lit up and there is fireworks. We did not choose a good location but could still see.
my Impression of port: loved this festival, so unique, good people, good food, good time.
Sakaiminato (August 9, Thursday 6am-4:30pm) Showa South Wharf
• Mizuki Shigeru Road - The Sakai Port is the hometown of the manga artist Shigeru Mizuki. There are a total of 153 bronze statues of "Yokai" monsters, the main characters in Mizuki's popular cartoon GeGeGe no Kitaro on Mizuki Shigeru Road. Tip: If you have kids or young at heart, there are ink stamp stations throughout the area to collect. Go to the visitor center to purchase a stamp book 100yen (around $1) and look for the stamp stations, if you collect them all you go back to visitor center to get a certificate which makes a nice memento.
• Try the tuna Ramen – delicious
• Prior to departure from Sakaiminato all guest have to attend a departure immigration imspection on board by Japanese immigration officials on board before heading to Busan South Korea – really not too bad at all. THIS IS FOR EVERYONE whether you leave ship or not. When you go to the Busan port, South Korean immigration is done there. The ship cannot leave until EVERYONE does it and they will start announcing names – don’t be those people!
my Impression of port: Its all about Mizuki Shigeru’s creations if you don’t venture out too far but we enjoyed it and a good lunch.
Busan (August 10, Friday 7am – 5:30pm) Busan International Passenger Terminal 2
• Jagalchi Fish Market is also close to the shuttle stop. If you're in Busan, then you must visit Jagalchi Fish Market, which Busan is famous for. This market displays freshly caught fish and various other sea creatures that are still alive.
• Gukje market is one of Korea’s largest, with stalls flanking both sides of the alleyways. Gukje actually translates to ‘international’. You will be able to find lots of street food, clothing. It connects to other markets such as Bupyeong Market and Kkangtong Market, Nearest Station: Jagalchi My daughter bought 13 pairs of socks for 10000won (less than $10 USD)
• Yongdusan Park/Busan Tower - Nice views of the Busan on a clear day. Park is free but entry fee required for the tower
• BIFF Square - Center of Busan's annual film festival, there are handprints of Asian stars and lots of street food.
my Impression of port: We have been to Seoul before and Busan looks older and not as sparkly new but still interesting visit.
Kochi (August 12, Sunday 7am – 11:30pm)
Upon arrival, everyone has to do an arrival immigration into Japan (since we left to go to South Korea and now back to Japan port!) again not bad at all.
• Yosakoi Festival- This midsummer festival epitomizes the Nangoku-Tosa area. Started in 1954, it runs for four days from August 9 to 12 every year. Festivities are kicked off on Otesuji Street, the main dance venue, and dances are held in 16 dance and contest venues around Kochi City. There are gallery seats along Otesuji Street from which to view the dances.
• Aisukurin (derived form ice cream)- This cold dessert is a Kochi original. The mild sweetness and unique texture make it a beloved year-round treat. The standard flavor is banana, and it is sold under beach parasols at tourist spots and other locations throughout Kochi.
• Kochi Castle-
• TIP: You can see the dances on stage at Kochi castle first. When they perform in the covered shopping arcade, it can be very loud so bring ear plugs. Each team has different outfits and dance choreography, very unique. There is Daiso in the arcade, you can get a stool for 200-300yen only to save your tired feet! They might even sell earplugs. For those unfamiliar with Daiso, they are a Japanese chain dollar-ish store except filled with things that you want to buy and are useful! I wish there was one where I lived!
my Impression of port: really enjoyed all the different teams with their unique costumes and choreography. No 2 were alike, dances are modernized at times and teams from all over Japan it seems.
Tokushima (August 13, Monday 7am – 11:30pm)
• For some reason Princess did not provide a paid shuttle and trying to find information even at the shore excursion desk was impossible because they want you to BUY THEIR EXCURSIONS. With 4 people shore excursions were too pricey an option for us. When they finally passed out the shore information turns out the City provided FREE shuttle bus to the train station. Princess is docked at a farther wharf named Akaishi Wharf in Komatsushima town rather than Tokushima. Once we were boarding shuttle they passed out information about a special train for Princess 2:30 departure but too late for us and we were on the train like sardines! the train station is called Minami-Komatsushima and take it to Tokushima station 260 yen one way.
My Impression of port: The hype of the Awa Odori festival made this port a little bit of a tourist trap. The Awa Odori Kaikan building contains the store which is fine, the museum which is not all that interesting for higher fee than it should be and a fee if you want to see the dance on one of the floors which we did not do. The ride up the gondolas for Mt Bizan there is a fee that is ok. This is the first port I felt like they tried to upcharge tourists. Away from this building seemed fine. I found this festival personally just ok since most of the dance is the same. The live music accompaniment is interesting but did not make me feel like we had to stay out late to see it at night and therefore risk the whole train situation back to the ship
Hope this helps future cruisers
Needs a little upgrade. Beds were not very comfortable and shower is bad - either trickles or too strong
Our rooms AC were fine luckily
There is lots to do in Yokohama - we stayed a day after our cruise.