Japan is reopening for tourism and cruisers are wasting no time locking in their spots for the next season of Japanese cruising.
According to those in the know on Japan Cruise, bookings and enquiries have spiked since the announcement with some ships already filling up fast.
Michelle Levin of My Cruise Concierge said: “We have had a surge of Japan booking since they announced they were fully open.
Ms Levins says not only is demand for Japan travel and cruise returning to pre-pandemic levels but she sees it soon exceeding those.
“Japan had been very popular pre-pandemic for us, so we are returning to those levels and I suspect we will go even higher. Japan is a country rich in history and culture, clients also feel safe in Japan.”
As far as what’s on offer for Japan cruise, Ms Levins says there’s a range of larger and smaller ship experiences across the Land of the Rising Sun.
“We have large ships such Celebrity Millennium with very little availability already.
“We have smaller ships such as Silver Muse and Silver Whisper with availability for door to door which includes economy airfares, pre night, home to airport transfers and more. We love these ones as we can often have variations to allow for extra land if clients would like a longer stay in Tokyo or perhaps down to Kyoto.
“They include shore excursions, this a huge saving as land arrangements such as touring can be expensive in Japan.
“They have some cruises surrounding cherry blossom season and in Japan’s autumn, which is a stunning time to visit.”
Ms Levins says cruising will get you into the curious corners of Japan that land travel just won’t.
“Absolutely, you will get to visit many places you would normally not see with a land based itinerary and we can add extra land on for any of those places you would like to spend more time.”
Yoko Tanaka, Executive Director at JNTO Sydney says cruising has always been a huge draw in Japan.
“Cruising has always been a drawcard for Australian travellers, and we expect Japan’s reopening to reignite that interest. Prior to the pandemic, Japan was a key destination for cruising in Asia.”
“Cruising in Japan offers such a great way to see the country and offers the chance to see some of the country’s most beautiful natural scenery – as well as offering shore excursions that showcase Japan’s extraordinary port cities that blend ancient culture with the ultra-modern.”
Where to sail?
Mr Tanaka says you’re spoiled for options when cruising Japan.
“A Japan cruise will take you to a diverse mix of ports. Some of these, like Tokyo, offer a city experience full of skyscrapers, neon lights, fine dining, and great shopping. Other ports you’ll visit during a cruise around Japan provide a more tranquil setting with opportunities to get out into nature and visit ancient temples and shrines.
“Many Japan cruise itineraries also offer overnight ports of call to lesser-known cities such as Kagoshima and Kobe, which are well worth a visit.”
With plenty of lines set to sail in Japan over 2023 and beyond, here are some of the lines and the picks of their itineraries.
Royal Caribbean – 12 Night Tokyo to Singapore Cruise – Spectrum of the Seas – sailing on August 12, 2023
Aboard the massive Spectrum of the Seas, explore Japanese ports Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Kobe and Kagoshima, before enjoying stops in the Philippines and Vietnam as well.
Coral Expeditions – 14 Night Through the Heart of Japan – Coral Adventurer – sailing on September 23, 2023
For an extremely unique Japan cruise experience, you can try the small ship experience and test out Coral Expeditions new Japan itineraries. This particular sailing will take you through all sides of Japan, with culture, cuisine and natural beauty everywhere for two action-packed weeks.
This Princess cruise has a floral focus, taking you through the beautiful blooms of Japan for eight nights, with stops in Tokyo, Beppu, Kagoshima, Jeju (in South Korea), Hakata, Nagasaki and Miyazaki.
Princess Cruises – 8 Night Sea of Japan Fall Foliage – Diamond Princess – sailing on October 31, 2023
To rather see Japan in Autumn, you can you can try this different Princess cruise, you’ll have six ports across eight nights as you circle Japan and enjoy a quick stop in South Korea.
Silversea has one of the most comprehensive selections of Japan cruise itineraries across the major cruise lines, with this Osaka roundtrip being one of the picks of the bunch. You’ll get to explore less travelled corners of Japan such as Niigata, Akita and Hakodate.
This Silversea itinerary packs in classic Japan stops like Kobe, Kagoshima, Tokyo and Osaka, as well as lesser seen spots such as Sakata, Kanazawa and Niigata.
Ponant has rolled out a series of new expedition voyages that circle the beautiful surrounding Islands and cities of Japan. You’ll get the chance to check out off-the-beaten-path destinations like the fishing village of Mitari, the historical city of Onomichi, the mountainous Honshu Island and plenty more.
If you like the sound of locking in a Japan cruise but aren’t planning on going with a line that will throw in flights for you, you might initially find things a bit difficult.
Flight prices to Japan are quite steep at the moment, but according to Nathan Varney, a Flight Centre Travel Consultant from Brisbane, they shouldn’t stay that way for too long.
Mr Varney told Escape: “Because Japan only fully opened to tourists recently, there are far less seats flying to Japan than before Covid, with many Asian carriers (mostly Chinese) still not flying between Japan and Australia.
“Once more airlines and low-cost carriers fire up their Japan routes, we’ll see fares start to drop. But without a crystal ball or psychic powers we can’t guarantee it of course.”
As far as advice on finding the best airfares, Mr Varney says book ahead of time and pick your dates wisely.
“Book as far in advance as you can, get email alerts or VIP sales alerts from Flight Centre. Japan is a very popular destination for families, so if you are a couple or solo traveller book outside school holidays.
“Likewise, if you are a family, try and book outside school holidays if you can.”
As far as when to head for good value, Mr Varney points toward March.
“If you want quiet, go mid-year outside school holidays for lower pricing. If you want good value for a higher spend, go in early March for some snow and cherry blossoms.”
March falls in the shoulder season of Japan’s cruise season meaning there’s generally some good deals on offer.