Vacations Summer

Cruise Vacations




I’m sailing for almost two weeks on board the Diamond Princess with Princess Cruises, one of very few international cruise ships permanently positioned in and around Japan. Calling at ports around the country (and across the Sea of Japan in Korea), this 2,670-berth vessel brings the cultural experiences on board, with both permanent facilities (including a sushi restaurant, and bars stocked with sake and local whiskey) and programming that keep guests ensconced in this corner of East Asia for the length of the voyage. “We get a large crowd of Japanese guests, and have a lot of Japanese crew, and they bring with them a different lifestyle – it’s exciting for them, and for us,” explains Captain Gennaro Arma when I visit him up on the ship’s bridge. Outside, dolphins frolic in the Pacific, leaping from the blue-grey waters and sending up splashes so big, I can see them up here. Standing nearby, hotel manager Craig Dauphinee adds that the location affects everything on board. “The entertainment is different. The menu is different. The programming is different.” For example, Izumi, the traditional bath built into the stern of the ship. The Japanese take these baths very seriously, routinely stripping down to soak in the hot springs found all over the country, with this ship-board mineral bath replicating that experience – right down to the nakedness. Entering on one of the first days of the voyage, I’m fully prepared for this rather immersive experience. After checking in, I swap my shoes for slippers, don a robe, and am handed two towels – one big, one small. I ask the attendant about the small one. “It is, uh, hmm, to enhance your privacy,” he says, vaguely pointing south, indicating where I should carry it. I abandon all my privacy, first going full Japanese in the series of indoor baths and sauna, later happily slipping into my bathing suit to enjoy the private, unisex, outdoor whirlpool, which overlooks the ocean. But I do more than sit in a hot tub. On sea days, I attend language lessons, learning to say simple words and the secrets of the Japanese accent, not quite believing our instructor, who invariably told the room of about 100 cruiser-students that our pronunciation was “more than perfect!” I also attend a yukata fitting, where women and men alike dress up in traditional garb and pose for photos, and participate in the art of furoshiki gift-wrapping, fumbling around with the fancy cloth, eventually managing to loop it, complete with a bow, around the boxes and bottles provided for the lesson.

I also get to try my hand at making sushi in Sakaiminato, one of Japan’s biggest fishing towns, a place girded by rugged mountains and shot through with waterways lined with fishing boats that annually haul in hundreds of thousands of tons of tuna, mackerel and snow crab. First, I sample three types of sake then, clustered together with other guests in the back room of a small backstreet restaurant, I pack the rice tight, spreading the sharp wasabi and laying super- fresh squid, tuna and salmon. It feels, and tastes, like the ultimate Japanese experience. I eat my creation heartily, eager to see the rest of this city, and then get back on board, where the warmth of traditional baths and the promise of more sake awaits.

LUXURY Around-the-world Steeped in luxury, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is reminiscent of the Titanic.

By Heather Greenwood Davis

The woman at the microphone shifts nervously from one foot to the other. Her microphone makes a soft shrill when it brushes her blouse but, other than that, the room is silent. She gives a slight nod toward the pianist behind her, chords start, and the song is at once recognizable: Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” But this is not Whitney and we are not at the Grammys. Instead the audience waiting to be serenaded is sitting in the largest ballroom at sea – the well-lit Queen’s Room on Deck 3 of Cunard’s illustrious Queen Mary 2 .


70 • Vacations ® • Summer 2018

72 • Vacations ® • Summer 2018

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