As an island nation, the best way to travel Japan is by sailing around the country on a cruise. Japan might be a relatively small country when compared to the Asian mainland, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in its rich history, impeccable food, and gorgeous natural splendor.
You can spend two days or two weeks cruising Japan. Learn about some of the top cruises around Japan and what makes each trip unique in terms of accommodations and agenda, so you can start exploring this amazing country and witness the natural splendors surrounding its shores.
In addition to discovering the best Japanese cruises, read on to learn some basic but helpful tips about planning your cruise in terms of when to go and what to bring.
Cruise Japan in Style with These 5 Cruises
Everyone has their vision of what an ideal cruise should look like. If you’re trapped on a cruise ship that doesn’t meet your expectations, the whole trip is likely to be a major cruise fail. At the same time, narrowing down your options is overwhelming. To make the decision easier, here are the top 5 Japan cruises.
Celebrity’s Solstice: Best of Japan Cruise
This cruise by Celebrity includes the most popular trademark locations of Japan and more. Visit cultural and historic hotspots such as Kobe, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, along with the natural wonders of Mt. Fuji and Aomori (surrounded by Mutsu Bay and the Shirakami Mountains).
This cruise perfectly balances relaxation and exploration on board with excursions on land. The luxurious rooms and the cruise coverage of wifi, tips, and drinks mean you can relax and travel in style.
|Cost:||Inside Stateroom- $3,089 average per person|
(additional Taxes, fees and port expenses $131.08)
|Trip Length:||14 nights|
|Ports:||9 (Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kobe, Kochi, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Busan, Hakodate, Aomori)|
|Departure Port:||Tokyo (Yokohama)|
|Cruise features:||Fortunes Casino, Grand Épernay Restaurant, The Martini Bar, Fitness Center, the Lawn Club|
Princess’ Diamond: 9- Day Japan Explorer
The immersive cruise offered by Princess takes you to key Japanese locations within a reasonable timeframe that would fit most vacations.
Princess has been voted “Best Cruise Line for multi-generational family travel,” so it is the perfect choice for the whole family to enjoy the unique experience of cruising the Japanese shores on this highly accommodating ship.
Experience cultural festivals, cuisine, and historic sites on shore while you bond with the family or get some quality alone time on the Diamond.
|Cost:||Interior Stateroom- $1,029 per person|
(additional Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses $160)
|Trip Length:||9 days|
|Ports:||7 (Tokyo, Shimizu, Osaka, Kochi, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Busan)|
|Departure Port:||Tokyo (Yokohama)|
|Cruise features:||Numerous specialty restaurants, Discovery at SEA™ Programs, Skywalkers Night Club, Princess Theatre, Lotus Spa® Fitness Center, IZUMI Japanese Bath|
Ponant’s Le Soléal: The Best of Japan Cruise
Let Ponant help you explore the lavish nature and culture of Japan, from the beauty of geishas and historic temples to the modern marvels of city architecture.
This extensive cruise will take you to typical hotspots such as Hiroshima and Osaka, and some unique cruise locations, such as Sakaiminato and Kagoshima. Ponant is a luxury cruise that is inspired by French culture and aesthetics that are evident in its cuisine and on-board features.
|Cost:||Superior Stateroom- $4,630|
|Trip Length:||9 days|
|Ports:||10 (Osaka, Tamano, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Uwajima, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Busan, Sakaiminato, Maizuru|
|Trip-type:||One way (Start at Osaka and end at Maizuru)|
|Cruise features:||Spa with SOTHYS™ or CLARINS, libraries and leisure areas, heated seawater pool, studio, and theatre, 2 exquisite restaurants|
Silversea’s Silver Muse: Tokyo to Tokyo Cruise
Silversea prides itself on providing an “ultra-luxury” cruise experience with nothing but the finest cuisine and spirits along with top-notch features and detail-oriented staff.
This cruise stresses a fulfilling but simple itinerary where you balance six port stops with four days of just being at sea basking in the glory of extravagance.
|Cost:||Vista Suite- $6,030|
(includes Economy Class Air Roundtrip, 1-night pre-Hotel, and more)
|Trip Length:||10 days|
|Ports:||6 (Tokyo, Shimizu, Kobe, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Busan)|
|Cruise features:||Dine at The Grill or La Dame (two of many dining options), fitness center, connoisseur corner, casino, beauty spa, Venetian lounge|
Holland America Line’s Noordam: 28-Day Japan Explorer & Southern Japan Collector
If you are searching to make a cruise to Japan an extensive explorative chapter in your life and you want to see as much as you possibly can, then let Holland America Line take you on an immersive month-long journey.
You won’t be disappointed with the thorough port stops and excursions available as well as the exceptional features the cruise has to offer along the way.
|Cost:||Inside Stateroom- $3,229|
(Taxes, Fees, and Port Expenses are additional up to $430)
|Trip Length:||28 days|
|Ports:||15 (Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Takamatsu, Kochi, Naha, Ishigaki Island, Hualien, Keelung (Taipei), Kagoshima, Jeju City, Busan, Sakaiminato, Tsuruga, Shimizu)|
|Cruise features:||B.B. Kings’ Blues Club, Billboard Onboard, fitness center, Greenhouse Spa and Salon, casino, Pinnacle Grill, Lido Market|
When is the Best Month to Cruise Japan
For some, the best starting point for choosing a cruise is the timeframe. The cruise month can impact the price, as well as the weather. If you’re interested in seeing certain attractions in Japan, then your travel month will also dictate when you book your cruise.
The weather in Japan is split into four seasons. Typically, the summer months switch between extreme heat and the rainy season.
The spring months are full of festivals and blooming foliage like the fall months, where weather is ideal, and the leaves change colors. Snow is common in the winter months, but typically temperatures don’t drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so the cold is tolerable enough to still go out and explore.
It is worth pointing out that weather can vary depending on the region of Japan you are in at the time. But when it comes to the best month to cruise this region, it is a tie between October and April.
In October, you will witness the pinnacle of fall foliage color change in Japan. In the northern regions of Japan, October is the peak season for Japanese maples, gingkoes, and ash trees to change colors, while the south tends to peak more in November. Optimal locations to visit during this time would be Nagano, Nikko, and Hokkaido.
Some several holidays and festivals take place in October all over Japan. So, wherever you land throughout the cruise, look out for these festivities to experience.
Hosted at the Kochia Hill in Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki Prefecture, the Kochia Carnival is one of the most popular autumnal events in Japan. Here, you can wade through fields filled with Kochia balls that change colors from their summer green to a burning red in the fall.
Hokkaido Food Festival
Get your fill of traditional Japanese cuisine and learn the true meaning behind the phrase “autumn’s appetite” at this culinary festival. Hosted in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, visitors have four days to explore the outdoor vendors and gorge themselves on a plethora of culinary masterpieces.
The appeal of Halloween in Japan has significantly grown in recent years and increasingly draws foreign travelers. Rather than focusing on trick-or-treating, Halloween in Japan is all about the parties and the costumes. So be sure to pack and dust off your best cosplay outfit.
Arguably the most popular time for tourists to visit Japan is in the spring months, particularly April. When the famous cherry or sakura trees bloom throughout the country, a spectacle unlike any other.
Weather is also exceptional this time of year when it is significantly warmer than the winter months and the rainy season is still at least a few months away.
Although the wide expanse of pink blossoms and spring festivities are a significant pull for visiting Japan in April, be aware that this is the height of tourist season, so many areas might be highly populated.
But don’t let that hold you back. Take advantage of what this month has to offer in Japan.
You can host your own traditional Hanami (meaning cherry blossom viewing) party in any park in Japan where the breathtaking blossoms surround you. People typically bring blankets and picnic materials so they can sprawl out and feast under the falling petals.
Cherry blossoms aren’t the only thing in season in April. It is also a common occasion to go to strawberry fields and for strawberry picking. After you’ve returned with your bounty, these delectable fruits can be turned into all sorts of Japanese desserts, such as Japanese strawberry shortcake and strawberry awayukikan.
Takayama Spring Festival
The annual festival of the Hie Shrine of Takayama that takes place from April 14th-15th, is one of the most beautiful and artistically lavish festivals in all of Japan. If you only have time after coming ashore for one big event, it should be this.
Eccentrically decorated floats fill the streets amidst a spectacular parade. The artistry of the performers and the surrounding aesthetic of historic shrines and cherry blossoms render this an essential experience.
Cruising Japan is one of the best ways to experience this culturally and environmentally rich country. Unlike most nations, it is extremely easy to travel the perimeter of Japan and reach its most spectacular locations shortly after landing ashore.
There is never a dull moment when traveling on a cruise, especially the luxurious and stylish ones listed here. Don’t waste time fidgeting in a car or plane seat when you can be lounging on a cruise deck enjoying the finer things in life as you travel the Land of the Rising Sun.
Why Cruise Japan?
Japan is an incredible country that anyone should take the time in their life to explore and experience, so why do this through a cruise? Cruises are a great way to travel from one unforgettable location to the other while actually enjoying your travel hours.
Rather than sitting in a car or a plane where you have limited mobility and forms of entertainment, cruises are filled to the brim with ongoing attractions and experiences to keep you busy all the way to the port.
Taking the form of floating resorts, cruises will effectively relieve the stress of planning off your shoulders the moment you board.
Each cruise has its own route and agenda for when you come ashore, and in the meantime, there are casinos, pools, spas, theatres, bars, restaurants, and much more to keep you occupied.
And when you’re exhausted from a fun-filled day, you can relax in a comfortable private suite and sprawl on a queen-sized bed rather than reclining two inches in an uncomfortable seat.
Although the features provided on cruises will vary, the one thing that is always consistent is that they are filled with new people. Cruises provide a great opportunity to mingle and meet new people that are sharing the same life-altering experience as you.
Embrace the opportunity to find new travel buddies to join you while you traverse the cruise deck or band together on a port excursion to some of Japan’s top attractions.
Preparing for Your Japan Cruise
Preparation is key when it comes to making the most of your cruise. Part of the beauty of a cruise is that once you are on board, the only decision you have to make is what fun-filled experience you want to participate in.
But, before you board, there are some factors to consider when you’re planning, prepping, and packing for your Japan cruise.
The average length of a cruise is about seven days, but you can still have a fulfilling experience by sailing the shores of Japan for only two days or, while some cruises allow you to lounge and explore for up to a month.
The length of your cruise largely depends on your aspirations. If there are a series of attractions onshore you would like to see, you might want a longer trip. If you just want to enjoy the open water with a few stops here and there, you’ll feel fulfilled after just a few days.
Each cruise has its own specific route and agenda that will stop at certain attractions and staple locations over others.
The best course of action when trying to choose a cruise is to make a list of the locations you would like to see in Japan once you’ve hit port and match these to the cruise schedule that hits most, if not all, of your desired locations.
Pick the Right Personality
In addition to unique routes, cruises also have their own unique “personalities.” Some cruises are tailored more towards families, couples, or single adults.
Some might prioritize relaxation and adult features, while others will focus on having a party atmosphere, tailor themselves to being a family playground, or accent elegance.
Since you will be spending a significant amount of time on the cruise, be sure to pick one with a personality that matches your vision for the trip.
The items you pack may vary depending on the time of year you are cruising in Japan or the type of activities that interest you. Regardless, you should always pack these essential items for any cruise experience.
- A camera with extra batteries and memory cards (an underwater camera is a cruise favorite)
- A portable charger
- Sunscreen and aloe
- Pain, nausea, and motion sickness medication
- Swimwear and swimsuit cover-ups
- Clothes suitable for physical activity
- Sandals or water shoes
Choosing a Stateroom
You may or may not be spending a fair amount of time in your cruise room, but regardless, it is an essential element of planning your trip. When you are cruising in style, don’t skimp on your room choice. Typically, there are four types of staterooms offered on cruises:
These rooms are in the middle of the ship rather than lining the outside where they would have a porthole or balcony. Typically, these are the cheapest rooms, but this may vary.
Make no mistake, though, these rooms are often stylish and comfortable, and those who are a little seasick might feel more comfortable in an inside stateroom.
Ocean View Staterooms
As the name describes, these rooms come with a porthole or window that allows you to see the ocean. The size of the window will often depend on the location of the room on the ship. You might get one small window or an entire glass wall.
These rooms are typically the highest in demand because they are the most popular on offer. Verandah staterooms come with a private balcony that you have constant access to during your stay.
Some ships will mostly have balcony rooms, and some have a limited supply, so if this is a priority, be sure to research the setup of your ship and what is available ahead of time.
Often the pricier and more spacious option, suites will almost always have their balcony. They will also come with unique perks such as multiple bedrooms, multiple levels, personal bars, a butler, dining and living rooms, and more.
The features of a suite will vary depending on the ship, but if you are looking to go all out on your cruise experience, you’ll want to pamper yourself with a suite.
Cruising Japan is one of the best ways to experience Japanese culture and take in Japan’s island landscape. With the five cruises listed above and tips for choosing the right cruise for you, finding the perfect fit will be a piece of cake.
But consider yourself warned, once you experience Japan’s beauty, one cruise will turn into many!