Cruise follies, foibles, TMI, TLI and unexpected discoveries

ABOARD THE DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISING OFF JAPAN – All in all it was a great cruise on the Diamond Princess, stopping in ports we had never heard of in northern Japan and even in Russia, thanks to some obscure law or regulation that nobody can quite get their head around. But no cruise is complete without its follies and unexpected discoveries. Here are a few: THAT GUY – You don’t want to be him. This cruise, like …

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Kids have a different take on cultural exchanges aboard cruises

AT SEA ABOARD THE DIAMOND PRINCESS OFF THE COAST OF JAPAN — Jessica Maraesca at age eight is already a bonafide cruise expert. But she has one big advantage—her dad Fabrizio Maresca is the Captain of the Diamond Princess, commanding a crew of 1,050 and celebrating his 15th anniversary with Princess Cruise Line. In fact, Jessica wouldn’t be here if not for Princess—her mom and dad met working on board. Her mom, Caroline Andrews, was a dancer. …

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In Hakodate, Hokkaido: navigating on our own is not that difficult

HAKODATA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN — The giggling Japanese teens, dressed in school uniforms of white sailor shirts and navy skirts, were anxious to practice their English. They greeted us as we got off a shuttle from the Diamond Princess in the town of Hakodate, handing us rice cookies and asking in halting English where we would like to go. “What do you like to do for fun?” we asked them. Finally, they understood. “Lucky Pierrot!” they declared. It …

Read moreIn Hakodate, Hokkaido: navigating on our own is not that difficult

A visit to a Japanese hot springs – Onseng – resort in Hokkaido

OTARU, HOKKAIDO, Japan — Good news! I’m going to live at least seven years longer. That’s because I’ve visited a Japanese Onseng—a hot springs resort. They are ubiquitous in Japan—there are thousands of them. We’ve been aboard the Diamond Princess and when a visit to an Onseng in Hokkaido was offered as a shore excursion, I jumped at the opportunity. Our guide, Kiyoe Narita, who is from Sapporo, explains “for Japanese, Onseng is one of the most …

Read moreA visit to a Japanese hot springs – Onseng – resort in Hokkaido

Japanese hot tubs and other amenities on the Diamond Princess

AT SEA ABOARD THE DIAMOND PRINCESS BETWEEN JAPAN AND RUSSIA — I’m sitting in a Jacuzzi looking out at the ocean. No, I’m not at a beachfront resort. I’m at sea in northern Japan at the Izumi Japanese Bath aboard the Diamond Princess. Onsen, as Japanese baths are known, are of course a big part of the culture here —there are thousands of them in the mountains where Japanese go for some R&R, soaking naked in thermal …

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On a cruise – options for dining vary on taste and budget

AT SEA ABOARD THE DIAMOND PRINCESS BETWEEN JAPAN AND RUSSIA — Sushi or Steak? Like other cruise lines, Princess offers specialty restaurants on board for which you pay an extra fee. “The dining room is like cafeteria food; if you want better food, you have to go to the specialty restaurants,” offered on veteran Princess cruiser. I wouldn’t go that far but it is true that like on other cruise lines, the specialty restaurants offer an enhanced …

Read moreOn a cruise – options for dining vary on taste and budget

Shore excursions: Cranes, marshes, pluses and minuses

KUSHIRO, Hokkaido, Japan — Cranes, so Japanese legend says, live for a thousand years; turtles for 10,000. That’s why if you went to a Japanese wedding, you might see symbols of cranes and turtles—wishing the couple a long and happy marriage. We’re in Kushiro, Japan, on the island of Hokkaido, and are visiting the Japanese Crane Reserve on a shore excursion from the Diamond Princess, which is spending the morning here. Red-crested cranes, we learn, nearly had …

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East meets West means education on a Princess Cruise in Japan

AT SEA ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS OFF THE COAST OF JAPAN — If you thought cruises were just about fun and games, ask 13 year-old Josh Berkowitz. “They’re very educational,” said the suburban Philadelphia teen. “You meet kids from all over the world.” Here on the Diamond Princess cruising off Japan, in fact, there are people on board from 34 countries, from the United States and Canada (just under 600 of the 2771 passengers) to Japan (1034 …

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Returning to Tokyo after 60 years revives old childhood memories

TOYKO – August, the hot month. Seventy years ago this month the world’s worst war ended, 66 years ago I was born and 60 years ago my father, a U.S. Air Force officer, moved his growing family to Japan for four years. So when we had the opportunity to visit Tokyo this month, I naturally thought of my childhood and wondered if we could try to find some of my old haunts. In 1955, my family sailed …

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At the Tokyo Fish Market: mixing culture and tradition in unique culinary ways

TOKYO (DAY TWO OF TWO) — The men look at the huge slab of fresh tuna as if they are about to perform surgery. And they are. The three-plus foot knife comes down precisely and in one cut, the tuna is cut. “Japanese food is our national treasure,” says Masanobu Inaba, the Chef de Cuisine at Kazahana, the Conrad Tokyo’s well-known Japanese restaurant. It is eight in the morning and we are at Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish …

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