SEATTLE, July 29 â€“ Cruise West, a leading innovator of small-ship itineraries, has announced 12 departures of the Hidden Treasures of Japan itinerary for the 2008-09 season. The 12-day/11-night voyage throughout ancient islands explores UNESCO World Heritage Sites, pauses briefly in South Korea, and visits Japanese port towns, traditional gardens, holy shrines and hidden castles, many tucked away in harbors that only a small ship such as a Cruise West vessel can access.
Sailing alongside an international crew on the all-suite Spirit of Oceanus, the most spacious and luxurious of Cruise Westâ€™s fleet, guests can select from four departures in October 2008, four in March 2009 and four in October 2009. Prices begin at $5,849 per person, round trip; cruises sail roundtrip from Kobe. Guests booking a fall 2008 departure will receive a $250 shipboard credit.
After flying into Osaka, guests are transferred from the airport to Kobe, one of Japanâ€™s most livable and attractive cities, situated between the coast and the mountains. Guests will explore Kobe, including a stop at the spectacular Himeji (White Egret) Castle, the countryâ€™s most beautiful stronghold. The ship begins its voyage departing from Kobe, sailing for the ancient castle town of Okayama, home to Japanâ€™s most famous garden, the Korakuen Garden. Tours of Kurashikiâ€™s 300-year-old rice warehouses, homes of samurai, and the renowned Ohara Museum follow.
Delving deeper into the history and culture of Japan, guests will learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting precious pearls in Uwajima, be welcomed into a small mountainside home of a fourth generation abbot for tea with his family, and tread on the precious island of Yakushima, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve with nearly 2,000 Japanese cedar trees. The last several days of the journey include the town of Nagasaki, one of the few ports open to foreign traders during Japanâ€™s 250-year period of isolation and the second to be destroyed by an atomic bomb in World War II, then a brief visit to Kyongju, South Korea, complete with a Korean barbeque lunch.
The voyage continues to Hiroshima, a once-battered city now thriving and devoted to peace. Guests will tour Peace Park, Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Museum; after a visit to Takamatsu, a feudal capitol in the 1600s, the ship will return to Kobe for transfer to Kansai International Airport.
Intrepid explorers can indulge in a three-day pre-cruise excursion that includes two days exploring Kyoto, the cultural center of Japan known as Nihon no Furasato (the Heart of Japan). Highlights include the Ryoanji (Peaceful Dragon) Temple, founded in 1450 and famous for its 13-stone Zen garden and considered by many to be the single greatest masterpiece of Japanese culture. The third day will be spent sightseeing in Nara, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kiyomizu Temple, built on stilts and offering a spectacular view of the city. For additional information on the Japan itinerary visit www.cruisewest.com or call 1-800-689-1783.