Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Sunday, July 31, 2016 20:25:36|
Asia 2016: 2 - Princess cruise from Yokohama to Muroran
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Because Marilynn had two suitcases this trip, we opted for a taxi to the cruise ship terminal instead of the subway. Taxis here are expensive. I read the rate structure, which was posted in the taxi this morning, and it explained why the $250 US fare from the airport to the Grand Prince Hotel. The cab fare cost more than the hotel room! I have converted rates from Yen to US dollars. The starting fare is $7.20, which gets two kilometers. (1.24 miles). The amount then increases 90 cents every 273 meters (875 feet). From 10 PM to 5 AM, which would include our airport transfer, the fare is increased by 20%.
At the cruise ship terminal they were fairly efficient. It was necessary to fill out a health form to assure the powers to be that fever or hot flashes had not been experienced recently (would that eliminate menopausal women?) then go through a series of information and check-in desks in order of a number issued. Once on board there was a tediously slow line in reception. I inquired of one of the four people behind the reception desk if this horribly slow line was necessary for everyone coming aboard, and was told it was essential. Half an hour later, when we reached an agent, we were asked what we were there for. The line was only for people with special requirements - I was not amused.
We were shown to our cabin, with was reasonably comfortable, where we waited for a long time for our luggage. I was more than ready to use my prepaid unlimited liquor pass, so finally asked John Paul, our room attendant, if he could put my suitcase into the room when it arrived. He assured us he would, so we headed off in search of food and booze. I ordered a double scotch, which was poured, but when I presented my card I was informed I could only have singles, and would have to pay cash for one shot. When I said give me two singles, that is also against the rules - only one at a time. When I refused to pay and suggested she pour half the drink back into the bottle she broke regulations and gave it to me. It was also explained that bottles of wine at dinner were not included as I understood, but that I would get a 40% discount, however if I ordered it one glass at a time it was included.
While I was determinedly doing my best to bankrupt Princess Cruises one drink at a time, Marilynn went back to the cabin. It was over an hour since we had left, and there was my suitcase sitting in the hallway. That was the last straw. There is an automatic $13 per person per day tip added to all shipboard accounts. This is in addition to a 15% service charge on all purchases of drinks of any kind. I suppose this is so Princess can pay low wages by having passengers make up the difference. We headed down to reception and demanded the automatic tip be removed from our bill. This was possible once the necessary forms were filled out and signed.
When we finally found the right dining room for dinner (there are 4 of them to serve the 2,000 passengers) we were shown to a table for two, part of a long line of tables for two with bench seating on the inside. We had specifically requested seating at a table for 8 to give us other people to talk to, but the rather abrupt maitre d' said that was not possible, so we left without eating in a thoroughly foul mood. It is looking like this cruise is not to be enjoyed, it is to be endured. After doing considerably more damage to the ship's liquor stocks we took in a magic show, did more drinking and went to bed to pass out for the night.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Today was a day at sea. It seems that Marilynn's rather firm comments to the customer service department were acted upon - we received a new allocation for seating. We couldn't go to the dining room as it is a formal night, and my type of travelling does not make provision for bringing along my tuxedo. The buffet has an excellent assortment of food, though, and is available on formal nights. The disappointment de jour for Marilynn was the cancellation of her hair dresser appointment. There is only one hairdresser on the ship, and she is sick.
The day was spent wandering around the ship and further availing myself of alcohol based concoctions. We took in a brilliant performance by a violinist in the theatre, and in a bar a fabulous juggler from Vancouver, Canada. Marilynn took a nasty fall while dancing that caused a bit of a stir, and that caused some later pain.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
We woke just as we were pulling into a pier in an industrial area of Kushiro, on Hokkaido Island, a small city of about 180,000 established in 2013. It is known as the City of Mist due to frequent summer fog that keeps the temperature down, and today was no exception. We didn't sign on for any ships tours - it was $89 per person for the tour to see the Kushiro Crane Natural Park and the Washo Fish market in Kushiro City.
When we disembarked, there was a delegation from the local tourist bureau at the end of the gangway, who informed us they had laid on a free shuttle bus service to Kushiro City, something that was definitely not mentioned on board. We made used of it, then walked through town to the Washo fish market, a large market where buying a bowl of rice and then purchasing raw fish, or cooked crab, prawns and so on at different stalls is traditional. We are told that Kushiro handles the largest volume of sea food catches in the country.
From there we took a taxi to the Kushiro Crane Natural Park, which cost about $50. The taxis are a little more affordable here, starting the meter at $5.50. The entry to the park was $2. The reserve is to protect the endangered redheaded cranes, black and white birds with a red patch on top of their heads that stand at least 5 feet tall. Most birds were fenced into a large areas with a mating pair in each enclosure. We saw only one young crane.
From there we took another taxi back to the ship, this time $38. On board we went through the immigration process required to leave Japan, as tomorrow we will arrive at Sakhalin Island, Russia. The process was simple, however our departure was delayed by a couple of passengers who did not show up until paged a number of times.
Dinner was at a table for 6. The other diners were older than us, but good conversationalists. One fellow was married to a Russian woman, and the other was celebrating the 60th anniversary of his marriage to a Japanese woman in Korea during the Korean War. Entertainment was a 50s production in the theater, then dancing to 50s music in one of the bars.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Another lazy sea day. We sailed along the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shiretoko Peninsula on the easternmost part of Hokkaido Island. There was to be a commentary over the ships PA system but that didn't happen, likely due to poor visibility. It is the southernmost point where sea ice usually forms in the Northern Hemisphere. The weather today is cold, foggy and the sea is stormy. We have had two one hour time changes in the past 2 days.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
We had breakfast in our room as we had a 7 AM departure by ship's tender to the port town of Korsakov. From there we had a bus tour of the City of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, capital of the Russian island of Sakhalin and other surrounding islands, visiting a museum, a memorial park and a shopping mall. Sakhalin was taken by the Russians in 1853, then the city was a penal colony in 1882. It now has a population of a little under 182,000. The city was burned to the ground when Russia was defeated in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and it was taken by the Japanese. It was returned to Russia in 1945. There is a large Korean population on the island. They were brought in as labourers by the Japanese, and chose to stay with the Japanese left.
We were back at the ship by 12:30, passing tour groups who were just disembarking. A dense fog had settled over the port.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
We woke up this morning in the port City of Otaru. It used to have fleets of herring boats, and fortunes were made by the owners. One of the villas built in 1897 is open to the public, as is another built in 1924 that has a dining room to seat over 200 people comfortably. Much of the morning was wasted in an hour long line for Japanese immigration, who fingerprinted and photographed everyone before we could leave the ship.
A taxi took us to a post office that was open on Saturday to change some US dollars into yen, however the clerk held up a sign that said money is not exchanged on weekends. There is no where in town to change currency, however one of our fellow passengers loaned me some yen. We walked along the canal, which is no longer in use except for tour boats, but is lined with old warehouses converted into shops and restaurants. We had an amazing sea food lunch in one of them, accompanied by a very good sake. My lunch would have fed 4 people, with loads of shrimp, crab, scallops, mussels, squid and so on over a bed of noodles at a cost of $13. I did as much damage to it as I could while Marilynn made friends with a Japanese couple at the next table who had their grand daughter out for lunch. They got along fine in spite of not being able to speak each other's language.
The village of Otaru was officially recognized in 1922 and currently has a population of 131,700. It was a lot warmer here, we were sweating as we walked around. It is a tourist town offering beaches and hot spring spas in summer and skiing in winter. A taxi got us back to the ship. I skipped dinner, but kept Marilynn company while she downed a full meal. I was still stuffed from lunch!
Monday, July 31, 2006
The ship docked as we were getting out of bed in an industrial area of the City of Muroran, and once again a very active tourist board had information booths set up where we disembarked. They had laid on a bus service that ran every 10 minutes, and had stops at all the major points of interest in the city. They also gave out free internet cards that allowed the use of excellent high speed internet in any tourist information office with at no cost and no time limit. We paid the $10 each for unlimited use of the buses and headed in through a tunnel for the 10 minute drive to city centre. The bus stopped at a tourist office where I caught up on emails, a much preferred method than the ship's 79 cents per minute charge.
>From the tourist office we walked towards the next bus stop, but got lost and as my knees were not holding out, we paid $27 for a taxi ride to a scenic lookout where we could catch a bus. Not much could be seen from the lookout due to fog, so we caught a bus to another part of the port area where a festival was going on. There was a tent city of food and drink stalls, which we grazed our way through, dining on BBQ beef and pork on sticks, sausage, noodles and rice cakes bought at various stalls. We had expected a parade, so followed a large group of men dressed in traditional Samuri clothing, and women in beautiful kimonos. When they disappeared into the distance past our bus stop we gave it up and completed the bus tour back to the ship. Andy, my noble benefactor, extended my loan until I could get to a money changer tomorrow.