Is it safe to travel in Japan during the coronavirus threat?
Most cruise companies, including Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, have set restrictions on anyone who’s been in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau within two weeks — the virus’s incubation period — of the scheduled cruise date.
Some itineraries have also been altered or ports of call canceled altogether. Use caution and take steps to safeguard yourself if you choose to travel to areas where the coronavirus is prevalent.
Japan is a country where old and new fuses seamlessly to create a culture unique to its people. Known best for its progressive technology, tea ceremonies, iconic Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms, cruising around this island nation allows you to truly experience its diversity.
Best cruises to Japan
Japan’s profile as an island nation makes it the ideal cruising destination. Pick from some of the best cruise liners sailing to this culturally-rich archipelago.
Best for cultural immersion: Princess
Your Japanese experience begins the moment you step onto a Princess cruise liner. Aboard the ship, cruisers can indulge in fresh sushi, brave a night of karaoke and watch a series of folk performances. Shore excursions include a visit to one of the country’s 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a class on the art of traditional woodblock printing.
Room service included
No free alcohol
No price matching
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card, JCB
Best for first-timers: Royal Caribbean
There’s a reason Cruiseline votes Royal Caribbean best cruise for first-timers. Once you’ve purchased your tickets, you gain access to an online cruise planner, where you can view your itinerary and book shore excursions, beverage packages and other add-ons.
Room service included
No free alcohol
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card
Celebrity Cruises makes cruising through Japan a breeze with luxurious all-inclusive packages that focus on relaxation rather than adventure. Guests who struggle with mobility, hearing or visual impairments are catered for on every one of Celebrity’s cruise ships. Lawn games, cooking classes and language classes are also complimentary on board.
Boasting both luxurious suites and child-friendly activities, Cunard offers cruising the whole family will enjoy. Its educational workshops catered toward young ones include a book club and songwriting workshops. And children’s programs are run by qualified nannies, so parents and carers can be sure they’re leaving their children in safe hands.
You’re automatically enrolled as a member of the Oceania Club with your first cruise. Membership offers a whole host of exclusive benefits that include discounts on cruises and spending money on board. Earn enough credits as you move up the tiers to trade them in for a free cruise!
We analyze a slew of benefits and factors when choosing the best cruises around Japan. For us, a well-designed itinerary is key, incorporating plenty of cultural shore excursions at key ports with enough downtime for cruisers to relax. We also look at onboard facilities, including dining options, entertainment, the quality of cabin suites available and the hospitality of the staff on board the ship.
We weigh this information against our personal experiences with these cruise operators as well as recent online reviews, up-to-date travel blogs and other travel websites to bring you our list of recommended cruise lines dedicated to your travel style.
When is the best time to cruise to Japan?
Like the US, Japan experiences four distinct seasons, each with its own perks and pitfalls to look out for when cruising:
Spring. Vibrant pink cherry blossoms flourish during spring, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world. While this is one of the most spectacular ways to experience the beauty of the country, crowds may be overwhelming.
Summer. Despite humid days and the possibility of typhoons, some of Japan’s most unique festivals and traditions take place during the summer months. August just so happens to be the start of the country’s school holidays, so expect to see lots of locals on vacation too.
Fall. The beginning of autumn typically sees the worst of the typhoon season, so it’s best to avoid traveling in September and October. November is when the leaves start to change, bathing Japan in a beautiful golden hue. Temperatures are usually cooler at this time, and tourists considerably fewer.
Winter. Japan experiences some of its coldest weather from December to February, with temperatures hovering around 30°F in the cities and below freezing in the mountains and northernmost islands. Braving these cold temperatures can be more than worth seeing Mount Fuji blanketed in snow and witnessing snow monkeys in their natural habitat.
What are must-do cruise excursions in Japan?
Snow-capped mountains, traditional onsens — or hot springs — and historic hotspots. You can experience so much more of Japan when you embark on fantastic shore excursions.
Shimizu. Lying just beyond the port of Shimizu is Hakone National Park, one of the best places to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji in all its grandeur.
Hiroshima. Remember those affected by the events of WWII before learning all about how the city has made an incredible recovery.
Tokyo. Be dazzled by the bright lights of Japan’s capital, and marvel at a city at the forefront of the global technology industry.
Kyoto. Considered Japan’s cultural capital, a day spent in this city can entail traditional tea ceremonies, a visit to the 17th-century Nijō Castle and an enchanting walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Fukuoka. Dare to climb the Fukuoka Tower and be rewarded with picture-perfect views over the seaside city and Hakata Bay.
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All of these cruise lines offer fantastic options for experiencing the best of this magnificent country. Pick the one that’s best for you and your lifestyle, and then consult our best cruise deals to set sail with savings.
Frequently asked questions
Most cruise ships depart from Ōsanbashi Pier in Yokohama, which is 15 miles southwest of Tokyo. Regular trains from Nihon-ōdōri Station connect the port to the center of Tokyo.
Trains connecting these two cities cost 1,060 yen — or about $10 — and arrive in about 40 minutes.
Flights tend to be cheaper during the country’s rainy season, which lasts from July to August. October and September offer up reasonable deals too.
Not easily. Very few cruises start from the USA and take the trip over to Japan. Princess Cruises and Oceania Cruises offer monthlong trips that begin in Los Angeles, but you’ll need to book your own return flight.
Lily Jones is a travel writer at Finder. She also writes for other titles and manages her own blog, A Lil Guide. Lily graduated with a degree in Russian and Management studies from University College London in 2016. Having discovered her passion for travelling at a young age, she has lived in many cities around the world including St Petersburg, Melbourne and London. Other than travel, Lily has an innate passion for all things food.
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