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Top Japan cruise lines

Discover age-old traditions and futuristic cityscapes with a sail through the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Aerial view of rainbow Bridge in Tokyo

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.

To help lessen your chances of infection, the World Health Organization recommends that you:

  • Wear a face mask in public when physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transportation, in shops or in other confined or crowded areas
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Keep your distance from anyone coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Practice respiratory hygiene
  • Stay informed of the situation
  • Seek medical care if you suspect coronavirus symptoms

Check out our guide to stay up to date on the latest coronavirus travel advisories.

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
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card, JCB
Price ($-$$$):

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
  • Food included
  • Price matches
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for seniors: Celebrity

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.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for family-friendly cruising: Cunard

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.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for loyalty program benefits: Oceania

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!
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Cheque
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

How we picked the best cruises

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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Bottom line

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.

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