Amazing Asia - Cruising China And Japan

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There’s always an air of anticipation among cruise fans when sailing into a port for the first time, and our arrival into the city of Shanghai, dubbed the Paris of the East, proved to be no exception. On the left-hand side of the Huangpu River, the space-aged Oriental Pearl TV Tower dominates the emerging skyline of the Pudong district. Opposite, the city’s famous Bund promenade stretches as far as the eye can see, dotted with colonial buildings and heaving with sightseers. Earlier that morning, our ship had cruised into China’s Yangtze River from the Yellow Sea, and navigated the busy Huangpu tributary which snakes its way through a heavily industrialised landscape into Shanghai. And although it was not one of the most picturesque few hours of our cruise, everyone agreed it was one of the highlights. 

As cruise lovers seek new horizons to explore on the high seas, China and Japan have emerged as two of the most popular - and for good reason. Shanghai is one of the most popular ports of call in China, and is visited by a growing number of ships each year. Popular itineraries often start in Osaka and end in Hong Kong, with ports of call in Japan and China along the way, and there are good reasons why this is so. Seasoned cruisers have their favourite places, but they are often on the lookout for new horizons to explore. And when it comes to history, culture, cuisine and sightseeing, Japan and China are two countries which rarely fail to disappoint.

From the alps in the north, to the great cities and sacred sites in the south, Japan is a nation of contrasts. It has many diverse destinations which lure visitors every year, but three of the most common which appear on cruise itineraries include Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagasaki. Yokohama is less than 28 kilometres from Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, making distance no obstacle for anyone wants to to shop, eat the freshest sushi on the planet, or explore its many fascinating districts and famous sights. Then there’s Osaka, a gastronome’s town famous for many delicacies including grilled squid called ikayaki. But it’s also only 47 kilometres from Japan’s former imperial capital, Kyoto, which is home to a fifth of Japan’s national treasures. And on the southwestern corner of the country is the port city of Nagasaki, a picturesque spot and a place of major historical significance almost wiped from the face of the earth in 1945 by an atomic bomb.

When it comes to China, one of the major draw cards for most cruise guests is the opportunity to visit two of the world’s most famous landmarks - the Forbidden City and Great Wall of China, often on extended tours. The Great Wall, an enduring symbol of ancient Chinese civilisation, is undoubtedly a highlight. With a major section of the wall located just north of Beijing, it is one of the few wonders of the world which truly possesses a wow factor, and also proves to be a quite challenge to climb! Back in the city centre, the 74-hectare Forbidden City is no less impressive. Regarded as the world’s largest palace complex, it’s an ancient mini metropolis filled with architectural wonders.

Further south, and in stark contrast, Shanghai is a city growing so fast that its skyline changes almost every time a new cruise ship arrives. It earned its moniker - the Paris of the East - as a result of its love of art, architecture, and its obvious embrace of Western culture, and although large and under construction in many areas, it’s a fascinating city which can be explored on foot. Most cruises of northern Asia end with a sail-in to Hong Kong’s majestic harbour, one of life’s “must-do” travel experiences, and a unique visual and sensory treat. And Hong Kong itself is one of the world’s great cities to explore; packed with sights, cultural experiences, and a place in which to sample some of Asia’s best cuisine. Asia is an undeniably alluring and diverse region, and a place which has drawn  adventurous travellers for many years. And with more cruise lines choosing to venture further north into China and Japan, yet more exotic destinations have become possible for cruise lovers to explore.

Joanna Hall