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Regent Seven Seas Voyager Asian Cruise Blog #9

Ben Hall

There's a lot of nervous people around as event in Japan unfold given our close proximity here in South Korea. The Captain Gianmario Sanguineti made a special announcement to assure everyone on board the situation was being monitored closely and that the safety of everyone on board was his top priority. That meant we made our scheduled port of call at Incheon which is the gateway to Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

It's pretty chilly up here this time of year ... overnight the temperature is just below zero and the forecast was for a maximum of 8C and we opted for a Regent shore excursion - the Grand Tour of Seoul which is one of the complimentary excursions that's included in the fare.

It was an 8 and a half hour outing with all the highlights of the city including the National Museum, Insadong Antique Street, Namdaemun Market and perhaps the highlight of the day - the Changing of the Guard at Deoksugung Palace. This has been going on since 1996 and was introduced after thorough historical research to find out exactly how it was carried out.

The ceremony lasts for 30 minutes and is held in front of Daehanmun Gate at Deoksugung Palace. As the ceremony begins, the changing of the guards commences replete with traditional musical instruments, and exchanges a password for verification. An eight-minute guard ceremony ensues, followed by a seven-minute change ceremony, and finally a patrol that completes the ceremony. The procedure takes a dramatic turn when 18 guards in six official positions beat a drum and bellow some orders.

The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony is a great opportunity to experience a rare South Korean traditional scene. Be sure to bring a camera. The guards’ splendid costumes, with their brilliant colours, are pretty amazing and a photographers' dream.

It was a long day but well worth the effort, even with the cold weather, and this excursion covers off all the best the city has to offer and was part of the complimentary shore excursion program.

Anyway everyone is following the situation in Japan and it's heartbreaking to watch events unfold over there. At least there have been some good news stories with two people being pulled from the rubble as I write this.

We're off to our last stop at Tianjin for Beijing, and let's hope more people get found alive.

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