Maasdam, Land of the Rising Sun & Pacific Legends ex Yokohama to Sydney 44 Night cruise departing from Yokohama to Sydney onboard Maasdam.
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44 Night cruise departing from Yokohama to Sydney onboard Maasdam.
Named for the Maas River in the Netherlands, the ms Maasdam is the fifth ship in Holland America Line's 135-year history to bear the name. At 720-feet, the ms Maasdam is designed to carry fewer guests while providing more space for maximum comfort. Many staterooms feature commanding ocean views, and each suite has a private verandah.
Featuring an interior motif that pays homage to the historical Dutch East and West India companies of the 17th through 19th centuries, the centerpiece of this elegant ship features Luciano Vistosi's "Totem," a monumental sculpture using nearly 2,000 glimmering pieces of glass, prominently displayed in a soaring three-story atrium. Other intriguing art featured on the ms Maasdam are two abstract murals painted especially for the Rotterdam Dining Room and a collection of seven iron teapots and a charcoal brazier from Japan, which date from the end of Edo period.
Highlights of this cruise:
Until the mid-19th century, Japan lived in isolation, closed off from the rest of the world, and Yokohama was a mere fishing village. But in 1853, American naval officer Matthew Perry demanded the country open to foreign trade, and Yokohama was changed forever. The city quickly emerged as an international trading center, and while today it is often overshadowed by nearby Tokyo, it continues to be one of Japan’s liveliest, and most international, destinations. With its microbreweries and international restaurants, Yokohama has a decidedly different feel from many other Japanese cities.
From Yokohama, it’s a quick trip to peaceful Kamakura, home to Daibutsu, Japan’s second-largest bronze Buddha, and to the important Shinto shrine Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Head to Hakone National Park on a clear day and you’ll be rewarded with picture-postcard views of majestic Mt. Fuji.
Tokyo is the largest city on earth and packed with some of the world’s best shops, museums and restaurants, big and small. While the bright neon lights and the bustle of contemporary Tokyo may be what comes to mind when you think of the city, there is another side. Tokyo's historic gardens and neighborhoods of traditional homes on narrow lanes speak to a timeless Japan that has survived into the 21st century.
One of the greatest things about Japan is its attention to detail. Nothing is too small for consideration. Nailheads on temple walkways are hidden by inlaid metal covers. If the train schedule says the train arrives at 11:05, it will not be there at 11:04; and if it’s more than 10 minutes late, you can get the rail line to give you an excuse form to present back at the office, explaining your tardiness. Shops sell combs and hairpins made with the same patterns and in the same way as 500 years ago.
So maybe this attention to detail explains what happened in 20th-century Kobe. Some farmer was looking at his cow, thinking, “What possibilities of perfection am I missing?” Cows were still a new thing; they were banned as food almost until WWII, so cow rules were in flux when this farmer began massaging his herd with sake. The cows got pleasantly drunk on local beer and listened to classical music—and in return for the pampering, they produced, and continue to produce, heavily marbled, melt-in-the-mouth cuts of meat that can easily sell for a hundred bucks a dish. Like everything else in town, Kobe beef is all in the details.
Among the Japanese, Kobe is considered exotic: “If you can’t go to Paris, go to Kobe.” And it does make a nice break from Osaka’s relentless pace. Order a steak, find a window booth and watch the details.
If Japan ever had a wild west, it was Hokkaido. Oh, all the classic movie stuff of samurai bashing each other with swords never made it this far north, but the image of the West—open spaces, places to disappear, actual land horizons (which no other island in Japan has)—lingers.
Hokkaido's remoteness is so legendary that it figures into one of Japan’s most important historical tales: After losing a battle in 1189, good guy Minamoto Yoshitsune managed to escape capture and death by heading to Hokkaido (no one felt like chasing him that far). In one version of the story, he returned from Hokkaido to the mainland and, if you give alternate readings of the characters in his name, became Gin Ke Ka—Genghis Khan.
Hokkaido is the only spot among Japan’s primary islands where a non-Japanese culture manages to survive relatively intact, at least as an identity if not a lifestyle. The Ainu were here first, and are fairly easy to recognize; they have paler skin and more hair than ethnic Japanese. Cornerstones of Ainu culture remain, too: ceremonies that include sacrificing a bear (not often—bears are rare, although, this being the wild west, there are still some out there), the beautiful attush robe, a dislike of uncooked fish. And they’re not going anywhere. In 1997, the Japanese government finally recognized the Ainu's right to their own culture. Get a taste of that unique culture in Hakodate, the capital city of this northern island.
Endowed with tranquil resorts, enticing beaches and one of Japan’s warmest climates, Miyazaki Prefecture, on the south side of the island of Kyushu, plays its nature card with an open hand. The cruise port, Hososhima, is an older quarter of Hyuga, a city surrounded by beautiful beaches and parks. Surfers flock to its rugged coast, as do gawkers who prefer cliff-top views of the jagged edges of Hyuga Cape.
The prefecture’s most intact historic area is Mimitsu, a preservation district south of Hyuga that evokes 19th-century Japan with its prevalence of traditional buildings and cobblestoned streets. Japanese mythology plays out throughout the region at places like Omi Shrine, dedicated to the Japanese sun goddess, and Miyazaki Shrine, set on what was believed to be the birthplace of Japan’s mythical first emperor, Jimmu.
Miyazaki was a small provincial town until 1883, during the Meiji period, when it was chosen as the capital of the prefecture. Today, the city is a place of gardens and shrines and Japanese legends. Miyazaki also makes headlines for its world-famous Miyazaki beef, served at some of the city’s finer dining locales. The main artery, Tachibana-doji, is busy with boutiques, restaurants, cafés and a shopping arcade. The region’s history is on display at several museums and at the colorful festivals that take place at the shrines and other sites throughout the year.
Situated in the northwest of Kyushu, the third-largest island in Japan, Nagasaki is one of the country’s most cosmopolitan port cities, with a decent tourism infrastructure, a fascinating past that stretches back to the early 7th century and a picturesque harbor that’s been an active port since the 16th century. Home to around 500,000 residents, the city is a buzzy yet relaxed place with abundant services, shops and restaurants as well as several cultural and historic attractions that are easily explored on foot and via public transportation. Check out the Nagasaki Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum, which outline the horrific bombing of the city during World War II while making a poignant pledge for world peace. Foodies will enjoy the wide variety of tastes to be found in Chinatown and the Shianbashi Gourmet Street. If you are visiting with children, the Huis Ten Bosch theme park—modeled on a medieval Dutch town—makes for a fun diversion. Look out, too, for popular annual events like October's Kunchi Festival and the wintertime Nagasaki Lantern Festival.
Guam (US Territory), Guam
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military attacked the United States. While Pearl Harbor got all the press, that same day the Japanese bombed three other military bases. The idea was to remove any possibility that the United States could join the war in the Pacific. Bad idea. The target that got hit the worst was Guam: Not only was it bombed, it was invaded and occupied for nearly three years, which turned the island into a kind of slave camp for the indigenous Chamorro.
Jayapura is the capital of Papua province, Indonesia, on the island of New Guinea. It is situated on Yos Sudarso Bay. A port, shipping chiefly copra, it lies in a coastal belt where coconuts, cacao, fruit, vegetables, and cattle are raised. The city has a small but active tourism industry.
Wewak, Papua New Guinea
Wewak is the capital of the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. It is located on the northern coast of the island of New Guinea. It is the largest town between Madang and Jayapura. The old centre of the town is situated on a small peninsula, with the rest of the urban area occupying a narrow band of flat land between the ocean and the coastal range of mountains that emerges a short distance inland.
Madang, Papua New Guinea
Madang is the capital of Madang Province and is a town on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. It was first settled by the Germans in the 19th century. The town is said to be one of the prettiest towns in the South Pacific due in part to its dramatic location on the tip of a peninsula encircled by mountains. Madang is also a major cultural center where a variety of tribes come together to take part in the arts trade. Flying foxes also congregate in Madang, with several roosts located right in the downtown area.
Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, Papua New Guinea. The town was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. After the eruption the capital was moved to Kokopo, about 20 kilometres away. Rabaul is continually threatened by volcanic activity due to being built on the edge of Rabaul caldera, a flooded caldera of a large volcano.
Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Honiara is the capital of the Solomon Islands and is located on Guadalcanal, a large mountainous island covered by jungle. It is situated on the northern coast, is the heart of the province and is the Solomon Island’s springboard for tourism activities.
Noumea, New Caledonia
Back in the days when European countries were establishing colonies all over the globe, the standard reason for territory-grabbing was riches: gold, silver, cumin. The French took a different approach. They grabbed what was pretty and proceeded to teach the locals how to bake outstanding baguettes. In fact, once they'd gained a foothold, they ignored the palm trees, the lagoons, the beautiful sharp mountains, and began creating mini-Frances wherever they could.
Nouméa is a French city with Polynesian accents, cooled by ocean breezes and set among tropical flowers the size of dinner plates. With one of the healthiest reef systems left on earth, the island’s lagoons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hold more than 9,000 species of fish and marine life. The Kanaks, the native people to whom the French first gave cooking lessons, already lived lives rich with fish, taro and coconuts fresh from the tree. And, although the two cultures didn’t always get along, they agreed on one thing: Stick with the prettiest real estate you can find.
If you want a snapshot of Australia's appeal, look no further than Sydney: The idyllic lifestyle, friendly locals and drop-dead natural beauty of this approachable metropolis and its attractions explain why the country tops so many travelers' wish lists. But Sydney is more than just the embodiment of classic antipodean cool—the city is in a constant state of evolution. A list of what to do in Sydney might start with the white-hot nightlife, with its new cocktail bars and idiosyncratic mixology dens. Inventive restaurants helmed by high-caliber chefs are dishing up everything from posh pan-Asian to Argentine street food, while the famous dining temples that put Sydney on the gastronomic map are still going strong too.