Cruise West Spirit of Oceanus by Jim Thornton Japan October 9, 2006
This was our 15th cruise and the second on a Cruise West ship. Our cabin was a portside Explorer Suite with balcony on the Sports (fifth) Deck near of the bow of the ship right behind the bridge.
We sailed on a 14-day Japan Unveiled cruise from Kobe to Niigata stopping at nine other Japanese ports including Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to Pusan, South Korea. Every port was most interesting. Saw lots of different temples, shires, and museums. Spent an additional five days in Kyoto and Kobe before the cruise as part of their optional add-on pre-cruise package. At the end of the cruise, we took the bullet train from our last port of Niigata to spend a night and part of the next day in Tokyo before the flight home. During the cruise, we had good weather and smooth seas except for the last night when a strong winter storm came thru from Manchuria. The earlier cruise bypassed two of the ports (Miyajima and Izumo) due to the high seas as these ports don’t have docks and the only way to go a shore was by using the ship’s zodiacs (small rubber boats). We had no problems at these ports.
CHECK-IN - Each time when you leave or re-board the ship, you swipe your ship ID card through their onboard scanner – speeding up the processing by eliminating the need to carry a second form of ID with your photograph (driver's license, etc.).
SHIP - This is the largest ship of Cruise West. It originally was a Regal V built in 1991and Cruise West purchased it in 2001. It has five decks with one small elevator. The ship carries 114-120 passengers with a crew of 60-70.
CABIN - Our room was larger than on previous cruises that we sailed on. Its square footage was 277 as compared the Holland America ships who average is 264. There are lots of drawers in the twin bedside nightstands, the small desk next to the bed, the TV and VCR cabinet, and in the large walk-in clothes closet. The bed consists of two single beds pushed together and fitted with bedding for a king-size bed. There is space for the storage of the suitcases under the beds and in the closet. The bathroom contains a raised toilet, sink, and shower. The cabin telephone has satellite and internal ship service. Also, in the cabin are a fresh fruit bowl, a refrigerator stock with canned soft drinks and bottled water, two pair of binoculars, two tour portable receivers for use on the tours, and a pair of bathrobes.
VERANDAH – The cabins on the upper two decks have individual sliding glass doors to access the cabin’s private balcony, which has two chairs and a table. Cabins on the lower decks have a picture window or portholes.IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM - A small TV set and VCR showed a forward view from the bridge, a GPS ship position map, and a printed news channel. There was no satellite service (CNN, ESPN, TNT, etc.) nor any previously recorded movies, etc., and no separate music channels.
LAUNDRY - There are no self-service laundry rooms; a fee-based laundry service was available.
DINING ROOM - The Dining Room (on the first or lowest deck) has one open sitting. Breakfast was 7:00-9:30 a.m., lunch 12:00-2:00 p.m., and dinner was 7:00-9:00 p.m.
OUTSIDE DINNING AREA – The Bistro (on the fifth deck) is next to spa and serves an early continental breakfast 6:00-6:30 a.m. and 6:30-9:30 a.m. for regular breakfast and lunch was the same time as the dining room. It was a pleasant outdoors place for breakfast and lunch. There is no upscale dining room.
TIPS – There is no tipping, as it is already built into the overall price of the cruise. Tips maybe given to those crew and tour members who provided special services.
EVENING ENTERTAINMENT – No evening entertainment. Although at a couple of ports, we had late afternoon local entertainers – young children dancing, a high school band, a magician, and a speaker.
MOVIES – VCR tapes were available from the ship’s library for use in your cabin.
INTERNET – There are two for-a-fee laptop computers for the passengers use to access their e-mail accounts, etc.
BARS - The Club Lounge (on the third deck) is a full bar. There is no area like a “Crow’s Nest” or Dome.
MEETING ROOM – The Explorer Lounge is the meeting room. It was the casino on the original ship and is used for group meetings and the captain’s reception. The large VCR tape and book libraries are here.
SHOPS – One very small with greatly limited hours.
TOURS – All land tours are included using experienced tour guides that sail on the ship. In the tours, we visited and saw samurai wooden fortresses, Shinto, Buddhist, and Zen shrines, temples, and gardens, atomic bomb memorial parks and museums, hot springs, geishas, teas ceremonies, and had several Japanese lunches and dinners. Plus one Korean lunch with Korean dancers as entertainment.
OVERALL OPINION – An enjoyable cruise on a nice ship that is able to go into small ports that are inaccessible to the larger cruise ships. And the add-on precruise package was most enjoyable in very nice hotel and associated land tours.