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Cruising the Far East with Holland America Line

Cruising the Far East with Holland America Line

by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – Our arrival in Shanghai to board Holland America’s Westerdam was a bit uncommon.  It started early this morning on board Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas as we accomplished a brief 4 night time cruise over to Japan and again, returning to Shanghai’s Wusongkou Worldwide Cruise Terminal for a second time. The Westerdam simply occurred to be conveniently docked bumper-to-bumper in entrance of the Quantum. However, clearing Chinese language immigration within the foreigners line took almost an hour.

The subsequent step in getting from the Quantum to the Westerdam within the adjoining terminal appeared that it must be straightforward, however after a stroll via the parking zone we have been confronted with an extended registration counter lined with younger Chinese language ladies with worry of their faces.

That is solely the second cruise for a Holland America ship in Asia. It’s additionally the primary time they’ve begun a cruise from Shanghai and for all these younger ladies it’s the first day on the job they usually appeared clueless. A few trainers have been overwhelmed with requests for assist. We have been first in line, which stored rising minute by minute behind us. After a few half hour we lastly had our boarding credentials and have been on the best way to the ship. Until these ladies have been fast learners, the passengers behind that line have been in for a really lengthy wait forward of them.

After getting squared away in our Westerdam verandah stateroom, we have been able to forged off again throughout the Sea of Japan on our follow-up 14-day Taiwan & Japan cruise. However our departure from China was not scheduled till tomorrow night.  The rest of the day and most of tomorrow could possibly be spent having fun with extra of Shanghai.

My first go to to Shanghai was in 1976 once I got here to China with an invited delegation of the US-China Peoples Friendship Affiliation. I subsequently visited once more repeatedly, most incessantly main images teams because the proprietor of Photograph Explorer Excursions. It’s not precisely breaking information that there have been monumental modifications in Shanghai over the previous 4 many years.

Considered one of my early recollections of Shanghai was standing outdoors the historic Peace Lodge — now completely refurbished and managed by Fairmont — one night in 1983 on the nook of the waterfront Bund and Nanjing Street, the town’s foremost buying road. Night time had descended over the town and all the things had gone darkish, very darkish, except for a few small neon indicators on the lodge. It’s a sight extraordinarily troublesome to think about in the present day with Nanjing Street now ablaze with a profusion of neon.

Neon on Shanghai’s Nanjing Street in 1983 and Immediately

A most dramatic change has occurred to Shanghai’s skyline up to now thirty years as proven in these comparability photographs of higher Nanjing Street from 1987 and simply earlier than our cruise.  Observe the transition to pedestrian mall and the constructing with the tower topped by a gold dome now dwarfed by surrounding buildings. (There are even taller ones to the proper out of the body of the photograph.)

Shanghai’s Nanjing Street 1987 and At this time

First time guests to Shanghai will need to absorb as most of the must-sees as attainable.  My favorites embrace the spectacular Shanghai Acrobats; one of many Youngsters’s Palaces the place the town’s most gifted youngsters apply their musical devices, dance, and calligraphy expertise: the classical great thing about the 16th century Yuyuan Backyard within the Previous Metropolis; and early morning on the Bund when it’s lined with teams doing tai chi and different workouts involving waving colourful followers, flags, ribbons, or swords, in addition to couples ballroom dancing, and one spry, colourful previous fellow curler skating round rows of bottles (gee, I hope he’s nonetheless there).

Youngster calligrapher at Youngsters’s Palace, acrobats in motion, and morning train group on Bund

In Jade Buddha Temple there’s not one, however two spectacular jade Buddhas, each imported by sea from Burma within the late 19th century.  A stroll up higher Nanjing Street with its malls and upscale outlets ought to be taken to get to Peoples Sq., website of the luxurious, world-class, trendy Shanghai Museum, most notable for its historic bronzes and jades. For a particular deal with on Nanjing Street, search for a store or division retailer promoting scrumptious White Rabbit sweet, creamy taffy wrapped in rice paper (sure, you possibly can eat it wrapper and all).

Shanghai has its personal tradition of consuming. It belongs to the Huiyang delicacies class, one of many 4 main cuisines of China. For a style of Shanghai delicacies, a lunch cease within the Previous Metropolis is to not be missed. The place to go is the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (Nanxiang Mantou Dian) close to the zigzag bridge reverse the teahouse. Since 1900, that is the best-known restaurant specializing within the attribute Shanghai snack of small soup-filled buns referred to as Xiaolongbao, typically referred to by foreigners as soup dumplings. There are sit-down areas for consuming and other people watching in addition to a take-out choice.

Nanxiang Restaurant

As soon as the middle of the medieval walled Chinese language metropolis the place foreigners not often tread, the Previous Metropolis is a maze of traditional-style Chinese language structure, each restored and newly constructed, crammed with temples, a cathedral, and a mosque. Maybe greatest know is the Temple of the City Gods, a Taoist temple not removed from Yuyuan Backyard that’s the largest instance of conventional Chinese language structure in Shanghai.

Grand Hyatt Lodge Atrium

Transitioning from previous to new, the skyscrapers of Pudong (actually “east aspect of the river”) throughout the Huangpu River from the Bund present nice excessive angle remark factors for taking within the huge scale of the town on a transparent day, or at nightfall when the town’s lights start to glow. Extremely rated for viewing are the higher decks (97th and 100th flooring; 180 yuan entrance charge) of the World Monetary Middle Observatory (the “bottle opener” constructing) the place a glance down encompasses each the long-lasting Oriental Pearl Tower and Jin Mao Tower.  It’s greatest to keep away from the 94th flooring observatory there that prices much less, 120 yuan (RMB), however is often too crowded and noisy.  On the 100th flooring, a 180-foot lengthy hall with a flooring of clear glass referred to as The Sky Stroll offers a view and feeling of strolling in air above the highest of the Oriental Pearl Tower and roof of the Jin Mao Tower. On the 87th flooring, the foyer and cocktail bar of the Park Hyatt Lodge additionally has views, however and not using a charge.

The town’s highest viewpoint, the place the “bottle opener” can be seemed down upon, is from the twisted skyscraper, the brand new Shanghai Tower. Entrance there to the 118th flooring prices 200 yuan (RMB) on website.

Additionally beneficial is the view from the bar or restaurant atop the Grand Hyatt Lodge, which saves paying an entrance payment to a deck. A glance up or down the atrium there’s additionally spectacular.

Night time view of Shanghai Tower mild present seen from Previous City’s historic Hu Xinting Teahouse

For dinner, a stroll round Xintiandi,”New Heaven and Earth,” will allow selecting a classy restaurant from quite a few choices. Basic Chinese language, Thai, and French, can be found though situated there too is a British pub and an American Planet Hollywood type eatery. Sitting simply across the nook within the previous French Concession from the constructing the place the Chinese language Communist Get together was based by Mao Zedong and his comrades, Xintiandi was reworked underneath the course of American architect

Benjamin Wooden and financed by outdoors buyers, principally from Hong Kong, that included actor Jackie Chan.  Developed by restoring dilapidated colonial row homes and changing the world

right into a shopper paradise and hub of nighttime leisure, Xintiandi has been the spur for the renaissance of further “tiandi” developments all through the town.

Cruising within the Far East with HAL: A Déjà Vu Cruise? November three, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – Our first day at sea is a chance to research the Westerdam’s similarities and variations with its sister ship, the Zuiderdam, that I wrote about final yr for All Issues Cruise.

Considered one of Holland America’s 4 Vista class ships, the Westerdam, just like the Zuiderdam, carries 1916 passengers and 800 officers and crew. Additionally it is comparable in lots of respects to the two,137-passenger Signature class Eurodam, our verandah stateroom being one, which I beforehand wrote about for All Issues Cruise in 2015.  There are few notable variations to the Zuiderdam that I found. One which I observed instantly is that the Westerdam has one fewer specialty eating places than the opposite ships.

The primary Rembrandt Eating Room is simply Eating Room on the Westerdam.  And artwork seems to be extra plentiful on the Westerdam.  Nautical themed reproductions and previous pictures of cruise ships could be discovered all through the ship and an enormous mural of ships touchdown at Nieu Amsterdam, in addition to unique work by Stephen J. Card, are properly positioned for viewing.

Wall Measurement Mural of the Dutch Settlement of Nieu Amaterdam on Manhattan Island and Particulars from Work by Artist Stephen J. Card

As well as, within the artwork class, one new function not seen on the opposite ships is Rijksmuseum at Sea, shows that encompass the Visitor Providers space. Reproductions of work and drawings from the well-known Amsterdam museum, notably by Rembrandt, are introduced on a big digital panel and wall reveals.

Rijksmueum at Sea

Whereas the Westerdam is rated extremely by each cruise critics and clients, it receives particularly excessive marks for eating, leisure, public rooms, service, and worth of the cash from clients.  The ambiance and clientele on this cruise are utterly totally different from our earlier cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum with 99% Chinese language onboard.  Passengers are from 44 nations with roughly 700 People, 400 Aussies, 400 Canadians, 100 Brits, plus Dutch, Germans, Kiwis, Ukrainians, Russians, and just a few, principally abroad, Chinese language.  The demographic can also be decidedly older. There’s little proof of the truth that the cruise originates in China (700 passengers are staying on from Westerdam’s trans ocean cruise that originated in Vancouver).

Whereas she hasn’t cruised on the Westerdam beforehand, Jialin did encounter the ship within the Caribbean a number of years in the past.

Jialin and I just like the familiarity cruising on Holland America’s ships.  That is our fourth HAL ship on 5 cruises; Maasdam to Alaska, Eurodam on each the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and Zuiderdam within the Caribbean.  The service, high quality of meals, ambiance, leisure, and conviviality all make for a constructive cruising expertise for us, and others we’ve got met on board.  Many passengers have been on a number of HAL ships and exhibit a robust loyalty to the model.

One among my favourite acquainted points, which I checked out proper of means, is that the Westerdam’s Dive In grill by the Lido Pool additionally has the identical world’s biggest French fries as I skilled beforehand on the Eurodam and Westerdam. Love these crispy, crunchy, double-fried delights.

Initially launched in 2004, the Westerdam was one of many first HAL ships to bear substantial inside updating and additions with a 2016 refurbishing.  A brand new idea launched at the moment was the ship’s Music Stroll the place music-loving passengers have a selection of classical (together with trendy hits in classical fashion) at Lincoln Middle Stage, blues and rock ‘n roll within the B.B. King Blues Membership, and vigorous sing-along periods of pop hits at Billboard Onboard.

Mainstage Theatre Seating

The anchor to Music Stroll, the Mainstage Theatre, seats 645 in plush ambiance and options new acts nightly. Technical improvements that have been made to the Mainstage embrace sliding panels containing a million LED lights able to making ongoing modifications of the background all through performances to reinforce the visible expertise.

Time + Date + Your Account + Leisure + Extra are Displayed on Flat Panel Screens in all Staterooms

Our first day at sea is a chance to avail our selves of the distinctive Explorations Middle within the Crow’s Nest to analysis the upcoming ports on our cruise.  The middle is provided with tabletop screens that show tour info and maps that vary from world broad right down to road degree.  If assist is required, a member of the excursions employees on the EXC Excursions desk is on the market to level out instructions and organize shore excursions if requested.

Our cruise might be a collection of island hops from north to south roughly between the Pacific Ocean on the east and East China Sea on the west.  We shall be visiting 4 ports in Japan starting with Sakaiminato on the primary Japanese island of Honshu, a bit northeast of the town of Fukuoka that we visited on the earlier cruise.  Nagasaki on the island of Kyushu, south of Fukuoka, is subsequent, adopted by Naha on Okinawa, and Ishigaki Island farther south, almost to Taiwan.  Keelung, the primary port close to Taipei to the north and Kaohsiung close to the southern tip are the 2 ports to be visited on the island of Taiwan.  Cruising due south, Manila, on the island of Luzon within the Philippines, comes subsequent.  The ultimate leg of the cruise then turns again northwest throughout the South China Sea to Hong Kong, partly an island and partly on the mainland of China (Kowloon).

Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Exploring At the moment’s Japan November four, 2018 by Dennis Cox

As Few Cruise Ships cease in Sakaiminato, Locals Welcomed the Westerdam Enthusiastically

ABOARD THE WESTERDAM – The primary of our two ports to go to on Japanese most important islands of Honshu and Kyushu is at Sakaiminato.  A small metropolis on the Sea of Japan principally recognized for its fishing business, it performed a traditionally vital position in ending Japan’s worldwide isolation within the nineteenth century.  An Imperial decree in July 1899, established it as an open port for buying and selling with the USA and the UK.

Sakaiminato is notably the house to Shigeru Mizuki, the creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro, a personality seen in lots of varieties all through Japan. The character’s spirit of Kitaro might be present in Sakaiminato, on Kitaro Street, a road lined with 100 bronze statues of the characters that seem in Mizuki’s tales.

Jialin and I usually choose to go on our personal at ports until an tour provides one thing notably interesting that may be troublesome to do independently.  One that features a panoramic drive, an artwork museum, a standard backyard, a fort, a scenic cruise, and the museum of a well-known journalist appeared like a no brainer to me, however to not her, so we cut up up for the day.

Matsue, One of many Remaining Unique Japanese Castles

Following a panoramic drive by motor coach southwest of Sakaiminato, my group arrived at Matsue, a metropolis of canals situated on an isthmus between Lakes Shinji and Nakaumi.  It’s the website of Matsue Fort, accomplished in 1611, a couple of years after the final decisive battle of feudal Japan. All of the buildings that functioned as a citadel have been quickly demolished in 1638 leaving simply the donjon (the fort maintain) and the citadel’s stone wall. The five-tiered 98-foot tall donjon is designated certainly one of Japan’s Essential Cultural Properties.  Of the 170 castles in Japan, it’s considered one of solely a dozen originals remaining.

Moat Boat Scenic Cruise

Earlier than climbing 90 steps as much as the citadel, we circled it in small boats on the fort’s moat that’s related with a canal that runs by means of Matsue.  Our “moat boat scenic cruise” handed beneath 16 bridges, a number of of that are so low the boat’s awning required decreasing whereas we ducked down with it.  A standard Japanese lunch adopted the citadel go to.

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum

We then made a quick cease to see to the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum.  A journalist who arrived in Japan in 1890 and by no means left, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn taught faculty in Matsue, married the daughter of a samurai, and adopted the identify Koizumi Yakumo. His best-known work is Kwaidan — a set of ghost tales. Situated subsequent to Hearn’s home, a small museum shows manuscripts akin to best-known work, Kwaidan, a set of ghost tales, and his private results, together with his desk, letters, garments and Japanese pipes.

Viewing the Backyard on the Adachi Museum of Artwork

On the Adachi Museum of Artwork in Yasugi, a museum based in 1970 by Zenko Adachi to mix his passions for Japanese artwork and backyard design.  Ceramic works by such masters as Rosanjin Kitaoji and Kanjiro Kawai, 1,000 gadgets of pottery, woodcarvings, and Japanese work courting from as early as 1912 are featured in his museum’s assortment. However the museum’s backyard, ranked greatest within the conventional Japanese Backyard class since 2003, was the spotlight for me. It’s seen from contained in the museum by means of wall size home windows creating a sense of viewing big murals. It’s really a backyard of nice magnificence with pines and stones collected from everywhere in the nation, particularly so in autumn.

Miniature Backyard of the Land of Izumo

Jialin additionally seen one other spectacular backyard, this one on Daikonjima Island, a twenty-minute bus experience from downtown Sakaiminato station.  Yuushien is a Japanese-style backyard referred to as the “Miniature Backyard of the Land of Izumo.”  Reflecting the surroundings and traditions of the Izumo area, strolling by way of the backyard provides a sense of tranquility. 


Port of Nagasaki seen from the Westerdam

Following an in a single day cruise we reached our second Japanese port, Nagasaki.  The identify Nagasaki instantly conjures up in my thoughts the imaginative and prescient of an atomic bomb exploding.  The item of the primary of two nuclear assaults meant to finish the Second World Struggle in Japan, Nagasaki now memorializes that tragic occasion in August 1945 on the metropolis’s Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park in addition to on the smaller Nagasaki Peace Museum instantly subsequent to the cruise terminal.

Nagasaki Peace Museum

Situated on the northwest coast of the island of Kyushu, Nagasaki is about on a big pure harbor, with buildings set on terraces across the surrounding hills.  It was one of many few ports in Japan open to foreigners — though constrained to Portuguese residents adopted by a Dutch buying and selling publish on man-made Dejima Island — through the self-isolation of the Edo interval.

Whereas the atomic bomb destroyed a lot of the town in 1945, many historic websites have been saved.  These may be readily seen on organized strolling excursions or on self-directed walks to points of interest together with Uragami Cathedral, as soon as the most important cathedral within the East, the Nagasaki Museum of Historical past & Tradition, Kyushu Ceramic Museum, Megane Bridge, Oura Catholic Church, Chinatown with its Confucius Shrine, and the Mt. Inasa statement platform accessible by gondola on the Nagasaki Ropeway.  Info and limitless one-day passes for metropolis bus rides can be found on the cruise terminal for 500 yen.

Simply accessible by strolling and a collection of escalators from the cruise terminal is Glover Backyard, a posh of western fashion homes centered about the home of Thomas Blake Glover, a Scottish entrepreneur.  It’s seemingly the mannequin for the home in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.

Show of Floats utilized in Nagasaki’s Kunchi Pageant

Admission to Glover Backyard additionally consists of entry to the Museum of Conventional Performing Arts which shows colourful floats, costumes and dragons used within the Kunchi Pageant of the Suwa Shrine held yearly in October for over 400 years.  The pageant incorporates totally different points of Chinese language and Dutch cultures, which have performed a task within the metropolis’s historical past.

Clockwise from higher left: Faculty Boys in Uniforms with Instructor at Glover Backyard Koi Pond, Oura Catholic Church,
and Metropolis View from Glover Backyard

Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Japan Shade November 5, 2018 by Dennis Cox

A Common T-Shirt of Kohaku Colours with Phrase Love in Kanji

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – To the Japanese, colour is an important attribute to precise the great thing about their historic tradition.  Daring reds, yellows, greens, and blues in addition to the distinctive use of black and white are current of their artwork, structure, pottery, textiles, and furnishings.  Mixtures of conflicting colour could be seen in temples of the Nara interval and in Shinto shrines.  Scarlet and black in medieval armor, gold and inexperienced in display work, purple and white to precise auspicious events, and darkish blue and white in materials are all mixtures that mirror human sentiment, spiritual religion, and provides type to using conventional supplies and designs.


The particular mixture of pink and white pronounced as one phrase in Japanese is Kohaku.  Their use collectively signifies happiness and celebration.  Pink represents life and vitality, blood coursing by means of the veins and the solar radiating power.  White has lengthy been considered a mirrored image of sacred glory, the pure colour of the gods.  These two colours mixed are a fortuitous symbolic linking of life’s energy and eternal exaltation.  Understandably, the purple solar rising towards a white background is the design used on the nationwide flag of Japan.

Ai and Kohaku Shade Pillows on a Float  Carried in Shinto Shrine Parades


Ai, a specific shade of indigo blue, mirrors the colour of the huge ocean surrounding the Japanese islands.  This lovely darkish blue is harking back to the ocean as a supply of ample meals in addition to the avenue on which historic ancestors arrived, a maternal supply.  Traditionally, it’s the colour of the individuals.


Modori, the phrase for inexperienced is the colour for everlasting life.  Pine, cedar and hinoki are evergreen, by no means altering from season to season and are the image of Japan.  These are attribute of Japanese tradition, fusion with nature that’s expressed in conventional gardens and residences surrounded by greenery.

An Distinctive Conventional Backyard on the Adachi Museum of Artwork Close to SakaiminatoPine Ornament on Float Carried in Shinto Shrine Parade


Sumi is black, the colour of thriller; the colour of the night time.  It expresses the unknown and evokes the creativeness of a special world.  It has lengthy been utilized by the Japanese as a strong shade, pure carbon, the ingredient to supply India ink for creating calligraphy, drawings, and work.  It’s believed black letters and figures expressed on white paper dramatically reveal mysterious existence totally different from actuality.

Ryukyuan Man in Okinawa in Conventional Costume and Ladies in Fukuoka Sporting Conventional Kimono Colours in in Hanging Distinction with Black


Kin is the colour gold, symbolizes affluent golden harvests and, in fact, the metallic gold.  Royalty in all cultures undertake it as their image of divinity, the colour of heaven.  In faith it’s used for statues of the Buddha in temples and it’s extensively utilized in many Catholic church buildings as nicely.

An Historic Display in Gold


Tasai is the multiplicity of colours, purple and white, inexperienced, blue, gold, black, and extra, which are prevalent at festivals, in clothes comparable to kimonos, in exhibitions and at sports activities occasions, and within the public areas of cities and cities.  Whereas the clothes of the Japanese in every day life is usually monotonous, particular events, referred to as matsuri, all the time convey out a feast of colours.

Conventional Kimono Worn by Lady at a Shinto Shrine Pageant

Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Japan’s Distant Isles November 6, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – The final two of our Japan stops are in Okinawa province with the primary of the 2 on the port metropolis of Naha.  One of many Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa lies on the similar latitude as Florida.  It’s situated as removed from Tokyo as Iceland is from London and it differs considerably from the uniformity inherent in Japanese society.  The native dialect, people tradition, modern attitudes, and historic traditions are all distinctive to Japan.  A declare to worldwide fame is that karate originated right here.

Okinawa was occupied by america army after the Second World Conflict as a part of the trouble to demilitarize Japan.  Within the late 60s a number of years of nationalistic sentiment, primarily expressed by scholar protests and exacerbated by U.S. involvement in Vietnam, led to Okinawa being returned to Japan in 1972, though a controversial U.S. army presence stays.  A Peace Memorial Park on the location of the Battle of Okinawa, a Peace Memorial Museum established in 2000, and the previous Japanese Navy Headquarters may be visited to study the historic position Okinawa performed because the largest-scale marketing campaign of World Struggle II.

To succeed in Naha metropolis from the Naha New Port is a twenty-minute stroll. Shuttles to downtown are additionally often out there that drop off passengers close to a monorail.  If the arrival port is at Tomari as an alternative, it’s a few ten-minute stroll to the Kenchomae monorail station.

From central Naha metropolis (Kokusaidori), it’s handy to take Bus No. 1 (it prices 230-yen for the 20 minute one-way journey) to Shurijo Fort Park, the rebuilt walled palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom and certainly one of a number of remaining Ryukyuan fortresses on Okinawa from the Gusuku interval. It options the ornate purple tiled Shureimon gate, pictured on Japan’s 2000-yen invoice, that displays robust Chinese language affect in addition to indigenous spiritual traditions.

Shuri Walled Palace and Duplicate Throne Room Inside

Our go to was concurrent with the primary exhibition of Ryukyuan artifacts together with priceless work, lacquerware, pottery, and different treasures from a dynasty spanning the reigns of ten Ryukyuan kings from the early 15th century via 1879.

Waterfall in Fukushuen Backyard

One other website of curiosity, and really close to the port, is the Fukushuen Backyard.  A standard Chinese language backyard within the Kume space of Naha, the backyard was constructed in 1992, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the institution of the sister metropolis relationship between Naha and Fuzhou in China.

Ishigaki Vista

Asia’s largest cave, two-mile lengthy Gyokusendo, might be visited to see it’s 900,000 stalagmites and stalactites. The Okinawa Prefectural Museum has Exhibitions on Okinawa’s pure and cultural heritage. And a set of wonderful artwork might be seen on the Okinawa Prefectural Museum.  Outlets, an previous market, pottery road, and eating places lining Kokusai Road, whereas a bit cheesy, are additionally points of interest that could be of curiosity to cruisers.

The southernmost Japanese island on this system, and an in a single day cruise from Naha, is Ishigaki with a inhabitants of simply 50,000 residents.  Often known as the Hawaii of Japan, it’s in accordance with many Japanese probably the most lovely place in Japan. It has a laid-back feeling of isolation that draws Japanese looking for an escape from city life, if solely briefly.

Kibari Bay on Ishigaki Island

A tropical wonderland of nature and third largest of the Okinawa islands, Ishigaki is revered for its unspoiled seashores, coral reefs in dazzlingly clear waters splendid for snorkeling and diving, black pearls, gourmand high quality beef, and sugar cane and pineapple plantations, not ordinarily related to Japan.

Butterfly and Flowers at Kibari Bay

At Maetake, situated on the northwestern a part of Ishigaki Island, a rainforest options the uncommon, lovely Ishigaki palm timber.  Strolling trails there line the face of the mountain and permit straightforward sufficient mountaineering for even leisurely walkers.

Kabari Bay Hermit Crab at Low Tide, Offshore Isle, and Ishigaki Palms

The island’s Iriomote-Ishigaki Nationwide Park options the uncommon coral of the Shiraho Reef, whereas the mountainous inside boasts Mt. Omoto, the tallest in Okinawa province, and different peaks.

Emerald blue Kabira Bay (see photograph at prime), with 14 resorts together with a Membership Med surrounding it, is a nationally designated “Place of Scenic Magnificence.”  Colourful sea life may be seen within the bay in glass backside boats.

At odds with the encompassing space, the port metropolis of Ishigaki is decidedly unattractive; subsequently excursions inland or by ferry to close by islands are advisable.

 Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Taiwan from Prime to Backside November 7, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – The Westerdam’s arrival on the northern Taiwan port of Keelung witnessed an sudden welcoming occasion when two harbor tugs shadowing the ship turned floating fountains blasting arcs of water into the rays of the early morning solar.

Westerdam being Welcomed to Keelung Harbor

Whereas in port for almost two days, there might be time to discover the neighboring capital metropolis of Taipei with all its world-famous architectural and cultural landmarks in addition to Keelung’s lesser-known websites.

Eighteen miles from the capital, Keelung is the most important seaport in Taiwan subsequent to Kaohsiung.  Recognized for its sheltered harbor, vibrant market, and loads of different actions inside minutes of the pier accessible on foot, it’s a gorgeous vacation spot in itself.  Footage of the primary sights are displayed on a board on the exit of the parking zone and wi-fi protection on the wharf areas is free.

Keelung from Prime of Jinshan

Close to the waterfront, the Miaokou Night time Market’s meals stalls providing conventional snacks and seafood are sure to draw Westerdam passengers for the night. There are additionally a number of forts that encircle the world together with hilltop Ershawan Fort, with cannons and a Chinese language-style gate, in addition to Gongzi Liao Fort and Dawulun Fort providing views over the harbor and ocean for viewing.

Taipei can also be recognized for its energetic street-food scene, many night time markets, and busy buying streets.  It additionally has turn into recognized for it’s trendy buildings.  Protruding abruptly from the town’s skyline is the 509-meter excessive Taipei 101 skyscraper within the form of bamboo that serves as locator of instructions from across the metropolitan space of seven million individuals. 

Passengers on the ship’s excursions in addition to unbiased passengers definitely gained’t need to miss Taipei’s vital websites.  Jialin and I choose to go independently as we need to spend extra time photographing at a number of places.  The town is straightforward to succeed in from Keelung by practice for 41 New Taiwanese Dollars (US$1.37) and from the central practice station, straightforward to navigate with a contemporary metro system (MTR) and cheap taxis.  An all-day MTR move that features Taipei’s trains and buses prices 180 NTD (US$6) which, because it turned out didn’t save any cash, however was very handy for zipping via turnstiles and avoiding ticket strains.

Our first cease of the day was the memorial for Dr. Solar Yat-sen, founding father of the Republic of China in 1911, who’s revered on each side of the Taiwan Strait as a “pioneer of the Chinese language Revolution.”  A big wall of gold calligraphy contained in the memorial reproduces the structure of the Republic written by Dr. Solar.  Above it on the ceiling, the image of Dr. Solar’s Nationalist Get together (Kuomintang or KMT) that seems on the Republic of China flag is creatively displayed.  Two guards from the three armed forces, on obligation within the memorial, are ceremonially modified each hour on the hour.

Dr. Solar Yat-Sen Memorial, Guards and the Important Corridor

Subsequent, we headed to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Corridor — a regal monument paying to tribute to Dr. Suns’ successor. With its sensible blue glazed-tile roof, gold apex, white marble, and pure pink cypress ceiling, the shrine is designed to convey sacredness, solemnity, hospitality and peace.  The ceremonial entrance gate and sweep towards the steps main as much as the corridor resembles in some ways the Dr. Solar Yat-sen Memorial in Nanjing, China, the nationalist capital previous to the founding of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949.

The sq. between the doorway gate and Chiang’s memorial corridor is flanked by the imposing Nationwide Theater and Opera Theater with purple facades and golden roofs within the architectural type of imperial China.

Ceremonial Gate to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Corridor

When Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT Social gathering fled China following their defeat in 1949 in a civil conflict with the Communist Get together of China, they carried with them greater than 600,000 gadgets from the Imperial Palace in Beijing.  These treasure at the moment are housed in Taipei on the Nationwide Palace Museum.  It is likely one of the largest collections of historic Chinese language objects and artwork on the earth, spanning greater than eight,000 years. The spectacular assortment consists of bronze, work, jade, ceramics, and valuable objects amassed by historic emperors and extra from the Sung, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.  Solely small parts of the treasures are on show at anybody time, though themed exhibitions of the artifacts change recurrently.

Bronzes, Jades, Work, and A lot Extra on Show on the Nationwide Palace Museum in TaipeiBasic 5-Star Grand Lodge

Culinary aficionados might need to hunt down the Din Tai Fung in Taipei.  The one four-time Michelin restaurant in Taiwan, it has deservedly earned the title “the worlds greatest.”  Initially based as a cooking oil retail store in 1958, Din Tai Fung was reworked right into a restaurant in 1972 with a give attention to top quality meals, regionally sourced components and distinctive service.  Din Tai Fung makes their soup dumplings with 18 exact folds, which you’ll be able to watch being made via a window to the kitchen when you dine.

Skyline of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Southern Taiwan’s large port metropolis of Kaohsiung is called Taiwan’s maritime capital.  It’s residence to many tall buildings, such because the 248-meter tall Tuntex Sky Tower, and is understood for its variety of parks, and buying, such because the Liuhe and Ruifeng night time markets. The focus of Kaohsiung is the Love River, with strolling paths and cafes alongside its banks, and cruise boats navigating its waters.

A well-liked Holland America tour in Kaohsiung will go to a few Buddhist websites and a Taoist Shrine.  It consists of the Fokuangshan Monastery, a posh of meditation halls, shrines and, gardens based in 1967 to “reconcile the varied faculties of Chinese language Buddhism,” and Buddha Memorial Middle, masking 247 acres, opened in 2011 to advertise cultural and non secular schooling.

Statue of Dutch Surrendering to Koxinga

One other tour, which Jialin and I opted to take because the Fokuangsha was crammed, was titled “Highlights of Kaohsiung and Tainan.”  First cease of this tour in Tainan, the cultural capital of Taiwan, was the Tainan Confucius Temple, additionally referred to as the Scholarly Temple. It was inbuilt 1665 as a spot for instructors to lecture and domesticate intellectuals.  It’s now a forlorn ghost of its earlier self.  As Confucius temples go, this one is the least fascinating I’ve seen anyplace in China or Southeast Asia.

White Granite Statue of Koxinga

The subsequent website, stays of Fort Provintia, was constructed by the Dutch in 1653, and the stays of Chihkan Tower, was constructed within the Qing dynasty.  The tower’s historical past included use as a Western Citadel beneath Dutch rule, a Chinese language-style pagoda within the Qing dynasty, a military hospital throughout Japanese rule, and now as a museum.  It’s designated a Class-1 historic website by the Taiwan Ministry of the Inside.  A statue on the location commemorates the Dutch surrendering with Koxinga (Zheng Chengong), the Chinese language hero who rid Taiwan of Dutch occupation.

Koxinga can also be commemorated by a shrine and museum, which we visited subsequent.  A statue within the backyard of Koxinga on horseback standing seven meters tall is carved from white granite from Quanzhou, China.

For a view of what should certainly be Taiwan’s largest train in kitsch, a cease was made to photograph the pagodas, pavilions, and temples at Lotus Lake.  Garish or colorfully playful, relying upon style and humorousness, the fake Chinese language structure and classical figures of Chinese language mythology are admittedly fairly photogenic.  Particularly common is the dual Dragon and Tiger pagodas the place going within the dragon’s mouth and popping out of the tiger’s is taken into account to convey good luck.

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus LakePhoto voltaic Powered Kaohsiung Nationwide Stadium

Lastly, a really fast cease was made to see Kaohsiung Nationwide Stadium, inbuilt 2009 for the World Video games. The dragon-shaped stadium, designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, options in depth use of recycled supplies and is powered by photo voltaic panels affixed to its prime.



Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Manila Warmth  November 10, 2018 by Dennis Cox

Women in Native Excessive Faculty Band Greeting the Westerdam

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – We reached our pier on the Port of Manila at about 7 AM and have been out of the ship as quickly as attainable after breakfast to keep away from the warmth predicted to succeed in 90 levels as we speak.  Greeting the ship’s passengers on the dock was an area highschool band and a few fairly teenage women wanting to pose for a photograph.

Intramuros (Previous City) Mural

The port within the capital of the Philippines is sort of conveniently situated close to Previous Manila.  Our unbiased strolling tour there included historic Rizal Park and the previous walled metropolis of Intramuros, constructed through the Spanish colonial interval. Close by we handed by Fort Santiago, which served as a army headquarters and jail.  Spanish, American, and Japanese colonizers occupied it in succession till it was destroyed in 1945.

Spiritual Service in Manila Cathedral

The central attraction of Intramuros is Manila Cathedral, a powerful architectural construction displaying intricate stone carvings, stained-glass mosaics and rose home windows. Close by is Casa Manila, a reconstructed 19th-century mansion replete with furnishings and furnishings spanning the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

A block from each is the sixteenth century San Augustin Church, the oldest construction within the Philippines.

St Augustin Vintage Carved Picket Doorways

Manila has the indicators of a Third World nation that the Asian Miracle of improvement has largely bypassed.  Trendy skyscrapers shadow parks and damaged sidewalks that cross for most of the desperately poor as their residence.

Missing extra trendy transportation, most Manilans with low wage jobs rely for transportation on the ever present, anachronistic, and often crowded jeepney, initially constructed from World Struggle II jeeps and presumably a number of the similar ones I photographed right here 36 years in the past.  The vividly adorned jeepney has turn out to be a cultural phenomenon and in style image of the Philippines.

An area expertise is to purchase the native crabs on the Dampa Seafood Market on Malapagal and convey it to an area restaurant close by to have it cooked to fit your style.  Maybe I’ll attempt that some day when it’s not so scorching and humid and an air-conditioned cruise ship is just not a greater various.


Jeepneys in Intramuros


Manila Skyline










Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Cooking for a Multitude  November 11, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – Jialin has a exercise shirt from Oprah’s O Store, out there on all Holland America ships, that claims

“Uncover Life Exploring the World” which she now wears in health courses each morning on cruises.  I additionally attempt to get my morning train with some every day stretching and strolling on a treadmill whereas she is in her class.

Indonesian Breakfast Waiters within the Eating Room

Following our exercise periods we head for the Eating Room have been our pleasant waiters from Indonesia serve us a light-weight breakfast of fruit, yogurt or cottage cheese, one hardboiled egg, and an oat bran muffin or pastry.  Don’t get the impression that we’re health nuts.  We do all the former so we will take pleasure in that final merchandise, in addition to all of the scrumptious meals to return for lunch and dinner on HAL ships.

Galley Staff Producing Recent Day by day Baked Items

To study extra about how high quality delicacies is produced to feed a number of hundred passengers at a time, I’m assembly with the pleasant head chef on the Westerdam, Bitta Kuruvilla, for a tour of the ship’s galley. Chef Bitta is from Cochin in my favourite a part of India, Kerala, recognized for its Backwaters cruises on rice boats which were transformed to floating motels.

Westerdam’s Gifted Head Chef Bitta Kuruvilla

A prize-winning chef who discovered his expertise working for the Taj Lodge Group in India, Chef Bitta is answerable for all of the eating places on board the Westerdam.  12,000 meals per day in all are served, 7,500 to passengers.  The Chef supervises 102 cooks and cooks, 28 cleansing crew, and 6 to eight who handle provisions.

Meeting Strains for Getting ready Starters and DessertsOne of many Ship’s Provision Storage Rooms

All meals and different provisions — greens, meats, fish, fruits, baked items, et al. — are tracked every day by pc.  Most are shipped from america besides recent produce that’s bought within the cruise’s preliminary port, on this case Shanghai.

Head Chef Bitta Kuruvilla with Meal Plans for Complete Cruise

Meals for passengers are plotted out for your complete cruise with such precision that every merchandise served comes inside ten parts underneath or over of the two,000 wanted.  The estimates range based mostly on season and cruise itinerary, and demographics, nationalities, and ages of the passengers. For instance, extra spicy meals can be required for Southeast Asia and sausages for Europe, in response to Chef Bitta.

Meat Cutters in Galley Getting ready Steaks

The primary galley makes use of 16 Self Cooking Facilities, versatile ovens that bake, roast, fry, steam, stew, grill, and so forth.  They’re programmed to do all of it.

The World’s Greatest?

There are separate kitchens for The Pinnacle restaurant, room service, the crew, mid-management, and officers and senior administration, with menus altering every day for all.

Of particular curiosity to me is that there are 5 varieties of French fries served on the ship:  steak fries, shoestring, bitter cream, candy potato, and coated.  The coated ones are served on the Dive In and are so good I don’t perceive the necessity for the others.  In fact the meals professionals with their computer systems know higher.





Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Friendliest Dam Ships November 12, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – The officers, employees and crew of all the Holland America ships that I’ve been on take satisfaction in claiming to be “the friendliest ship within the Holland America fleet.” Everybody engaged on board is predicted to greet passengers with a hearty good day or good morning and for my part the cordiality is real in almost all instances.

Over the course of this cruise I’ve put collectively a gaggle portrait of the pleasant and gifted people aboard the Westerdam who make cruising with HAL a pleasure.  Above, the leaders of the Westerdam,  Captain Mark Rowden, middle from UK, Employees Captain Samuel Hawkins, left from Australia, and Lodge Director Colin Jacob, proper from Mauritius.

Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Ship Updates  November 13, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM – As nice as they’re, one can’t reside solely on the French fries from the Dive In poolside grill, not even with a aspect of secret dipping sauce.

Right here’s the replace on eating places and artwork, the meals for the soul:

The ship’s major Eating Room served wonderful, typically too leisurely meals, which is the usual for Holland America cruises.  The spotlight on this cruise was the Gala Dinner towards the top of the cruise with a beneficiant portion of surf and turf.


The Lido Market was it’s usually chaotic go-to place for fast and easy meals.  Holland America, as all the time, provided quite a lot of decisions with assurances of “all recent elements and freshly made.” Strains have been usually stored brief and moved easily whereas Andy Warhol’s Marilyns stored a colourful eye on diners.


There are solely two specialty eating places on the Westerdam, the Canaletto and The Pinnacle Grill. The costs for dinners at each, not surprisingly, have escalated a bit from what was charged three years in the past on the Eurodam.

The Italian delicacies of the Canaletto maintains its commonplace of high quality that we skilled on our Eurodam and Zuiderdam cruises.  These eating places occupied poor areas on these ships given the standard of the meals as each have been relegated to a semi-walled off area tucked away within the nook of the Lido. Sadly the restaurant fares no higher on the Westerdam.

To expertise basic eating in The Pinnacle, reserving early was important. That was particularly the case on the evenings when The Pinnacle featured the fashionable revolutionary menus of internationally well-known chef and Holland America Culinary Council member, Rudi Sodamin.

The delicacies of movie star Grasp Chef Rudi Sodamin options his Sel de Mer (actually “salt of the ocean”) braisserie of seafood served on Limoges porcelain plates painted with Rudi’s personal whimsical inventive designs impressed by the Cote D’Azur.  The additional cost for the evenings was $49 per individual for Sel de Mer.

On one night per cruise, the Pinnacle encompasses a Cellar Grasp’s Dinner.  This particular night time has pairings of meals with wines chosen by the ship’s cellar grasp, Jean-Francois Marottee.  Three whites, two reds, a rose and a dessert wine have been paired with programs from two starters, a soup, and essential programs of grilled halibut with lobster and a filet mignon wrapped with bacon.  Additional cost for the night was $79 per individual.


New contractor for the Artwork Gallery on all HAL ships for the previous six months has been the 20-year-old firm, ArtLink.  Following upon their previous success of selling rising artists they’re initiating an revolutionary residency program to convey native artists on board in a number of ports to do show-and-tells in addition to present instruction to passengers taken with studying portray methods.  Additionally proposed are excursions coordinated with EXC to go to studios of artists in chosen ports.

Cruising within the Far East with HAL: Hong Kong Arrival November 14, 2018 by Dennis Cox

ABOARD the WESTERDAM — Arriving in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, Asia’s cruise hub, is routinely a spectacular occasion and it proved to be a spotlight on this cruise, even within the misty twilight of daybreak.  Surrounded by skyscrapers, totally on the Hong Kong Island aspect, hovering towards a backdrop of Victoria Peak, the setting is magnificent.  Assembly the Westerdam is a tugboat and a vacationer junk with pink sails illuminated by cheesy pink lights and bearing an indication welcoming the ship to Hong Kong.

Pink Sails within the Morning Mist

Because the harbor has shrunk through the years with steady constructing on landfill encroaching on the navigable waterway, the visitors has grow to be ever extra intense and hectic.  Nevertheless, on this morning it’s surprisingly sparse.

A Hong Kong Welcoming at Daybreak

Hong Kong was formally launched from U.Okay. sovereignty after 156 years of British colonial rule to ostensibly turn into an autonomous territory, Particular Administrative Area, of the Individuals’s Republic of China on July 1, 1997.  The autonomous standing was to final for 50 years whereas the previous colony was built-in into mainland methods.  This, however, has not been with out friction or some dilution of the as soon as brisk financial dynamism previous to the handover.

My first time arriving in Hong Kong was popping out of China in 1976 after touring for 3 weeks with an invited delegation from the US-China Peoples Friendship Affiliation.  As a considerably addicted Coca-Cola drinker I used to be conscious that Cokes wouldn’t be obtainable in China at the moment, subsequently I carried an eight-pack that I rationed by consuming one can, heat, each three days.  Upon reaching the border with Hong Kong by practice it was essential to stroll throughout a picket bridge to board one other practice.  As quickly as I entered the practice carriage I noticed a hand from an enterprising younger man come via the window holding a chilly can of Coca-Cola.  I knew that I used to be again within the developed world.

Actually, Hong Kong was a extraordinarily totally different world from China at the moment and the query our group had was how would China ever handle to combine it into the mainland when the British handed it over in 1997.  Little might we think about how a lot China would develop economically in 20 years to have cities like Shanghai that might out-rival Hong Kong in modernity.


Whereas some passengers from the Westerdam went on EXC excursions, Jialin and I proceeded to seek out our lodge for the subsequent two nights on the Hong Kong aspect in Scheung Wan and to see a couple of sights we missed on a earlier go to in addition to some previous standbys.

There are a minimum of 4 must-see and dos in Hong Kong in my expertise and all are inside strolling distance of our lodge.  The primary is to take the Peak Tram, established in 1888, as much as the highest of Victoria Peak to get an general view of the harbor and metropolis and the congested but towering scope of all of it.  Any time of day will do, however the scene at night time is most spectacular.

A Star Ferry Heading for Kowloon from Hong Kong Island

Second must-do is to take the Star Ferry, additionally established in 1888, over to Kowloon and again to Hong Kong Island at the very least as soon as.  It’s a technique of transportation, vacationer attraction, establishment, and indisputably, one of the best discount in cruising ever.

Two Double-Decker Trams on Queens Street in  Central Hong Kong Island

Third, and one other discount, is to experience the long-lasting double-decker trams which have traversed by means of the guts of Hong Kong since 1912, certainly one of solely 5 cities on the earth the place they’re nonetheless operational.  These trams, now modernized, are sometimes brightly painted with graphic ads (though I keep in mind them being much more colourful and artistically hand painted once I first photographed them forty years in the past).  The view from the second deck of the trams is the right spot for sight seeing and observing this metropolis’s manic exercise with a little bit of distance.

To actually really feel the heart beat of Hong Kong, the fourth to-do is to plunge proper into the chaos of the streets.  Strolling, the perfect discount ever, will put you within the mixture of life because it goes on day-by-day.  If not overwhelmed by it, it is going to present views on city Asia that may doubtless have an effect on you perpetually.

Mid-Degree Hong Kong Escalator

One factor I had by no means carried out on quite a few visits to Hong Kong is to experience the central to mid-level escalators.  The world’s longest outside coated escalator system on the earth, they start at Queens Street Central and go half approach up Victoria Peak.  Apart from saving a whole lot of power climbing stairs and steep streets and costing nothing, it’s one other option to observe every day life within the metropolis from above.  It’s attainable to hop off and again on whereas exploring totally different neighborhoods from business to residential, markets, outlets, museums, eating places, historic buildings, and road specialties.  For instance, on the prime of the decrease degree escalators is Hollywood Street with its expensive Chinese language antiques and artwork galleries, fascinating for a minimum of shopping until you’re a really critical collector with deep pockets.

Ferrari Parked on Hollywood Street  Mirrored in Window of Vintage Store

We’ll quickly fly again to Japan for a ten-day go to of Kyoto, the 5 Lakes space close to Mount Fuji, and Tokyo earlier than flying house to plan future cruises.  By the top of subsequent yr after a number of extra cruises I anticipate to finish a venture underway for a number of years now, a photograph e-book, Cruising the World.  Hope to satisfy you on an upcoming cruise.

Photographs © Dennis Cox / WorldViews, All Rights Reserved