NEW YORK --
Cruise West had big plans for Asia in 2001: It had sailed its
just-acquired Spirit of Oceanus to the Asia-Pacific area and was
laying the groundwork for a series of cruises to Japan.
But the exotic
itineraries had to be shelved after 9/11, and though the Oceanus
spent its summers sailing around Alaska with the rest of the Cruise
West fleet, it was tied up in the winters.
though, the Oceanus will be back doing wintertime cruises, and it
will be sailing to Japan for the first time and doing a revised
version of its 2001 Pacific cruises.
This is a
relaunch of the original plan, said Dick West, chairman of Cruise
West, during an interview here.
Cruise West said demand for the itineraries, which opened in late
2004, is positive. The Japan cruises are about 60% sold; the Far
East is about 50% sold, West said.
Were looking at
expanding for 2007, he said.
The line has 12
voyages of Japan Unveiled on the books. The cruises begin in Kobe,
where passengers can tour a famous Japanese garden and sit in on a
Scheduled are a
visit to a Shinto shrine in Miyajima and a tour of the Peace
Memorial Park in Hiroshima. The cruises stop at Kyongju and
Kanazawa before passengers disembark in Niigata and take the bullet
train to Tokyo.
extension in Kyoto and Nara also is offered.
geographic location -- it is a group of islands -- would make Japan
an auspicious cruising ground, in reality Japan is not an easy
place to bring a cruise ship. And cruise executives have said
consumer demand is greater for Southeast Asia and
One of the
biggest challenges is getting the Japan National Tourist Office and
the Japan Tourist Board and port agents [to understand] what a
small ship is. They kept trying to bring us to big, industrial
ports, West said. We want to be closer to the action.
The Spirit of
Oceanus will spend two months in the South Pacific.
Cruise West is
selling three cruises around Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands in
January; a trip to Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Fiji on Feb. 4; and
a Legends of the Pacific islands cruise on Feb. 16 that offers
stops at World War II sites and remote places with primitive island
West said the
line tweaked its South Pacific itineraries, adding, for example,
the remote Marquesas.
When we did it in
2002, we had three islands in Tonga, and now this year were only
doing one; we didnt do Samoa, and this time we are, he
West is hands-on
with the product. Two years ago, he was in Japan, visiting each
location to see which itineraries would be the best.
In January, West
spent two weeks in French Polynesia and the Marquesas, checking out
the beaches where Zodiacs would come ashore.
reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].