ST. LOUIS -- Deemed an "unsafe" destination, Clipper Cruise Line canceled its Philippines itinerary aboard the 128-passenger Clipper Odyssey and introduced an April cruise series called the Circumnavigation of Japan.

The line began promoting the Japan cruises in February. Two weeks later, they were sold out.

Some reasons for the quick sell-out might be that few lines offer in-depth trips to Japan; the Odyssey's year-round base in the Pacific makes it easier for the ship to sail there during the short spring and fall peak seasons; and, according to Claudius Docekal, Clipper's vice president of product planning, Japan is a destination that can be difficult to explore on an FIT.

Many Japanese people do not speak English, and off-shore lodging and food prices are high, Docekal explained.

"Being on board [the Odyssey], we control the lodging, food and transportation costs," he said.

"To top it off," Docekal added, "Japan is a long and narrow country, and it has an immense amount of bays and coves that are perfect for small-ship cruising."

The 340-foot Odyssey is able to visit coastal bays and villages where larger cruise ships "would overwhelm the local infrastructure," he said.

In addition to the April itineraries, the ship will sail Japan, South Korea and China in September. Docekal said cabin space is available, albeit limited.

Like the Odyssey, the three other ships in the Clipper fleet -- each with its own geographic specialty -- are operated with destinations top of mind, a major departure from the megaships, which themselves become the destination, Docekal said.

"We want to attract passengers who look at our ships as a vehicle to get them from destination to destination," he said.

The 122-passenger Clipper Adventurer sails in Europe, South America, the Arctic and Antarctica.

The Yorktown Clipper and the Nantucket Clipper sail U.S. waterways -- the 138-passenger Yorktown plies the Pacific coast, the 100-passenger Nantucket the Atlantic coast -- which provides passengers the option to sail closer to home.

Defining a "safe" and "unsafe" destination was one of Docekal's duties this year, which he said was the reason the Odyssey was removed from the Philippines.

"What I find to be ... difficult is to get passengers to understand we would not take vessels to places that are not safe," he said.

That was another reason why Japan is so appealing to Clipper passengers, Docekal said. "It's a very safe destination."

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