Cruising the Land of the rising Sun

We are planning on going on this trip in 2017 but would like to hear from someone on the trip this year to determine if we want to go north or south. Also our plan is the first trip in late March, but want to know if the cherry blossoms were in bloom that early.


  • We have just returned from this tour heading northbound from Kyoto and ending in Tokyo. Without question, this is the direction that we would recommend. We began our tour on April 19, 2016 in Kyoto, and we decided that at the end of the tour, we realized that our journey had begun in a great location, and only better, and better to a wonderful finish in Tokyo. Touring in Kyoto was a great beginning, and an early glimpse into what was coming. Kyoto also gave us time to decompress from the traveling, and got us ready for the cruise and land tours. The people of Japan are amazingly kind, and courteous, and were very helpful in every way that they could with the limited amount of English that was spoken. But no matter where we went, we always found someone who could understand what we were asking, when we were on our own, and they would politely try to help out. Of course if our local tour guides, or our tour directors were available, language was no barrier. In all cases, the needs of all of us were anticipated by our team of guides, and whatever we needed seem to be close at hand when needed.

    We found ATMs whenever they were needed. In Japan, 7 Elevens and Post Offices have ATMs. In some of the ports we visited, there were also currency exchanges right at the Visitor Center at the port, and at a very good rate.

    The electrical outlets in Japan are the same as the United States. Adapters may be needed for Le Soleal to more fully utilized all of the outlets available. The adapter with the two rounds posts were the most useful. And, even an extension cord with multiple plug-ins would be useful on board ship.

    April 19th in 2016 was on the tail end of the cherry blossom season. We did get to enjoy them everywhere, but perhaps not in the fullest that they could have been. It is weather dependent as to when the season starts, every season.

    Finally, we got some excellent advice in Kyoto about visiting the Imperial Palace (old) in Kyoto. If you are interested in seeing inside the walls, ask early at the Westin Miyako Kyoto. The concierge is very helpful.
  • Randall and Donna Lau, thank you for posting this information. We are booked on the April 14, 2017 northbound trip, and are looking forward to it very much.
  • Randall and Donna Lau, Thank you for your informative post. There are some people that posted that they were not happy with the food on the ship. Can you tell me a bit about your ship experience?
  • It looks like both the northbound and southbound begin in Kyoto and end in Tokyo. The only difference is the route once you begin. I don't think it matters, therefore, whether you choose north or south.
  • We have sailed twice now, on Le Soleal, and we have always enjoyed their food, their service, and their personnel. The ship is reflection of its captain, and Capt. Garcia is a very warm and hospitable gentleman. The ship is a reflection of his character and personality.

    There are always two venues to dine aboard ship. The main dining room can accommodate all of the guests at once, and the food selection has always been great. In addition, there are options available for those guests who choose to go "off" the menu. Of course, if there are constraints on items that you cannot eat, the tour director will notify the ship's chef of your needs.

    The second alternative for dining for supper has always been the upper deck dining room. This has been a buffet, and due to the limited seating, the ship will request that you make reservations each day to dine in the evening there. Otherwise, it is always open dining for breakfast and lunch, and the chef has a great selection of items to choose from.

    After having sailed four different times aboard ships on Tauck's Small Ship Cruises, it is difficult to imagine someone having an issue with their food.

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