Immerse yourself in the mythology of Japan and the serene beauty of South Korea on this incredible voyage. Embark the MS Caledonian Sky in Niigata and set sail to discover Japan’s cultural legacy in its castles, gardens and shrines. Along the way we visit the historic and serene castle town of Matsue; the ancient feudal town of Hagi; Nagasaki, where we visit the famed Peace Memorial Park and Glover Gardens and experience the tranquility of sacred Miyajima.
Due to its wealth of ancient wonders, beguiling landscapes and 5000 years of culture and history, we will spend three days in South Korea. Discover Kyongju, the ‘museum without walls’, where history comes alive among tombs, temples, shrines and pleasure gardens. We also visit Haeinsa Temple, considered one of the three great temples in Korea and before returning to Japan’s shores, make a call to the volcanic Jeju Island, Korea’s largest island and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Our unique itinerary is a marvellous balance of ancient castles, serenely beautiful gardens, opulent temples and shrines combined with lovely natural landscapes. Like all well-planned itineraries we will include some of the country’s best known highlights, but equally we will also take you to some places that relatively few foreign tourists set foot in. The MS Caledonian Sky allows us to visit out of the way islands and remote stretches of coast which would not be practical on a regular land tour. It is in such places that we find timeless villages, rural landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. Such places invoke the strongest of memories and allow you to immerse yourself in the myth and mystique of these ancient lands whilst returning each evening to the peace and comfort of our vessel.
Fly by scheduled indirect flight.
Arrive this morning and transfer to the New Otani Hotel (or similar) for an overnight stay. Remainder of day at leisure to explore independently.
After breakfast in the hotel we will enjoy a city tour of Tokyo including the Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and the Imperial Palace Plaza. We will then transfer to the train station to join our shinkansen service to Niigata enjoying lunch along the way. On arrival in Niigata we transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky. Enjoy a welcome drink on arrival before sailing tonight.
Sado is Japan’s sixth largest island, made up of two parallel mountain chains, between which lies an extensive plain with small rice farms. In its early history, the island was a place of exile for intellectuals and political dissidents whilst in the Edo Period a rich gold mine was found. Sado Island is now famous for its premium quality rice and sake (rice wine), and is also the home base for the taiko drumming group, Kodo (“heartbeat”). During our full day call we will visit the Taiko centre to learn more about the history of the drums and visit the picturesque fishing village of Shukunegi, where over one hundred traditional Edo-period houses line the narrow streets. You may wish to take a ride aboard one of the unique local boats called tarai-bune. These circular wooden tub boats are rowed with a single oar and designed to be capable of tight turns in order to manouevre through the deeply indented shores of the island as locals head out to collect shellfish and seaweed.
Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship, delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The narrow and winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm with old-fashioned streetlamps and wooden-lattice windows hiding elegant restaurants and craft galleries. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, historic samurai residence and even a geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish and local handicrafts. Next to the Kanazawa Castle ruins is one of Japan’s premier highlights, the famed Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top three gardens. Enjoy a morning garden visit and an afternoon city walking tour.
Matsue, called the ‘town of water,’ nestles between a scenic lake and a large lagoon. We will visit the cultural attractions of the town including the 17th century Matsue Castle before enjoying a boat ride on the local canals. This afternoon is free to relax or explore the town at leisure. Alternatively join a full day excursion visiting both Matsue Castle and the Adachi Museum of Art which is set in a beautiful natural environment and well known for both its superb Japanese gardens and its collection of contemporary Japanese paintings, comprising approximately 1500 of the country’s most highly regarded paintings produced after the Meiji period.
Hagi was a minor fishing port until Mori Terumoto fortified it in 1604 and it was Mori Samurai that helped spark off the anti-Tokugawa revolt in the mid-19th century. Today it is better known for its traditional pottery making traditions. On our morning tour we will explore the Teramachi district with its temples and shrines, the Jokamachi District, where we find the old samurai houses and also take time to explore Hagi Castle, Shizuki Park and Tokoji Temple. Return to the vessel for lunch and this afternoon is free to relax or travel to the outskirts of the city and the Yoshika Taibi Memorial Museum which is dedicated to a large collection of Hagiyaki pottery which was highly prized in the Edo Period as wares for tea ceremonies.
Today we embark on a full-day excursion to magnificent Kyongju, a World Heritage Site, which is often described as the world’s finest open-air museum embracing ancient Korean history and Buddhist culture. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s cultural heritage dates back to the first millennium. Today, as we stroll through some of the hundreds of excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and distinctive pottery. At lunchtime, we will sample Korean delicacies and enjoy a cultural performance of traditional dance.
From our berth in Masan we head inland to the Haeinsa Temple. Regarded as one of the three great temples in Korea it was first settled in 802 A.D. and its name derives from a verse in a Buddhist Sutra as “reflections on a smooth sea”. In the 13th century when Korea was at war with the Mongols, the government commissioned the Triptaka Koreana, a complete copy of Buddhist scriptures, in the hope of Buddha’s intervention in the war. They were carved onto 81,258 double sided wooden blocks and stored on floor to ceiling shelves in the Janggyeong Panjeon building. We also visit the Daejokkwangjeon, the main worship hall of the temple. After lunch in a nearby restaurant we will return to Masan this afternoon, here you may want to visit the vibrant fish market selling the daily catch as well as dried and salted fish and seaweed and try a sample at one of the raw fish restaurants.
Korea’s largest island is situated forty miles off the south coast and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002. We have the day to explore this island of volcanoes, lush countryside and ancient traditions. The active may choose to climb the 182 metre Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff volcano which rose out of the sea over 100,000 years ago. Alternatively walk one of the ‘olle routes’ referring to the lanes which run through villages and through forests and which provide an insight into daily life and natural beauty of the island. See the Haenyeo, woman divers who, since the 17th century, have collected shellfish and seaweed from the waters around Jeju without using any diving equipment and visit the museum dedicated to their methods. This evening over dinner we will begin our journey back to Japan.
Arrive this morning in Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War Two. We will tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Dejima Island which was built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku (Isolation) Period. For 200 years, until Japan reopened the country in the 19th century, Dejima was its only window to the world. With the reopening of the port to Westerners in the latter half of the 19th century, Nagasaki flowered as a prosperous and sophisticated international city. Suitable housing was required for the sudden influx of foreigners who made their homes here. Many of the comfortable stone and clapboard residences that were built during this period survive today and are preserved in Glover Garden which we will visit this afternoon. The bestknown European-style residence here is Glover House. Built in 1863, it was the setting for Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly.
After a morning at sea we arrive on the island of Yakushima which became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 and has a particularly diverse flora. We will spend our time here on a choice of nature walks in Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi and Sennensugi, which are over 3000 years old.
This morning we land on Shikoku Island and the port of Uwajima situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. We will also see Uwajima Castle, which is built on top of the hill with panoramic views over the town and harbour, Tensha-en Garden, built in the Samurai era and the Date Museum which exhibits items dedicated to the Date family, who ruled Uwajima from the castle for 250 years during the Tokugawa period.
Arrive in Hiroshima for our visit to the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph which contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb and the permanently lit “Flame of Peace”. Just outside the park, the A-Bomb Dome is a haunting reminder of the destructive forces that were unleashed on the city being one of the few original buildings to survive. In the museum we will see photos, videos and victim’s personal effects relating to the bomb. Return to the MS Caledonian Sky for lunch as we sail to Miyajima. Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picturepostcard vista of the scarlet Torii gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will use the vessel’s Zodiacs to go ashore and explore the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. The shrine is a designated World Heritage Site.
From the port of Uno-Ko we will visit one of Japan’s most famed gardens, Koraku-en, which translates as “Garden of pleasure after”. This 17th-century formal garden has 28 acres of walking trails, ponds, plum and cherry trees, and a classic teahouse where we will experience a traditional tea ceremony. After a Japanese lunch in a local restaurant we will continue to Kurashiki where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi. There is also a chance to visit the Ohara Museum of Art which includes rare works by Matisse, Picasso and Renoir as well as collections from Japan’s mingei movement including ceramics by Hamada Shoji.
Disembark this morning in Osaka and transfer to the airport for the return scheduled, indirect flight to London. Arrive this evening.
Castle Standard Forward Suite
The two Standard Forward Suites on the Castle Deck measure 22.7 metres and feature two portholes, en-suite bathroom with shower and spacious wardrobes.
Suites on the Castle Deck measure 22.7 square metres and feature four port holes, en-suite bathroom with shower and spacious wardrobes.
Caledonian Superior Suite
Suites on the Caledonian Deck measure 21.6 square metres and feature en-suite bathrooms with bath tub and shower (except for suites 329, 330 and 331 which feature only a shower), spacious wardrobe and large window.
The Premium Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a spacious wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower (cabins 431 and 432 feature a bathtub) and a large window.
Bridge Deluxe Balcony Suite
Balcony Suites The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Prem. Balcony Suite
The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Owner's Corner Suite
The two corner suites on the Promenade Deck measure 22.6 square metres and feature one window facing to the side and two forward facing portholes, a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom with shower.
Castle Standard Suite Sole
Sole Occupancy. Suites on the Castle Deck measure 22.7 square metres and feature four port holes, en-suite bathroom with shower and spacious wardrobes.
Caledonian Superior Suite Sole
Sole Occupancy. Suites on the Caledonian Deck measure 21.6 square metres and feature en-suite bathrooms with bath tub and shower (except for suites 329, 330 and 331 which feature only a shower), spacious wardrobe and large window.
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 90 metres
Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites)
Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012
The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows.
If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub.
Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request.
With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board.
For your comfort, safety and security
The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only.
Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.