Repositioning Cruise part 4: Japan, Sept. 2015

Miyazaki, Japan 

 Miyazaki rocky islands, marching band playing for us at the pier, pilot boat guiding cruise ship to port

This was another first for the cruise line, along with Dutch Harbor. I liked checking out this little port town. We basically walked around, looking at regular people living their lives. It was refreshing and more real than life on the ship or the bigger cities with the high fashion and ridiculous dogs.  There was a run-down little mall, a sort of rusted, worn version of the mall at Kobe. The narrow streets were beautiful, full of children and laundry and elderly neighbors passing the time. There were shrines tucked into little spaces here and there.  


Above: Flower store at the mall, Below: historic bridge and canal houses   



This was my favorite shrine. It was in the middle of an alley neighborhood, tucked under a large rock in a hill. 


 The neighborhood was so quiet despite the massive cruise ship in town for the day. 



The alleys got very narrow and we could peek into the houses. Shoes were neatly set out in small entryways, people were cooking, a couple of kids played in the alleys. We got some smiles and “hello”s in English and Japanese “kanichiwa”. People bowed a lot and we bowed back, which was so endearing. Maybe I’m stereotyping or I’ve been on the East Coast US too long, but the place seemed so safe and quiet, and everyone seemed so genuinely nice! After walking around for a few hours, we walked back to the ship for our last night onboard.

Japanese toilets

It would be remiss not to say something on this subject. Two words: control panels. Yes, these toilets have so many options you’d never imagine you’d need in a toileting situation. The very few we figured out are: heated seat controls, recorded flush noises (to mask the embarrassing noises of actually using the toilet, we think), and bidet services. What else could you possibly use while you’re on the john?? Like learning other things about life in Japan, alas, we had so little time and could only ponder the possibilities. Apologies, some pics are fuzzy, I blame being rushed, uneven lighting, and generally feeling weird about taking pics in a public bathroom!

  Below: looks like your basic urinal, but why were they in every women’s room in Japan?? For moms with little boys? We never saw them used, so we are left wondering.

Below: squattie or potty? The choice is yours! I felt as proud as a potty-trained toddler after my first successful use of the squattie!  
For the uninitiated, there is a lot of info out there on squat toilets. The most interesting thing to me is that they are supposed to be better for the mechanics of the human GI tract than western-style seat toilets.

That’s all for Japan. Next stop, China! And- terrifying but true-the Fantastics have to fend for themselves without the cruise ship staff!! What will happen?? Stay tuned!

Repositioning Cruise part 3: Japan, Sept. 2015

  Kobe, Japan. We arrived in this port late in the afternoon,but were staying until the next day at 5. Incidentally, our Flash Mob Thriller Dance group performed this morning at a well-attended event, and it was a lot of fun.    

  At the pier again, we were serenaded with music, this time by a traditional drumming group, which was really excellent.  We got off the ship and took the shuttle to Chinatown, where we walked around the bright streets and little alleys. There was also a covered shopping center, not quite a mall because cars could pass by where roads intersected.



 It was nice to roam without concern for missing the boat, since we were there until the next day.  We meandered for a while then went back to our floating hotel. The next day, we had plans with the kids’ friends and family.  We headed out on a complicated trip via bus and taxi and cable car to an area with natural hot springs.  Sadly, however, the weather did not cooperate and the second cable car- the one that is suspended between two mountains andwould take us to the hot springs – was shut down due to high winds.  This necessitated a change in plans since the other way to the hot springs would take us almost back to the port.  We decided to stay near the first cable car area, which was in a national park.    

We took the cable car up a steep hill to a shuttle bus that brings tourists to a number of sights.  We were all excited about a particular museum on the route – The Music Box Museum.  We found the place and went inside – what a find!  The building looked like a Swiss chalet, complete with staff in traditional European. The museum housed a number of historic music boxes, broadly defined.  There were automated figures that played music, classic wind-up boxes, player pianos, a polka playing contraption complete with accordions that took up an entire wall, one that incorporated violins, and primitive phonographs. 





 Every half-hour was a concert in which several of these were wound up for us to experience.  We were enthralled,though we could not understand the elaborate descriptions in Japanese.  At one point, there was a hauntingly beautiful presentation of Alice in Wonderland done in paper cut outs (some originals were on display near the entrance) with the music boxes for musical accompaniment.   

   Alice in wonderland cut-outs, and below is an embroidered musical score “Death Song”. Why someone embroidered a musical score and why they chose “Death Song” I have no idea.

 We were all blown away by the strange, unexpected place. Our admission also got us into the botanical gardens next door.  


We made our way back to the ship and headed to the next stop.

Let’s pretend we leave next fall… AND A GAME-CHANGER!!!

Here is how this post started…

So I’m doing a little research.  I wanted to compare the first 6 months of the RTW trip starting in Europe vs South America.  I still prefer Europe, but as I wrote earlier, Mr. Fantastic had the South America start in mind.  So, what do the costs look like?  I researched online as if we were leaving next year rather than 2015.

to Europe: Cunard transatlantic cruise vs flying. Cunard is fancy and retiree-oriented. formal wear required. I’m a little worried about this vibe as we start our low-budget RTW trip with 4 kids!! But it may be our only option at that time of year from the East Coast. I would prefer to leave in mid-to late August.

There are no Cunard trips in August. Info on Sept. is below.  The Nov. cruise would only cost $4800 but what would we do between Aug 15th-ish (when our house would be rented out) and then?  It is almost 3 months- a significant part of our 2 years.  Time vs. money, sigh.

Sept 27 – Oct 4th Cunard line economy class NYC – Southampton (6 tix) = $7800

Aug 19th flight NYC – London (6 tix) = $4600 or Sept 11 flight (I thought people would be superstitious and it would be cheaper – not so!) = $5795

That puts us in the UK in August or Oct.  I looked at long-term rentals in London on Craigslist, and I have no idea what I’m doing.  I have to post on Lonely Planet or Boots’n’all forums to get more info on neighborhoods.  I did post on couchsurfing for info.

London to Ireland

time in Ireland.  we have one family to visit there.

Ireland to Spain.  Random town to look for a winter rental: Arcos de la frontera.  Soultravelers3 recommends the “white villages” of Andalucia for affordable furnished winter rentals.  This town looked interesting to me because of the cliffs and baroque churches, plus it has Roman ruins.  For rentals, this place looks huge, not sure of off-season price, rents for $800/wk, too much for us… I like the looks of this one, sleeps 8, $405/wk. Soultravelers3 assures me you can negotiate much lower prices off-season fall through spring.  We would be there roughly Nov-Feb if we start in Europe.

to South America:

Aug 19 flight NYC – Quito, Ecuador (6 tix) = $3819

rental in Cuenca, Ecuador: 3br $450/mo according to this highly detailed site.  I picked Cuenta because it was mentioned as being friendly to Americans without losing its identity, has beautiful architecture, and is said to be affordable.  It sounds nice from articles like this one. Not sure if we would really live here or not.  I found this blog about an expat family living there and loving it.  We would stay 3-4 months.

flight or bus to Asuncion, Paraguay.  Mr. Fantastic likes this town, and I can see why.  This article from today’s New York Times as I am writing this describes a walkable downtown, nearby excursions like to a riverboat town called Chaco-i, and affordable food + housing.

rent in Asuncion 3br apt. $250- $650/mo depending on proximity to city center.  Bus pass only 50¢ so might be nice outside the city.  Again, we would stay 3-4 months.

flight or bus to Rio de Janeiro

Costa repositioning cruise Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Savona, Italy March 24 – April 11 $9900!? I thought this was only $800/person but the site says $1650/person.  I bet it would be less than this since we have 4 people under 18 and we could have 3 people per room but we should budget for more I suppose.

Then everything got turned around…

Hold the presses!! New SUPER EXCITING Option!

I found a transpacific cruise from Vancouver to Japan, 15 nights, for $900 per person.  What?!  So cheap, plus we could go to Vancouver which I have always wanted to do, and we could literally circumnavigate the globe!  Yes!!!  This is the trip for us.  It leaves Sept 12, 2014 so I’m hoping there is a similar one in 2015 for us.  If so, that gives us almost a month to drive across the US.  We would try to see the Rockies, the Grand Canyon, and visit friends in CO, TX, CA, OR, and anywhere else we can think of on the way.  We would sell the car or leave it in a heap somewhere before moving on to Vancouver.  The ship would take us to Tokyo, where we could not stay long because I understand it is pricey.  I found this site on ferries to/from Japan.  Apparently we could go to China in 2 days for about $170/person, or to Russia in 7.5 hours.  We would likely aim for Vietnam/Thailand/Cambodia for the winter, since I have heard great things about those areas and we’re not planning to winter in Eastern Europe.  Then it would be India, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and possibly South America on the way back home.  This opens up a whole new world of planning!  Stay tuned!