The party’s over - HOW WAS it?
OBJECTIVES OF PARTICULAR INTEREST AND NECESSARY SCRUTINY to resolve on this trip:
I started out with a few subjects I intended to explore:
1/I knew from the beginning that I’d have to prove or disprove Viking’s claim to being more luxurious than Seabourn as they so brazenly declare on the front page of their catalog. I’d had proper warning; alarm bells had already been sounded by the unfortunate experiences we ‘d encountered earlier.
2/I’m curious about the effect of a larger size ship and passengers; could there be much difference between 600 passengers and 900?
3/And finally, I have a new travel objective that I’m excited to try out: travel as ADVENTURE.
RESPONSE TO THOSE STATED OBJECTIVES+++++
1/HOW WAS VIKING? BAD! WELL, THAT WAS RATHER BLUNT, WASN’T IT, but why beat around the bush?
Ditching Korea seems rather careless to me. No matter how you cut it, loss of Korea is not only real bad, it actually turned out to be somewhat of a mystery/puzzle. I encountered people who insisted Korea was not on their itinerary. Maybe they signed up late when Korea was already off? It was dumped very early…but we weren’t told when we signed up. It was listed in the hardback Viking catalogue in our cabin and of course in the pamphlet/catalogue that was mailed to us. – We dug around (you get swamped by emails when you are in the process of tying up details) and found an email sent to us in Mar informing us, it said for the second time, of the change, but we missed both somehow. Cruise lines do reserve the right to change the itinerary, but they should be expected to have good reason; we sure are should we attempt to cancel our reservations. Anything that serious should certainly be announced in a clearer manner than email – they should have TOLD US. WHATEVER THIS WAS;;;;; THE PR WAS, if not downright bad, at least “iffy”.
Suffice it to say; Viking is no Seabourn. Their statement in my opinion was nothing if not ill conceived. Why even bring the name of another cruise line to the attention of prospective customers you are anxious to impress, let alone one that really amounts to a challenge? This is just asking for trouble. I think this is another of Viking’s bad/questionable actions.
I had no intention of comparing them, but there’s no denying that my positive attitude towards Seabourn was bound to prejudice my thinking to some extent.
The bottom line: I came up with a few bones to pick with Viking. To be honest most of them are merely a matter of detail, and as we all know: quality is in the details. But details are really so minimal that I have elected to put them, and the few other concerns I had, at the end to be read only if you wish.
2/The difference between 600 and 900 passengers; my conclusion is that there seems to be very little. Amenities offered seems to be a strong deciding factor with size. The amenities they might be referring to are more likely obvious with the megaships with their multi restaurants, shopping venues and most obviously all the “kid friendly” equipment and activities. This is definitely not the kind of “amenity” the luxury ships are referring to. I couldn’t care less about anything other than an exercise equipment room anyway.
There is however enough difference between 400 and 600/900, with the additional hassle and inefficiencies attendant with the larger numbers. The larger number means always being in a crowd simply because we carry our own crowd; we don’t need other cruise ships; there’s lots more walking: just getting to the parking lot full of the extra busses needed for the large number is a hike; and then there are the ear plug sound receivers; another bit of clutter, which almost become mandatory if you are committed to hearing the lectures.
On this subject: Viking allows no one under 12 and I’ve rarely seen a child on any of our trips.
My personal opinion about size and number of passengers: The added number of passengers definitely had an effect (detrimental) on the ambience. There was a discernable lack of cohesiveness, connection, or perhaps coziness (but then how many people go on a cruise to feel cozy? Maybe just me). The smaller ships are very much more comfortable, more homey and inviting. When I returned from shore excursions I felt like I was coming home – my cabin was my bedroom. Of course this is not necessary, but it certainly is an affirmative. My emotional involvement with this ship was so little that I never even found out the name of our ship. So sorry.
3/ADVENTURE: how did that pan out? I’d say this cruise was one of the most interesting that I have ever experienced probably directly due to the amount of ADVENTURE there was; and there’s no doubt at all that this trip was just loaded with adventure. I am not so sure, however, that this is the kind of objective which would appeal to or be acceptable to most – especially passengers concerned about luxury.
It proved to be a very fine addition to the travel equation as an objective; so much better than the traditional “destination” which is so frequently disappointing. “Destination” as an objective has got any number of perils; there’s the weather, personal experience and expectations. The weather is notoriously untrustworthy. Personal expectations gained from reading, and from being bombarded by insanely enhanced photos of the most popular destinations; both leave one with totally inaccurate impressions, consequently expectations. ADVENTURE is so much more forgiving when it comes to personal satisfaction: almost anything can fall into this category be it good, bad or even indifferent – it’s your choice.
I’d love to go back and attempt to rate all my earlier trips using ADVENTURE as a guide – but that would be a huge job. Perhaps something I can undertake when I no longer can do the actual traveling. It would be fun.
I don’t actually think it remiss at this point to repeat the basic reasons for why I travel. journal material, photo ops, and Martinis. of course. I now have a blog I now need to keep fed too.
LET US COUNT THE WAYS THAT MADE THIS TRIP SO SATISFYING:
THE BEST EXPERIENCES; AND COUNT THEM I DID:
• the front row seats, martinis and dinner for the “SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS” in Hong Kong Harbor;
• the CABLE CAR and FISHING VILLAGE on Lantau Island;
• The Ferris Wheel and aquarium in Osaka;
• what I saw and what I didn’t see in Kyoto;
• the garden and castle in Hiroshima as well as the grilled oysters and Cambodian students on the island ;
• the DISPLAY OF “PARTY” FISH in Taiwan;
• maybe even the Japanese Castle diorama in Kagashima.
• and must never forget the people who never fail to add the depth of satisfaction. I may even feel inclined to count those endless airplane interludes; they were certainly unforgettable, an adventure.
To this I shall add a category that is so special that I must list it by itself; The EPIPHANIES (insights), I experienced on this trip. Epiphanies are rare and unexpected; a notably valued addition at any time.;I treasure the blessing of discovering better ways of looking at things.
• 1/ I discovered and adopted ADVENTURE in place of the traditional goals of travel, expectations and destination Ridding yourself of such preconceived notions leaves room for more tenable, quite possibly more enjoyable and exciting experiences – the unexpected. (then I remembered; only just this last Spring on our annual Virginia Garden Week trip, I came to the astonishing conclusion that my idea of adventure is TADA - a new hotel or restaurant. Having a permanent and presumably secure home away from home in the form of a cabin does take care of most of that issue).
• 2/ A free unscheduled, no agenda day can often result in an UNEXPECTED and truly worthy activity. This unplanned day represents an extra bonus; no objectives or destinations, and in turn permits free choice of activity; what you like and at your speed. It also offers the potential for real adventure.
• Of course the possibility of going it alone and foregoing the planned activity always exists, but, that involves extra effort, becomes a deliberate effort, and introduces the tickly little detail that it would make you think twice and reconsider: it could be rather risky.
• 3/it’s better to leave some issues unresolved; its best to forgo overplanning; not to push too hard for an objective, give it room to expand. there’s a good chance that what evolves automatically may be the more desirable outcome. Not to worry: it’s more likely to work out than not and if not, often the replacement is better, This is a hard one for me to obey; I’m almost obsessive about having everything planned and leaving nothing to chance. What more I I get impatient, I want closure. I’m going to have to work on a bit of selfdiscipline, I suppose.
• 4/ while contemplating the trip to Norway I added a modifier to ADVENTURE; RASH – perhaps implying a hint of danger– as a more aggressive form of adventure, as an objective; like be brave. What Norway has to offer in this category is strictly for the young of body but there are always lesser forms available: like Ferris wheel and cable car? Perhaps this might be better phrased as unusual or unique. Quite likely to add “spice” to the undertaking. It’s all in the definition.
TIME FOR MY IMPRESSIONS OF JAPAN – the main subject here, after all
Everyone has their personal map of the world; It is based on interests, travels, experiences and what not. Japan on my map is rather dim at this point having been built chiefly on various media encounters and a few airport stopovers.
Now I’m having a chance to rectify this situation. – pictures – actually actual experience is - are worth a thousand words and all that. Obviously you can’t expect to gain much in two weeks, most of which is on board ship, but let’s see if I manage to give my map a bit more substance.
Remember that spoiler alert at the beginning? It asked the question: COULD I POSSIBLY HAVE DISCOVERED SOMETHING VERY INTERESTING AND EXCITING ABOUT what started out as a default cruise /destination?
WELL, THIS IS the follow up:
I chanced to pick up on a comment I’d made earlier about the apparent lack of tourists: tourism being one of my favorite subjects. I asked “HOW’S THE TOURIST INDUSTRY IN JAPAN”? We seemed to be the only ship at any of our stops. Any megaliners at all? Where are the crowds of tourists? Good question; maybe as simple as distance? And with that I checked the internet.
That was innocent enough, yes? But THEN…..
I started with the subject of the economy of Japan, and came up with: the three highest economies in the world are US/CHINA/JAPAN…JAPAN!
To say that I was startled would be a vast understatement to say the least. My reaction:
COULD IT BE POSSIBLE I’VE FOUND THE ONE PLACE ON EARTH THAT IS NOT DEPENDENT ON TOURISM?
That in itself is almost other worldly…just like I had felt about Japan………….Next question: WHY NOT? CARS AND TECHNOLOGY, of course…how could I not have thought of that?
MIGHT WE SAY THOSE BEING THE BASIC COMPONENTS OF THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD????
…;;;; they’ve got it all. THIS IS A TECHNOLOGICAL IE JAPANESE WORLD. TOURISTS? I MUST HAVE BEEN NUTS.
As a fascinating bit of irony: they Don’t need natural resources anymore either (their apparent objective of WWII).
That little QUESTION reverberated and escalated - ESCALATED - ESCALATED
THIS IS SO EXCITING…. I WAS SO WRONG…this is a huge revelation for me.
I never thought anything other than…. Japan is Japan. First of all, Japan was just along for the ride – second, it was picked because it was “different” and available. What did I actually know about Japan? HIBACHI….SUDOKU NO…. IKEBANA…. ORIGAMI…SUSHI ALL THINGS JAPANESE…. Most what I knew was pre WWII. What have the Japanese been up to since the war…70 years is a long time. Obviously it’s become such a powerhouse.. of course what with cars and techno – Neither one of which are of particular interest to me; the reason I’d overlooked all this.
What I had picked up on the trip was an idea that they seemed alien, yes definitely different, perhaps from outerspace… at least they are the strangest people I have so far encountered. And the cities are so clean, so neat, so free of trash and graffiti, and apparently free of crime. SO VERY DIFFERENT FROM MUCH OF the WORLD.
Actually what I have fallen in to is the role of modern Japan… SO
I picked up a little about modern japan
Starting with the original subject:
TOURISM: makes up ONLY 7.1 or maybe 7.4% of the economy. There is a Department of Tourism but it is not an aggressive promoter. It ranks 4TH OUT OF 141 COUNTRIES ATTRACTING foreign tourists: most of these are other ASIANS. Domestic tourism is a vital part of the Japanese economy:: they have modified airplanes to best accommodate small distances. Japan is an excellent place for tourists….it is CLEAN, SAFE, and has terrific transportation facilities, it offers 141 UNESCO sites and the skiing is superb. The stated policy on tourism is: it is the frontier for Japan, …” tourism is vital to world economies and in diversifying a stagnant economy”.
Standard of living overall: financial wealth is among the highest, however disposable income is minimal. quality of life for kids far superior to others but the income of households having those kids is the lowest. Low voter rate 67-52%. Japanese life satisfaction is below world average, adolescent suicide rate stands far above world average. FLYS IN THE OINTMENT are NOT PART OF MY THEME so I quit with that subject.
JAPANESE LITERATE RATE - (read/comprehend simple sentence) is 99%; they are #42 Our lit rate is 86% and our ranking is#125. Japan is one of the best countries for education: albeit with criticism…. They have been accused of killing free incentive, thinking/ Quashing original thought in favor of rote learning and for placing emphasis on theory rather than practical skills…especially WHEN IT COMES TO ENGLISH - they’ve had 6 years of study; they understand but are reluctant to speak. they are skillful in grammar and comprehension, but are accused of poor communication skills, (this serves to answer my question about why they can’t speak English). A fascinating bit of info: By the time they reach Senior High they are expected to write all 2000+ characters – considered the minimum requirement to function in Japanese society. How do you suppose they deal with this?
Japan and the Japanese are crazy popular with our younger generation having grown up with, yes, Japanese video games -even my own kids. / 2 of 3 VIDEO GAMES ARE JAP/ NINJAS/NINTENDO /POWER RANGERS/how could I have forgotten POKEMON of course, and don’t forget MANGA and ANIME…..graphic novels and tons of other media. Add to that a rather aggressive counter culture among the youth which youngsters under 30 are influenced by and totally in tune with reams of MEDIA…. YOUNGSTERS under 30 very well are completely under the spell off all this Cross exchange: COUNTER CULTURE…
This whole culture has been so popular I think you could even place if on a par with Comfort food; it’s unforgettable and in their blood.
THESE YOUNG PEOPLE ARE OUR FUTURE. We’ll have to see where that’s going.
I did unearth A FEW FLYS IN THE OINTMENT:– demographically the population is totally homogeneous. They are even if born there of Japanese parents you aren’t necessarily eligible to be considered a Japanese citizen. There are very few any other ethnics. WHOA, ethnic cleansing , fascism, the whole nine yards. I suppose so, but I am in no uncertain terms eligible to criticize. They are encumbered by a low birth rate just like a large percentage of the civilized world. In this case I’m hoping it’s because the women have escaped their extraordinarily rigid bonds of the past and are asserting their independence….bottom line: the population is growing older and there will be no one to support them…I THINK THIS IS A SITUATION WHICH HAS TAKEN OVER THE SOCALLED CIVILIZED WORLD.) No work force either. There is the small matter that they have chosen to disregard the worldwide ban against whale hunting. Not good. Else, the high rate of adolescent suicide, little disposable income, an issue with education and rote learning (I have a problem here. If this “quashes” creative thinking, how come so much of their huge impact on the world comes from creative inventions / efforts?
Strangely enough there still seems to be an issue with embarrassment/self image. I thought that odd. Could this be why? Self conscious.
but I think I’ve had enough…started running into complex statistics I don’t have time/interest to do the subject justice so I quit…for the time being.
I got a bit sidetracked by that grand disclosure/ discovery. But I still have before me the original rather lengthy expose I had composed to begin with.
I’ve dumped most of it but I have a few things left that I think are worth adding. A few observations I’d like to share…..
I’d like to suggest that you might like listening to an operetta. Steven Sondheim’s “Pacific Overture” involving Commodore Perry’s arrival in Tokyo in 1853+ and the disastrous impact it had on previously isolated Japan. It’s unfortunately fairly unknown; it is very fine indeed.
The current season of “Queer Eye” (a gay tv series) is set in Japan. I can’t think of a more unlikely location for Queer Eye episodes, but here they are. NOT only that, one of the episodes involved a gay Monk. No English? Lost in translation? How could they appreciate “Queer Eye” so essentially American, without at least understanding English? (I may have answered that one above but that doesn’t explain the difference in cultures I can hardly think of more exactly opposite culture – as far as I saw. I learned they were studying the effects of this repressive culture on local gays: I’m rather surprised they were so cordially received. It’s a fun and rather informative look at modern Japan.
learning 450 characters – if you believe the above the number is more like 2000 - in order to write anything; this can’t help but have a negative effect on communicating. Between that and the isolation I’m actually aghast they ever crawled out of the dark ages.
And crawl out they did; with a vengeance.
And then it dawned on me: not only has Japanese culture had a tremendous impact on the world way out of proportion for such a small hunk of island; but they also were motivated enough to aggressively participate in WWII and on two fronts with an equally stupendous effect on the world. THAT IS VERY IMPRESSIVE INDEED. Attacking Pearl Harbor was such a huge effort for that time and place it’s simply unconscionable. Just think of the tenacity/temerity (guts) that took. I simply can’t imagine how this has happened and I’ve read tons. Whats more, as I recall, all I’ve read made everything they did seem totally normal and effortless.
HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?
I’ve come up with the theory that it’s all due to that period of overt isolationism. I think that’s the essential reason and/or element responsible for the development of this highly unusual/unique culture, one that’s resulted in a huge impact and influence which has resounded around the world. It is just this small island bioshphere/ecosphere which has proved capable of producing unique birds, animals and etc, as in Darwin’s evolution. This being so, is it not just as capable of evolving a unique human culture? My feeling is that it is the freedom from outside influences which has caused it to evolve in such a unique fashion, permitted the freedom to think and create independently, and produced energetic behaviors and activities. YES, THAT’S GOOD.
And to continue this interesting stream of thought: might it not be this same island isolation which might inspire/cause just exactly the opposite effect and perhaps motivate it, energize it, into spreading outwards towards other countries and lands; as in empirical pursuit?
And further: the responsibility for all this may not just be as an island or even in its isolation but in combination with its LOCATION…the location is surely equally responsible for this unique development. It lies within the temperate zone noted for its energizing climate therefore high productivity and creative effect. NOW WE’RE COOKING.
From here Its not much of a stretch to equate Japan with England. They are both islands, both blessed with the highly energizing effect of a moderate climate and both assuredly blessed with this galvanizing creative energy. There is no denying It, and it can’t be purely accidental that they have both been equally immensely influential as well.
Well, it’s just a theory and probably not even very original, but it’s been fun to follow this thought process and compose/construct/figure out some really exciting ideas. AND:
THIS IS WHY I TRAVEL!
ALL SERIOUSNESS ASIDE:
You can’t leave Japan without mentioning THE TOILETS…..Japanese toilets have a well-known reputation. I knew they have some decidedly unusual capabilities but not actually how unusual these capabilities might be. I was not looking forward to this encounter (I’ve got a potty hang up dating from experiences in Mexico many years ago)– but they’re hard to avoid. I didn’t have long to wait; -- first thing - Tokyo Airport and there it was. It didn’t look like much – just a normal toilet, but affixed to it’s side where an armrest might be – there was a plaque. It was inscribed with symbols two of which I recognized right away; a spout of water/geyser - (Oh, boy just what I was afraid of- I don’t want to be spouted up the bottom), another was a musical clef – for if you wanted to be serenaded as you sat on the throne, and at least 2 very unfamiliar looking others capable of – maybe I didn’t want to know and I wasn’t hanging around to find out.. I was tired, I had ferocious jet lag, I’m way out of my comfort zone… and I wasn’t up to any messing around. My reaction was to announce to the toilet that if it did any of those things I would….. I’m not sure what I would have done actually. And then I was confronted by the next logical problem … how do you flush it? Well, being a basically conventional toilet which had unfortunately suffered the indignities of an upgrade, it still had a normal old fashioned handle appended somewhere within reasonable view.
Related to this fascinating subject: Japanese women are embarrassed at the thought that they may be overheard, so they flush continuously to cover the sound. This action is of course very wasteful – 5.3 gal of water per flush. To counteract this waste the Japanese have invented a device called a “Sound Princess” which copies the sounds of multiple flushes electronically. Unfortunately however, there are still women who insist on performing this action manually. I cannot believe this is still happening but I’ve gotten this bit from a reliable source. It’s just too wonderful.
AND WITH THAT I THINK YOU CAN SAFELY SAY THAT JAPAN HAS SECURED A SUBSTANTIALLY HIGH PROFILE ON MY MAP.
And to go one step further: Would you say that Japan may well have taken over the world in the long run?
suffice it to say JAPAN IS ALL///
NB: I just encountered what seems to be another negative present in Japanese society/culture. Have you ever heard of KAROSHI - it could make “fly in the ointment” I spoke of earlier seem small beans.
There’s been an interesting experiment concerning jet lag; they’ve flown from New York to Sydney and they have timed the airplane activity to coincide with Sydney time. One thing good, it is not dark the entire time. Sounds more rational and maybe hopeful but I really doubt that I will ever get there with or without improved airline service. As I’ve said three times “never again”, and it sure has hurt each time, and I’m not getting any younger. I would like to go to Australia but that third time might be the.
I have a real hard time quitting these writings:
THIS IS NOT A BAD RECORD FOR A MERE TWO WEEKS
THE FINAL ASSESSMENT
IT WAS A SUPER ADVENTURE
I STATED EARLIER THAT I HAD A GREAT DEAL TO SAY ABOUT WHAT I THOUGHT OF VIKING”S PERFORMANCE, but I preferred not to have it there but to append it at the very end. and here it is but as it turns out its in a very condensed form.
VIKING? And The “bones I had to pick” with them.
FORGET Viking and ITS FOIBLES: I ditched /dumped the whole business – of which there were lots, after I figured it was of minimal interest.. and I think we’ve heard enough anyway.
Most of my concerns about Viking assuredly has already been expressed in the body of my journal ……and is so very unimportant in the outcome of this trip I can save a whole lot of extra time and work by simply reiterating my original conclusion: IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS: and there was a whole lot of that lacking here.
I didn’t think I’d experienced much, I thought the cruise was distinctly lacking in quality and have written them off, and cancelled our next cruise..the one that brought us here….
BUT because of this: It rates A1 as ADVENTURE… HIGHEST rating possible and currently my major reason to TRAVEL..
Just today I received an Xmas card from them – THAT IS ME – sporting a superlative most deliriously Norwegian craft motif, and I feel so bad.
BUT, and I should feel even more guilty, But…..I put it with my Xmas card of Bergen in the Snow that started this whole venture on the counter in front of me with my other little Viking/Scandi items reminding me of the “venture” to come.
PERHAPS THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING: THE BOTTOM LINE; WE HAVE CANCELLED OUR TRIP WITH THEM TO NORWAY IN FEBRUARY.
we’re still going to Norway - in February – but with another Norwegian Hurtegruten. (that’s delicious too, isn’t it?) please follow me there:::::::::::::::