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asuka II Kobe/Yokohama one night cruise
Asuka II One Night Cruise Report on 2008 Summer. July 17th to 18th, 2008

Text and pictures by IdyllicOcaen


As the largest and the most luxurious Cruise Ship in Japan, making a reservation on her was not easy. It can be especially tough if you are planing to make a reservation on the either highest or lowest cabin category. These cabins sell very quickly after the booking begins. This time too, our first attempt to make a reservation on the K state cabin (the lowest category) failed even though we had the tentative reservation agreement with the travel agent. However because we kept our names on the cancellation list, we could finally get hold of a cabin so we could take a cruise.

For Asuka II cruise, all cruises throughout the year are announced through the website of NYK Cruise Co. Ltd. ( Usually a dedicated Asuka II brochure with her schedule for the next half year becomes available in the autumn time every year. One night cruise fare on board Asuka II starts from JPY 52,000 (appx USD520.00 as of March 2008) on the lowest category (K) to JPY 400,000 (appx USD4,000.00 as of March 2008) on the highest category (Royal State). Asuka II usually hosts several one night cruises a year, few in the summer and the most in the winter time. This time, we took a Summer one night cruise from Kobe to Yokohama on July 17th to 18th .

As you may aware, this ship, M.S. Asuka II is previously known as M.S. Crystal Harmony. Elegant clipper raked bow and the observation lounge on the top deck are one of the pleasant feature of this ship. As she joined in the fleet of NYK cruise, Grand Spa (Japanese Bath) and Shiseido-Salon were added on the top deck. This addition was favored by most of Japanese travelers who are used to enjoying relaxing spa time even in the public settings.

When we arrived at the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel, which was located right on the pier that Asuka II leaves, it was aready 20:00. Asuka II was already docked at the pier, adding brilliant jewel-like lights in the Kobe's harbor night. At the reception of the Hotel, we requested the room on the west side of the hotel, from which we could see Asuka II's beautiful night lights. Our request was granted so the room number 712 was given for us.

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When we opened the door of the Hotel Room, there was a wonderful and breathtaking fantastic view. Asuka II's white and beautiful funnel was just in front of our Hotel Room. We can see from the higher angle, crews in side the ship preparing for the cruise tomorrow. Also it seemed that some of the crews were having fun together having party on board as they had just come back from the World Cruise 2008 this morning. Hotel room was clean and cozy and elegantly appointed. If you would ever sail from the Port of Kobe, we would definitely reccomend you to stay at this Hotel so you can enjoy pre-cruise night right on the pier.

The next day, boarding started from 9:00. The Asuka II check in counter was located on the 2nd floor of the Hotel, so all we needed was to check-out the hotel and to come down to the 2nd floor. Here, we received the boarding card which also served as the cabin key during the cruise. The name of Captain and the Voyage number were printed on this card. As we walked through the gang-way toward the ship, ship's photographer took some pictures for us. (This pictures were to be sold in the ship's photostudio.) At the entrance of the ship, huge electric sign board welcomed us to Asuka II and informed us that the departure time was 11:00 and the estimated arrival time for the next port (Yokohama) would be 10:00 on the following day. After passing the security check, (which was the machine gate just like the one we usually see at the airport), we finally came on board Asuka II. The one night cruise on board Asuka II had just begun.

Cabin allocated this time was 7068 in the K state category, which was the lowest category of Asuka II. However even on this category, each cabin was equipped with a large oceanview window. As a matter of a fact, there are no inside cabins sold for public on Asuka II. The difference between other oceanview cabins is that the view from the K state would be little obstructed due to the ship's structure. But when it comes to the cabin we used, which was 7068, nothing was really obstructing our view. Only difference was that we could see the bottom of the tendar boart which was stored in front of us from the window. However, we could still see the nice panoramic view of the ocean from our window..

On the desk, we found the card holder, which was similar to what Crystal Cruises offers to their guest. The shape and material of the card holder was exactly the same as the Crystal's except the color of the card holder, which was blue for the Asuka II, and green for the Crystal.

Bathroom was elegantly decorated with clear and well maintained. Shining brass was embedded at the every corner. You can still see the Crystal's logo too here, the "Champagne Seahorse" on the wall of the bathroom. Closet area was wide enough for the guests taking a longer cruises. High quality bathroom amenities were also provided and they came with Asuka Cruise logo. Plenty of fluffy towels were also provided. However it must be noted that no bathrobes were provided for the K state cabin guests.

When it comes to cabin features, Tea set, Refrigerator, Safety box, Telephone, Flat-Screen TV, DVD Player, in-cabin slippers were available in the K state cabin at that time. On the table was the Cruise Schedule which explains various cources and entertainment available during the cruise. There are dedicated two TV channels solely related to Asuka II cruise. One broadcasts the view from the bridge 24 hours a day and the other shows the current cruising condition, such as location, speed, heading of the vessel, wind speed, whether condition etc... When you first enter into the room, you would see the plastic mat spread on your bed that enables you to open and organize your baggage easily while keeping your bed away from the dirt that came with the baggage. After taking out necessary items from your baggage and organizing them, baggage can be nicely stored under the bed.

Please be aware that each cabin gets bed-making two times a day. So when you leave the cabin, make sure that your belongings are not scattered all over in your cabin. Otherwise, you will be embarrased.

After leaving our baggage in our cabin, we embarked on an adventure of exploring the ship. First area we went was the Palm Court Lounge located on the top deck where "Welcome Champagne" and tasty canapes were served. We sat on the beautifully appointed comfortable sofa on the starboard side of the ship. On the right hand across the large clean window was the Meriken Park Hotel where we stayed last night. There were many greens beautifully arranged in the Palm Court lounge and they created natural relaxing atmosphere. Not long after that, elegantly adorned Croatian waitress approached us, offering "Champagne" and some canapes. Very relaxing and soothing exprience.

Forward part of the "Palm Court" is connected to the "Vista Lounge" where guests can enjoy the bridge view while relaxing on the beautiful white sofa. In front of this lounge is covered by angled toughened glasses which surround the lounge by 270 degree. In the evening, a bar located behind the lounge serves variety of cock-tails which supplies some accents on the cruising night.

There was a door beside the lounge that connects to the outer deck of the ship. We took this door and went out to the outer deck. Sun was brightly shining, and the carefully maintained white paint of Asuka II was reflecting the sun-light brilliantly. The outside deck of Asuka II was all covered by real teak and this brought the taste of luxury cruising. Radar was turning on the mast, smoke was comming out of the funnel, the sounds of Chinese gong (Dora in Japanese) was resounding. Yes, the ship was about to leave the port.

11:00am, ropes were loosened, and the ship was gradually pulled away from the pier by the assistance of powerful tugboats. While maintaining the enough gap between the pier, she slowly moved backward to leave the pier. Right after passing the edge of the pier, she now sets her bow toward the harbor entrance and gradually moves toward it. Beautiful scenery of Kobe on the starboard side is now passing slowly from her stern. 15 minutes after the departure, Asuka II was passing the shipyard of Kawasaki Heavy Industries. We could see a submarine under maintenance and repair work was undergoing. Also we could see the new car carrier of NYK under construction.

The ship continued to move toward southwest, seeing Akashi-Kaikyo Ohashi (The longest hanging bridge in the world with its span 3,911M) on the starboard side toward the bow. I thought the ship would go streght down toward south but I figured out later that all ships leaving Kobe toward the Pacific Ocean need to take this route in order to pass through Tomogashima-strait which is the narrow strait between Honsyu and Shikoku region of Japan.

While ship was passing off Kansai International Airport, Captain's greeting was announced, welcoming all passengers. Captain also informed us of the current position of the vessel that ship was carefully going down toward south, avoiding many local fishing boatsboats. According to him, weather on the way to Yokohama was fairly moderate however, little rain was expected in the late afternoon.


Lunch was served from 12:00 at International Dining Room, located on the 5th floor. We chose Japanese menu which consists of grilled-fish and miso-soup along with white-rice and dried seaweeds. The most of waiters were Pilipino but spoke fairly good Japanese. The food arrangement was good and taste was superb. As a desert, an Asuka Manju (Japanese steamed bean-jam bun with Asuka logo on the top) was served. But even after taking Japanese lunch, guests can still go up to the Lido Garden where Western type of lunch is served. Here, you would see breads, sausages, hams, flesh fruits, flesh juice etc... Some people like the Asuka II’s special carry & rice served at this location. Burger with Fries were also available here.

As mentioned earier, Asuka II embraces real teak through out her top deck. This gives comfort of natural feeling. On the balustrade, there was a sign, encouraging guests to "KEEP OUR OCEAN CLEAN". Located on the middle of the top deck was a large pool with showerroom and sauna provided side by side. You can see the Asuka II logo at the bottom of the pool as well as on the front face wall, where "Crystal"'s "Champagne Seahorse" was used to be. The funnel was painted with the two stripes of red on the white base, which is the trade mark of the NYK. Uninke Crystal, the over all color of the top deck is cordinated with blue. Crystal has its own trade color green throughout their top deck

The aft of the ship is elegantly appointed so you can see the beauty of real passenger cruise ship taste. It is not like a precipitous cliff like the most of large cruise ships of now a day. The aft design of each deck creates overall beauty of this ship, creating relaxing atmosphereon board.

Afternoon tea was served in the Palm Court lounge late afternoon. With beautiful soothing melody of the real harp, we could enjoy delightful experience of the cruising afternoon. Also, during this time, Asuka II' on board pianist played a beautiful melody as well. As it was the case for the other cruise ships, these refreshments were all included in the cruise fare.

As the route from Kobe to Yokohama involves traveling around the largest peninnsla in Japan, Kii-Peninsla, we enjoyed beutiful nature scenes specific to this area. Hi-no-Misaki & Shio-no-Misaki light house were some of these. Shio-No-Misaki is known as the southern most part of the Honshu island of Japan. We passed this landmark at appx. 16:00. As we traveled around the Kii-Peninsla, we found the group of flying fishes traveling with Asuka II. Also many seabirds came and visited Asuka II on theway. The avelage cruising speed was 18 knots per hour on the first day.

Although it was very clear and sunny when we left Kobe at 1100, thick layer of clouds begun to cover the sun and finaly heavy rain started to fall by 1530. However this rain stopped after 30 minuites. Now, a beautiful rainbow appeared in front of Asuka II. It was just perfect picturesque scene. Some said that it is impossible to determine the distance to the rainbow from the ship. According to the explanation of a seaman, the rainbow colors on the ocean appear because of a thick moist air layer through which the sunlight was only partially reflected. The thickness of this water vapor can be as think as miles. Therefore, the rainbow color is made not at the specific location on the sea, but the air condition that makes rainbow like light reflection can be spread in the vast area. I found this explanation very interesting.


Since Asuka II carries appx. 800 guests, dinner is served from either 17:45 or 19:00. NYK cruises suggest young people to take 2nd seating dinner which starts from 19:00. We followed the guidance of NYK and took second seating for dinner. Dinner was served at the International Dining Room where lunch was served at noon. When we went to the Dining Room, there were already many people waiting for the Dining Room to be opened. We asked for a table for two, and were assisted to sit at the very back of the Dining Room where 4-5 small tables for two were arranged. This however, we felt a bit too tight for us. The space between our table to the next table was too close. We hope that NYK cruises change the table layout soon to improove the dining experience. This was the only part we did not fully enjoy during this cruise.

However, meal itself was very tasty and nicely appointed. Towards the end of our dinner time, a Phillipino band visited our table to play a music. They asked us for some requests but no one made request to them. So they played "wish upon a star" from disney for us. The band was consist of 3 gentlemen, two guitar player and one flute player. The music was nice and soothing too.

After the dinner, Showtime by the Asuka II dedicated entertainment crew started. The show was held at the Galaxy Lounge. This includes singing and dancing of the broadway style. However we felt this was little too small and unsophisticated comparing to the show we watched on board Diamond Princess of the Princess Cruise. However, considering the size of the theater, and the nature of Japanese culture, I think it was sufficient. The number of entertainers were also fewer comparing to the other cruise ship such as Diamond Princess, Freedom of the Seas, Carnival Destiny etc.. For longer cruises, NYK cruises often invite more entertainers from the shore, such as singers, dancers, comic story tellers. During the A-style cruise which NYK cruises recently promote, the balcony class cabin guests are offered to seat at the premier seats in the theater, which are reserved at the right front of the theater.

There were night snacks available for this cruise. This was offered at the International Dining Room as well. Some fruits, Soba noodles, Prawn Shaomais were served as the night snack this time. The night snack corner was open only from 23:00 to 24:30. Unlike the most of major cruise line in the world, NYK cruise does not offer 24 hour buffet. Also the number of food items served as the night snack was fewer comparing to other cruise lines. However, thinking about the typical age of the passengers, I think this would not be a problem either.

On the second day of the cruise, we got up early and went out to the promenade deck to see the sunrise. Because of a thin vapor layers on the horizon, we were not able to see the sun coming up from the horizon. However the sunlight leaked out from the mass of cloud was making impressive scene on the pacific ocean. At that time, ship was heading toward the straight east, facing the sun at the hull. The location of the ship was about somewhere off Izu-islands. Cruising speed was about 16 nautical knot per hour. Time was about 04:30 JST.

At 09:20 on 18th of July, Asuka II passed under the Yokohama bay Bridge, a cable supported bridge crossing the entrance of Yokohama Bay which spans over 460 meters (1510 feet). Yokohama sky clippers such as the Land Mark Tower (296M), Queen's towers (Tower A 172M, Tower B 138M, Tower C 109M), Pan Pacific Hotel Yokohama (105M), Intercontinental Hotel (99.8M) welcomed us as Asuka II heads towards the Osanbashi Pier.

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Just beside the Osanbashi pier is the Red-Brick Warehouse, the old red-brick storage built appx. 100 years ago. On the portside are Yamashita-park, which offers a romantic view of the Bay Bridge and ship docking to the port. There are many monument exhibiting the international port of Yokohama, such as "the girl with Red Shoes Statues". The in front of Yamashita-park is the former NYK passenger ship, called "Hikawa-maru". She was a luxrious liner connecting Yokohama to Seatle for 30 yeas from 1930. The same funnel mark with Asuka II, two red lines on the white can be observed on her funnel as well.

Asuka II was docked at 1000. Exactly on time with the schedule. This time she docked at the C, D berth of Osanbashi pier, the berth facing the Yokohama Minato-Mirai district. Earier, Asuka II often docked at A, B berth (Yamachita park side) and sedom docked at the C, D side. When She visited Yokohama under the name Crystal Harmony, the pier she docked was also A, B berth. The Osanmashi Passenger terminal is completed in 2002, hosting many cruise ships from all over the world. The roof of the passenger terminal is open to the public for 24 hours, accommodating the oasis in the waterfront of the Yokohama city. This Yokohama port now serves as the home port of M.S. ASUKA II.

The announcement was made that the guests from the top level can now gradually disembark the ship. Since we were in the lowest level, we could stay on board untill the last moment. Many buses were prepared so the guests can take many sightseeing places in Yokohama. After all passengers disembarked from the ship, she is already preparing for the next trip, this time weekend ASUKA II cuise.

* This is due to the cancelation policy of the NYK Cruise which requires all passengers to pay full-amount of the cruise at this time.

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