Diamond Princess Grand Japan Cruise July 17 ~ August 3, 2015
Here we go! Just returned from a fantastic month-long vacation in Japan. Yes, Japan alone. We had been to Japan before, once on a land-tour from Tokyo to Nara to Kyoto and Osaka. Another time we spent a few days on our own in the Tokyo area after a cruise in the Mediterranean with flights that stopped over in Japan. This time we booked a back-to-back, 17-day "Grand Japan" cruise on Diamond Princess with a couple of pre-cruise days and a couple of post-cruise days on our own, then a 5-day guided land tour. What a trip it was! The following is my day to day account of our journey. Welcome to our adventure!
July 14, 2015 All Nippon Airways (NH0005) LAX to NRT
We arrived at the airport a little before 11 for our 1:10 flight, a little later than what we wanted. We had already checked in online so all we needed was to go to baggage drop which is also the business class check-in counter to avoid the long economy line. Going economy this time deprived us from lounge access but it was OK. With heightened anticipation, we enjoyed a light lunch of pizzas from 800 Degrees along with hundreds of other people at the food court before boarding this Boing 777 jet in the middle of the day. At least we knew that our exit row seats would make this flight a little more bearable. This plane seemed not as crowded and kind of quiet for some reason. Don't know if it's a Japanese thing or if it's just because of the smaller plane.
Row 30 looking towards the back of the cabin as we boarded.
After the hot towels, drinks and snacks were served--rice crackers and lemonade for me.
First meal was served about two hours after take-off. We all ordered the Japanese meal to get a head start on this trip.
The meal was OK.
After lunch, I watched a Chinese movie and a Korean movie, but dozed off half way through the second one. The flight was pretty calm and stable until about four hours out of Japan, then it started to get a little bumpy. I started to worry about the typhoon that was projected to hit Japan in the next couple of days. We may have to change our plans and do indoor stuff instead of going to Kamakura.
Breakfast was served a couple of hours before landing at Narita.
When we approached closer to Narita, the captain announced that we will be delayed due to "bad weather" and air traffic control. Then our plane just circled above Narita and finally made a safe landing at around 4:45. It was awfully muggy at the airport and it wasn't pleasant to be standing in the long line through immigration check with hundreds of travelers. Picking up our bags and going through custom was painless though. We met up with our family members who were joining us from Taiwan as we exit the terminal and Mr. Asada, our driver was there waiting for us already. We also found out from them that there was actually an earthquake drill at the airport earlier and that was why we were not able to land.
Generally we would use public transportation in Tokyo but taking into account of having elderly members with us who have some mobility issues, it was way worth it to have our own transfers booked on this trip. This big van can hold 9 passengers and our 9 pieces of large luggage plus each of our carry-ons. I can't imagine having to deal with all the luggage and bodies using the trains or airport limousines available for just a few dollars less. I have booked the transfers from Narita to our hotel in Yokohama before the cruise, then from Yokohama to our hotel in Tokyo at the end of the cruise, and then from Tokyo to our hotel of the land tour in Narita. Mr. Asada was our driver on all three occasions. A real gentleman who doesn't smile that much but very cordial and always pointed out important sights along the way. He knows his way around and he told us that there was an accident somewhere near Tokyo that was causing huge traffic jam. He was going to avoid the area and took the route along the east side of Tokyo bay to get us from Narita to Yokohama instead.
Our first surprise was when he parked the van at this garage looking building on the way to Yokohama. We did not know what was going on and and why he stopped. He just told us to get off and follow him.
Vending machines inside the garage
He lead us up on the escalators for a couple of levels and I noticed that there are shops and restaurants inside this building as we made our way up to the top.
There, a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji and the skyline of Yokohama awaited us.
A gorgeous sunset welcomed us on our arrivals. What great start of a journey!
The 'rock' in the middle of the water is the "Island of Wind". From what I understand, it's where they suck up air from the underwater tunnel (?)
I believe this place is called Umihotaru or Kisarazu Artificial Island (木更津人工島) at the start of the Tokyo Bay Aqua Line Toll Road underwater tunnel on the east (Kisarazu) that would take us to the west side (Kawasaki, Haneda) of Tokyo Bay. We were all tired but this little side trip helped us get excited of the days to come. In his quiet way, Mr. Asada proudly showed us a sight we will never forget on our first day in Japan! We were probably the only tourists there as all I saw were locals enjoying the romantic sunset on this beautiful island.
Yokohama--Sotetsu Fresa Inn 5-49 Honcho Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0005
We finally arrived at our hotel in Yokohama. This hotel was not my first choice but it was cheaper than the one I wanted to stay at. Now that we stayed there for two nights, I had no regret booking this hotel. The rooms were bigger than I expected and of good size according to Japanese standard. Check-in desk is on the second floor with the breakfast/lounge area. Clerks were courteous and helpful. The eight of us had rooms on the 5th, 7th, and 10th floors because they only have one big room on each floor. Ours was on 7th floor with three very comfortable beds. Decor is modern and sleek. It is also right above the Minato Mirai Line metro stop at Bashamichi. One stop away from the cruise terminal, two stops away from Chinatown and walking distance to Cosmo World/World Porters area.
Our windows face the seaside which gave us an excellent view of the Minato Mirai area with Landmark Tower, Cosmo World and the Queens Buildings right outside.
After settling down, we walked a couple of blocks and across the bridge to World Porters to find dinner. Unfortunately, the revolving sushi place and most of the food court stands were closing down so we ended up eating at two different restaurants which were still opened. Most members of our group went for ramen while ChC and I found a doria restaurant that looked interesting.
Front entrance of World Porters
Side of World Porters
There are stores, restaurants, convenient store, food court, even a Starbucks inside this building.
This was where we ended up at.
See the basket under the table? These are for you to keep your belongings while you enjoy your meal.
Doria is a western influenced casserole rice dish with various combination of meat, eggs, vegetables, or cheese over rice. Some may look at it as a Japanese type comfort food. I ordered this beef and egg doria. Steaming hot and delicious!
ChC ordered the hamburger meat with cheese. Very tasty!
By the time we finished, even this restaurant was closing for the day.
It started to drizzle as we walked back to the hotel but we couldn't resist taking pictures of the beautiful night views of Yokohama. Landmark Tower in the middle with the Queen's Buildings on the right. We did not have a chance to see these places on this trip, we just have to come back.
The ferris wheel with the digit clock at Cosmo World.
Before heading back to our rooms for the night, we stopped by the lounge to get water and coffee.