With the Japanese government’s decision to allow international cruise ships to operate again in the country, Princess Cruises will return to the market in 2023, homeporting the Diamond Princess in Tokyo.
Cruisers embarking the ship in Tokyo will, for the first time, experience Princess MedallionClass, the wearable device that enables guests to use the technology to access many onboard services and amenities.
Princess to Resume Japan Cruises March 15
The 3,660-guest Diamond Princess, which was built in Japan by Mitsubishi and entered service in 2003, will sail its first cruise from Tokyo (Yokohama) on March 15 on a nine-day roundtrip sailing. The spring series of cruises will call at 38 destinations in four countries, offering 43 unique itineraries ranging from five to 19 days.
Princess Cruises President John Padgett said, “The reopening of Japanese ports to the international cruise industry is an important and welcome development that not only vastly expands the vacation opportunities available to guests but also helps to significantly strengthen the Japanese tourism economy.”
Padgett said that Japanese guests will appreciate the Princess MedallionClass experience aboard Diamond Princess. The quarter-size Medallions are wearable devices with technology that enables touch-free boarding, keyless stateroom entry, locating other guests onboard the ship, making dining reservations, ordering food and drinks, and accessing other shipboard conveniences.
Guests download the Medallion app to use the device. The Medallion technology was launched by the line in 2017 but was not available on Diamond Princess’ earlier cruises in Japan.
Japan cruise itineraries will feature visits to temples and shrines, including the 16th century Osaka Castle and Seiryu-ji Temple, home of Japan’s largest bronze seated Buddha.
Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites are included in itineraries, such as Mt. Fuji, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Guests also will have opportunities to explore Tokyo’s Ginza district and sites of national importance such as the Imperial Palace, among others.
Princess Cruises also is marketing 13- and 14-day Highlights of Japan cruisetours, combining a land tour with a cruise and featuring destinations in Tokyo and Kyoto.
On a 13-day cruisetour, for example, the first five days are land-based, starting in Kyoto with visits to such places as Nijo Castle, the Kinkakuji Temple, the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Lake Ashi, Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park. The land tour ends in Tokyo, where guests board the Diamond Princess and begin an 8-day sailing.
Japan Reopens to Cruising After Lengthy COVID Ban
In an announcement in mid-November, Japan Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito said the country would begin allowing international cruise ships to dock at its ports, following a more than two-year ban imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Princess Cruises’ Gem-class Diamond Princess was front-and-center in the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. The ship was the site of the first major recorded outbreak in early 2020, with more than 700 cases reported onboard that resulted in the ship being quarantined for weeks at the Yokohama port.
With the lifting of the ban, cruise guests who are suspected to be infected need to be tested, and those with positive results will be quarantined along with their close contacts.
If an outbreak occurs, a ship can continue its itinerary as long as a doctor on the ship can determine that the virus can be contained, the ministry guidelines said. However, the ship’s cruise schedule will be shortened if more than 10 percent of passengers become infected.
According to the Japan International Cruise Committee, 166 visits by foreign cruise ships are already planned from next March, although cruise schedules have not yet been released by Japanese transport officials.