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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Orion's Inland Sea of Japan - Samurai, Sake and Soba

Orion Expedition Cruises' new ship Orion II will be making her inaugural voyages to Japan in June and July 2011. The ten night Inland Sea of Japan voyages live up the promise of a path less travelled, with the specialist expedition team introducing guests to insider experiences, many exclusive to Orion.

Orion II will visit Kanazawa, one of the few places in Japan where geisha culture is still alive, its 100 year old former geisha house retaining the look and feel of 19th century Japan. Guests will enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at Kenrokuen Garden, considered to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Ponds, fountains, waterfalls, pagodas and bridges harmonise within landscaped gardens first established in the 17th century by the feudal lords of Kaga as their private garden.

Cruise the moat surrounding imposing Matsue Castle; learn to make Soba noodles; stroll the main street of Sakaiminato with hundreds of bronze statues depicting animated cartoon monsters and enjoy a visit to Sakai's Sake brewery to sample their fine rice wine.

The path less travelled varies according to each voyage, including an introduction to the strict code of the samurai when guests meet a direct descendent of the Shoguns. Or guests may witness an extraordinary special event, the Sumo of the Bulls. Far from the barbaric Spanish bull rings, and in keeping with the respect shown to Ushioni, the great bull demon, participating bulls are treated with great respect. Two massive bulls pit their intuition against each other, locking horns until one of the bulls is brought to its knees, the other declared the victor.

Other experiences include traditional drumming with Japan's best Taiko drum troupe, Kodo, and a trip in a Taraibune - round barrel boats traditionally used to collect abalone and other molluscs from narrow coves.

An added attraction on these voyages is a side-trip to Busan (South Korea) with its world renowned Jalgachi Fish Market, arguably the best of its kind in the world, where every kind of edible sea creature is on sale.

With Orion even traditional Japanese highlights have an unexpected twist. A visit to one of the most recognisable images of Japan, the large vermillion coloured O-Torii symbolic entrance gate to the Miyajima (Shrine Island) is itself visually spectacular, yet when Orion II visits guests will be treated to an exclusive Kagura performance, with sacred music and dance of traditional ceremonies held in Japanese shrines.

The visit to Hiroshima revolves around the Peace Park, Peace Museum and the A-Bomb Dome and includes meeting one of the few remaining survivors of the actual bombing who will relate personal experiences of that day and life since the bombing in Hiroshima (the lecture will be translated into English).

Art lovers will be excited when, in Kurashiki with its cobblestone streets and boutique shops lining the river, guests visit the Ōhara Museum of Art. Established in 1930 by Magosaburō Ōhara, the museum houses works by El Greco, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin, and Renoir.

Mixing traditional highlights with the unexpected - providing fascinating insights into the culture, history and geography of a region - is part of Orion's DNA, revealed this time during inaugural expeditions to Japan.

PLEASE NOTE: some aspects of these itineraries may change as arrangements are finalised and not all shore experiences are included on each voyage - refer to Orion Expedition Cruises or your travel agent for detailed itineraries. Check for latest updates on

Orion's voyages to the Inland Sea of Japan all start and finish in places with international flight access. Kobe and Aomori are the points of embarkation or disembarkation.

Fares Guide: Pricing onboard all Orion and Orion II voyages is in Australian dollars.

Early booking savings currently available

2011 Inland Sea of Japan - Discovery of an Ancient Culture 10 night fares begin from $8,150 per person for an Ocean View Suite/Category B. Junior Suites from $11,300 per person and Penthouse Suites with balcony are $16,400 per person

Expedition fares per person twin occupancy include accommodation, all meals, landings, port charges, gratuities and selected activities ashore.

Additional information:

Orion Expedition Cruises' itineraries for 2011 will include 49 voyages to 17 countries and more than 170 remote and exotic destinations stretching from Antarctica to the Russian Far East including Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and the Inland Sea of Japan (onboard Orion II) and Australia's Kimberley coast and Arnhem Land, New Zealand and the Sub Antarctic islands and Papua New Guinea (onboard Orion).

Akin to a private mega-yacht, accommodating just 50 couples, Orion II's staff of 70 professionally caters for the needs of everyone in an unobtrusive yet attentive way.

All 50 suites and staterooms have ocean views, marble bathrooms, flat screen TV and DVD/CD player, internet accessibility and choice of queen or twin bed configuration.

Elegant throughout, Orion's features include a sauna, health spa and gym, boutique, library with internet access, a wide range of water sport activities, plus a choice of dining areas and innovative menus created by multi-award winning chef, Serge Dansereau.

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website
For reservations or to obtain a brochure of 2011 voyages call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) / 0800 444 462 (New Zealand) or see your travel agent.


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