The Silver Shadow will sail from Japan to Alaska by way of Siberia in May 2018. Of the more than 40 cruises on which I've gone, this one offered the most photo opportunities and cultural contrasts; not to mention spending two weeks on one of the most luxurious ships afloat.
You start in Tokyo, which The Economist calls the "Safest City in the World," and is among most beautiful. You will be disembarking in cherry blossoms season, in which Tokyo turns into a pink wonderland. Then it's on to Aomori, where its famous Cherry Blossom Festival attracts a million visitors to a huge park surrounding a castle. Then to Hakodate which is from where Los Angeles' most expensive sushi bars have many of their fresh fish flown in daily.
When you get to Siberia, you find the people healthy, prosperous and friendly. Remember, many of their parents or grandparents survived Stalin's slave labor camps. Still, you realize that you're in Russia when you see T-shirts with Putin's image being sold everywhere. One of the best-sellers has a bare-chested Putin riding a Russian bear. I've never asked someone to translate what's written on the T-shirts since I'm not sure I want to know.
Many of the women are dressed very fashionably as they stroll through downtown Petropavlovsk with their children. They also run an impromptu bazaar, on days when cruise ships visit, at the local elementary school where some of the kids perform folk dances, sell local crafts, and practice their English which they start learning in elementary school.
In Alaska, you'll visit Dutch Harbor, of the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch fame. The last time I went on this cruise, the fishing vessel Saga was docked in the harbor. I also found great buys on all-weather gear and hoodies at Alaska Ship Supply, about which the Lonely Planet travel guide says: This warehouse-like store is like a remote outpost of Costco with a few unique extras. The Deadliest Catch hoodies make a good only-in–Dutch Harbor souvenir.
You'll see lots of eagles in Dutch Harbor, and the photos will only get more interesting as you cruise along the Alaskan coast. The glaciers are as spectacular as those in Patagonia and New Zealand, and some of the shore excursions are mind-blowing. While in Ketchikan, don't miss the chance to fly into a private fishing camp in a seaplane and have a truly-fresh crab dinner since the boats are docked alongside your aircraft. Since I've taken this cruise twice before, I can give you many suggestions for other things to see and do. Don't miss the chance in Tokyo to visit a sumo stable to see the 300-400 pound wrestlers practice, or go to a sushi breakfast after the tuna fish auction where some tunas have sold for as much as $100,000.
Fares start at $5,950 pp for a veranda, and this fare is all-inclusive. This is a Relais et Chateaux Culinary Cruise complete with guest chefs, cooking lessons, and memorable meals. The PICS Score for this 15-day cruise is 98% - the highest we've ever recorded.
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Steve Frankel has been a paying passenger on about 50 high-end cruises covering more than 100,000 sea miles. He's also an avid travel photographer and author who has written eight books and hundreds of feature articles. He founded Cruises & Cameras Travel Services (C&C) 15 years ago, but in 2017 he transitioned it to an on-line travel agency.
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