Princess Cruises has launched a new cruise-tour which will include next year’s Oberammergau Passion Play. The new 18-day “Oberammergau & Highlights of Germany” tour features two nights in the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau, and includes tickets to the event. Passengers will also visit a variety of other German destinations during the land tour, including Frankfurt, the Black Forest, Munich, Nuremberg and Berlin. And for those who wish, the tour will connect seamlessly with a 10-day Scandinavia/Russia itinerary. Two departures are offered: 2 & 12 August 2010. The Oberammergau Passion Play is performed every ten years since 1634 in thanksgiving for deliverance from the Black Death in 1633. The play is now performed in years ending with a zero (except 1984 which was the 350th anniversary), and involves more than 2,000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all of whom are residents of the village. All cast members have lived in the village at least 20 years and must be of high moral and ethical principles. Villagers also make all the costumes for the production and, as no wigs are used, participants must grow their hair and beards for several months prior to the performances.
The “Oberammergau & Highlights of Germany” cruise-tour is one of Princess’ four Europe cruise-tour options available next season. Travellers can also choose the 18-day “Europe’s Imperial Treasures,” which features the cathedrals and castles of four capitals that have figured prominently in history: Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Berlin. The 17-day “Classic Italy” tour offers the charms of Florence and Rome, and can connect to a number of Princess’ Mediterranean sailings. The 16-day “Ring of Kerry” tour offers some of the Emerald Isle’s most inspiring landscapes with visits to Shannon, Killarney and Cork, plus a British Isles cruise.
Fares for the 18-day Oberammergau cruise-tour begin at $5,319 per person, based on double occupancy. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available from your travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS or by visiting www.princess.com.
And so we have ended our Treasures of Japan cruise and pre-tour. Now for some general comments. This tour really does pick the highlights … we visited eight or more UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is a good variety of temples, shrines, gardens, museums, and local businesses – nobody can possibly say that it was just one temple after another or that one day was just like the last. The pre-tour in Kyoto is a gem; without it the entire holiday would be diminished. During the pre-tour, we have more contact with Japanese citizens and all our meals are at superb Japanese restaurants with beautifully presented dishes – every one rates a photo! There is always more than enough to eat, one of the guides explains what the dishes are, and while a few people object to raw fish or seaweed, there is so much offered that they can easily avoid those dishes. The two young Americans who “chaperone” us are clearly in love with Japan and the Japanese lifestyle, while our Japan Tourist Board (JTB) guides are very enthusiastic and committed. This is true of all JTB guides throughout the tour; three of them accompany us on the ship, except for Korea, and they rotate from bus to bus daily so we can enjoy them all. While the on-board expedition staff are very proficient, I think we all sense that, while they are enjoying Japan, it is not their passion.
The captain and crew are top notch and the bartender, maitre d’ and waiters radiate enthusiasm. With a capacity of 120 passengers, there is one open sitting for meals. Most of us enjoy buffet breakfast on the top deck each day, making perhaps only one foray to the dining room for a special order of eggs Benedict! An informal lunch is available on the top deck as well (burgers, salads, ice cream), with full-service menu available in the dining room. Dinner is served in the dining room only, with two or three choices of appetizer, soup, salad, main course and dessert. Lunch and dinner menus change daily, and are posted near the purser’s office the evening before. The only lunches we have on shore (all delicious Japanese meals) are on days when all the touring is far from the ship. Some of us (particularly the Canadians) indicated we would have preferred to have more meals ashore; not only are they part of the Japanese experience, but also the morning touring could often be more leisurely if we did not have to be back on board by 1:00 for lunch. Most days there is free time in the afternoon, but often the ship is too far from the town to do anything more than go for a walk around the harbour. There is also a small pool-hot tub on the ship for relaxing. Many of the temples and shrines do not allow photography inside. Unless one is totally confined to a wheelchair, accessibility is not an issue; there is an elevator on board, and while several sites have many steps, only one site does not have a ramp as well, and the staff will help with wheel chairs and walkers. Do we recommend this tour? Would we go again? Definitely!