Fly-cruising a different way to 'sea' Japan and Korea
Stay refreshed for your holidays in Japan and Korea by sailing on Costa Cruises
For those looking for a more leisurely travel experience, try letting the sea take you on a journey through the ports of Japan and Korea.
Italian cruise line Costa Cruises' Costa neoRomantica, currently homeporting in Tokyo and Fukuoka in Japan, has a new seven-day, six-night fly-cruise itinerary with stops at coastal destinations Tokyo, Kobe and Fukuoka as well as the Korean island of Jeju.
I was on the cruise in late October and was pleasantly surprised by how much more relaxing it was to travel by ship.
Instead of being cooped up in a seat on public transport or a plane, I was wining and dining my way through transit in the grand ballrooms of Costa neoRomantica.
Upon reaching each culturally rich yet distinctly different port of call, everyone was recharged and ready to embark on new adventures.
Tokyo's city life remains a draw for many, with an almost endless variety of activities.
Asakusa, a district in Tokyo, is known for the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise, a shopping street that leads into the temple.
Both the temple and street are popular with locals and tourists, offering traditional fare and trinkets that are ideal as souvenirs.
Featuring numerous malls and department stores, Ginza in Tokyo is a huge draw for shopaholics.
Boutiques line the alleys while every leading brand name in fashion can be found along the main streets, making the district one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world.
From Tokyo, Costa neoRomantica took us to Kobe, the capital of Hyogo prefecture.
Besides its renowned beef, Kobe is also famous for hot springs. Onsen dot the city and are easily accessible, catering to travellers looking for a relaxing dip to calm the body and mind.
Another lesser-known aspect of Kobe is its recent art movement, with urban art in the form of sculptures and graffiti found near the port.
For the more discerning, the architecture of the more recent buildings will also stand out, combining traditional Asian structures with modern elements.
It is difficult to accurately identify the style of some of these buildings, which seem to feature elements of brutalism, yet retain Japanese elements while incorporating a postmodern influence.
The Kobe Maritime Museum is an example that stands out, with a white steel lattice on its roof inspired by sailing ships.
We moved on to Jeju, which is rich in heritage, and locals there are likely to share about the culture of Jeju Haenyeo - female divers who deep dive into the sea without breathing apparatus to harvest conches, abalones and seaweed.
Jeju Haenyeo have been inscribed on Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage List and are recognised for empowering women, eco-friendly fishing and embodying regional identity.
Visitors will notice that the island is covered in volcanic rocks, owing to it having been formed from a volcano.
The mineral-rich soil is used to grow green tea, and Innisfree, the popular South Korean cosmetics brand, uses volcanic clay from there.
For those interested in skincare, it is worth making a trip to the Innisfree Jeju House, which sells products exclusive to Jeju.
We head back to Japan, with Costa neoRomantica's next destination being Fukuoka, the birthplace of soba and udon, before returning to Tokyo.
For the foodie, the Jotenji Temple is a literal shrine, with monuments erected for the beloved noodles as well as the founding monk Enni Ben'en, who developed their traditional production method.
Visitors will also appreciate Fukuoka's other traditional dishes, which include mentaiko and motsunabe, a type of stew.
And the ruins of Fukuoka Castle will allow you to appreciate the city's historical significance.
Costa neoRomantica will be sailing from Japan from April 28 to Sept 3. It costs about $1,250 for a seven-day, six-night Japan and Korea cruise, including port and service charges. Airfare is not included.
Travellers are advised to book before January via Citystate Cruises, CTC Travel, Stamford Discovery Cruise Centre, Chan Brothers Travel, Hong Thai Travel, PriceBreaker and Skyline.