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birdofsong

Spectrum and the Best of Japan cruise...

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I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding the Best of Japan cruise out of Shanghai.  From what little I've been able to find, I've gleaned the following:

1.  The majority of cruisers are Chinese;

2.  There are special areas only for cruisers in suites;

3.  Although there are great features of the ship and great activities, many include a surcharge;

4.  The food is geared toward the local cuisine (yum);

5.  The cabins are very nice;

6.  You need visas for China and Japan.

 

Is there any more you can tell me, or elaborate on the above?  Thank you. 

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If you refer to the cruises from Hong Kong to Japan no Chinese visas are needed. Hong Kong does not request you to obtain a visa in advance if you are a US, Canadian or EU citizens, I believe Japan not as well.

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1 hour ago, Saab4444 said:

If you refer to the cruises from Hong Kong 

Was referring to cruises from Shanghai.

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4 hours ago, birdofsong said:

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding the Best of Japan cruise out of Shanghai.  From what little I've been able to find, I've gleaned the following:

1.  The majority of cruisers are Chinese;

2.  There are special areas only for cruisers in suites;

3.  Although there are great features of the ship and great activities, many include a surcharge;

4.  The food is geared toward the local cuisine (yum);

5.  The cabins are very nice;

6.  You need visas for China and Japan.

 

Is there any more you can tell me, or elaborate on the above?  Thank you. 

1 through 5 are correct. 
Very like when cruising out of Miami the majority of passengers are for the US.
The suite areas are amazing...but there is still a huge amount of the ship available to all. 

Only some activities have a surcharge - North Star being one, but it is a much longer ride where it goes out over the side.

There is still plenty of western food to eat.  But the Asian food is really good.  "DaDong" (the Asian version of Wonderland is amazing), Hot pot is fantastic as is Schezwan (they do not hot dishes). 
The cabins are lovely.  The same as Quantum and Oasis class with good cupboards and usb plug next to the bed. 
The ship is amazing.  My favourite in the fleet.  
Visas depend on your nationality.  You would need to research that.

 

Overall it is a brilliant ship and a voyage to a fascinating art of the world.
Raina

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7 hours ago, Florida_cruisers said:

I am hoping we can book this tomorrow for Summer 2021

Quantum has had its own deployment schedule for the years when she was doing sailings out of China - sometimes as little as only 6 months out. Not sure Spectrum will do things that much differently.

Edited by Biker19

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8 hours ago, Florida_cruisers said:

I am hoping we can book this tomorrow for Summer 2021

I believe the latest you can book at this point is March 2021.  We were originally going to go in Summer/Fall 2021, and the only way to book was to do a "future cruise" deposit on board until the dates came up.  They did say, however, that more sailings would probably be available in a few weeks.  We were given such great incentives if we booked an earlier cruise that we couldn't turn it down. 

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15 hours ago, birdofsong said:

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding the Best of Japan cruise out of Shanghai.  From what little I've been able to find, I've gleaned the following:

1.  The majority of cruisers are Chinese; -- Yes they are.  This is a closed loop cruise leaving from  one of the most heavily populated cities.  RCCL does not hide this fact, and will let you know with the words "culturally enriching" which basically means the cruise is designed for the Chinese market, and the primary language is Mandarin. Secondary is English.

2.  There are special areas only for cruisers in suites;--Absolutely.  The ship has a special section which is the Golden area that includes all levels of suites and most importantly, regular balcony cabins, called golden balcony.  So technically it is not just suites.  So if you pay the money, you get a special area of the ship! In the travel industry, planes, hotels and sometimes ships sell first class items.  

3.  Although there are great features of the ship and great activities, many include a surcharge; -- Companies operating out of China have to partner with the government and they follow a set of different rules, including pricing.  Pricing is controlled, so RCCL charges for items not controlled on the ship.  In the end however, most likely you will pay less if you put it all together.

4.  The food is geared toward the local cuisine (yum); Well, see number one.  Yes it is, but of course, why would anyone go to Asia, and not get immersed in the local culture.  You can still get regular RCCL menu items, but just not as much of it.  They do have a variety. 

5.  The cabins are very nice; It's a newer ship, and the cabins are nice.  This goes the same for all the new builts.

6.  You need visas for China and Japan. For Japan, RCCL will arrange a landing card for the ship.  You hand in your passport when you get on the ship, and they take care of all the checking and paperwork, and you are handed the documents to get off the ship.  I recommend making a few copies of your passport, which you will give a copy to the ship, and you should always have copies for you and immigration in Japan will see a copy.  As far as China, this is a hot topic.  The safest and best practice is get a VISA.  However, they allow a 144 hour transit, but it comes with many rules, and on occasion, people have been denied entry.  It's not worth the risk in my opinion, so get the VISA.

 

Is there any more you can tell me, or elaborate on the above?  Thank you. 

Cruises from Shanghai are fun, and interesting.  It is different.  You must be able to go with the flow of things, and know and understand that it will be significant different in many ways.  If you chose this trip, and go with an open mind, you will love it.  But if you go thinking it will be more AMERICAN, stay away. 

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2 hours ago, birdofsong said:

I believe the latest you can book at this point is March 2021.  We were originally going to go in Summer/Fall 2021, and the only way to book was to do a "future cruise" deposit on board until the dates came up.  They did say, however, that more sailings would probably be available in a few weeks.  We were given such great incentives if we booked an earlier cruise that we couldn't turn it down. 

This week is when they said that the Asia (first phase) itinerary sailings come out for 2021 and 2022.  I checked today and nothing yet. Maybe tomorrow. 

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16 hours ago, birdofsong said:

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding the Best of Japan cruise out of Shanghai.  From what little I've been able to find, I've gleaned the following:

1.  The majority of cruisers are Chinese;

2.  There are special areas only for cruisers in suites;

3.  Although there are great features of the ship and great activities, many include a surcharge;

4.  The food is geared toward the local cuisine (yum);

5.  The cabins are very nice;

6.  You need visas for China and Japan.

 

Is there any more you can tell me, or elaborate on the above?  Thank you. 

 

I am a US citizen and I am doing this cruise in February. I was debating on getting a visa (I have all the documents ready to get one) - however many China sites tell me a 24 hour transit pass will work for my itinerary (I am arriving less than 24 hours before the ship departs and staying 1 night pre-cruise, then heading to the airport back to the states after the cruise is over). Here is the response I got from China Travel Guide:

 

You are perfectly eligible for visa free transit in Shanghai twice and you don't need any kind of visa.

You will take a cruise "Best Of Japan Cruise" provided by Royal Caribbean International. This itinerary is really ideally constructed to allow you visa free transit during both of your stops in Shanghai.

You will print out your flight and cruise tickets and also your accommodation booking confirmation for your overnight in Shanghai. You will also bring those printouts with you. Also, you will declare at check-in in San Francisco that you will travel to Japan via Shanghai using 24 hour visa free transit. After a short check of your tickets, you will be allowed to board the plane.

Upon your landing in Shanghai, you will approach 24 hour visa free transit counter where you will apply for a temporary entry permit that will be granted to you and you will be allowed to exit the airport.

During both of your stops in Shanghai, you will be eligible for 24 hour visa free transit because in both of your cases your entire transit time will be less than 24 hours. The reason is simple, your cruise departs at 16:30 (4:30pm) and you will arrive by plane, whether you are flying China Eastern or United, in the later afternoon hours after 16:30 (4:30pm) the day before.

 

Does that sound correct?

Edited by tybrkr17

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We didn't do this exactly but I'

27 minutes ago, tybrkr17 said:

 

I am a US citizen and I am doing this cruise in February. I was debating on getting a visa (I have all the documents ready to get one) - however many China sites tell me a 24 hour transit pass will work for my itinerary (I am arriving less than 24 hours before the ship departs and staying 1 night pre-cruise, then heading to the airport back to the states after the cruise is over). Here is the response I got from China Travel Guide:

 

You are perfectly eligible for visa free transit in Shanghai twice and you don't need any kind of visa.

You will take a cruise "Best Of Japan Cruise" provided by Royal Caribbean International. This itinerary is really ideally constructed to allow you visa free transit during both of your stops in Shanghai.

You will print out your flight and cruise tickets and also your accommodation booking confirmation for your overnight in Shanghai. You will also bring those printouts with you. Also, you will declare at check-in in San Francisco that you will travel to Japan via Shanghai using 24 hour visa free transit. After a short check of your tickets, you will be allowed to board the plane.

Upon your landing in Shanghai, you will approach 24 hour visa free transit counter where you will apply for a temporary entry permit that will be granted to you and you will be allowed to exit the airport.

During both of your stops in Shanghai, you will be eligible for 24 hour visa free transit because in both of your cases your entire transit time will be less than 24 hours. The reason is simple, your cruise departs at 16:30 (4:30pm) and you will arrive by plane, whether you are flying China Eastern or United, in the later afternoon hours after 16:30 (4:30pm) the day before.

 

Does that sound correct?

 Sounds right to me. I've used the 24 hour visa when traveling before. We had an overnight layover in Shaghai on both ends of our trip, just got the visa at the airport and all was fine. 

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What would happen if your cruise is delayed and leaves late in the evening or the next morning? Does that invalidate the 24 hr transit? Is it really tied to the minute? 4:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  What is the plane lands at 4:28 pm? I know these are a lot of "what if" questions, but when you are not in control of these variables and you are "hostage" to the government of China, it's worth considering getting a visa.

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15 minutes ago, CruisingAlong4Now said:

What would happen if your cruise is delayed and leaves late in the evening or the next morning? Does that invalidate the 24 hr transit? Is it really tied to the minute? 4:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  What is the plane lands at 4:28 pm? I know these are a lot of "what if" questions, but when you are not in control of these variables and you are "hostage" to the government of China, it's worth considering getting a visa.

 

1. My flight gets in later in the evening (Around 9pm), no where near 4:30pm. If my plane gets in almost 5 hrs sooner than planned, that would be a super fast jet! 😛

 

2. My cruise documents that I have to provide says the cruise will depart from Shanghai at 4:30. *If* the cruise departure get delayed, I will already have gotten the pass anyways with my documents that say the cruise leaves to Japan at 4:30. 

 

We still might get the Visa, however it is nice to know that I don't *need* one. But its nice to have peace of mind - We will just have to pay about $700-$800 extra for the three of us though - which sucks. 

Edited by tybrkr17

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2 hours ago, CruisingAlong4Now said:

What would happen if your cruise is delayed and leaves late in the evening or the next morning? Does that invalidate the 24 hr transit? Is it really tied to the minute? 4:30 pm to 4:30 pm.  What is the plane lands at 4:28 pm? I know these are a lot of "what if" questions, but when you are not in control of these variables and you are "hostage" to the government of China, it's worth considering getting a visa.

Recently China blocked a few dozen tourist without a VISA and who expected to use the transit route.....and the explanation is that they have the right to deny entry, if you don't have a VISA.  I would highly recommend anyone to just get the VISA, and have a worry free travel. There are way too many what-ifs and sometimes it could be just because someone is having a bad day, and take it out on you.

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3 hours ago, Joseph2017China said:

Recently China blocked a few dozen tourist without a VISA and who expected to use the transit route.....and the explanation is that they have the right to deny entry, if you don't have a VISA.  I would highly recommend anyone to just get the VISA, and have a worry free travel. There are way too many what-ifs and sometimes it could be just because someone is having a bad day, and take it out on you.

 

Wow that seems harsh - do you have a link to that story? I would like to see if they were going to board a cruise or what the backstory was and what citizenship(s) they had. That is very unfortunate. 😞

 

 

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7 hours ago, Joseph2017China said:

Recently China blocked a few dozen tourist without a VISA and who expected to use the transit route.....and the explanation is that they have the right to deny entry, if you don't have a VISA.  I would highly recommend anyone to just get the VISA, and have a worry free travel. There are way too many what-ifs and sometimes it could be just because someone is having a bad day, and take it out on you.

I read that, too, on an actual review for the Spectrum.  The person was very angry and gave a bad review for the cruise, but my feeling is -- if you're dealing with China, you need to not only do your homework, but do everything possible on your end to make sure your trip goes as planned.  

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15 hours ago, tybrkr17 said:

 

Wow that seems harsh - do you have a link to that story? I would like to see if they were going to board a cruise or what the backstory was and what citizenship(s) they had. That is very unfortunate. 😞

 

 

We were on the Quantum repo cruise from China to Singapore in October which is where I think this story comes from.

Unlike the cruise you are are talking about & unlike Quantums previous cruises out of China the passengers were nearly all US,Australian,European,I believe there were only about 100 Asian travellers on board,this large influx of Foreigners seemed to bring about a strange reaction from the Chinese who seemed to randomly refuse people entry into China,families & couples were split,people were given 24 hours to get out of China or face arrest,we saw many people in tears as we waited for our turn to apply for the 144 Visa Waiver,not a nice experience,not knowing if it will happen to you.

In all I believe around 400 people were refused entry,we got through thankfully but after landing at around 0820hrs it was passed midday by the time we reached the luggage hall & were ready to leave the airport,our transfer taxi long gone.

The worrying thing about it for me was,it transpired,that a number of those refused did have Chinese Visas,so having a visa does not guarantee anybody any peace of mind.

There were exceptional circumstances at the time,it was Golden Week in China,not any old Golden Week but a 70th Anniversary Golden Week where they were celebrating 70 years since the countries inception so maybe that along with the exceptionally large foreign influx on the day caused the problem,in the end it was not fun!

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16 hours ago, tybrkr17 said:

 

Wow that seems harsh - do you have a link to that story? I would like to see if they were going to board a cruise or what the backstory was and what citizenship(s) they had. That is very unfortunate. 😞

 

 

The back story is that they took random people from immigration and said you are denied.  They split up families.  1 member denied and the rest allowed into the country.  The did this to hundreds of people without a VISA.  If your paperwork is not 100% in order, denied.  They can deny you for any reason they want.  That is why it is best to have a VISA.  It was on the news.  China is a wonderful place to visit but it is not always the easiest.  So my advice is always never take the easy route. 

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We have traveled to the Far East several times.

1) 3 week land tour (4 day river cruise included)

2) Celebrity Millennium cruise from Tokyo to Hong Kong (with 6 days of pre-cruise touring Japan)

3) Celebrity Century cruise from Singapore to Dubai (with 5 day pre-cruise in Singapore as well as three day tour of Malaysia)

4) Celebrity Solstice cruise over the top of Australia that spent two nights in Bali, Indonesia.

5) Back in the 80s, I did a land tour of Manila, Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand.

 

I would recommend doing China via a land tour, instead of trying to just visit some of its ports like Shanghai.  If you want to see Japan, and a cruise, then do several days of pre or post cruise and don't miss Kyoto.

Singapore and Malaysia are very nice and worth a trip, but not in the same class as Japan and China.

 

As far as visas are concerned, we had to acquire Chinese visas twice, once when we did the land tour and also for the one day stop in Shanghai on our Japan cruise.  The last visa we got was a 10 year visa.  (we are US citizens).

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Before we left the advice on forums led us to believe that Japan was the place where immigration was going to be the real problem,the 144 hour visa waiver procedure at the airport in China was a mere 10 minute formality,how wrong that all was!

Even on RCI's TV presentations they advised that immigration at our stop in Japan was likely to take 3 hours,as it turned out the gangway was open at 1030hrs & by 1050hrs we were ashore & our tour leader desperately trying to re-arrange our tour which had been arranged for 1230hrs to allow for expected delays at immigration!

Edited by snaefell

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7 hours ago, snaefell said:

We were on the Quantum repo cruise from China to Singapore in October which is where I think this story comes from.

Unlike the cruise you are are talking about & unlike Quantums previous cruises out of China the passengers were nearly all US,Australian,European,I believe there were only about 100 Asian travellers on board,this large influx of Foreigners seemed to bring about a strange reaction from the Chinese who seemed to randomly refuse people entry into China,families & couples were split,people were given 24 hours to get out of China or face arrest,we saw many people in tears as we waited for our turn to apply for the 144 Visa Waiver,not a nice experience,not knowing if it will happen to you.

In all I believe around 400 people were refused entry,we got through thankfully but after landing at around 0820hrs it was passed midday by the time we reached the luggage hall & were ready to leave the airport,our transfer taxi long gone.

The worrying thing about it for me was,it transpired,that a number of those refused did have Chinese Visas,so having a visa does not guarantee anybody any peace of mind.

There were exceptional circumstances at the time,it was Golden Week in China,not any old Golden Week but a 70th Anniversary Golden Week where they were celebrating 70 years since the countries inception so maybe that along with the exceptionally large foreign influx on the day caused the problem,in the end it was not fun!

 

Thank you for sharing your story! I will be flying into Shanghai from San Francisco to get on the Spectrum of the Seas on a 7 night cruise. I am hoping that since its a different airport, and that I am not coming in around a Chinese holiday, and that I am not coming in with a lot of foreigners going on the same cruise (since it will be primarily Chinese passengers)... I might have better luck than those people - even with a Visa lol. Traveling to these countries is always a risk - nothing is guaranteed, even if you are 150% prepared or you think you are.  I am just going to try to make the most of it and take it as it comes. 

 

I am sure that was the talk of the cruise when you were on it, especially with all those cabins empty!

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I am coming from the US in January inbound to Hong Kong (which is not considered mainland China for visa purposes)... overnight, cruising Spectrum to Okinawa, Japan and then to disembark in Shanghai. I am quite concerned about:

1) royal Caribbean denying me boarding without a Visa for Shanghai, China when I board in Hong Kong. Technically the only place I would possibly “need” a Visa is Shanghai since Hong Kong has an exemption with the United States.

2) Arrival to Shanghai for disembarkation and not being allowed entry to get to the airport for my return flight home from Shanghai direct back to the United States. 

my understanding (via fellow cruisers, and without help from the Chinese Consulate & Royal Caribbean) Is that my journey qualifies me for the 144 Visa waiver. 

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13 hours ago, tybrkr17 said:

 

 Traveling to these countries is always a risk - nothing is guaranteed, even if you are 150% prepared or you think you are.  I am just going to try to make the most of it and take it as it comes. 

 

I am sure that was the talk of the cruise when you were on it, especially with all those cabins empty!

Absolutely,that was one thing that kept going around in my mind before we went,this is a country like nothing we'd known before & things will be different,one of the reasons we went down the Visa Waiver route is our age,too close to 70 & having always wanted to go out East but spent years doing USA road trips instead this was to be our one & only visit out East so paying for a Visa for more than the one visit seemed crazy,sadly after the nightmare start we loved the people & the place,Golden Week traffic meant we only got 20 minutes on the Great Wall but the sun was setting & it was magical,& we would love to go back again but no way would we want to go through that again,this came as a surprise to all it would seem,the 'system' had worked well previously but the huge invasion of foreigners seemed to be too much!

As for cabins,right again,the cabins either side of us were empty for the first few days!

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4 hours ago, snaefell said:

Absolutely,that was one thing that kept going around in my mind before we went,this is a country like nothing we'd known before & things will be different,one of the reasons we went down the Visa Waiver route is our age,too close to 70 & having always wanted to go out East but spent years doing USA road trips instead this was to be our one & only visit out East so paying for a Visa for more than the one visit seemed crazy,sadly after the nightmare start we loved the people & the place,Golden Week traffic meant we only got 20 minutes on the Great Wall but the sun was setting & it was magical,& we would love to go back again but no way would we want to go through that again,this came as a surprise to all it would seem,the 'system' had worked well previously but the huge invasion of foreigners seemed to be too much!

As for cabins,right again,the cabins either side of us were empty for the first few days!

 

The people who were denied at the airport and then joined the ship later, did any of them they say they had tourist visas that you spoke to?

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19 minutes ago, tybrkr17 said:

 

The people who were denied at the airport and then joined the ship later, did any of them they say they had tourist visas that you spoke to?

Yes that was the disturbing thing about it IMO,if it could be said that the whole mess could have been avoided by having a visa the solution would be simple but the fact that some people that were refused entry had visas rather throws the whole thing up in the air.

We had no idea of Golden Week when we booked the cruise,it was something that just came up on the forums in the months leading up to it,along with warnings of parts of the Great Wall being closed the previous years as the crowd situation had reach dangerous proportions apparently we had an idea that we may encounter some problems but certainly not in the manner that we did.

I don't know how much you blame RCI for deciding to have the cruise set around that date,did they realise,can't help feeling that if they were doing their jobs properley they would have known that it was a bad time for travel to & around China,whatever I was rather surprised to see that Quantum is scheduled to do a similar cruise in 2020,exactly the same date,although I would guess that it would have been scheduled well before our experience.

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