Cruises in East Asia offer an exotic mix of cultures, customs, and history in a region where national identities overlap yet are also very distinct. Most itineraries fall into two main categories: three- to seven-night Yangtze River cruises or one- to three-weeklong cruises to some combination of ports in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. These typically depart from Hong Kong or Singapore, and sometimes from Kobe or Yokohama, Japan.
What We Love
The Food: The fresh fish and noodles in Japan will amaze you. In Korea, it’s all about spicy kimchee, porridges, and stir-fry. The dishes in China are nothing like you order for delivery back home — and that's a good thing.
Formal Gardens: You’ll see these works of art in Japan, Korea, and China especially. Some are centuries old with statues, walking trails, ponds, bridges, and flowering trees.
Best Known For
The Three Gorges: This series of dramatic limestone walls tower over China’s Yangtze River and are the main attraction for popular river cruises.
Temples: There are many stunning ones, from Japan’s ancient Shinto shrines to Korea’s temples, many dating back more than a thousand years and situated in beautiful natural surroundings.
Find a Cruise
Jeju Island, South Korea: This gorgeous volcanic island is part lush green forests, part cool volcanic craters and lava tubes.
Tianjin/Beijing, China: Tianjin is the access port for Beijing, where you can explore the enormous old palace complex with its 800 buildings, iconic Tiananmen Square, and, further afield, the Great Wall of China, sections of which go back thousands of years.
Nagasaki, Japan: There’s a lot to see close to the cruise ship docks, from Japanese temples and Catholic churches to the Atomic Bomb Museum, where you'll learn more about the bombs that finally ended World War II.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Pollution Could Be Problematic: In many parts of China and Hong Kong, pollution means days can be very hazy and views obscured. This is particularly hard on travelers with asthma.
Anticipate Long Drives: Some of the top sights in China (like the Great Wall) and Japan (namely Kyoto) require long bus rides that don’t leave much time for touring.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.