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NCL Spirit Japan / Port arrival/depature

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Question for those that have taken NCL to Japan.  We just cancelled our RCL cruise to Japan for a much better and now more affordable NCL Japan cruise (13 nights to all the places my kiddo really wants to see).  A big box travel agent told my friend who is also going with one of her friends) that NCL doesn't let you off the ship until 2 hours after arrival and then you have to be back on the ship 2 hours before departure from ports.  I've never heard that before, but granted, I've *only* cruised Bermuda, Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, and the Med--the more "mainstream" places to go.  They didn't say you always lose those four hours, but then they suggested a land tour instead (which I won't do--my kid, as much as I love her, even though she is turning 16 during the cruise will definitely not survive a land tour, too much doing everyday, she would hate it).  They also said we'd be spending about 2k in excursions per person, which is insane.  Is this all true, or is this a big box travel agency's ploy to get a better commission on a land tour?  (I would ask my TA... but she has had a death in the family, and I refuse to bother her right now).

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I took a repositioning cruise on NCL SUN last October. It stopped in four Japanese ports and we had full days out an about. I think I was usually off the ship around 830 AM and all aboard time was 30 mins before departure (usually 5 or 6 PM). I think the big box agent is confusing and applying the embarkation/debarkation rules, with rules for port stops. 

 

NCL does have some nice excursions, and they are pricey. Maybe pick two or three, and wander around on your own on some of the other days. Japanese people are very friendly and helpful, even if there is a language barrier. NCL gave us a print out with common Japanese phrases like 'Hello', 'Where is the toilet?' "Please help me get back to my ship' etc. In Hakodate the local school kids were out at the port practicing their English. They had maps and directed people to public buses that went to the main sites. There were other school kids at the main tourist sites helping people to take the buses back, or on to another site. 

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On debarkation day in Yokohama, I think the ship technically arrived around 5AM. It took them around two hours to do what they needed to do, and then passengers could begin to debark around 7AM (which was the time listed in our original itinerary. 

 

I'm not sure of the price, but NCL offered day tours of Tokyo that either dropped you off at two locations in the city, or at either of the two airports (HND and NRT). They also offered direct transfers to downtown or the airports, without the tour. However, the Yokohama port agency had a free shuttle bus from the terminal to the Yokohama train station. There were people there helping tourists buy tickets to downtown or the airports and directing us to the right platform, so it was really easy (and a lot cheaper) to do it myself.

 

Whatever you do, you will have a great time. Enjoy planning your trip!

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