Wow Kanazawa

Geishas, soft-serve ice cream covered in gold foil, beautiful parks, temples, and more. Kanazawa seems to have it all and then some. From the warm welcome on the pier to a farewell performance of local dancers waving goodbye to the ship the city of Kanazawa welcomes its visitors with sunshine and flair. Kanazawa is a castle town dating from the 16th century. The feudal lords who ruled here invested in culture through its many parks and temples. It has always been known as a rich town and that is probably what sparked the indulgence of eating ice cream covered in…

Cherry Blossom Monkey

It was the end of an era. Literally. On Tuesday Emperor Akihito abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne in favor of his son, 59-year old son, Naruhito. The new era, dedicated to peace and harmony, is cause for quite a celebration across Japan and pretty much the entire country is on a 10-day vacation. So getting into the spirit, Kongo joined tens of thousands on Tuesday to view the cherry blossoms at Hirosaki Castle located in the northern part of Honshu Island. The original castle and grounds date back to the early 1600s. It is one of a dozen remaining castles from…

Hey There, Hokkaido

After a day and night sail from Tokyo, Kongo arrived at Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, and docked at the port of Hakodate.  On the way to the dock the ship was welcomed by a boat spraying different colored streams of water.  Hokkaido is all about apples. In fact, Hokkaido in Japanese means apples. (Actually, that’s a monkey fib — Hokkaido means “northern sea circuit”) Regardless of the meaning of the name, Hokkaido has lots and lots of apples, which were introduced to the island in the 1800s. Mrs. Kongo came back with a couple of apples. The monkey agenda for…

More Moorea Please!

After a two-day sail from the Cook Islands, the Paul Gauguin arrived in Opunohu Bay at the ruggedly beautiful island of Moorea in French Polynesia.  The iconic peak, Bali Hai, dominates the mountainous landscape of the island’s interior and inviting, crystal clear waters in the lagoon provide splendid swimming and snorkeling opportunities. Actually no Polynesian ever named this mountain Bali Hai.  James Mitchener made it up when he wrote Tales of the South Pacific after he was stationed in the New Hebrides Islands during World War II.  The song, Bali Hai, from the Rogers and Hammerstein 1949 musical South Pacific was a…

Cook Islands

About 300 miles south of Bora Bora lies Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands.  The Paul Gauguin spent a day and a night at sea getting here.  Kongo loved it. A day at sea with rocking and rolling and endless horizons brought back many fond memories of the monkey’s seagoing days in the Navy.  This time he didn’t have to worry about contact reports, engineering status, how much fresh water was available, or fuel states.  He just had to worry about whether or not to have a Pina Colada or a vodka martini.  There were storm clouds on the…

Life at Flip Flop Speed

‘La ora na from Papeete, French Polynesia.  The monkey is now moving at the speed of a flip flop.  In other words; slowly.  Kongo landed in Tahiti late last night and is rapidly getting used to doing nothing at all but deciding whether or not to sleep or see local sights.  Maybe something to eat.  Something to drink.  He opted for all of it. His two day stay in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, is a short prelude to boarding the Paul Gaugin cruise ship for an 11-day cruise around the Cook and Society Islands. Kongo is at the Intercontinental…

European River Cruise Basics

If you’re of a certain age and watch TV you have seen plenty of commercials about river cruising.  Long boats ply navigable rivers all over Europe.  Some companies are planning cruise itineraries on U.S. rivers too.  Like all travel options there are pros and cons.  This post examines Kongo’s take on river cruising in Europe.