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…

Monkey on a Wine Dark Sea

After two days in Tokyo, Kongo is back at sea. Embarkation on the Amazara Quest was easy and painless. Kongo ate lunch while the stateroom with a veranda on deck seven was being readied and then sipped wine for a few hours while Mrs. Kongo scurried about making spa appointments and whatnot. The ship was underway from its berth in Yokohama at 6:30, just at sunset. First days at sea are always interesting. Everyone is still happy and the adventures ahead loom large in our minds. You tend to overlook the little things, like the little head (bathroom) in your stateroom…

Florida Spring Break

So, the monkey took off to Florida for Spring Break because, why not? Everyone else goes to Florida at this time of year. Actually it really was Spring Break for #3 Granddaughter and her academic parents so Mr. and Mrs. Kongo jetted across the country to Tampa to spend a week in the Florida sun. Or not. For the first few days the monkeys actually froze their little tutus off. We huddled around a fire, bundled up in sweaters, and wondered why the weather was colder here than home in L.A.  Then it warmed up for the full range of…

Cruise Review: Paul Gauguin

Kongo went on an 11-night Paul Gauguin all-inclusive cruise to the Cook & Society Islands from October 7-18.  This is a review of that cruise.  If you’re considering a cruise in French Polynesia I hope you read on.   Itinerary Kongo did a two-day add on at the beginning of the trip and flew out to Papeete early.  Part of the tour package includes airfare from LAX to Tahiti aboard Air Tahiti Nui, a direct flight that takes about 8 hours.  The first two nights were at the Intercontinental Resort in Papeete and we boarded the ship on the third…

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…