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Cruise ship enters central Japan port for 1st time in 11 months after COVID-19 hiatus

The luxury cruise ship Asuka II is seen at Shimizu Port in Shizuoka's Shimizu Ward, on Nov. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Rinnosuke Fukano)

SHIZUOKA -- One of Japan's largest cruise ships stopped at Shimizu Port in this central Japan city on Nov. 4 for the first time since December 2019, after the novel coronavirus pandemic brought cruise calls to a halt.

    The Asuka II, which weighs in at 50,444 metric tons and can carry up to 874 passengers, departed from Yokohama Port, located south of Tokyo, on Nov. 2 with 329 passengers on board, and arrived at Shimizu Port in the city of Shizuoka's Shimizu Ward at around 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 4.

    Measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases were thoroughly implemented. Passengers who disembarked from the vessel enjoyed sightseeing in tourism spots such as the "Miho no Matsubara" pine grove and the Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Arts. The area is known for its views of Mount Fuji.

    After the Asuka II safely arrived at the port, Kimitaka Murayama, an official of NYK Cruises Co., commented, "I was nervous as it had been a while (since such a cruise went ahead), but everything is going well including measures against infectious diseases."

    Norifumi Ikegaya, head of the Shimizu Port Administration Bureau of the Shizuoka Prefectural Government, said with deep emotion, "I'm glad it did arrive." He added, "I want to accumulate a track record of success on short cruises," in anticipation of future expansion of cruise ship operations.

    Hirotada Takagi, 77, a regular passenger from Tokyo's Meguro Ward, enjoyed the cruise with his wife. According to Takagi, the inside of the ship was thoroughly disinfected and people's temperatures were regularly measured. In addition to meals and receptions, recreational activities such as quoits and putter golf tournaments were held as they were on previous cruises.

    The voyage differed from previous trips, with all passengers and crew wearing masks and the crew frequently disinfecting handrails, but Takagi said, "I wasn't worried about infectious diseases."

    (Japanese original by Rinnosuke Fukano, Shizuoka Bureau)

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