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See New Wonders and Avoid Jet Lag on a Transoceanic Cruise



Always wanted to visit a distant country but afraid the ensuing jet lag will rob you of precious vacation time? If so, a transoceanic cruise might be the answer. While experiencing almost a week at sea, the solution to travel fatigue is setting clocks back (or forward) an hour each night, thereby gradually going through the time changes. The result is a rested traveler ready to explore when the ship pulls into port.

Some cruise lines offer repositioning itineraries, such as Holland America’s recent Westerdam route from Vancouver to Japan, by way of Juneau, Alaska. The 13-day schedule included seven days at sea, heading west, crossing the International Date Line, thereby losing a day. In an instant, seven days at sea become six, on the calendar. Each night, during passage, the clocks are set back one hour, thereby creating a gradual change for arrival.

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Some may think they’d go nuts with that many days at sea, but the Westerdam provided ample entertainment and activities along the way to stay busy and engaged. Chilling on the veranda, of course, offers fresh sea air and a calming view. But if too much relaxation doesn’t float your boat, each day is full of varied and diverse offerings, from cooking workshops, including regional food and wine tastings through EXC Port to Table, to anthropological lectures and lessons on Japanese culture.

During the day there are always self-improvement opportunities, whether they be improving your computer skills, learning Tai Chi or improving your posture. With a trans-Pacific itinerary visiting Japan, there are chances to enjoy lectures about the country, gaining knowledge about cultural quirks and current norms.

Japan is a country full of customs that are nice to know before arriving. For instance, do not eat or drink while walking in public, electronic toilet use requires an education and blowing one’s nose in public is looked down upon. But feel free to slurp your noodle bowl as loudly as you wish. Lessons in chopsticks use, the art of the tea ceremony and navigating Japanese subways are also helpful for personal excursions.

Evening entertainment centers around large scale shows in the Mainstage, or your choice of several other smaller venues along the Music Walk. One might think the Lincoln Center Stage, with its string quartets and piano solos, are just for classical music aficionados. However, during a recent performance of all-time favorite movie tracks, the shower scene from Psycho was presented, complete with screeching violins and blood-curdling screams.

Lincoln Center Stage, MS Oosterdam
PHOTO: Holland America Line’s Lincoln Center Stage. (Photo by Susan Young)

The B.B. King’s Blues Club offers an eight-piece band, including phenomenal vocalists, that will have you on the dance floor. If you are looking for a more interactive experience, take a seat at one of the dueling pianos at Billboard Onboard and enjoy standards that made the charts.

Of course, if you just want some quiet time alone, there are many spaces on the ship to get away and meditate, read or enjoy a quiet drink. The Explorations Café, located on the tenth level, at the top of the ship, offers comfortable chairs along floor-to-ceiling windows, with coffee and Danish service at sunrise or cocktails at dusk.

Fushimilnari Taisha Shinto Shrine
PHOTO: Fushimilnari Taisha Shinto Shrine. (Photo by Susan Young)

Whale spotting is common at this outlook, as well as providing the best view when traversing through the Kanmon Straits of Japan. This spot also houses a collection of books relating to the region, as well as the Explorations Central discovery center with travel resources and opportunities to speak with experts and local insiders. The Excursions Desk, Future Cruise Office and Travel Concierge are also located on this level.

Another spot for quiet reflection is the Rijksmuseum at Sea, located midship on the first level. The area is adorned with Dutch art reproductions from the original Dutch Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Holland America Lines describes it as “a creative salon where guests can be inspired by the museum’s collection to create their own works of art—through drawing, photography or just doodling.”

Rijksmuseum at Sea
PHOTO: Rijksmuseum at Sea. (Photo by Susan Young)

You’ll never go hungry on the Westerdam with Lido Market buffet choices, as well as the grand, two-level Main Dining Room. The menu offers a variety of choices along with daily Port to Table culinary options from the region. The Dive-In is super for a burger or dog with all the fixings plus the best fries ever, located next to the pool. The Pinnacle and Canaletto Restaurants, for an additional charge, offer the opportunity for more privacy and signature recipes. And, if you are a fan of the Tamarind restaurant, on the larger ships, the Westerdam offers an occasional pop-up of the popular eatery featuring Southeast Asian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine in the Pinnacle.

Whether you are a first-time cruiser or an experienced Mariner, choosing to cruise across the sea to a far-away destination, like Japan, is the relaxing alternative to long flights. Avoid the fatigue and brain fog of changing time zones by going slow and getting an education while you’re at it.

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