Each and everyone of us wants to travel once in awhile to have some break from our corporate lives even in just a short period of time. And who wouldn’t want it if you’ll have it for free?
I’ve been working in the travel industry for almost three years already and my current work is a Corporate Sales Officer in a travel agency. Working in this industry has its own perks, if you’re lucky enough you might experience an all expenses paid trip or joining some familiarization tour somewhere around the globe. And I guess, I belong to the lucky ones.
My company sent me to a familiarization tour for Costa Cruises last June 22-27, 2016. Costa Cruises is an Italian cruise line and their head office is in Genoa Italy. It’s my first time to join a cruise and lucky me it’s free. In this cruise we had the chance to explore the southern most part of Japan, the Okinawa Perfecture. It is one of the tropical Islands of Japan and known for its broad white sand beaches, rich marine life as well as its World War II sites.
DAY 1: Hong Kong Embarkation
The port of call was in Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong. From Manila, I booked a direct flight going to Hong Kong and it’s just a 2 hours plane ride. I arrived in Hong Kong International Airport at 10:00am and since the embarkation will start in the afternoon I decided to go for a stroll first. After walking in the streets of Hong Kong I proceed to the Ocean Terminal before 02:00pm for the embarkation process.
First thing’s first, check in your luggage and they will be the ones who will deliver it to your cabin. After that proceed to the embarkation counter and just give all the documents that they need which is your passport and your costa ticket. And then you can now go on board, but upon entering the ship you need to surrender your passport before going to your cabin.
My cabin is located at deck 9 and it’s Balcony Premium so it’s pretty much a big room for a solo traveler like me. They have different cabin categories, you can just check their website for the complete list of their cabins. Upon entering my room, I noticed that my luggage and everything I need is already there including my costa card. Every transaction in the cruise is a cashless transaction and that’s where you’ll be using your costa card. It’s actually like a credit card and you’ll just settle your statement of account before your disembarkation. Plus this will also be your access to your room so you should bring it always.
On my first night I wasn’t able to join or watch the activities on board since I’m so tired and all I want to do is to sleep. But I attended the emergency drill before the ship’s departure since it’s a must for every passenger to attend so you would know what to do in case of emergency.
DAY 2: Sea Day
For my second day on board, I attended the costa product update for the travel agents and that’s where I met other Filipino travel agents who was also sent for the familiarization tour. And since we’re the lucky one’s we were able to meet the Head Chef and the Sous Chef and they did some cooking demo of an italian pasta. While we’re having the cooking demo other activities are happening on board. There’s also a Captain’s Gala Cocktail where the passengers could take pictures with the captain if they want to.
After that we had our gala dinner at Fantasia Restaurant at deck 5. I urge you to hit the gym during or after your cruise because you’ll be eating a lot for sure. You can order as many as you can , but please be sure you’ll eat everything you will order. Their menu is more on italian dishes which I like, and since I am a pasta lover pasta is always present on my table. Also, the service is pretty good and the crew are very nice and welcoming.
Day 3: Island of Ishigaki
Our third day is the day we started exploring Okinawa and the first stop is the Island of Ishigaki. You’ll have two options, it’s either you join a group tour which you can book at the shore excursion desk in the ship or you explore the place on your own. As for me, I decided to join the group tour.
We first visited Tamatorisaki Observation deck. This is an observation platform offering nice views of cape Tamatori Ibaruma Bay, Ishigaki’s northern peninsula. From here you can see the emerald blue ocean which is rich when it comes to marine life. Then we had a photo stop at Kabira Bay which is considered as Ishigaki Island’s most scenic view. It is one of the two cultivation sites of black pearl in Japan. After that, we had our lunch in a Japanese restaurant and the drive to Yaima Mura Village. It features a number of 80-100 years old traditional houses of the Yaeyama area that have been removed from their original sites and carefully rebuilt for educational purposes. Live folk music performances and a mini zoo with squirrel monkeys are additional attraction in the place. For our last stop we went shopping at a supermarket in Ishigaki and I bought a lot of Japanese goodies, especially chocolates.
The only down side of cruising is you have a limited time exploring the place since you need to go back to the ship before it sails again. So as much as I want to stay and explore Ishigaki on my own since I know it has something a lot to offer more than what I already explored, I can’t stay.
After we got back in the ship we took a rest for awhile and then proceed to Fantasia Restaurant for dinner. After that we watched the Michael Jackson show on board, the last time they held a Michael Jackson show in the Philippines the cost of the ticket is thousands of peso. But here, you can watch it for free.
Day 4: Shopping in Naha
Our fourth day is for Naha, it is the largest city and capital of Okinawa. This time I didn’t join any group tour and I decided to explore Naha with my new found friends. Since 75% of the crew in the ship is Filipino it’s easy for me to ask someone to join us since we’re not familiar with the place. Kuya Kenneth, one of the photographers in the ship brought us to Kokusaidori the busiest street in Naha. It is a 2km street line with different shops, restaurants, banks etc. It is a perfect place for shopping since you can find local shops and department stores anywhere.
Naha is also known for its historical sites and castle, one of them is the Shuri Castle which is one of the major remains of Ryukyu Kingdom. We weren’t able to visit the castle since we’re running out of time and we need to go back to the ship. But if you’re going to visit Naha, put it on the list because it’s a must see attraction.
After that we head back to the ship to clean up ourselves and have some rest before proceeding to Fantasia Restaurant for dinner. After dinner we attended the Carnival of Venice Party, it’s a colorful masquerade party and all you have to do is dance. We already felt tired and hungry by 11:30 pm so we decided to go to pizzeria located in deck 12, here you can joy unlimited pizza so we had pizza for our midnight snack.
Day 5: Sea Day
Since day 5 is sea day, you can just roam around the ship or join other activities on board. Just a little tip, don’t buy stuffs in the duty free during your first few days on board because on our fifth day the duty free had some “Crazy Sale” and true to its title, it’s really crazy. People were hoarding bags, jewelries, make up etc. since the price is really affordable.
And since it’s the second to the last day I already have to start packing my stuffs because we need to put our luggage in front of our cabin’s door starting 10pm up to 12 midnight since the crew will pick it up to prepare for the disembarkation on the following day.
After packing my stuffs, I went to Fantasia restaurant for the Italian Dinner. This dinner is very entertaining since they have a program. There will be dancing waiters and they will urge you to dance with them.
Day 6: Hong Kong Disembarkation
Every trip has its final destination and on our last day we have to leave our cabin at 10 in the morning and there will be an area where you can deposit your hand carry luggage so you can still enjoy your last few hours in the ship. After that we proceed to the theater to wait for the disembarkation process. We arrived in the port of Hong Kong at around 12noon and our cruise ends there.
Admit it or not, especially in the Philippines, we all have this kind of thinking that cruising is only for the rich kids or for those people who’s already stable in life and have disposable income. But believe me, cruising is for everyone and every single penny you’ll pay for that cruise will be all worth it. You just have to work hard for that money again.
Thank you Costa Victoria for the one of a kind experience!