JAPAN

Hokkaido Island Cruise

13 days/12 nights
ex Niigata

Prices from
$10,495 per person twin share*

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New in 2022, this exciting 13 day expedition explores the Japanese island of Hokkaido by luxury small ship.

Prices for this one-off departure in 2022 start from $10,495* USD per person twin share

Japan’s northern-most and least developed island, Hokkaido is full of beautiful and rugged landscapes including towering mountains, volcanic plateaus, impressive forests and mesmerising hot springs. One of the island’s major sights is Kushiro, the largest wetland in Japan and home of the legendary Red-crowned Crane. The bird is one of the world’s largest and rarest cranes (just 2,000 or so exist) and an iconic symbol of Japan, known as the ‘bird of happiness’.

Other spots that the expedition plans to visit include the outlying Rebun and Rishiri islands and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shiretoko National Park, know as the ‘end of the Earth’ in the native Ainu dialect. The park is considered one of Japan’s most spectacular national parks, filled with beautiful rivers, pristine forests, mountains and sensational waterfalls. It is also home to Ussuri brown bears, Yezo sika deer and Ezo red fox as well as birdlife – including the world’s largest eagle – the Steller’s sea eagle and other notable species such as the Blakiston’s fish owl and White-tailed eagle.

*Price based on Superior Deck 4 cabin twin share. Strictly subject to availability. Single travellers on request. Conditions apply.

Tour details

Featured Itinerary

Day 1

Niigata

Arrive at the port town of Niigata and transfer to your hotel where you will spend the first night of the expedition. The town is famous for snow, rice, sake and hot springs. This evening meet your fellow travellers and the expedition team over dinner. D

Day 2

Niigata

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel. You will also have the chance to explore the town. In the afternoon it is time to board the Heritage Adventurer. You will have a little time to settle into your cabin before a briefing with the expedition team. Join the team in the Observation Lounge or on the Observation Deck as the ship sets sail for Akita. B L D

Day 3

Akita

Today enjoy a full day in Akita. A picture-perfect location, nestled between mountains and the sea, Akita is renowned for its scenic beauty, festival’s, preserved samurai village and museums boasting world-class art – making it perfect for connecting with Japan’s history and culture. This morning venture inland to the castle town of Kakunodate. Sadly the castle no longer remains, but this former samurai city still boasts its historic Uchimachi samurai quarter that still has several original, centuries old samurai houses. 

Afterward, return to Akita where you will have free time to explore this fascinating cultural centre. Popular places to visit include the castle ruins at Senshu Park and Akita Museum of Art, designed by renowned Japanese architect Ando Tadao, featuring works by legendary artist Leonard Foujita. B L D

Day 4

Aomori

Disembark this morning in Aomori and travel inland to explore the spectacular Towada Hachimantai National Park – one of Japan’s most famous volcanic areas.

The journey will see you pass through the Kayano Plateau and Hakkoda Mountains to the beautiful Oirase Valley and magnificent ancient caldera Lake Towada. There are numerous pathways to explore here, such as the bird-filled primeval forest flanking the trails at Tsuta no Nana Numa (the seven ponds of Tsuta).

Today’s itinerary also plans to explore Oirase Gorge, running 14 kilometres from Lake Towada to Yakeyama, considered one of Japan’s most picturesque rivers boasting crystal clear water, rapids, waterfalls and verdant wilderness-clad banks. Return to Aomori and enjoy some free time in the city before returning to the vessel. B L D

Day 5

Hakodate

Today the Heritage Adventurer sails into the port of Hakodate, located at the southern tip of Hokkaido. This morning’s activities include venturing to Onuma Park where you can explore its picturesque, island-dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake. Many of the islands are connected by small bridges. 

On your return to Hakodate in the afternoon, you have the option to enjoy a city tour visiting the enchanting Fort Goryokaku. This massive star-shaped citadel was built in the last years of the Edo Period. It has now been repurposed into a quirky public park boasting more than 1,000 cherry trees along its moats. B L D

Day 6

Muroran

Today’s adventures include a visit to Shikotsu-Toya National Park, named after its famous twin caldera lakes. Walking options abound and the park’s spectacular scenery includes lakes, hot springs and volcanic wonderlands that are all easily accessible on foot. Other activities that are possible (additional cost) include riding the cable car to the top of Mount Usu or visiting the geothermal spectacle of steaming vents and sulphurous streams at Jigokudani aka ‘Hell Valley’. 

This afternoon enjoy free time to explore Muroran at your leisure. Popular options to consider include a visit to the scenic cape and lighthouse or take in the city from above after a walk up Mount Sokuryo. B L D

Day 7

Kushiro

The major fishing port city of Kushiro is most famous for Kushiro Shitsugen, Japan’s largest marshland and national park. The park is home to Japan’s sacred Red-crowned Cranes (tancho). Once thought to be extinct, miraculously a flock of 20 birds were discovered here in 1926. Since then their numbers have grown to almost 2,000 individuals. Sadly, the cranes status remains endangered due to the shrinking of its wetland habitat. Today’s aim is to explore the marshland’s walking trails in the hope of seeing the cranes in their natural habitat, before visiting the Kushiro Crane Reserve to learn about the breeding programme and rehabilitation for sick and injured birds.

In the afternoon explore the architecturally striking Kushiro City Museum. Equally fascinating inside, discover Kushiro’s natural history and beauty of the indigenous Ainu culture. B L D

Day 8

Abashiri

This morning the vessel travels along the coastline. Make for the Observation Deck or Observation Lounge to keep an eye out for wildlife or birdlife as you sail through the Nemuro Channel and around the Shiretoko Peninsula to Abashiri.

This afternoon the plan is to visit Lake Kussharo, a stunning tree-lined caldera lake and the largest in Akan Mashu National Park as well as Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park. The park has 10 hectares of flowering fields which turn a vivid pink from May to early June during the park’s annual Shibazakura Festival. This evening the vessel is moored in Abashiri. B L D

Day 9

Shiretoko National Park

Today you will enjoy a full day exploring Shiretoko National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the diversity of its ecosystems. Shiretoko is one of the country’s most remote and pristine parks filled with beautiful rivers, pristine forests, mountains and sensational waterfalls. The park is home to 36 land and 22 marine mammal species including Ussuri brown bears, Yezo sika deer and Ezo red fox. Bird lovers will also love the park, with 285 bird species recorded here, including the world’s largest eagle – the Steller’s sea eagle and other notable species such as the Blakiston’s fish owl and White-tailed eagle. 

The Shiretoko Peninsula’s volcanic landscapes are impressive and the hope is to traverse the Shiretoko Pass. The pass has stunning views of Mount Rausu, and the aim is to return via the spectacular 20-kilometre coastal stretch of wildflowers known as Koshimizu Gensei-kaen. B L D

Day 10

Korsakov, Russia

This morning the vessel arrives into the Port of Korsakov, Russia, located on Sakhalin Island. After clearing customs the plan is to explore the city, the island’s first Russian military post. The next stop is a visit to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the island’s capital which was once briefly claimed by Japan and returned to Russia at the conclusion of World War II. 

The Japanese did leave their mark on the city, in the form of architecturally-influenced buildings. Options during your visit include exploring the Russian Orthodox Church, Sakhalin Regional Museum which is housed in a former Japanese mansion, and a visit to the local market. B L D

Day 11

Rebun Island

After clearing customs formalities in Wakkanai at the very tip of the Shiretoko Peninsula, the vessel heads for the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park on Rebun Island. Also known as Japan’s ‘island of flowers’, today you will get to explore Rebun Island, a scenic isle off the northwest tip of Hokkaido. The small island is renowned for its rich flora, including many endemic alpine flowers, that carpet the island from late April to mid September. Your Expedition Leader plans to take advantage of several opportunities to explore the wonderful flowers along the coastline.  If the weather is in your favour, there are excellent views over the crystal clear waters of Rishiri Volcano and Cape Gorota. B L D

Day 12

Rishiri & Teuri-Jima

Today you will explore neighbouring Rishiri Island where the skyline is dominated by the dormant volcano of Mount Rishiri – standing at an impressive 1,721 metres. Whilst on the island, activities may include walking around manmade Himenuma Pond listening to the birdlife or a visit to Kutsugata Cape Park where hopefully you will see Japan’s famed Black Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit on a forest walk. There will also be some free time for guests to venture into the town or visit the hot springs. 

This afternoon the vessel continues south, stopping at the tiny island of Teuri-Jima, part of the Shokanbetsu-Teuri-Yagishiri National Park. The park is an important sanctuary for nesting seabirds including the Common Murre and Black-tailed gull. The ship will sail close to the islands cliffs and, if there is time, will launch the Zodiacs for a closer look. B L D

Day 13

Otaru

This morning the vessel arrives in Otaru, a port city known for glassworks, music boxes, sake distilleries and the picturesque Otaru Canal, flanked by shops and cafes. After breakfast onboard say goodbye to the Expedition Team and crew and disembark. Transfer by coach to a central hotel or to the airport. 

Please note: To allow time for disembarkation procedures and travel from Otaru, it is not recommend to book flights departing before 1300 hours. 


Please note: During the voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This may be due to poor weather conditions or opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you up to date at all times.

B= Breakfast  |  L = Lunch  |  D = Dinner

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Your Vessel

Heritage Adventurer

Built in 1991 for Polar expedition travel, the Heritage Adventurer (formerly the MS Hanseatic) holds the highest passenger-ship ice-class rating (1A Super). Originally designed to accommodate 184 guests, this world-class polar pioneer now welcomes just 140 passengers, creating a more spacious, comfortable and personalised onboard experience. Facilities include superb indoor and outdoor viewing locations including the Observation Lounge (with 270-degree views), a library, pool, gym, hot tub and steam room. Guests can relax in their comfortable cabins that span 4 decks or meet up with fellow guests in the café or bar. Accompanying each voyage is a world-renowned team of naturalists, botanists, historians and experts as well as a fleet of 14 Zodiacs. The vessel also has an Open Bridge Policy.

  • Classification: Lloyds 1AS, GL E4
  • Year built: 1991
  • Accommodation: 140 guests
  • Shipyard: Rauma, Finland
  • Engines: 3,940 horsepower (x2)
  • Maximum speed: 15 knots
  • Cruising speed: 12 knots
  • Range: 8,600 nautical miles
  • Gross Tonnage: 8,378gt
  • Length: 124 metres
  • Zodiacs: 14

Heritage Adventurer Deck Plan

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