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Russian Far East: Maiden Expedition
The maiden voyage of Crystal Expedition’s Crystal Endeavor, taking place from August 10 to 27, 2020, introduces travelers to a part of the world few people ever see—the Russian Far East. The ship will travel from Japan and along the string of Kuril Islands to the Kamchatka Peninsula. In this remote part of Russia, the waters teem with otters, seals, and whales, while bears roam the coastline. On the way to and from Russia, stops at ports in Japan offer an opportunity to experience life on the country’s northernmost major island, Hokkaido. 

As part of this celebratory maiden voyage, guests will enjoy a pre-cruise overnight in one of the world’s most fascinating metropolises, Tokyo, where they can participate in the christening of Crystal Endeavor.
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    Day 1
    While your journey to northern Japan and the Pacific coast of Russia will take you to some of the world’s most remote ports, you’ll actually begin your trip in one of the world’s biggest cities, Tokyo. Home to 13.5 million people in the city proper—and some 37 million in the greater metropolitan area—Tokyo is an intoxicating mix of old and new. Here the neon lights of Shibuya and manicured centuries-old gardens and temples can be found just blocks from each other.

    Japan’s capital offers an almost overwhelming array of sites to see and things to do—shopping in the luxury boutiques of Ginza, exploring neighborhoods of traditional homes in paper and wood, or dining at a restaurant floating above the glittering cityscape. Fortunately, you have some extra time to experience all that Tokyo offers—as part of the celebration of the launch of Crystal Endeavor, every guest will enjoy a night at one of the city’s five-star hotels and the chance to be part of the christening of Crystal’s newest ship.
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    Day 2
    At Sea
    As one of only 200 guests on the maiden voyage of Crystal Endeavor, you have an opportunity today to explore one of the most anticipated new cruise ships in the world. The largest and most spacious expedition yacht ever constructed brings contemporary elegance to the high seas. You may want to book a treatment at the serene Crystal Life Spa & Salon, work out at the state-of-the-art fitness center, or learn about the art, history and wildlife of the destinations you’ll visit with the engaging enrichment programs. Or you can simply lounge poolside or in the solarium while the attentive crew caters to your every whim. As evening arrives, order a cocktail in one of the luxurious lounges, indulge in the renowned culinary creations of Nobu Matsuhisa, or enjoy special wine-makers dinners.
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    Day 3
    You’ll arrive this morning in Hakodate, on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. This port has long history of welcoming merchants and travelers—Motomachi, a 19th-century neighborhood where European merchants settled, is among the city’s most popular sights. It sits at the base of Mount Hakodate, which rewards those who take the gondola to its summit with expansive views of the city and the sea. Just twelve miles outside of the city, Lake Onuma Park offers a bucolic escape with its island-dotted lakes in the shadow of the volcano Mount Komagatake.
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    Day 4
    Rishiri Island
    Off the northern tip of Hokkaido, Rishiri, an island with a dormant volcano at its center, rises from the sea. Only 5,000 or so people call the island home, most concentrated in two towns on its coast. The interior is crossed by walking trails and it alpine flora still in bloom in August, when Crystal Endeavor calls. The island’s forests and wetlands are known for their biodiversity, and beauty, while lost-in-time fishing villages ring the island’s coastline.
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    Day 5
    This morning you’ll arrive at your first stop in Russia, the city of Korsakov at the southern tip of Sakhalin Island. Part of Japan from 1905 to 1945, a few buildings from the period survive here and in the nearby capital of the island, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Among those in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is the Sakhalin Regional Museum, with its exterior modeled on a Japanese castle. Other sights to visit on your day in Sakhalin include the wooden Church of St. Nicholas, with its gold onion domes, and the monumental Lenin Square.
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    Day 6
    Tyuleniy Island
    After the cultural highlights of Korsakov, the next stop on Crystal Endeavor’s itinerary will appeal to naturalists on board. The island is a breeding ground for northern fur seals and Steller sea lions—tyuleniy is the Russian word for seal. During the summer, when Crystal Endeavor will call at the island, its interior is covered with sea mammals barking and bellowing. Birders will want to bring their binoculars with them to spot some of the species common here, including auklets, kittiwakes, murres and puffins.
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    Day 7
    Yankicha and Srednego Islands
    Russia’s Kiril Islands sit along the Ring of Fire, the area of volcanic activity that encircles the Pacific Ocean. Here the volcanic activity has resulted in a stunningly beautiful seascape. Yankicha Island sits at the tip of an extinct volcano, its caldera now flooded into a lagoon which teems with wildlife—from scores of birds to occasional foxes. Srednego, to the north of Yankicha, is a breeding ground for northern fur seals.
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    Day 8
    Paramushir and Atlasov Islands
    Continuing north along the chain of the volcanic Kuril Islands, Paramushir includes 23 volcanos on one island—five of them active. The natural beauty of the islands is perhaps highlighted by the ruins of shipping outposts. Mt. Alaid on Atlasov Island is the highest volcano in the Kuril Islands. With its remarkable profile visible from far out to sea, the volcano is mentioned in many local folktales. In one, Mt. Alaid is said to have once been a peak on the Kamchatka Peninsula but the other mountains so envied its beauty that she was exiled to the sea.
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    Day 9
    Russkaya/Tikhirka Bay and Cape Kekurnyy
    The dramatic rocky coastline of the Kamchatka Peninsula is broken up by a number of sheltered bays and inlets. One of the most stunning is Russkaya Bay, where Steller sea lions and, occasionally, orcas congregate. At Tikhirka Bay and Cape Kekurnyy, Zodiac expeditions will bring you for up-close encounters with seals, sea lions, otters, and other marine mammals. Eagles and gulls will likely circle overhead as you explore the bay and cape.
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    Day 10
    One of the pluses of exploring the Russian Far East on Crystal Endeavor is that the polar-class ship is small enough to reach areas that are inaccessible to larger ships. Case in point: Today’s journey up the Zhupanova River. You’ll travel through a scenic landscape of volcanoes, meadows, and forests on a waterway that is renowned for its abundance of salmon, rainbow trout, and char. Brown bears are often spotted along the shore, and seals may be seen lounging on sandbars. For bird-watchers, seeing the enormous Steller’s sea eagle may be the highlight of this short river detour.
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    Day 11
    Morzovaya Bay
    Snow-covered mountains surround Morzovaya Bay, on the east coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Here brown bears patrol the coastline, seals swim in the water, and Steller’s sea eagles fly overhead.
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    Day 12
    Cruise the Sea of Okhotsk
    You’ll begin traveling south again today, through the Sea of Okhotsk. It’s another opportunity to take advantage of the amenities on Crystal Endeavor. Perhaps for you that means simply watching the islands pass by from bed in your suite. When you are ready to eat, choose from four different dining options, including Italian at Prego and Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, under the direction of world-acclaimed chef Nobu Matsuhisa, at Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. Or you may want to learn more about this part of Russia at one of the enrichment lectures.
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    Days 13 and 14
    Chirpoy Island
    For much of its history, Chirpoy Island was part of Japan—until 1952, when the country surrendered all claims to it to Russia. Not that either country has left much of a mark on this uninhabited island. The draw of the island is not any manmade wonders, but natural ones. Orcas and Steller sea lions swim in the waters off its coast, while guillemots, kittiwakes, and puffins are common here—in fact that Ainu name for the island translates as “the place of many small birds.”
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    Day 15
    Like Hakodate, where Crystal Endeavor calls at the beginning of this journey, Otaru was one of the early ports where commerce was concentrated when Hokkaido began trading with the rest of the world in the 19th century. The main canal survives from that era and its streets are still illuminated by gas lamps though many of the warehouses have been converted into restaurants, shops, and museums. If you’d rather get out of town, Mount Yotei, an active volcano which has been described as Hokkaido’s Fuji, awaits nearby with hiking trails and natural springs.
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    Photo By highland663
    Day 16
    Cruise the Coast of Japan
    Before you return to Tokyo, you have one final day at sea aboard Crystal Endeavor. It’s an ideal time to exchange emails with new friends from the journey and ask any questions you have about all that you have seen to the onboard lecturers with the enrichment program. You may choose instead to get in one last treatment at the Crystal Life Spa and Center or perhaps one last sunset cocktail as you travel along the coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
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    Day 17
    Return to Tokyo
    You’ll arrive back in Tokyo and disembark this morning. It’s unlikely you saw everything in the metropolis at the start of your journey, so you may wish to extend your stay at the end, and explore more of the city’s museums, gardens, and bustling commercial districts before returning home. Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises can help arrange post-cruise extensions.