The best shore excursions in Japan and South Korea


Japan and South Korea are two of the hottest destinations to travel to by cruise ship – big lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Silversea, Star Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line and more are regular visitors to the region. There are a number of shore excursions that Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises offer which include a wide variety cultural activities, visits to national landmarks, nature-oriented programs and the chance to try the local cuisine. Check out some of the top shore excursions you can do in these two great countries.

Busan, South Korea

Royal Caribbean offers an Ancient Silla of Capital Gyeongju & Busan City Tour. Guests will drive to Gyeongju, the capital of the Silla Dynasty. You’ll start at the Bulguksa Temple, originally constructed in 535 A.D. and visit the Tumuli Park to view a collection of about 20 Royal Silla tombs. The tour then takes you to Yongdusan, Busan, for a photo stop and then visit the popular Jagalchi Fish Market. Princess Cruises also offers several specialised tours of Busan but the line offers a city drive of the area where you’ll visit Buddhist temples and attend a traditional tea ceremony. 

Jeju, South Korea

Known as Korea’s Hawaii, Jeju Island is a beautiful tropical island which offers a range of outdoor activities. You can visit the Folklore & Natural History Museum with Star Cruises.  Then, visit the exotic Halim Park to explore two underground caves – formed from a mixture of lava and lime. The cruise line also offers tours to the majestic Songan Ilchulbong Peak which is 182 metres high.

Fukuoka, Japan

Explore Kokura with a Bullet Train Ride with Royal Caribbean. You’ll visit Japan’s Kokura Castle and Tanga Ichiba market on this culture tour. The historic Kokura Castle was built by Lord Hosokawa Tadaoki in 1608 but later destroyed in 1868’s Meiji Restoration. In 1959 a four-storey, five-layer donjon and turrets were reconstructed.

Kochi, Japan

Princess Cruises offers a Sake Culture Tour in Kochi. You’ll visit the site of the Chikurin-ji Temple, a Shingon temple dating back to the early 8th century. Then, you’ll travel on to Hamacho, a traditional Japanese high-class restaurant where you’ll sample the local cuisine as well as a Geisha show. The ladies will then entice you into playing a traditional sake drinking game. Kochi is also famous for its parlour-style drinking games. One of the most popular games is called Kiki No Hana. It begins when multiple sake cups are placed face down with a chrysanthemum flower hidden underneath one of the cups. The cups are then “shuffled” to confuse the participants. Each player must pick a cup, and the one with the flower underneath it has to drink sake out of all the cups already turned over.

Miyazaki (Aburatsu)

Visit the Aoshima Island and Shochu Brewery with Royal Caribbean. Aoshima features an array of lush tropical and subtropical plants. Pay a visit to the vermilion shrine in the centre, well known as a shrine for matchmaking. At Shochu Brewery, see how shochu (an alcoholic beverage typically distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat or rice) is produced.

Osaka, Japan

Cunard offers a number of shore excursions in Kyoto, the closest city to the Osaka cruise port. Visit some of the beautiful Shinto temples in the city like the Fushimi-Inari Taisha. You’ll also visit the Sanjyu Sangen-do Temple. Then head to a traditional Japanese-style luncheon at a local restaurant before visiting the Kiyomizu Temple.

Sakaiminato, Japan

Tokyo is the largest big city to the Sakaiminato port. Royal Caribbean offers a Tokyo Geisha performance and dinner shore excursion. The tour will take you to a restaurant in downtown Tokyo where you’ll be served a traditional Kaiseki meal. You’ll then watch a Geisha performance, a centuries-old form of Japanese entertainment where women clad in beautiful kimonos regale you with a pageant of music and dance. Celebrity Cruises offers tours of the Adachi Museum of Art which has an impressive collection of Japanese pottery, wood carvings and paintings.