JAPANESE cruise line operators are hoping to attract passengers from outside the traditional market of wealthy retirees, according to a newspaper report.
The Nikkei Weekly reported that the lines particularly were targeting younger passengers, with limited holiday time, by offering shorter introductory cruises on Japan's coastline.
Worldwide, the industry has been steaming back into business after a period in the doldrums.
Ships are bigger, brighter and better equipped.
Next spring, all four of Japan's major cruise operators will offer voyages to Southeast Asia, the South Pacific or Australia.
Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) has been the only major line to cruise regional waters on a yearly basis.
Now, Mitsui OSK Passenger Line is ready to make a full-fledged re-entry into the market next spring.
Showa Line will restart long-distance cruise service for the first time in five years, and Japan Cruise Line will begin experimenting with a long cruise in the region as well.
Mitsui OSK has scheduled a cruise around Asia and Australia on its 23,340-tonne Fuji Maru. The 43-day jaunt begins on February 1 and is due to call at ports such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hobart and Perth.
For those looking for something less time-consuming, however, Mitsui OSK is also offering five special 'fly-and-cruise' packages which will allow passengers to join or leave the cruise at various ports.
The company hopes to attract newlyweds.
The full cruise costs between 1.26 million yen (about HK$96,431.75) and 4.58 million yen per person, while the five smaller packages, which range from 12 to 23 days, have prices starting at 610,000 yen.
On three of the fly-and-cruise plans, Mitsui OSK offers on-board lessons in subjects such as clay sculpture or gardening.
On February 13, Showa Line will set sail on its first long-distance cruise in five year, bound for Guam, Palau, Truk and other islands in Micronesia.
The 29-day trip will cost 1.11 million yen per person.
For an extra fee, passengers can enjoy scuba diving, ocean fishing, tennis and golf during stopovers.
Meanwhile, Japan Cruise Line has a unique idea for cruises of 12 to 15 days to countries in Southeast Asia.
The cruise, beginning on February 14, targets retired workers and their wives, and will include on-board retirement seminars.
On a stopover in Malaysia, retirees will have a chance to check out residential sites should they eventually want to move there.
The price of the cruise will range from 220,000 to 337,000 yen.
For those yet to experience a cruise, companies have begun to offer one-night excursions around Tokyo Bay or along the Japan coastline.
Another popular shorter route is a tour of the three major summer festivals of Japan's Tohoku region.
An official at Mitsui OSK said: 'Hotels are very expensive and hard to book during the festivals. And, since customers can enjoy luxurious service on board, they don't feel that they are paying too much for what they get.' Still, future growth may depend on whether operators can convince first-timers to sign up for longer excursions.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines