The remote reaches of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and the distant and isolated Kuril Islands have fired the imagination of explorers and traders for centuries. Our past travellers have enthused about the spectacular scenery, the incredible array of wildlife and the native cultures known to only a few privileged travellers. Join us on this remarkable voyage of unparalleled exploration along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’. From Niigata, Japan to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, we cruise through a pristine environment that calls to nature lovers, history buffs, photographers and the intrepid explorer within.
Among the Kurils, a necklace-like chain of volcanic islands, we find vast forests and wild-flower-dappled tundra, back-dropped by soaring steam-breathing volcanoes. Basalt stacks rise from the sea, tailormade resting and nesting spots for unimaginable numbers of seabirds.
Reaching the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia’s remote easternmost province, we are greeted with a dramatic landscape of fire and ice. Geysers, hot springs and active volcanoes set amidst towering mountains and fast flowing rivers make this area magnificently unique.
Countless seabirds will accompany our vessel - northern fulmars, Laysan albatrosses and tufted puffins. Our destinations are virtually inaccessible by any means other than our manoeuverable expedition ship, the MS Caledonian Sky, equipped with a full fleet of versatile Zodiacs.
Passage to Kamchatka itinerary:
Day 1 - LONDON TO TOKYO.
Fly by scheduled flight.
Day 2 - TOKYO.
Arrive this morning and transfer to a centrally located hotel for an overnight stay. Remainder of day at leisure.
Day 3 - TOKYO TO NIIGATA.
After breakfast in the hotel we will embark on a half day city tour including Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and Imperial Palace Plaza. We will then transfer to the station to join the bullet train to Niigata where we will embark the MS Caledonian Sky. Sail this afternoon.
Day 4 - HAKODATE.
After a morning at sea we arrive in the port of Hakodate. Our afternoon excursion will include a visit to Onuma Park, known for its picturesque islanddotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake. There will be a chance to walk amongst the lakes and islands and the surrounding birch and maple forest. On our return we will take the cable car up Mt Hakodate.
Day 5 - TOMAKOMAI.
Join the excursion to Lake Utonai, the first bird sanctuary in Japan and where you can see more than 170 kinds of birds including swans and whitetailed sea eagles. Alternatively there will be a visit to the Ainu village at Shiraoi Poroto Kotan. The museum has the largest Ainu collection in Japan. We will also enjoy a folk music performance and ancient Ainu dance.
Day 6 - KUSHIRO.
Today we will visit Kushiro National Park, the site of one of the world’s most expansive and treasured wetlands, and home of Japan’s sacred red crowned cranes, brought back from near extinction.
Day 7 - YZNO KURILISK & KUNASHIR ISLAND.
This morning we will clear customs into Russia and begin our exploration of the Kuril Islands. We will anchor off Kunashir, the southernmost island and venture out in our Zodiacs to visit the nearby Kurilskiy Nature Preserve. Take a walk to explore the island, looking out for red foxes and fur seals.
Day 8 - URUP & CHIRPOY ISLANDS.
Today we visit two more Kuril Islands, Urup and Chirpoy. The indigenous Ainu people, all of whom now live on Hokkaido, once inhabited these remote islands and remains of settlements can be found. These islands are populated with profuse wildlife and birds. We will explore Urup, and stroll or hike up the hillside for a view of some of the island’s 20 or more volcanoes. In Chirpoy we will use the Zodiacs to search the coastline for stellar sea lions and the huge numbers of fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets.
Day 9 - YANKICHA & MATUA.
At Yankicha a sinking volcanic caldera offers access during high tides. Inside the magnificent lagoon we witness the ongoing volcanic activity. One of the Kuril’s most active volcanoes rises from Matua, with more than 14 eruptions documented in the past 250 years. During World War Two the Japanese established an airfield here, and we will see old bunkers and the remains of equipment and artillery scattered about.
Day 10 - LOVYSSKI ISLAND & ONEKATON.
The clusters of rocks that comprise the Lovyshki Islands are home to huge populations of sea lions and northern fur seals which we will explore by Zodiac. We continue to the island of Onekotan, located near the northern end of the Kuril Islands. The name Onekotan is derived from the Ainu language for ‘large village’.
Day 11 - ATLASOVA ISLAND & SHUMSHU ISLAND.
A nature walk on Atlasova Island, with the highest volcano in the Kurils, will take us past an abandoned prison for Russian women, with time to explore the lakes and hillsides. During our afternoon at Shumshu we will use the Zodiacs to search for sea otters.
Day 12 - VESTNIK BAY & LISTVENICHNAYA.
This morning in Vestnik Bay we spot evidence of the powers of Kamchatka’s volcanoes, such as lightweight pumice scattered on the shoreline. During a walk through a coastal forest we are likely to find such sought-after species as the Eurasian nutcracker, taiga flycatcher and red-flanked bluetail. This afternoon we will use the Zodiacs to land in Listvenichnaya Bay where we should have a chance to see bears.
Day 13 - PETROPAVLOVSK.
After breakfast we set out for an exploration of Petropavlovsk, the only major city on the peninsula and one of the oldest towns in the Russian Far East. Local guides bring us to the museum of ethnography and natural history, the art school, the gold-domed Orthodox cathedral and the marketplace. Alternatively take an optional helicopter excursion to the Valley of the Geysers (details will be released in 2012).
Day 14 - KAMENISTAYA BAY & CHAZMA RIVER.
This morning we land at Kamenistaya Bay where we will have a chance to walk in the meadows and see the amazing landscape of extinct volcanoes and rugged coves. This afternoon at Chazma River there will be a variety of nature walks.
Day 15 - BERING ISLAND, COMMANDER ISLANDS.
The Commander Islands are named after famed commander Vitus Bering. We will visit the village of Nikolskoye to explore the Aleut museum and to meet our island hosts who will introduce the local culture. In the afternoon, take a Zodiac ride to tiny Ariy Kamen Island, whose moss-green rocky landscape provides a habitat for vast numbers of birds, including horned and tufted puffins.
Day 16 - ZHUPANOVA RIVER.
We board Zodiacs to negotiate the Zhupanova River, with superb opportunities for both birding and nature walks. Heading upstream, we are likely to spot up to 40 species of birds including the Steller’s sea eagles. This evening we will moor at Morzhovaya Bay for a final chance to search for bears.
Day 17 - PETROPAVLOVSK TO MOSCOW.
Disembark after breakfast and transfer to the airport for the scheduled flight to Moscow. Arrive this evening and transfer to the Marriott Hotel (or similar) for an overnight stay.
Day 18 - MOSCOW TO LONDON.
This morning enjoy a city tour of Moscow before transferring to the airport for your scheduled flight to London. Arrive this evening.
The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows.
If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub.
Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request.
With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board.
For your comfort, safety and security
The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only.
Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.