A Summertime Cruise Through Russia’s Far East

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Russia likely brings to mind images of Moscow’s Kremlin and the onion domes of St. Basil’s, or St. Petersburg, with its canals and Italianate candy-colored palaces. But the world’s largest country extends for thousands of miles and its eastern coast, along the Pacific Ocean, has an entirely different look and feel. On Silversea’s 18-day Hokkaido to Seward cruise you’ll visit distant ports on the eastern edges of Russia, volcanic islands on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” and rocky outcrops where no humans live but sea lions number in the thousands. The cruise continues on to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and concludes in Seward.

In other words, if you’re a traveler who wants to venture where no one else you know has, an itinerary that includes stops like Korsakov, Yankicha Island, and Kiska Island is hard to beat. For Russians, the country’s wild frontier has always been its far east, and this cruise provides an unforgettable immersive introduction to it, as well as America’s frontier—the remote ports of Alaska. The timing of this cruise, which falls over the period including the summer solstice, helps assure you will be able to maximize your time. You’ll enjoy the longest and most sunny days of the year, bringing with them mild temperatures.

Otaru
But first, Japan. Your journey along Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and eventually to Alaska actually begins in Japan, specifically the city of Otaru on Hokkaido, the northernmost major island. It’s an important port with an economy tied to fishing. Sights include Nishin Goten, a 19th-century mansion that served as both a herring processing plant and the home of a wealthy fisherman. It’s now a museum. If time allows, swing by for a visit and sample the local sushi before boarding Silver Explorer.

Your ship departs at 5 p.m. and after a safety orientation, you’ll have an opportunity to meet your expedition team, which includes leading naturalists and other experts. You can then explore the ship, meet your fellow travelers, and have dinner in the open-seating venue The Restaurant.

At Sea
As you sail towards Yankicha Island, you’ll have a day at sea and time to enjoy the amenities of Silver Explorer. You can attend a lecture or seminar on the Russian Far East and the history of exploration in this part of the world before heading to the spa for a treatment or enjoying a cognac or cigar at the Connoisseur’s Corner. You can also borrow a book from the ship’s library to read on a sunny chaise on the deck, or a DVD to view in your suite.
Yankicha Island
East of Sakhalin, a long chain of volcanic islands stretches from Hokkaido in Japan to the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula—part of the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean. In the middle of them is Yankicha Island, which you will visit today. This intriguing and beautiful uninhabited island is a flooded volcanic caldera, accessible only by Zodiac and only at high tide. Once you enter the lagoon, evidence of geological activity is all around you: fumarole fields, hot springs, and bubbles rising up from beneath the sea. The island is still an active volcano, though the last known eruption took place in 1884. The inhabitants you may meet are primarily crested and whiskered auklets, arctic foxes, and both arctic and Middendorff’s grasshopper warblers.

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