Asuka II - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Asuka II

★★★★ +

Berlitz’s Ratings

Ship: 418 out of 500

Accommodation: 160 out of 200

Food: 339 out of 400

Service: 336 out of 400

Entertainment: 83 out of 100

Cruise: 337 out of 400

Overall Score: 1673 out of 2000

Asuka II Statistics

Size: Mid-size Ship

Tonnage: 50,142

Lifestyle: Luxury/Premium

Cruise Line: NYK Cruises

Former Names: Crystal Harmony

IMO Number: 8806204

Builder: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan

Original Cost: $240 million

Entered Service: Jul 1990/May 2006

Registry: Japan

Length (ft/m): 790.5/240.9

Beam (ft/m): 97.1/29.60

Draft (ft/m): 24.6/7.50

Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (32,800kW)/2

Passenger Decks: 8

Total Crew: 470

Passengers (lower beds): 872

Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 52.0

Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 1.8

Cabins (total): 462

Size Range (sq ft/m): 198.1-949.4/18.4-88.2

Cabins (for one person): 0

Cabins (with private balcony): 260

Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 4

Wheelchair accessibility: Best

Cabin Current: 115 and 220 volts

Elevators: 8

Casino (gaming tables): Yes

Slot Machines: Yes

Swimming Pools: 1

Hot Tubs (on deck): 1

Self-Service Launderette: Yes

Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/263

Library: Yes

Onboard currency: Japanese Yen


An elegant, spacious ship with fine food, for Japanese cruisers

Overview. Asuka II is best suited to Japanese-speaking travelers, typically over 60, seeking a sophisticated ship with fine-quality fittings and furnishings, a wide range of public rooms and facilities, and excellent food and service from a well-trained staff. It is the attention to detail that makes this ship so pleasant, such as almost no announcements and little background music.

The Ship. Although now over 20 years old, Asuka II, formerly Crystal Harmony, underwent a four-month-long drydocking and refit in 2005-6, and further refurbishment in 2009. It is a handsome, well-balanced contemporary ship with raked clipper bow, sleek lines, and Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line’s double red band on the funnel. There is almost no sense of crowding anywhere, and the fact that form follows function means that comfort is built in. There is a wide wraparound teakwood deck for walking, and an abundance of open deck space.

Inside, the layout is completely different from the previous Asuka in that there is a horizontal flow through the public rooms, as opposed to the previous vertical arrangement, and this better suits the age range of NYK’s typical passengers. The design combines some large ship facilities with the intimacy of rooms found aboard many smaller ships. There is a wide assortment of public entertainment lounges and small intimate rooms, and passenger flow is excellent. Fine-quality fabrics and soft furnishings, china, flatware, and silver are used throughout.

Outstanding are the Vista (observation) Lounge and the tranquil, elegant Palm Court, one of the nicest rooms afloat, while adjacent are an Internet room and a Chashitsu (Japanese 12-tatami mat room). Other public spaces and facilities include the Mariner’s Club Lounge (piano bar/lounge), Cigar Bar, Bistro Café, Casino Corner, Mahjong Room with eight tables, Compass Room (meeting and activities room), a book/video library, and the Stars karaoke bar. The theater is a dedicated room with high-definition video projection. There is a self-service launderette on each deck - practical for long voyages.

Asuka II is a relaxing, grand hotel afloat - approximately the equivalent of Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel - and provides abundant choices and flexibility. It has just about everything for the discerning traveler prepared to pay for high style, space, and the comfort and the facilities of a mid-size vessel capable of long voyages. The company pays attention to its repeat passengers, particularly those in Deck 10 penthouses and suites.

Unfortunately, dining is in two seatings, which makes its timing highly structured - there are two shows, because the showlounge can’t seat everyone at once. This works well in the Japanese market, and you can always choose to eat in a specialty dining venue, but the arrangement detracts from the otherwise fine setting of the ship and the professionalism of its staff. All gratuities are included.

Accommodation. There are five categories of suites and cabins (including four Royal Suites with private balcony; 26 Asuka Suites with balcony; 32 suites with balcony; 202 cabins with balcony; 172 cabins without balcony). Regardless of the category, duvets and down pillows are provided, as are lots of other niceties. All cabins have a color TV set, DVD player, mini-refrigerator, personal safe, small couch and coffee table, excellent soundproofing, a refrigerator and minibar, full tea-making set, satellite-linked telephone, hairdryer, and slippers. A full range of toiletries (including Shiseido shampoo, hair rinse, shower cap, soap, cotton pads, razor set, hairbrush, and more) is provided, and cotton towels are plentiful.

Deck 10 penthouses. Four Royal Suites, whose entrance doorway has a door phone and camera, measure 949.4 sq ft (88.2 sq m) and have a large private balcony and lounge with elegant walnut furniture, new soft furnishings, and audio-visual entertainment center (Bose audio system, Blu-Ray player); separate master bedroom with twin beds (flat-screen TV); and large walk-in closets. The excellent ocean-view Japanese-style bathrooms, with German quality fittings that include a large overhead shower, come with jet bathtub, two washbasins, and plenty of storage space for toiletries (a range of L’Occitane toiletries is provided). These fine, private, pampered living spaces at sea were totally refurbished in 2010, and include perks such as priority service, free laundry service, a wide variety of alcoholic beverages and many other goodies.

Other Deck 10 suites. These are worth the asking price. All have a private balcony, with outside light, and plenty of space including a lounge with large couch, coffee table and chairs, large TV set, and a separate sleeping area that can be curtained off with thick drapes that allow you to sleep totally in the dark. The bathrooms are quite large and extremely well appointed. All deck 10 suites/cabins are attended by social officers, and complimentary in-room dining service is offered.

Deck 9/8/7/5 cabins. Many of the cabins have a private balcony (in fact, half of all cabins have private balconies, with outside lights) and are extremely comfortable. But they are a little tight for space, with one-way traffic past the bed. There is a reasonable amount of drawer and storage space, although the drawers are small and the closet hanging space and the storage space for shoes are very limited for long voyages. Some cabins have lifeboat-obstructed views, so it’s best to check the deck plan carefully.

Although well appointed, the bathrooms (except for those in Deck 10 accommodation) are of the ‘you first, me next’ variety - and size. But they do come with generously sized toiletries and amenities, and all bathrooms are fitted with electric ‘washlet’ high-cleanse toilets.

Dining. There are several choices. The non-smoking Four Seasons Dining Room is quite elegant, and has a raised central section. There is plenty of space around each table, well-placed waiter service stations and a number of tables for two, as well as tables for four, six, or eight.

Dinner in the main dining room is in two seatings, with no set table assignments. Afternoon tea and coffee can be taken in the Vista Lounge, a restful venue.

Other dining options. Umihiko is a Japanese extra-charge restaurant, complete with a wholly authentic sushi bar and live fish tanks for absolutely fresh sashimi. It specializes in sushi and authentic sashimi dishes, and provides a refined, intimate dining experience with fine ocean views. Reservations are required.

Prego, which has 40 seats with ocean views to starboard and aft, is for occupants of the Royal Suites and Asuka Suites. The menu is the same as the main dining room, but with more intensive waiter service.

For casual meals, beverages, and ice cream, the Lido Café, which was completely reconstructed in the refit, has an extensive self-serve buffet area; it is located high up in the ship and has ocean views from large picture windows. For casual meals, there is also a Lido Garden Grill, a large area with wooden tables and chairs, and bar.

Additionally, The Bistro, located on the upper level of the two-deck-high lobby, is a casual spot for coffees and pastries, served in the style and atmosphere of a European street café.

Entertainment. The Galaxy Lounge, the ship’s showlounge, is a large room on one level, with a sloping floor. The sight lines are good from most seats, although a few pillars obstruct the view from some seats. Both banquette-style and individual seating is available.

Spa/Fitness. The Grand Spa includes a large Grand Bath/cleansing center (one for men, one for women), with integral sauna and steam room. Other facilities include five treatment rooms (longevity, water, wind, prosperity, harmony) including one for couples. There’s a separate sauna, steam rooms, changing rooms for men and women, a beauty salon, and a relaxation area. Another part of the spa houses the gymnasium, with ocean-view windows on one side.

The Asuka Aveda Salon and Spa offers a wide range of body pampering treatments using Aveda brand products. The spa also offers a kimono dressing service, which costs ¥12,600 (about $110).

There is an excellent amount of open deck space, including a swimming pool that’s one of the longest aboard any cruise ship. Sports facilities include a full-size paddle tennis court, putting green, and golf driving range.