This is our first stop on the cruise and we were pretty excited. We have the option to take an organised tour ($$$) in every port of call, but we decided to do Okinawa on our own. We caught the shuttle bus from the port to the main street and used the time to check out the map and plan what we would do.
Just on the bus ride we noticed how many vending machines there were everywhere. There were vending machines in parking lots, on the street, out the front of buildings and in between buildings. It was pretty clear that getting a drink would not be difficult! Later on when we walked some thin backstreet lane ways, there were even vending machines on the side of the lane. Anyway, we walked the main street (Kokusai Street) which is filled with cute little shops, loads of animated figurines and brightly coloured shop fronts.
There is a mix of old style and new style shops filled with everything from traditional wares to very touristy trinkets. After we had browsed through the shops we reached an entrance into some markets and had fun looking at all the different items for sale.
One of the things Okinawa is known for is its glassware. In days gone by they were famous for it but it died off. Apparently they had such an excess of coke bottles left from the soldiers after the war that they began to melt them down and create new items like bowls, drinking glasses, vases etc. So Okinawa reclaimed their fame for glassware. We thought it would be nice to have something to remember Okinawa so we purchased a set of glasses to bring home with us.
After shopping we walked to the monorail and caught a train to Shurijo Castle. When we arrived there was a movie being shot there, so we watched a scene for a little while before looking around the grounds of the castle. It was a pretty warm day so we weren't keen on walking too far but there was a nice view from the walls of the grounds and I loved the doors and entrances to the different sections.
We caught the monorail back to town and picked up some more bargains before heading back to the ship. One of the crazy things was the snake wine which we saw big jars of. We discovered that it is about 60% alcohol and they do gut and clean the snakes before putting them in the wine. It is a pretty gruesome sight seeing the fang bearing creatures in the wine and thinking that people freely drink it! As we travelled through more of Asia, we discovered more and more 'snake wine' and sometimes there is a scorpion inside the snakes mouth!
On the whole we had a great day…we managed to find our way around, buy tickets for and catch the local transport, see some history and soak in the local sights, smells and way of life.
Later that day…
Ok here is some info on dining whilst on the ship. There is the Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's Italian Restaurant which are not included dining with your cruise fare. You pay $20 to dine there but can order whatever you want off the menu. There are two dining options which are included with your cruise fare. You can have whatever you like and whatever quantities you like…as the service staff joke,"It's all the same price!!" There is the Panorama Buffet where you can go anytime between 6am and 9pm and just help yourself to breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. From 9pm to 11pm it turns into a bistro and you order off a menu and get table service. On sea days it becomes the bistro at 5:30pm till 11pm. There is the Club Restaurant which also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner but it is always a-la-carte and more formal. You receive a set table for dinners which you use for the entire cruise and you have a seating time for when you can eat. There are two seatings…early at 6:15pm and late at 8:15pm. We have the late seating. You also share your table at dinner with other people for the duration of the cruise. Occasionally in the Club Restaurant they have Formal nights were everyone gets dressed up and theme nights when the serving staff dress up and the food is centred around that theme. We had chosen the buffet for our first two nights on the ship as we were tired on the first night and the second night was formal night and we didn't feel like getting all dressed up. We had decided to try the Club Restaurant for the first time tonight.
When we returned from Okinawa I (Lisa) received a phone call from Francois, the Maitre'd at the Club Restaurant. He introduced himself and said he noticed we had not yet been to the dining room. He wondered if we would be coming as the other family at our table were all alone and they were a lovely couple with an 18 year old son! Francois is french and has the whole accent and he is very jovial and outgoing and the phone conversation was quite hilarious! I told him that we were in fact planning on being there for dinner and he was overjoyed! When we arrived for dinner he and his assistant Alejandro (from Mexico) greeted us like old friends and were so excited that we were finally there. We were shown to our table and met our table mates, the Landry family, from Canada. We had a lovely dinner with Robert, Pam and their son Griffin and we got on very well. Every night we go to the Club Restaurant, Francois and Alejandro make some remark about how good it is to see us and how we didn't come the first two nights but now we never miss! The staff are actually fantastic and you get to know them really well. Our waiter is Sehono from Bali and a real character…sometimes he brings out extra dishes because they are so good and we have to try!