Asuka II (photo: Daniel Capella)The Asuka II, operated by Asuka Cruise/NYK, will carry just over 40,000 Japanese passengers in 2013, according to Shinji Imasaki, CEO.

Itineraries will range from one-night teaser cruises to Japanese domestic voyages, month-long sailings and a traditional 100-plus-day world cruise, visiting the Mediterranean and North America. The ship’s main homeport is Yokohama.

New and helpful for revenue generation in 2012, however, has been the introduction of longer land tours on the world cruise.

“These are popular and passengers are paying extra,” Imasaki noted.

The 960-passenger Asuka II offers a luxury experience, explained Imasaki, talking to Cruise Industry News from the company’s Yokohama office.

 “The Asuka II has a strong image in Japan, and we are selling it as a luxury product for Japanese passengers,” he said. “There is no need to speak English.”

The Japanese cruise market has stayed the same for the last 20 years, according to Imasaki, with a handful of domestic operators and a total of 200,000 Japanese passengers per year globally.

The arrival of Princess Cruises in 2013 will impact the market, he added,

It will change the price structure. The current prices are expensive, and Princess may charge less. Hopefully that will create more cruisers, increasing the market potential.”

Meanwhile, he noted that Asuka needs to keep advertising to attract new passengers, explaining the benefits of cruising and the attractions of the ship.

“We need to let the population know about the cruise industry here,” said Imasaki.  “Most Japanese still don’t know about cruising, or think it is just entertainment for wealthy people.

 “We have a strong brand image, but we need to attract younger passengers. We have to create attractive entertainment and strong awareness among people that have not cruised yet.”

See the full Asian market report in Cruise Industry News' special Asia issue for the Cruise Shipping Asia-Pacific conference in Singapore Sept. 17 to 18.