Notoriously reclusive and largely isolated from the world tourism circuit, North Korea has registered a surprising bleep here on Cruise News with the launch of its first-ever cruise ship last week. Reports on the inaugural sailing, which counted some 130 passengers (mostly foreign journalists or Chinese tour operators), cited less-than-luxurious conditions, with a rusting exterior, bathrooms lacking water, and several bare bones cabins offering little more than a mattress thrown on the floor. Still, there were some welcomed and familiar cruise ship diversions aboard the aging refurbished former cargo ship, the Man Gyong Bong, including a cafeteria-style buffet and staff-led karaoke.
The 21-hour itinerary on the trial journey sailed along some of North Koreas most scenic coastline, from the impoverished port city of Rason near the China-Russia border to Mount Kumgang, a developing mountain resort area near the South Korean border.
Rolled out in hopes of boosting tourism to the poor and particularly obscure section of the country, authorities have stated that no visas will be needed for international cruisers, though the trip must be arranged through a designated tour company like Koryo Group (www.koryogroup.com). If popularity permits, plans are in the works for the ship to be upgraded to a more modernized one with a passenger capacity of up to 1,000 people. Adventurous travelers should consider combining their trip with a visit to Pyongyang, which just made our list of the world’s Top 10 Forbidden Places.
What do you say, Cruise News readers? Is North Korea on your radar for an upcoming trip?