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Don’t Call it a Cruise Ship: Japan’s Guntû is a Luxury Floating Hotel

Sweden, Iceland, Denmark — all countries that know minimalist design. However, the Scandinavian aesthetic can often feel stripped-down and utilitarian, even austere. The Japanese, on the other hand, take a different approach — one which is just as stripped-down, but with welcoming organic touches that feel at once warm, natural, and intimate. The country’s latest foray into the travel world combines this millennia-old ethos into a beautiful, luxury “floating hotel” unlike any you’ve seen before.

Guntû is described simply as “a little hotel floating on the Seto Inland Sea.” Indeed the exterior shots depict a beautifully understated cruise ship reminiscent of Europe’s most upscale river cruises. There are no garish logos, multi-colored water slides, or 2,000-seat open-air theaters on the back deck. Instead, the look is purposeful, tasteful, and inviting as only the Japanese know how. The slate-colored cladding is punctuated only with the soft, orange glow of the ship’s interior lighting.

Image courtesy of Guntû Image used with permission by copyright holder

Inside, Guntû is awash in warm wood paneling, furnishings, and floors. Every chair, light fixture, and potted plant feels as though it was placed “just so” after months of careful consideration. The intimate vessel houses just 19 guest suites — about as small as a small cruise ship can get. Each room is massive by cruise ship standards, with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies near sea level. Elsewhere onboard, guests will find a solid list of amenities including a gym, spa, beauty salon, and lounge. The main dining room serves gourmet a la carte Japanese cuisine and housemade sweets, plus a six-seat sushi bar offers sashimi and fresh Setouchi Sushi from the surrounding waters. As the days end, Champagne is served at the upstairs bar amid the setting sun, and a swanky lounge offers Seto Inland Sea-themed cocktails.

Perhaps most interesting about the Guntû cruise is what passengers won’t find. In lieu of daily bingo, shuffleboarding, and afternoon bellyflop contests, the ship aims to provide passengers with a focus on appreciating their natural surroundings. The Seto Inland Sea separates Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū — three of Japan’s four main islands. It’s one of the country’s best-kept secrets — a serene, impossibly beautiful waterway dotted with more than 700 tiny islands. Off-ship activities vary with the season and location, but most revolve around exploring the islands via land and sea. Morning shoreline hikes, “fisherman for a day” tours, and moonlit boat tours amid traditional Noh chanting are all on the menu.

Book your stay aboard guntû now via the official website. Passengers are welcome to reserve stays of up to three nights, with rates around 300,000 yen (USD $2,700) per night. If that seems stiff, just remember the price tag includes all the activities, sushi, and sake you can handle.

Images courtesy of Guntû.

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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