We boarded a Korean ferry named Panama and sailed out of Vladivostok under mild skies the evening of the last day our Russian visas were valid. This is of course where we started our Russian tour – flying in just a month earlier. We had taken the train back here and were grateful to get the chance to spend our last three days in Russia in this charming city. It was sad to say “do svidaniya.”
The port was busy as usual with shipping traffic, yet wave runners came out from shore as we passed to take advantage of the wake the ferry cast. They crossed back and forth behind our stern, catching the wave we generated and hopping off the water. The passengers, in turn, got a free show for a send off.As we glided out of the harbor we got our last look at the bridge to Russky Island. We had visited the island our first visit to see the spectacular Far Eastern Federal University grounds and just two days before to see the museum of the 300 mm gun turrets that guarded the harbor in years past.The passage to Donghae was scheduled to take 22 hours so every passenger was assigned a bunk, either in a cabin or a bay, located somewhere on the boat. We had booked passage in the economy section so stowing our gear was simple. We threw it on our bunks, pulled the curtain and went to explore the ship.We discovered an eclectic mix of accommodations, services, and decor.Amber really appreciated the dual language labeling on the recycle bins. Mmmm, does that say paper or plastic?Our fellow passengers were an eclectic mix as well. Not surprisingly there were a lot of Koreans going home and Russians going on vacation, but there were also passengers from Japan, Europe, the US and places we could not discern. (It seems like a natural setting for a movie or at least a single season Netflix series). It was interesting to note what those who had brought their own food on board unpacked for dinner. It varied by passenger cluster from giant cup-o-noodles and vegetables to smoked fish and beer. We had packed a good supply of Russian bread, meat, cheese, vegetables and pine nuts which we enjoyed on the open deck for dinner. We spent plenty of time just roaming the ship and looking out at the water and sunset before heading to bed. Judging from the vibration my bunk picked up every couple of hours during the night and the bay’s temperature, I am guessing we were situated directly above the main screw drive shaft and an exhaust manifold. Did I mention we were in economy class? In the morning we got up to check our progress and see how far we had traveled during the night. I took this picture of my phone as it displayed Google maps with the familiar blue dot marking our location.My phone’s GPS had not been working correctly so a few weeks ago I uploaded this app I found that is supposed to fix GPS problems. It really worked! My GPS is working great now. To get a pin-point fix it locates every satellite surveying the area, identifies which country it belongs to, determines it’s signal strength and exact position above the earth. As international travelers we try to keep abreast of what is going on in the world and we know that in the past few weeks North Korea has tested a sub launched missile in these waters and performed some sort of nuclear test on land. Which is probably why my app found 11 Russian and 13 US satellites overhead! Kim Jong Un so needs this app! International tensions aside, after about 20 hours on the water we caught our first glimpse of south Korea!
After de-boarding, we passed through customs and immigration, exchanged our Rubles for Korean currency, found the bus stop, and headed into town to locate our accommodations and first taste of the local cuisine. All in all it was a very pleasant experience and I genuinely felt relaxed and refreshed after the leisurely time at sea. I can understand now why people book cruises just for the fun of it. I think Amber must have been feeling the same since she made sure to take this picture of us after our 22 hour cruise together.