Thoughts of a cruise conjure images of sandy beaches, emerald waters, romantic interludes and tasty cocktails topped with little umbrellas.
North Korea is probably one of the last places in the world anyone would dream of as the destination for a leisurely cruise, especially one headed for the resort in the scenic region of Mount Kumgang.
Once open to South Korea, this resort was at one time a symbol of amity and cooperation between the two nations, who have technically been at war for almost sixty years!
With the launching of its first official cruise, enigmatic North Korea has reluctantly opened its doors to a cautious world and entered the high end of the tourist industry.
Mount Kumgang offers a landscape of breathtaking natural wonders that include stunning waterfalls, scenic peaks, ravines and sleepy lagoons. About 130 passengers arrived from the northeastern port city of Rajin and gathered at this site, which is north of the South Korean border.
About 100 Chinese businessmen boarded the 49-year-old, 9,700-ton former cargo vessel known as the Man Gyong Bong, and the voyage represented an important collaboration between a Chinese travel company and North Korea’s bureau of tourism.
Far from a glamorous cruise ship with glittering amenities untold, travelers were taken on a three-hour tour through the majestic mountains, offered on-board karaoke and fresh coffee. They were some reports before the launching that some of the bathrooms on the lower deck had no water.
North Koreans celebrated the ship’s departure with dazzling fireworks, raised flags and carnival music blaring while some five hundred people dressed in dark workers clothes waved the ship off into the sunset.
Over the past few decades, North Korea has been forced to open its doors in order to save its faltering economy. Leaders are painfully aware that attracting investors from the outside world can only come with an expansion of the tourist industry.
The world remains leery about North Korea and its motives and it is unlikely that secretive state will ever reveal exactly how much it has to hide.