Why go to Kobe?
A lively waterfront with restaurants and shops, just five minutes from the city center
An hour and a half from Kyoto's ancient palaces and temples and 40 minutes from Osaka
It's a modern port with good facilities and an abundance of day tours and transport options
Kobe Cruise Port Facilities?
Kobe Port Terminal is built on an artificial island, with splendid views out to sea and back to the city. Across the big red Kobe Ohashi Bridge, you come to Meriken Park, which lies between the port terminal and Naka Pier Cruise Terminal. Both terminals are well equipped to make entry procedures smooth and quick but offer little in the way of recreation or information. Both have telephones but no Internet facilities. To head to Meriken Park and Harborland, the twin waterside recreation areas, follow signs to the Port Tower and Maritime Museum.
Good to Know?
You will not find many restaurants with English menus, and if you're shopping for food in supermarkets and convenience stores, it is rare to see English-language signs.
It is useful to have a Japanese phrase book with you or to prepare some basic phrases -- especially if you have any food allergies. If necessary, prepare cards in Japanese to show staff at restaurants explaining that you cannot eat certain ingredients.
You will, however, find that Starbucks (1-2-1 Sakaemachidori and 7-1-19 Isogamidori) and McDonald's (6-46 Ikebirakicho and 2-2-2 Wakinohamakaigandori) only offer traditional Western refreshments and free Wi-Fi.
On Foot: Most of the sightseeing spots and tourist attractions are within a 15- to 20-minute walk from both Kobe ports.
By Train: Port Liner operates between Kobe airport and Sannomiya Station connects the Kobe Port Terminal to central Kobe. It usually runs every few minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight. By Port Liner, it takes only five minutes from Sannomiya station. It takes 14 minutes in the other direction to go to the airport.
Naka Pier terminal is located a 10-minute walk from Sannomiya station on JR Kobe line. It is only a four-minute train journey from JR Kobe station. A free shuttle bus operates to JR Motomachi Station.
By Taxi: You can find plenty of metered taxis running or waiting around the port terminals and major train stations. Drivers are usually very helpful and speak reasonable English.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The Japanese currency is the yen; check www.xe.com or www.oanda.com for current exchange rates. The Japanese tend to reserve credit cards for major purchases, so you will want to withdraw local currency. The area around Sannomiya station has three exchanges. ATMs can be found across Kobe city. The machinery is instantly recognizable, but they might have odd names like "Cash Pit." All have the choice of an English keyboard. If you go to any of the 7-Eleven convenience stores, you can withdraw money from machines within the store.
Japanese is the main language onshore. Kobe receives more Chinese-speaking tourists than English. Nevertheless, all sign posts and information are written in all three languages.
To ask where something is, use its name followed by wa doko dess-ka? For instance, "Kobe Tower wa doko dess-ka?"
"I don't speak Japanese" is Nihongo wa hanasemasen and "Do you speak English?" is Eigo o hanashimasu-ka?
Konnichiwa (Good day) is a useful, all-purpose greeting.
If you have a business card, remember to present it when introducing yourself. The Japanese have great respect for business cards. If you are offered one, make sure you study it briefly before filing it away (not in your back pocket). The longer you look, the more respect you are showing.
Where You're Docked?
Cruise ships generally dock at the Kobe Port Terminal on Shinko-cho, which has a total of six berths on both sides of Shinko Pier No. 4. The terminal building is airy, light and well staffed with elevators to take you up to the front entrance where taxis can be found. It's also possible to board the monorail there; the journey into the city takes only a few minutes. Buses can park right at the terminal.
The secondary cruise ship berthing is Naka Pier Cruise Terminal near Kobe Tower and the dramatic, white Kobe Meriken Park Oriental hotel. This terminal offers free shuttle bus service to the downtown area near Chinatown and JR Motomachi Station.