North Korea's first ever cruise ship is slightly rusty, doesn't offer unlimited buffets and has a bed shortage that forces guests to sleep on the floor. But the maiden voyage of the Mangyongbong -- a former cargo ship-turned-cruise ship -- was cause for celebration for the recluse country.
It’s not exactly the lap of luxury, but cruising North Korean style is about what you'd expect from the reclusive Hermit Kingdom.
In a bid to attract foreign tourist, and more importantly, foreign dollars, North Korea refurbished the 39-year-old Man Gyong Bong, a former cargo ferry, and dubbed it the country's first ever cruise ship.
To blaring carnival music and a rain of paper confetti, it recently set sail on its maiden voyage for a 21-hour cruise from the coastal city of Rason to the resort area of Mount Kumgang, near the South Korean border, reported AFP.
But on board, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for 130 or so passengers, most of them Chinese tour operators and foreign journalists. Quarters were basic and cramped, bathrooms lacked water and there weren’t enough beds, leaving some to sleep on the floor, reported Reuters.
Chinese tour operators say it’s not your typical cruise, and that’s the reason why it will be attractive to some.
"A lot of people like going to obscure places. And this is the most obscure part of a very obscure country in tourism terms -- the least visited apart of the least visited country," Simon Cockerell head of the Koryo Group, a Beijing-based tour operator specializing in North Korea, told AFP.
The mountain resort of Mount Kumgang -- which boasts of having the country's second highest mountain - opened in 1998 to help thaw relations between the two Koreas. But following a string of problem between the two governments, Mount Kumgang has become a source of tension. Last month, North Koreans seized the resort's assets. Now they're actively seeking Chinese visitors, London's Daily Mail reports.
But if North Korea is on your bucket list, the cruise is open to Americans. There is only one licensed tour operator where you can book trips: the Chicago-based Asia Pacific Travel.
But be prepared. It may be the least luxurious cruise you ever take.