As surreal and dreamlike as it seems, this gigantic cruise ship is neither an artist’s rendition nor the product of digital image manipulation. It is, in fact, an actual, real life phenomenon.
High and dry atop a rocky cliff, the ship overlooks the Sea of Japan from the South Korean town of Jeongdongjin. In fact, it’s perfectly positioned to take in the spectacular sunrises and sunsets for which the town is famous.
Moreover, the ship, which closely resembles a Royal Caribbean International Sovereign Class liner, is a real beast of a vessel. Measuring 148 feet high and 541 feet long, it weighs a staggering 30,000 tons. Given its gargantuan proportions, then, one has to wonder, how on earth did it get up there?
Perhaps a massive tsunami carried it to its clifftop perch and deposited it there? After all, in 2011 the so-called Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a tsunami wave up to 133 feet high in places. This actually did leave several ships in Japan in unusual inland locations, including on top of buildings.
Though such a scenario might seem vaguely possible, the last tsunami to strike South Korea was, in fact, in 1983. And the maximum recorded height of the wave was 24 feet – considerably lower than the height of the cliff at Jeongdongjin.
So is it possible, instead, that the ship was hauled up there on purpose, perhaps for some obscure creative statement? It does look remarkably like a massive contemporary art installation, after all. Is it an ironic social commentary, perhaps, on the direction of mass tourism?
If so, the artist wins no points for originality. In 1982, for instance, German film director Werner Herzog hauled a steamship over an Amazonian mountain, making cinema history in the process. Is it possible, therefore, that the ship was built on the cliff for some other reason?
Perhaps a quick tour of the interior will reveal some more clues. For one thing, the ship appears to be authentic and shows no signs of abandonment or decay. In fact, it offers some 211 guest rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. And with superb views of the ocean through the portholes, you could easily imagine yourself at sea.
Plus, on the ship’s 10th floor, the glitzy “Sky Lounge” boasts wraparound windows with panoramic views of the coast below. There’s some 170 seats and a well-stocked cocktail bar too. You can almost hear the tinkle of live jazz music from the grand piano, right?
For more intimate gatherings, the karaoke room features a high-tech sound system, a video projector and disco lighting. Wondering what to sing? In lieu of old school sea shanties, a reliable fallback might be Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” from the blockbuster Titanic.
Furthermore, like any good cruise ship, the vessel offers its guests a range of tasty cuisine. In fact, the European restaurant serves fresh meat and fish, and the Korean restaurant stocks traditional fare. And there’s also a bakery for late night meals, coffee or informal snacks. Yummy.
And, after all that food, if you should need to exercise, there’s a smart indoor gym equipped with treadmills and weight machines. However, if you fancy a spot of shopping, the souvenir store stocks traditional Korean craft work, fashion accessories and children’s toys.
For couples, a glamorous wedding hall has capacity for 1,000 guests. Elsewhere, a host of well-appointed convention rooms, all comfortably and tastefully furnished, offer space for special meetings, seminars, parties and gatherings.
In fact, despite being grounded on the top of a cliff, everything about the ship suggests that it’s a working cruise ship. There is, however, one small, strange, incongruous detail: day and night, the ship’s loudspeakers broadcast the sound of crashing waves.
So, if you hadn’t guessed already, the “cruise ship” – owned by Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht – is not really a ship at all. It is, in fact, a hotel designed to look and feel like one. Built in 2002, the South Korean resort is thought to be the first ever such hotel, and, although not seaworthy, it’s a major tourist attraction.
And without any fuel costs or crew, the resort is able to offer vacationers a cruise-like experience at a reduced rate. Its family-sized standard rooms, for example, complete with ocean views, currently rent for 220,000 South Korean Won per night – around $197.
Indeed, one of the big advantages to a land-based cruise is a lack of rolling waves and sea sickness. Also, because the pool is located adjacent to the “ship” on the cliff, it’s much larger than those on standard cruise liners. The water is authentically salty, though.
And although the “ship” never calls at any port, guests are welcome to disembark and explore the hotel grounds. Fortunately, this encompasses a landscaped park with multiple attractions. The so-called Sunrise Garden, for example, is ornamented with flowers and sculptures.
Unsurprisingly, the park’s most dramatic attraction is undoubtedly the glass observatory. Jutting over the edge of a cliff with a glass-bottomed walkway, it delivers stunning – if somewhat dizzying – views of the ocean below.
As a result, the resort has been so successful that its owners are launching a second one in May 2017. According to General Manager Patrick Park, the new hotel will have “103 luxury accommodations… barbecue and whirlpool with awesome panoramic ocean view… sauna facilities and… infinity pool.” Time to set sail for South Korea? Ship ahoy!