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Monday, 15 July 2013

Kai Tak moves from jumbo jets to megaliners as Hong Kong embraces surge in cruising




from Roderick Eime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has long been recognised as one of the world's most dramatic ports. Embraced by towering hills, the vast stalk-like cityscape rises high into the low clouds along the narrow edge of foreshore that supports a population of around 7 million.

With the imminent opening of the gleaming new Kai Tak cruise terminal on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong harbour, Australians will soon have a new way to experience one of their all-time favourite travel destinations.

Opened in 1966, the current OceanTerminal is limited to ships of around 100,000 GT and 10m draft, while the new Kai Tak cruise terminal will permit two 360m vessels of up to 220,000 GT to disembark and clear 5,400 passengers and 1,200 crew at a rate of 3,000 per hour.

In a test of the terminal's capability, Royal Caribbean's 311m, 138,279 GT Mariner of the Seas was the first mega luxury cruise liner to dock at the two-berth terminal in June this year, with the event hailed as a success.

"Kai Tak was the site of our legendary airport (closed in 1998) and is now turning a historic page by connecting Hong Kong with the rest of the world through the seven seas," Commissioner of Tourism Philip Yung said to AFP. “With the addition of this new facility, Hong Kong is in full gear to receive mega cruise ships"

Ships' masters should also be pleased with the simplified berthing procedures at Kai Tak, which is much closer closer to the eastern harbour exit.

Mariner of the Seas arrives for Kai Tak's inaugural berthing (HKTB)
The terminal will deliver passengers directly to the East Kowloon waterfront and commands spectacular views of Victoria Harbour. It is within easy reach of a number of key attractions including Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, Kowloon Walled City Park, Chi Lin Nunnery / Nan Lian Garden, Lei Yue Mun Seafood Bazaar. Also located nearby is Festival Walk. This shopping complex is just 10 minutes away and houses many of the world's best-known brands. Quickest airport access is 10 km by road to Kowloon Station Airport Express Line where departing passengers can also check-in.

Currently around 50,000 Australians visit HK every year cramming into the city's busy hotels, running at an occupancy rate approaching 90 per cent. Cruise passengers from all markets spent almost HK$75million in 2012, up nearly 6 per cent from 2011, not counting those who embarked or disembarked their cruise in HK. It is likely that HK's overall tourism arrivals will exceed 50 million n 2013 if the current 16% growth rate is maintained.

The opening of the new terminal signals HK's intention to transform the city into a major regional cruise hub which will likely spike the city's tourism figures yet further, so it remains to be seen whether HK's already near capacity hotel market will cope with the new influx.

The next arrival at Kai Tak is RCCL's Voyager of the Seas on 15th October, followed by Diamond Princess and Superstar Aquarius.

Official HKTB site

<< For further information on attractions and ideas for visiting Hong Kong, see the HKTB Official Travel Site

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