A particularly cruise-passenger-friendly city, Hong Kong (where cruise ships usually stop for two days on Asia itineraries and world cruises, and a point of embarkation/disembarkation on many sailings) has much to offer cruise travelers. Particularly traveler-friendly is the lack of need to negotiate a visa if passengers stay in Hong Kong (those venturing onto mainland China need a Chinese visa). Other passenger-friendly features: the cruise terminal on Kowloon Island leads to a mega-mall filled with shops and boutiques and featuring free WiFi, and steps away from the cruise pier is the fabled Star Ferry terminal with scenic, quick and inexpensive transportation to Hong Kong Island (Star ferries have been taking both locals and visitors on that route across the bay for more than a century). The views from the ferry of skyscrapers including the 118-story ICC tower (International Commerce Center), the tallest building in Hong Kong, and the Convention & Exhibition Center, in a futuristic style similar to Sydney, Australia’s Opera House, are wonderful. Also steps away from the cruise pier are the Cultural Arts Center, Hong Kong’s colonial style Clock Tower and the stop for the Big Bus Tours’ hop-on/hop-off double-decker bus to the major points of interest.
The double-decker buses’ daytime tour includes a ticket to both the Star Ferry and one to the tram to Victoria Peak, a Hong Kong “must” for spectacular views of the harbor.
Other Hong Kong highlights include the Man Mo Temple. A Taoist Temple, it is very ornate, dating from the 19th century, with an altar dedicated to two deities: Man: a deity of the mind and literature, and Mo, a deity of the martial arts. Upon entering the temple, visitors perceive powerful waves of incense and see the lights of myriad candles and many worshippers, who are also preoccupied with seeking hidden knowledge about the future. This they try to gain by shaking round containers filled with numbered bamboo sticks until one stick breaks loose and falls to the floor –the number on the stick corresponds to a fortune called a “chim” (a fortune teller at the temple can be hired to interpret the “chim” or provide additional divination if so desired).
In addition to temples, like the Man Mo Temple, another religious point of interest in Hong Kong is the Tan Tian Buddha, a giant bronze statue of Buddha on Lantau Island. The giant Buddha and Hong Kong Disneyland, also in Lantau, are ideal day trips from Hong Kong –the Lantau Buddha is often featured on ship shore excursions offerings.
Hong Kong Disneyland is accessible via two trains (the one leading to the park is adorned with Mickey shaped windows and sculptures of Disney characters). Opened in 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland has a Sleeping Beauty Castle and five themed lands filled with rides and attractions: Main Street, U.S.A.; Fantasyland; Tomorrowland; Adventureland and Toy Story Land. Signage is in Chinese and English and the ambiance is that of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in Anaheim.
Nobody leaves Hong Kong without going to one of its many markets including the Ladies Market, Stanley Market, Jade Market and perhaps also doing some shopping at Hollywood Road and Cat Street with their many antique shops.
Another market, the Temple Street Night Market is one of Hong Kong’s after-dark offerings, along with cultural shows with traditional music and dances like the dragon dance and ribbon dance, and the Symphony of Lights, a nightly sound-and-light spectacle that lights up 40 of Hong Kong skyscrapers along the harbor and is synchronized to a musical score. It can be seen from cruise ships and from a terrace within walking distance of the cruise terminal.
Local flavors not to be missed include the Dim Sum baskets of delicate steamed dumplings that many consider to be the best in the world and that can be washed down with a cup of fragrant and delicious local tea. Among the places to enjoy it is Cuisine Cuisine on the IFC Tower 2, second floor, in Central Hong Kong.
Cruise lines that visit Hong Kong and/or sail from there, include Azamara, Costa, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea.
IF YOU GO – For additional information on Hong Kong, visit www.discoverhongkong.com.