A royal fortnight - for a royal price
Hongkongers join inaugural world cruise of Queen Mary 2
Forty Hongkongers have forked over as much as HK$80,000 each for a two-week package tour aboard the Queen Mary 2, the largest passenger liner ever built.
The flagship of cruise line Cunard is embarking on its maiden world cruise, which will bring it to Hong Kong for the first time later this month. The full world cruise lasts 82 days.
'Our bookings are pretty much full,' Wing On Travel deputy general manager Brandon Lau Chin-keung said. 'We're finding more people are more willing to splash out on holiday travel and, increasingly, cruises - probably because of the rebounding economy and stock market.'
Wing On Travel is the first to offer a Queen Mary 2 package in Hong Kong and has booked slightly more people on this package than for individual cruise travel on the liner. Revenue from selling cruises still only accounts for a very small percentage of the travel company's total turnover, which was about HK$1.5 billion in 2005, Mr Lau said.
The Queen Mary 2 is the first liner to boast its own planetarium. It has more 300 original works of art valued at more than US$5 million and features the three-storey Britannia Restaurant and the luxurious Canyon Ranch spa. In a partnership with the University of Oxford, the liner has also developed a programme of seminars and lectures hosted by authors, historians, artists, scientists and celebrities.
Of the 40 tour members, more than 30 have opted for the most expensive package, about HK$80,000. This package includes a stay at the six-star sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai for one night and dinner at its underwater-themed restaurant. 'The hotel stay and restaurant are a big selling point of the package tour. You can't just dine there; you usually have to book a year ahead,' Mr Lau said.
Eight people have signed up for the cheapest package, which costs about HK$37,000.
Despite the apparent success of the package cruise tour, Daniel Chan Kin-pang, deputy general manager of Hong Thai Travel, said he remains sceptical such itineraries would find much appeal in Hong Kong. He doubts the price levels and lengthy itineraries for the Queen Mary 2 would find many takers here, especially when people are used to paying only several thousand dollars for a cruise holiday. The liner also arrives at the end of this month, after the peak Lunar New Year holiday, making it less appealing, Mr Chan said.
VOYAGE OF THE GLAM
What cruise lovers have to pay for the 14-day, 11-night Hong Kong-Dubai leg of the Queen Mary 2's maiden world cruise
Money no object
Seaview room with private balcony
Most food, drink and entertainment on board
One night's accommodation at the Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai
Dinner at the Burj Al Arab's famed Al Mahara restaurant
Emirates business-class flight back to Hong Kong
Standard inside cabin
Most food, drink and entertainment onboard
Emirates economy flight back to Hong Kong
Length 345 metres, or 41 double-decker buses
Height (keel to funnel) 80 metres
Gross tonnage 150,000
Top speed 30 knots
Number of passengers 2,620
Number of crew 1,253
Cost US$800 million
Depart March 1
2 days at sea
March 7 & 8
Dubai March 11