Grimy port greets cruise visitors on superliner

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2007, 12:00am

Container terminal ugly, inconvenient, say passengers

Cruise travellers and cargo containers rubbed shoulders yesterday as the city rolled out the welcome mat to Queen Mary 2, the world's largest passenger ship at the Kwai Chung cargo terminal.

Temporary immigration facilities and shuttle bus and taxi stands were erected at Modern Terminals to accommodate passengers who were keen to explore the sights.

Some Hong Kong residents were not enthusiastic about their boarding environment.

Mr Wong, a retiree, and his wife, who paid more than HK$50,000 each to join the transatlantic liner's first world cruise from Hong Kong to Dubai, were disappointed.

'The surroundings are quite ugly and it's very inconvenient here,' Mrs Wong said. 'Were it not for the travel agency arranging transport for us to come to Modern Terminals, it would be quite a hassle.'

Dieter Poleska, a guest from Germany who also joined the cruise in Hong Kong yesterday, agreed. He said he hoped more accommodating facilities could be ready soon. 'This is not a typical terminal for a ship like this. I think you should find a better solution because the first impression is not very good,' Mr Poleska said.

The less-than-luxurious reception prompted government officials to express hope that the development of terminal facilities at the former Kai Tak airport site by 2012 would encourage more cruise operators to include the city on their itineraries and base their ships here permanently.

Tourism Commissioner Au King-chi, who welcomed the Queen Mary 2, said work on the terminal was on schedule and planning should be finished by October or November.

'In the meantime, we still need to work out docking arrangements, baggage handling, embarking and disembarking passengers, immigration and other issues,' Ms Au said. 'The hope is that the terminal will make Hong Kong not just another stopover on cruise itineraries but a hub and permanent base that can help boost the tourism industry.'

The three-year-old Queen Mary 2 is more than halfway into its 82-day maiden world cruise.

It arrived in Hong Kong for the first time yesterday and had to dock at the cargo terminal instead of Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui due to its size. The ship is 23 storeys tall and 345 metres long. It weighs 151,400 tonnes.

The ship's master, Commodore Bernard Warner, played down the less than favourable environs. 'Queen Mary 2 is a very large ship with a very deep draft and plenty of length, and we cannot fit into all of the passenger terminals in all of the ports in the world,' he said.

Its size prevented it from passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and docking at the overseas passenger terminal berth at Circular Quay. It was berthed at the Garden Island naval base.