Full circle When the Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas (above) put in at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal earlier this month, the main passenger complaint seemed to be a lack of time to spend ashore. Oddly enough, the same problem affected passengers stopping over in Hong Kong during the world's first round-the-world package tour, which arrived from Shanghai on December 9, 1872. The tour was personally led by company owner Thomas Cook, who a few days earlier had written to his wife that "there is great grief at the thought that we shall only have about 20 hours" in Hong Kong. He wrote to her again some days later to say that "our stay at Hong Kong was shamefully short, and we had to leave China almost shabbily, not being able to see Canton". Cook was still harping on about the brevity of the Hong Kong stopover the following February, this time in a letter to The Times, written while he was somewhere on the Red Sea, en route for home. "Our worst miscalculation of time was experienced at Hongkong, where we had to content ourselves with a glance at another edition of English life," he grumbled. "In programmes for future guidance of tourists I will pay especial attention to this point of the tour." And so he did, as the tour (the first advertisements for which had inspired Jules Verne to write the novel Around the World in 80 Days) became an annual event, and Hong Kong's tourism industry was born.

 

Bangkok bash The Peninsula Bangkok (right) turns 15 this year and to mark the occasion it is running a Fifteen Facets package, priced at 55,150 baht (plus 17 per cent tax and service, so 64,525 baht/HK$16,350) for four nights double occupancy. This would seem expensive if it weren't for the fact that guests will also receive: a fast-track welcome from the plane; round-trip airport transfers by BMW; daily breakfast; a lunch at the pool; a private dinner for two in the Paribatra Aviation Lounge; a one-hour spa treatment for two at The Peninsula Spa; a cooking class; afternoon tea for two; a tour in the hotel's signature tuk tuk; a private boat trip to the Asiatique The Riverfront mall; a three-hour guided cultural tour; and a late, 6pm checkout. Bringing the number of "facets" up to the required 15 are two lots of drinks at the hotel and the accommodation itself. This deal will be available until the end of October, and can be booked through www.peninsula.com or at reservationpbk@peninsula.com.

 

Fun and games Kempinski Hotels has hooked up with TripTuner, a website that lets you filter your holiday requirements using EQ-type sliders. The idea is that you drag each slider up or down between two criteria (such as Relaxing and Active) until the box above fills up with suitable places to stay. This being Kempinski, the High-end/Thrifty option has not been carried over from TripTuner. If you're looking for a popular beach resort for adults, for example, slide the Adults/Trendy/Beach/Resort settings to maximum and you'll be recommended the Kempinski Hotel Xian. Unfortunately, this is not a resort and it is more than 900 kilometres from the sea. Slide up Trendy and City, however, and up come Kempinski properties in sleepy Guiyang, in Guizhou province and N'Djamena, the capital of Chad and possibly the world's least trendy metropolis. For holiday advice, then, it's fairly useless, but seeing who can find the most inappropriate recommendation could make a good holiday game. Try for yourself at www.kempinski.com.

 

Deal of the week You can cross Angkor Wat off your to-see list with Swire Travel's Siem Reap package, which starts from HK$2,770 for two nights at the Angkor Riviera Hotel. A better deal, though, is the third free night at the popular old Grand Hotel d'Angkor from HK$4,630. Prices will be valid until late September and include flights via Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam Airlines, airport transfers and daily breakfast. For more hotels and reservations, visit www.swiretravel.com.