Passengers praise 'magnificent' Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on opening day
Cruise passengers delighted by their reception as sparkling Kai Tak facility opens for business
On a day that dragon boats made a splash at venues across the city, one of the world's biggest cruise liners was making bigger waves.
The Mariner of the Seas, on its maiden visit to Hong Kong, was the first cruise ship to dock at the Kai Tak cruise terminal - which its passengers described as "magnificent".
As the jumbo-sized vessel berthed at a strip of land that once saw jumbo jets coming and going every few minutes, shopping malls in East Kowloon were scrambling for a share of business from its 3,000 passengers.
And many of them were here to shop. New Zealander John Hayes, 67, was among the passengers. He said he has been on several cruise trips and this was the best experience.
"It's magnificent. I didn't even know [the terminal] is not completed yet," he said after taking a pre-arranged shuttle bus to the APM mall in Kwun Tong.
"There was a wonderful welcome at the terminal … with the dramas and dragon dance there."
He said he didn't have a shopping budget but would buy whatever he and his wife wanted. He also signed up for a package tour of Hong Kong Island and was looking forward to it.
Meanwhile, Chris Harrison, 53, from Australia, said he would spend A$500 (HK$3,600) in the city on items such as designer shoes. He was also unaware that the terminal was unfinished, and said it looked beautiful and functional to him.
Another passenger, fellow Australian Dirk Vanheeren, 73, said he had visited Hong Kong three times but was excited to be here again. He also budgeted A$500 for his stay and hoped to buy an iPad for his wife.
The 310-metre liner arrived at the terminal last night and is due to leave tonight.
But visitors were kept waiting yesterday in a long queue for taxis at the terminal, which the operator said was because many drivers were not willing to make the trek out to the new facility.
One crew member said Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui was more convenient for shops and restaurants.
British passenger Valerie Blakeway was worried that she wouldn't have enough time in the city. "I want to go to The Peak but I don't know if I can make it," she said. Although the city's shopping malls have arranged free buses for cruise passengers, Blakeway said she would rather go sightseeing than shopping. "There are malls everywhere, like Singapore and Dubai,"she said.