If ever you are asked to pick up a passenger disembarking at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, just say no. And if you cannot wriggle out of it, be prepared.
Ever since the Norman Foster-designed, HK$8.2 billion terminal opened three years ago, it has attracted complaints, mostly concerning its underutilisation and transport limitations. Proof that nothing has changed can be found on TripAdvisor, where scores of dissatisfied travellers continue to rail about the dearth of taxis servicing passengers disgorged into nowhere-land.
I phoned the terminal for advice days before my parents were due to arrive on a Princess Cruises ship. No, it was not a good idea to drive there to pick them up, I was told. There’s limited parking nearby.
Free shuttle buses take passengers to Kwun Tong and Diamond Hill MTR stations, but consider this: the average age of cruise passengers is close to 50. My parents were born in the 1930s. They had begun their trip in Sydney, Australia, and arrived in Hong Kong three weeks later wheeling suitcases so big I could live in one and rent out the other.
Putting them on a bus would have been tricky. So would waiting interminably for a taxi. Besides, they had only a day in the city, meaning no time to waste.
So why aren’t taxis dispatched to Kai Tak when ships come in? The terminal operator tells the cab companies to send vehicles when ships are due, but few drivers want the job because it’s out of the way.
I know this to be true because I, too, tried to book a taxi. When that didn’t work, I caved in and rang a friend, who has a driver.
As my parents and I walked past the cab rank, I asked an official how long passengers would be standing in line for a taxi. He pointed to a signboard bisecting the queue that read: “Minimum waiting time: 60 minutes”.
So it could be two hours? He shrugged. One thing’s for sure, none will be coming back.