Hong Kong’s ferries and kaitos are marvellous: inexpensive, reasonably frequent and, at best, an unadorned harbour cruise that could justly impose a levy for the panoramas to port and starboard. Apart from that, they’re rubbish. Grimy, down at heel and poorly fitted out, they’re a lousy reflection of the picturesque waters they sail and Hong Kong’s sterling reputation as a city that once set the benchmark for world class. At many piers, a trip on one of the boats gets off to an ominous start with a trudge between a double rank of steel bars reminiscent of an abattoir entrance. On board, mediocre seating varies between school-canteen plastic and the Academy of Minimalist Upholstery. First prize for ugh-ugh-ugh decor goes to First Ferry’s dingy purple seating. There was a time when snacks and drinks – be it beer or lai cha – were sold aboard some ferries, a perfectly logical amenity that’s been replaced by one-size-fits-all vending machines. Cretinous loudspeaker announcements (“no gambling …”) disrupt what should be a chance to fall into a pleasant reverie or tinker with your smartphone – not that there’s trouble-free Wi-fi on board. And wait in vain for cheery greetings from the crew (with some heroic exceptions), who have yet to deduce that passengers’ fares pay their wages and even just pretending to enjoy their job might make it more pleasurable. Then there are the insects skittering about, the faux-timber decking on some Star Ferries and the grotty, floating egg cartons that are the Macau hydrofoils. A fleet-wide upgrade is in order. Cue bleat from (government-subsidised) operators: where’s the money going to come from? Well, generate some revenue from F&B. There’s no need for a chef, but offer something a couple of steps up from pot noodles and fizzy pop: trolleys on the smaller boats, and there’s room for a bar on the triple-deckers. Save some cash by turning down the air con. Sell the back of the seats as advertising space. Crunch the numbers and come up with a reasonably priced season ticket. If the experience afloat was more attractive, people might start viewing ferries as a merry excursion rather than simply a way of getting from A to B. And, er, how about some staff training? While I think of it, would the couple sitting behind me as I type this stop clipping their nails?