Hong Kong's $1 billion cruise terminal opens

Hong Kong's $1 billion cruise terminal opens

First passengers in 15 years welcomed at Kai Tak as cruise terminal replaces airport
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal
Kai Tak will once again be a gateway for tourists visiting Hong Kong. This time by sea, not air.

Hong Kong’s new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal welcomed its first customer yesterday, 15 years after the airport on the site closed. 

More than 3,000 passengers disembarked from Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas as the cruise debuted in Hong Kong at around 8 p.m. last night.

Subsidiary facilities at the terminal will be ready no earlier than October this year.

Most of the terminal building, including the customs, immigration and quarantine facilities, have been completed, but there's more work to be done before it can open to the public.

“We are hoping to open the terminal to the public in October when we finish the façade together with the other facilities,” said Philip Yung, Hong Kong’s commissioner for tourism.

More on CNN: Breathtaking photos of Hong Kong airport glory days

More than 3,000 travelers landed in Hong Kong last night, testing facilities such as immigration counters for the first time. When completed, the HK$8.2 billion ($1 billion) terminal will have two berths able to accommodate the biggest cruise ships in the world, one of the biggest public roof gardens in Hong Kong, as well as a commercial area with restaurants and retail shops.

Some teething problems were apparent last night during the first mooring.

Long queues were seen at the terminal waiting for pre-arranged shuttle buses and taxis.

The cruise terminal’s managing director Jeff Bent said the port had been communicating with local taxi companies for three months, but couldn't control whether or not taxi drivers would come.

“If they won’t come, we can arrange more buses in the future,” said Bent. “We are also applying for one minibus line to run from the terminal to the city.”

Royal Caribbean is the first company to call Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, formerly Kai Tak International Airport, its home port.

“We see Hong Kong to have great market potential, attracting guests from Hong Kong and South China, as well as international guests,” said Dr. Zinan Liu, Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd.’s regional vice president in Asia.

“That’s why we would make Hong Kong one of our major home ports.”

Royal Caribbean will have at least two home port sailings this year, voyaging from Hong Kong to Taiwan and back in October.

The 311-meter ship is one of the 10 biggest cruise liners in the world.

This is its first visit to Hong Kong. The other major cruise terminal in Hong Kong, Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, is unable to cope with a ship this large.

The Mariner of the Seas will leave Hong Kong for Okinawa, Japan, at 4 p.m. on June 13.

Hiufu Wong is CNN Travel's staff writer.

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