Famed Hong Kong airport gets new lease on life

Famed Hong Kong airport gets new lease on life

Once a place of hairy landings and takeoffs, this former airport site gives a calmer welcome to its first cruise ship
Construction at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. The terminal opens officially in June.

Hong Kong's Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, formerly the notoriously challenging Kai Tak Airport, has received its first group of cruise ship passengers.

Once known for its extreme proximity to residential neighborhoods, Kai Tak's runway area has been dormant for more than 15 years since it closed in 1998, replaced by the current Chek Lap Kok or Hong Kong International Airport.

Although it is incomplete and will not open officially until later in the year, more than 2,000 passengers traveling on a two-week voyage on Celebrity Millennium disembarked at Kai Tak over the weekend for a trial run at the terminal.

The ship will berth for three days before pushing off on Monday.

“Maneuvering is easier here because of the open area. Ocean Terminal [the current main cruise terminal in Hong Kong] is more confined,” Celebrity Millennium captain Kostas Patsolas told South China Morning Post.

The captain also noted currents could make mooring more difficult than at Ocean Terminal on a windy day, according to the report. It took the vessel 45 minutes to dock.

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Public transportation to the terminal is not yet available and most of the infrastructures is incomplete, according to local media (Chinese only).

Retail shops are expected to move in towards the end of the year. A 24-hour coach service was provided to transport Celebrity Millennium passengers between the city center and the terminal.

The new terminal is scheduled to open in two phrases -– the first berth will open officially on June 1 and the second berth a month later.

Upon completion, the terminal will be able to accommodate the world’s biggest vessels, at around 360 meters long.

The cruise terminal building is designed by Foster + Partners.

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Hiufu Wong is CNN Travel's staff writer.

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