musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Hong Kong

Cruise Ships in Hong Kong


When I visited Hong Kong in 2008 I was hoping to see at least one cruise ship because it is a very popular destination. The cruise ship terminal is at the Kowloon waterfront, with the ferry terminal right next to it.  I recall that shortly after we had checked into our hotel we headed towards Admiralty on the MTR, but once we got there I branched off and headed for the ferry terminal because I really wanted to ride a ferry and hopefully see a ship or two or three.

And I hit the jackpot

The vessel in front is the Silver Whisper and the one behind the berth is SuperStar Aquarius. During our stay there were 7 cruise ships in port, literally a new one every day, so I made it my business to visit the harbour at least once a day.

Silver Whisper

I saw Silver Whisper once again in Southampton in 2013. 
SuperStar Aquarius is a regular and I saw her every day, she seems to come and go on short junkets all the time. She is not the sort of vessel that stands out amongst the crowd though.
SuperStar Aquarius (2010)

SuperStar Aquarius (2010)

Judging by the file numbers the next caller was Hapag Lloyd’s Europa. She is the 4th iteration of ships using this name, and a 5th one entered service in 2013.


It was probably later that day when yet another oldie arrived, and I have to admit my first pics of her were terrible, the pollution levels in Hong Kong can really make for poor photography, especially in the late afternoon.  The Ji Mei is the former Scandinavian ferry M/s Princess Ragnhild of 1966.

Ji Mei late afternoon arrival

I saw her on a number of occasions so did manage better images of her. 
Ji Mei in 2010

Ji Mei in 2010

The next group of arrivals I only got to see in the evening. Bear in mind that we were attending a course so morning jaunts down to the harbour did not happen; they only happened after we were done for the day.  There is a light show every night at the waterfront, and when it was finished we headed to the terminal to grab some pics of anything that may still be alongside. On this occasion there were two arrivals. The first being MS Nautica, and she was getting ready to sail. I was fortunate enough to see Nautica once again in Southampton in 2013.   
Making ready to sail

Making ready to sail


Nautica underweigh

Behind her was berthed Star Pisces and she sailed first, although I could not get a decent pic of her, but managed to see her the next day. She too is a former ferry
Star Pisces coming alongside

Star Pisces coming alongside

Berthed in front of Star Pisces was the Seabourn Spirit. I had seen one of her sisters in Durban in 1992

Seabourn Spirit alongside

 and the next day, which was also our last, saw the Crystal Serenity alongside.
Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity

However, I had been watching the internet for information about the QE2, I knew she was going to call in Hong Kong on her last world cruise, and I had hoped that she would have been occupying the berth that Crystal Serenity was now occupying when we got to the harbour. Unfortunately that was not the case, she was berthed up in the container area somewhere and a helpful cruise agent more or less pointed me in the right direction. It was literally as close to the end of the MTR line as you could get. My companions were not amused, but eventually we hopped the MTR and headed to the station. There was no sign of the ship, or any ship for that matter, you could not get into the waterfront area to even have a look and I was very disappointed when we returned to our hotel, the situation not being helped by the one co-worker who was becoming more irritating all the time.  When we boarded the bus to go to the airport I watched as we passed the container berth and suddenly I saw her!

A brief 10 second glimpse was all I had of her.  To this day I always regret not investigating that area closer, it was not far from where we had been either, but that was just how things worked out.


When we revisited Hong Kong in 2010 I was hoping to be as lucky again. But much to my disgust there were no callers during the week we were there. The ships would all be calling in the next week instead. 

The only vessels that we saw were SuperStar Aquarius and Ji Mei

Ji Mei (L), SuperStar Aquarius (R)

However, it was only when I was processing my images back home that I realised that there were two other cruise ships that I could have seen had I realised it at the time.
Macau Success (L)  and  Starry Metropolis (R)

Macau Success (L) and Neptune (R)

The Macau Success was built as Golden Odyssey, while Neptune was built as Kareliya. 

Neptune at the furtherest extent of my lens

a bit of rooting around snagged me a better image of Neptune (By pete (Neptune at Hong Kong) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Passenger Cruise Ship Neptune at Hong Kong

By pete (Neptune at Hong Kong)

as well as Macau Success. By Mk2010 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Macau Success Cruise Ship (Hong Kong)

By Mk2010 (Own work)


And that is how things go,  Hindsight is always so much better.

That concluded my cruise ship viewing in Hong Kong. Hong Kong as a destination is excellent but the air quality can make for poor photography at times. And of course, who knows what is hiding just around the buildings, or in the container berth?

DRW 2010-2019. Retrospectively created 05/06/2016

Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:57

The Star Ferry Page (2)



The vessels are double ended with a wheelhouse on either end and a central engine room with an open lower deck and an enclosed upper. 
Rough dimensions are: Length Overall 36.28m, Extreme Breadth 8.57m, Net tonnage: 39.69, Gross Tonnage 164.01, Passenger capacity 551, Minimum crew 5.
They were all built at Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyards. Golden Star and World Star were built in 1989 by Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd and can carry 762 as opposed to 576 for the rest of the fleet. 
The debate is out as to whether the upper deck is better than the lower. From a price perspective the lower is more affordable, while from a view point perspective the upper is. But, the lower deck is so much nicer because you are so close to the water.
Mooring position
Lower Deck
Upper Deck
Steering Position
Northern Star Builders Plate
Upper Deck
Navigation Light, Life Rafts and Funnel
Central Ferry Terminal
Embarkation Point
Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal
Tsim Sha Tsui Terminal

DRW. ©  2008-2019 This page originally created in March 2008 and updated 15 April 2010. Moved to blog 21/12/2013, images recreated 10/03/2016

Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:58

The Star Ferry Page (1)

Star Ferries at Kowloon and Central Hong Kong

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a trip on the Star Ferries. These familiar cream and green ferries have been ploughing the waters of Hong Kong for over 110 years and are an institution. I have been fortunate enough to take at least 8 trips between Kowloon and Central and each time is like a mini-adventure. There appear to be 12 ferries in service and I have managed to photograph 11 of these during the 2 trips I have made to Hong Kong.  Shining Star does the harbour cruises for Star Ferries and her look is very different from the rest, she is a reproduction of the earlier ferries that used to ply these waters. The rest of the ferries were built between 1956 and 1989 in Hong Kong. There is also a ferry for hire called “Golden Star” which could be the mystery Louis Vuitton branded ferry I saw in 2008. 
The vessels are double ended with a wheelhouse on either end and a central engine room with an open lower deck and an enclosed upper. Rough dimensions are: Length Overall 36.28m,  Extreme Breadth 8.57m, Net tonnage: 39.69, Gross Tonnage 164.01, Passenger capacity 551, Minimum crew 5. They were all built at Hong Kong & Whampoa Shipyards. Golden Star and World Star were built in 1989 by Wang Tak Engineering & Shipbuilding Ltd and can carry 762 as opposed to 576 for the rest of the fleet. 


Meridian Star (1958) Celestial Star (1956)
Twinkling Star (1964) Day Star (1964)
Shining Star (1964 Solar Star (1958)
World Star (1989) Northern Star (1959)
Silver Star (1965) Morning Star (1965)


Golden Star (1989)

DRW. ©  2008-2018. This page originally created in March 2008 and updated 15 April 2010. Moved to blog 21/12/2013, images recreated 10/03/2016

Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:58

My 2nd Visit to Hong Kong

I was very fortunate that I was able to go on business to Hong Kong in 2008, and I liked it so much I went there for a short break in March 2010. This blogpost is really a retrospect as it is being written many years after the fact, but I do not want to loose some of the magic of what I saw there.
I was accompanied by two of my work colleagues on the trip, and while we only really spent 5 days there, it was enough to see a small portion of what was on offer. We did not fly direct but via Dubai, and by the time we landed we were dog tired. 


When we landed it was already night time and we hit the sack in short order.  I had a few things lined up on my itinerary,  these included a visit to Sai Wan War Cemetery, as many trips on the Star Ferry as I could make, and of course cruise ship watching at the terminal. I also wanted to get out to the Peak and ride the Peak Tram, as well as a normal tram. Everything else was incidental. 

Much to my dismay there were no cruise ships in the harbour while we were there, in fact the only cruise ship I saw was the Star Aquarius, and I had seen her in 2008 as well.

She is not really a spectacular ship, and apart from the ferry Jimei the only other maritime traffic of real interest were the many tugboats that plied up and down, often with a crane or container barge in tow.

On our previous visit there had been a new ship in port every day,  but it did not look like I was going to be as lucky as I was back then.
On the first day we headed out to ride up to the “The Peak”. We had not been able to do this in 2008 because of time constraints, and eventually we ended up going twice on this trip. The Peak Tram is a cable drawn tram, and it does some very impressive hill climbing that can be very disorientating.


However, the view from the Peak is amazing

Image taken by Roger Perry, possibly in the 60's or 70's

Image taken by Roger Perry, possibly in the 60’s or 70’s

Back in the old days the harbour would have been jam packed with shipping of all shapes and persuasions. Today there is much less shipping as most has converted to containerisation so there is no real need for vessels to offload into lighters for weeks on end. The skyline has also become more crowded, and the city is really booming.

The weather during our stay was not great, as usual it was hot and steamy and I would be drenched with sweat very quickly while sucking away at my Watson’s Water. But as the time progressed it became increasingly more misty and gloomy, and I could feel my sinuses protesting very quickly. However, when we had good weather the views of the city were spectacular. Hong Kong has a very impressive skyline, and you literally step off a ferry into skyscrapers. It does take some getting used to, but it always makes your heart skip a beat when you see it for the first time.


The trams that run on the Island are an experience on their own. They are not very wide and their colour schemes were loud and gaudy with advertising.


Considering that they are still in use, and that there are newer versions out there is amazing, Hong Kong does not seem to be ready to abandon this slightly arcane form of transportation yet, and given how chaotic the traffic can be there is a lot to be said about the public transport.


Talking of public transport, we rode the MTR a lot, and it was still fast and efficient and could teach London a thing or two. This time around I had bought an Octopus Card and was using that almost everywhere. The beauty of it is that there are readers everywhere, and you can buy MTR tickets at a machine or snacks at a shop with the card.


My trip to Sai Wan War Cemetery would be made using the MTR, and I rode the line almost to the end before tackling the rest of the journey on foot.  It was however the first time that I had seen an MTR train outside of the glass enclosures on the stations.


I was fortunate that I did get a glimpse of the cemeteries in Hong Kong on this trip, and the huge cemetery complex at Cape Collinson really left an impression. It also made me really tired because there were a lot of stairs to get to the point where I took this image from.


There is a lot that I could say about the War Cemetery, and I have done that in a blog post elsewhere, but suffice to say that this was the biggest military cemetery that I had ever seen, and it really had to be seen to be believed.


On my way back from Sai Wan I stopped at the Coastal Defence Museum, and it was fascinating. Unfortunately that misty weather really ruined the views that I could have had, but I still came away with a better appreciation of those who built these structures, and those who spent time here.  Unfortunately, fortress engineers often design these structures and do not take too much cognisance of how warfare changes, and what works today does not work tomorrow, so a fortress like this would become redundant quite quickly. I am sure it did not stop the Japanese when they invaded the island in 1941.


It would have been a great place to do ship watching from, but all I saw were the usual odd vessels that seemed to do local trading.


Naturally no visit to Hong Kong would have been complete without going to the light show, and it was probably the same light show that we saw in 2008, but it was still great fun, especially trying to capture that perfect shot.

Our hotel was situated not too far from the MTR station, and it was comfortable, but not as spectacular as the one we had stayed in last time we were here. In fact the view was somewhat restricted by all the buildings crowding around us.

At ground level it was not as hectic, although in Hong Kong hectic is available around every corner.


One place I had to visit was what I had dubbed “The Street of a Thousand Smells”, and the smell had not changed one bit even 3 years later.
We had decided to visit the company where we had had training in 2008. Our repairs had become much better after that training, and it was nice to meet with the trainers from before. Little did we know that in a years time all of that training would be worthless and wasted as our “management” shut down the company I was working for and flushed our efforts down the loo. 2 factory trained technicians left redundant by a lot of people who were hell bent on killing off the company, and the repairs handed to people who didn’t have the faintest knowledge of how to do the repairs.

Yet, that trip in 2008 had shown me a part of the world I had never considered visiting, and it had impressed me so much that I was here once again. As a destination Hong Kong is amazing, but I don’t think I could live there. For starters the pollution would drive me crazy, as would the humidity. There is somewhat of a language barrier though, and of course a definite culture shock, but they are not insurmountable. The other aspect that I did enjoy was safety. There was a visible police presence on the beat, and the people seemed generally law abiding, although I do expect it really depended on where you went or where about you lived.  

I enjoyed the strange contrasts between high tech and traditional, and of course the thronging masses that often accumulated at robots and intersections were fascinating because us westerners all seemed slightly taller than the many Chinese that surrounded us. We were literally looking over their heads. And as for the women? they are beautiful, they dress well, are tiny in stature, and are self confident and seemed to be very focused when they are not on their phones. 


The all embracing digital media dominated lives though. People were disconnected in their own private world that involved their smart phone/tablet and headsets. That is also true for parts of the UK, but by the same token, they are so engrossed in that world that they are oblivious to what is around them, and often you would have to dodge a self absorbed cell maniac as they tapped out their sms or chatted to their buddies.

It was also in Hong Kong where one of those rare photographs of me was taken. And naturally it would be where I was happiest: the waterfront.


A lot of my activities really centered the waterfront and the ferry terminals, and I just loved riding the ferries. If it had been up to me I would have spent all day riding up and down.  We did a trip up to Asia World with the ferry and the building was really spectacular. Unfortunately it was also populated by suspicious people wearing robes, insisting that only I could save the starving hordes.


Now on occasions I can be classed as a starving horde all on my own, and fine dining in Hong Kong is not something we eagerly participated in, although in 2008 we had been treated by our hosts to some proper Chinese and Korean food, and it was fantastic. We still erred on the side of eating stuff we could identify. But for almost 8 months after we returned I suffered from some sort of tummy bug that I picked up in the city, so much so that I ended up being tested for something more serious.


The signage and advertising always fascinated me, there was no lack of originality, and for that matter almost anything went.


The badly translated signs were obviously our favourites, and of course how could you not like a sign that advertises a slightly dodgy hotel with hourly rates?


Soon our time in this amazing city would come to an end, and we would endure that 21 hours that it would take for us to get home. But it had been a great trip, and I think any longer would have been problematic. However, a return visit would be something I would contemplate without a second thought because as far as destinations go; Hong Kong is a must. The airport is clean, large and very easy to navigate through, and visa formalities are a breeze. I wish that was true for all airports.

Random Images.

I have over 2500 images that I took on those two trips, and it still does not show anything of what the place is like. It is a frenetic place with a huge buzz about it. It is best experienced than seen from photographs. Long may it be with us.

DRW ©  2010-2019. Images recreated 09/03/2016

Updated: 09/04/2019 — 05:59

Heading to Hong Kong.

The company I worked for had introduced a new product and they decided to send three of us to Hong Kong for training. I was not too keen on going originally as the long flights are killers, but it was an opportunity seldom given to technical staff so did not protest too much.

We left on the Friday afternoon, flying with Cathay Pacific, and the flight was a killer, but much more bearable because of the excellent service on board the aircraft. After we landed we had a bus scheduled to take us to our hotel in Mong Kok in Kowloon, The company giving the course was in the same complex and that made for easy commuting every day.  

After landing and freshening up we decided to grab the MTR and head to Hong Kong Island itself. Naturally I wanted to ride a ferry and check out the ships, the other two were not interested in that at all. The MTR is fantastic; it is easy to use, efficient, fast, and goes almost anywhere. 
I photographed the building where we were staying just in case we got lost so at least I could show the image and gesticulate madly if I needed directions.
Then we were off, and once we arrived at our destination station (which we had chosen randomly) we bailed out and went for a quick walk. The mere presence of all that water made me very happy and I peeled off from my companions very quickly and headed to the closest point where I could see ships.  I was in luck because there were two cruise ships alongside. 
The vessel in front is the Silver Whisper and the one behind the berth is Super Star Aquarius. During our stay there were 7 cruise ships in port, literally a new one every day, so I made it my business to visit the harbour at least once a day. In 2010 I did a separate blogpost about the cruise ships in Hong Kong
I crossed the harbour using the iconic Star Ferries, and I did a separate blogpost about these vessels that ply to and fro in Hong Kong. They are wonderful to travel on, although I do regret not using the lower deck as it was much closer to the water.
The waterfront area of Kowloon is fantastic as it has great views across the harbour (and vice versa), 
Unfortunately though the air quality is poor and there was a yellow haze that blocked out the sun in the mornings. It was also very humid and hot and fortunately bottled water was available almost anywhere, 
The Kowloon waterfront area has been developed as a touristy area and was crowded with sightseers and tourists, as well as those who ply their trade off these visitors.  
That was also true to some of the shopping areas where shady individuals try to sell you knock off watches and tailor made suits. 
Realistically though I was in sensory overload. Some areas were frenetic with energy, and there was a definite buzz to it. When you look out over the crowd all you see is a mass of black hair with the occasional westerner sticking out above the crowd.

Generally though the people were helpful and friendly and most spoke a modicum of English and tolerated these strange visitors. On Sunday it looked like whole families grabbed their gear and headed off for an impromptu picnic in some of the open areas (of which there are very few).

One of our party had not brought a camera long and we seemed to spend a lot of time in shops looking at cameras, and while this was a waste of time, it was also interesting to see the wide array of electronic goods available, most of which never came near South Africa. We also spotted a local name in one of the alleys which led us to investigate more closely.


But we came away without a camera! In fact, by the time we left Hong Kong he had still not bought one.

Overall shopping was amazing, and at night the street market was abuzz, but unfortunately a lot of what was for sale was junk, or knock off designer labels. But it was fascinating to walk through the crowds and just interact with the locals.


The other night activity took part on the Kowloon waterfront, every night there would be a laser light show that happened across the harbour. It was really interesting to watch because all the major buildings would remain lit up or change their lighting schemes as the show went on. It was also a great time to experiment with the camera. 

 Night sailings happened too, This is Nautica sailing just after the light show.


My room was on the 17th floor of the hotel and the view was really good, although tinted windows and smog did colour the images.


The hotel was literally built on top of the railway station, and the whole complex was incredibly busy during the day and at night.


But again the complex was dominated by the designer label fad, and frankly those places do not interest me. However, the escalators were really amazing.

Our course usually ran from 8.30 till 3 and we had the rest of the day free after that, and would go walkies around the area. As it was a 3 day course we also had an extra day off (Thursday) and would fly out on the Friday, But by Thursday my sinuses were starting to suffer and I was reaching a point where leaving would be a great idea, even if I was having a blast.

Our time off we spent roaming around and just enjoying the ambience. Hong Kong was an experience rather than just a place, there is a blend of old and new on every street corner, and as far as I recall at least 8 of the buildings are over 50 storeys high! 



It is also one of the cities in the world that still has trams running, and while we did not ride them this time around we certainly did in 2010.


As you climb higher towards Soho on Hong Kong Island everything changes. This is residential, trendy, yuppie and student orientated. And the area where we explored even had an escalator rising up the steep streets. Now that is not something you see everyday.

In fact the angles and slopes here can be quite interesting, and if you do not know how to use a handbrake you can wave your car goodbye. We did not get to ride the Peak Tram though (because we were too busy looking at bloody cameras!) although we did rectify that in 2010.

At least our hotel was not quite of the calibre of some of the seedier “One Hour Hotels”


Kowloon Park was also on our agenda and it was a very nice quiet place in the otherwise bustling shopping areas.


But, like a good things our trip had to end and we spent the Friday morning chasing the QE2 which was on her last world cruise. Unfortunately we did not find her, but passed her on the coach on the way back to the airport.


The airport is efficient, clean, and huge, but much more preferable than the cold soulless hub at Dubai.


Would I return? of course, I returned in 2010, and would return again given the chance. The fact remains, it is a great destination offering the best of all worlds. There are no visa problems,  it is safe. reasonably clean, and of course I know what to expect. Unfortunately hotel accommodation is expensive, and prices can be a surprise, although when we were there the Rand was roughly on a par with the $HK, so it was easy to get a comparison. I am not so sure now though, the Rand having taken many tumbles.

Random Images.



And then it was over. Massive sinus plagued me for a few days afterwards, and I had over 1000 images to process, and did I mention jetlag? yaaaawn. The flights were killers. Hong Kong was tops though, I just wish that we had seen QE2, it is one of my biggest regrets.

Oh, he never did buy a camera.

DRW © 2008-2019. Created 31/10/2015. Images moved 03/03/2015

Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:21
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