Hong Kong is a unique blend of 5,000 years of Chinese culture, 150 years of British colonial rule, and the bustling energy of a modern, international city.
The British ceded Hong Kong back to China in 1997, and it remains a free-market zone, where residents still refer to the “border” with mainland China. Indeed, you can’t cross that border without a Chinese tourist visa; but no matter, there’s more than enough Hong Kong to keep you occupied while in port with Holland America Line.
Many cruises of Asia and Southeast Asia call on Hong Kong, which has the best deep-water harbor in Asia. Because many of these cruise itineraries begin and/or end in Hong Kong, it’s easy to spend some extra time diving in to all this city has to offer.
“Amazing” is an overused word, but it’s what comes to mind at every turn in Hong Kong. Starting with the Kai Tak cruise terminal, built on a former airport runway, the terminal is centrally located in Hong Kong’s scenic Victoria Harbor. It houses a surprising array of shops and restaurants, and has a rooftop garden with 360-degree harbor views.
Don’t get stuck in just the fantastic terminal, here are a few more things to know about the culture and must-see sights before planning your visit.
“Amazing” is an overused word, but it’s what comes to mind at every turn in Hong Kong.
If you’ll be spending a few days in Hong Kong, purchase a rechargeable Octopus Card, which is a quick and convenient way to pay for public transportation like buses, underground trains, trams and ferries; and also at vending machines, convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and some shops. This will save you time trying to convert money and could result in 5-10% savings at most places.
In Hong Kong, food is meant to be shared. If dishes seem expensive, they’re probably meant to be shared, family style, by three or four people. Order steamed dumplings, wontons, and fish balls then pass them around the table to give everyone a taste.
You won’t need a reservation at most restaurants so you can stop in wherever catches your eye as you explore the famous Lan Kwai Fong Street. Finally, tipping is both customary and appreciated, and 10% is considered generous, but you should check your bill to ensure it wasn’t included by default.
Hong Kong is famous for mouthwatering dim sum: small, filled dumplings, rice rolls, and buns. Note that locals usually enjoy dim sum in the morning and afternoon; many restaurants do not serve dim sum in the evening which is when you might expect them.
If you’re in the elevator and wondering why there’s no 4th, 14th or 24th floor it’s because the number 4 sounds like the word “death” in Cantonese and is thus considered unlucky. Small little things like this are part of what make the trip more interesting and unique, so don’t be afraid to ask or sign-up for a guest lecture on board to learn more.
Luckily Holland America docks in a perfect location, just beside the Star Ferry terminal that takes people from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. It’s an inexpensive and very efficient way to get across the harbor while enjoying some of the best views of Hong Kong’s stunning skyscrapers, backed by Victoria Peak. The ferry is also a great vantage point for the nightly light shows that shimmer across the tall buildings.
Holland America Line will be rolling out this new exciting feature across the full line over the next two years. Onboard guides will enhance your trip with vivid stories, while speakers give you the “locals only” insight and the Encounters group helps you find even more ways to connect with the destinations culture and history.
Climb aboard the worlds steepest tram railway to ride to the The Peak for some of the best views in all of Hong Kong. Expect the ride to be a little bumpy, as the tram is pulled up by a single cable, but the 7 minute ride is well worth it.
You’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the city, the surrounding islands, and China in the distance. Once you reach the top, stop to stretch your legs on some of the trails that also provide some spectacular views.
Part of the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, this bronze Buddha is one of the world’s largest sitting Buddha statues at 112ft. You can enjoy the site from a distance or work up a sweat to go enjoy your dumplings, by climbing the 268 steps to the platform for an up close inspection of this masterpiece and six other small bronze statues which face the Giant Buddha.
These are known as the Six Devas and each kneeling statue has an offering of flowers, fruits, incense, music, ointment or a lamp as a representation of all that matters in this culture.
Get a true feel for the bustle of this city and the urban vibes by visiting some of the many popular street markets filled with hand-made goods and street performers.
The Ladies’ Market (not just for ladies) is the place for designer knock-offs, but be ready to bargain it’s expected. Temple Street is a night market, with great street food, pop up performances, fortune-tellers and plenty of shopping.
The busy season for visitors in Hong Kong is September through December, due to the ideal weather – sunny, dry days and cool nights. You can expect to see longer lines and thicker crowds during this time of year, but once you experience the magic of Hong Kong for yourself, it is worth it.