30 – 31 March: Hong Kong (and not attending Cunard’s Gala Dinner)

This was another overnight stop. We have found that they make such a difference. The long first day means that you can do much more and in the confidence that, if delayed, the ship will not sail without you.

We started the day in a leisurely fashion, having breakfast in the Britannia Restaurant before wandering off the ship to get on a shuttle at about 10am. The as ever excellent service dropped us in Kowloon, very close to the waterside and the metro station at Tsim Sha Tsui.

We shunned the subway in this first day, wishing to travel by the Star Ferry. Getting tickets was now an automated process and I had to queue for a machine, which then would not accept either my credit card or one of the high denomination notes I had with me. I had to buy a bottle of water at some extreme price before returning to the queue where an amicable Metro employee allowed me to push into the front.

The ferry was unchanged from the experience I first had almost twenty years ago when I visited just before the British withdrawal. The staff on shore still hauled in the mooring rope after first securing them with the same long grappling hooks:

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Once on Hong Kong Island we made straight for an adjacent wharf and caught the 40-minute fast ferry to Cheung Chau Island, which we’d never visited before and, until reading the Lonely Planet Guide, had not heard of. It was lovely. Full of three generation Hong Kong families enjoying what looked very much like a British day at the seaside: sitting on the beach, eating ice-cream, chips and candy floss. It was all very jolly and we enjoyed sitting at a modest pavement Cafe watching the business all around us.

We stayed only a couple of hours because there had been an enormous scrum getting on the ferry, made worse by a kind cashier simply insisting that we had to have Seniors’ tickets (at £1.50 each) but which took a little time to issue. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that, despite my aged appearance, I wasn’t actually eligible for another three years yet. We got the last ferry back before – as predicted for us by another very helpful member of the Metro staff – the rush would return. We were back at the Star Ferry for about four and on Nathan Road in Kowloon by 4.30. We diverted into MacDonald’s to use their lighting Wi-Fi and download more books onto our Ipads and Kindles before walking up to Temple Street Night Market which was delightful and not yet terribly busy. We bought a present for Jim and Rabiah and something for one of our great nieces. The big forgery product this year was Herschel Rucksacks.

By 7pm we were at The Shangri La where, some time ago, we’d booked a table in their acclaimed Cantonese Restaurant, which has two Michelin stars. It was somewhat more expensive than our £6 lunch in the Street Food market in Ho Chi Minh City, costing about £170 including tip. We had complimentary champagne tea and sweet hazelnuts on arrival. I had a couple of beers and we had a decent bottle of wine. The food was outstanding (Curried Lobster, Sichuan Chicken with Fresh Chillies, Beef in a Black Bean and Pepper Sauce and their Special Fried Rice). The service was extraordinary. We don’t think we’ve experienced such attentive service without it being in any way invasive or irritating. It was a memorable experience.

We were pleased about that because to the horror of some of our fellow World Cruisers (four of whom almost pinned me down in the Grand Lobby and pleaded with me to go, predicting we’d regret it terribly) we turned down invitations from the Captain to join all the QM2 World Cruisers along with all the Queen Elizabeth World Cruisers in a “Gala Dinner” at the Kerry Hotel in Kowloon. Attending would have meant not being able to visit Cheung Chau Island, instead having to travel back to the ship mid afternnon to get changed into formal dress. By contrast, all we needed to do to get into the restaurant at The Shangri La was for me to carry a pair of trousers in my rucksack.

Reports on the Gala Event were very mixed. Our next-door neighbours said it was wonderful. But our table companions were less enthusiastic and described quite a lot of waiting around and indifferent food service (despite the menu choice being confined to just Salmon or Beef). David, a Cunard enthusiast and someone always easy going and tolerant, said he had to eat his meal on his own, as other meals were delayed. He told us the evening “left him cold.”

Some other World Cruisers decided not to attend too, but largely for religious reasons. In truth Cunard should not have arranged such an event on a day which was both Good Friday and Passover, which meant that a number of Roman Catholics and those of the Jewish faith did not wish to attend. That said, there were still about 1200 people there and we’re glad we opted out.

We made an earlier start on day two – Easter Saturday – and were on the first shuttle at nine. We got the Metro to Hong Kong Island, travelling a couple of stops west of Central and walked back via The Western Market (a fabric market although very small) and then down Hollywood Road which was full of fascinating antique shops. We were warned that anything affordable would likely be a fake but, in fact, nothing was affordable.

The contrast between Kowloon and Hollywood Rod could hardly have been greater and we had the choice of many European restaurants for lunch finally sitting at the bar and eating Croque Monsieur at a very atmospheric French Cafe.

Another great Port visit which ended with a trumpeting of ships’ whistles as we pulled away from the Queen Elizabeth docked directly behind us:

 

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martinandjansjourney

62 year old male on the edge of retirement and giving that a trial with a four month break. Not our first Cruise, but certainly our first and only World Cruise.

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