Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is celebrating the robust recovery it experienced in 2023, even though it reopened to international cruise ships far later than many other facilities in the post-pandemic era.
The terminal, located in the Kowloon City District, began welcoming cruise vessels on March 13, 2023, after China relaxed its pandemic rules.
Cruise Ship Arrivals in 2023 Reach 138
The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong has issued a review of its cruise business in 2023, which got off to a late start but still welcomed 138 cruise ships. While many global ports reopened in 2021 and 2022, Kai Tak remained closed for three years, finally reopening in the first quarter of 2023.
Worldwide Cruise Terminals, based in Hong Kong, manages the Kai Tak facility. The Hong Kong Tourism Board in August 2023 had predicted the terminal would welcome 166 cruise ships, which would have been closer to the 218 that called in pre-pandemic 2019.
The port’s final number of ship calls in 2023 is largely due to the home-porting of one ship, Resorts World One, an 1,856-guest ship chartered in early 2023 by Resorts World Cruises.
The ship, which previously operated as Explorer Dream for Dream Cruises and SuperStar Virgo for Star Cruises, sails multiple itineraries to Sanya, a beach resort on China’s Hainan Island.
“The return of international ship calls and a new homeport deployment marked a positive restart for both cruising and Hong Kong,” said Jeff Bent, managing director at Worldwide Cruise Terminals.
“We were delighted to host cruise ships again for the first time in a year, and welcome international ship calls and visitors back for the first time in three years,” added Bent.
Bent said that the total ship calls in 2023 represented 75% of annual pre-pandemic levels, and enabled the terminal to retain 90% of the local market share of cruise passengers.
Terminal Improvements Geared to Boost Arrivals
Looking ahead to 2024, the terminal is expected to exceed its 2023 numbers and attract more cruise lines. Efforts have been made to improve transportation to and from the terminal, with a new Kai Tak metro station, a new road, high-speed rail, and more bus services that will ease access to downtown Hong Kong.
The transportation upgrades are expected to boost choices for pre- and post-cruise excursions in the city’s Greater Bay Area.
Efforts also focused on helping Hong Kong travel agents sell cruises locally. In November 2023, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) held a day-long selling seminar at the terminal, an educational event that attracted some 50 travel sellers.
Led by Peter Kollar, CLIA’s head of international training and development, the seminar included a ship tour of Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice, which was docked at the terminal.
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Kai Tak Cruise Terminal also resumed holding activities and performances in 2023, such as sporting competitions, musical events, and a variety of commercial productions.
Major Cruise Lines Sending Ships to Kai Tak
With 2024 representing the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal’s first full year of operations since 2019, officials are upbeat about its prospects for attracting more cruise lines.
“The future for cruising is bright again, and we expect more calls by a wider variety of lines in 2024, including eight inaugural calls. Hong Kong has done much to improve the attractiveness and infrastructure for cruising over the last few years, with new attractions in the West Kowloon Cultural District,” said Managing Director Bent.
Resorts World One is slated to continue homeporting at Kai Tak until early May 2024. Other cruise ships scheduled to call at Kai Tak from February to April 2024 are Holland America Line’s Westerdam and Zuiderdam, Costa Cruises’ Costa Serena and Costa Deliziosa, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Millennium, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, and Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas, among others.
The cruise terminal’s lighter summer schedule shows the planned arrival of MSC Cruises’ MCS Bellissima, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Spirit.