Around 7:15 this morning the Hong Kong Harbor Pilot boat maneuvered alongside the Amsterdam’s port side and paused for a few seconds, not very long, but long enough for the Pilot to grab a hanging rope ladder and climb aboard. Now that the pilot was onboard, the ship picked up speed and we continued toward Victoria Harbor. Temperatures were in the mid-sixties but seemed cooler with overcast skies and a light mist covering the open decks. I missed seeing other boats bringing out the Chinese immigration officials who would set up in the Hudson room to process people face to face who were leaving Hong Kong during our visit and to review the passports of everyone else.
The bow was open for viewing with a table set up with coffee, orange juice and the famous Star Ferry rolls (aka Panama rolls, Sydney Rolls etc) which are very light and tasty pastries filled with jelly. They are always fresh and very good. Everyone was in a good mood as Hong Kong appeared out of the mist and the harbor filled with boats and ships of all sizes. Barbara, our location guide, was providing commentary as we proceeded toward our berth at the Ocean Terminal. My last time here was on the USN aircraft carrier, USS Midway (CV 41) back in 1990 and Judy was able to fly down from Japan and join me for a few days of fun.
I wandered all over the ship visiting the various vantage points and enjoying the view from different perspectives. One spot that was more interesting than I would have thought was back by the Seaview pool. While you miss seeing what is ahead, you have great visibility of where you have been and are much higher off the water. The Star Ferries continued their steady work crossing the harbor but started to maneuver around us as we slowed to start our final spin toward our berth alongside the Ocean Terminal.
By 10 AM we were moored, bow first, alongside the Ocean Terminal. We were cleared almost immediately to allow guests to start going ashore. The gangway was on deck 2 forward, but there was some talk about using a second gangway that would only be used by guests on HAL excursions. The main gangway leads into a huge shopping mall which requires walking about ¼ mile to get to the street. I suspect that a second, lower gangway would allow guests to walk off the ship directly onto the street level and that HAL sponsored tour buses could drive directly onto the pier and cut down the walking distance. Cruise Director Gene emphasized on several occasions that people on HAL excursions should pay close attention to their meeting spot and not attempt to go ashore and find the busses on their own, as the busses may be inaccessible to guests unless they leave on the alternate gangway. Gene mentioned a tactic, I was unaware of, that some folks use to get the front seats of tour buses. They go ashore on their own, bypassing the Queens lounge where they pass out the tour dots, and find the tour busses on the pier well ahead of the rest of the people leaving the ship. Since the tour operators only care about tickets, not dots, once you present a ticket for that tour, you are on the bus ahead of everyone else.
We left the ship at 12:20 and walked thru Harbour Place, a very high end mall, toward the street and started looking for a spot where we could request an UBER car. While Hong Kong Taxis are everywhere, they don’t take credit cards and the English speaking skills of the driver is usually OK, but not guaranteed. With UBER, your location is already in the drivers GPS and you can pay with a credit card. We found a good spot in front of the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel and requested a driver, who arrived in 5 minutes, and we were on our way. Twenty five minutes and US$25 later we were at the entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland.
Disneyland has theme parks in California, Florida, France, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong. We have been to all of them except the 2 in China and this was an opportunity to see Hong Kong Disneyland.
Once inside the park we picked up one of the maps and at first glance it appeared to be about the same size as the one in Anaheim. However, as we examined the map more closely, we noticed that many of the familiar rides were missing or in some cases replaced by a Hong Kong version of the same attraction. For example – Mickey’s Toontown is called Toy Story Land, Frontier Land is called Grizzly Gulch and New Orleans square is called Mystic Point. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matterhorn and the Submarine ride were some of the more notable attractions missing. Other attractions were replaced by something similar – for example – the Haunted Mansion was replaced by Mystic Manor. The park was completely empty and there were only a couple of rides with any lines at all.
Signs throughout the park are in English only – except for those with safety and emergency instructions. We learned that the reason for this was that Walt Disney modeled Disneyland’s Main Street after a small Midwest town in the USA which of course doesn’t have any signs in anything but English. There were some accommodations for Asian culture in the types and offering of the food in the restaurants and the park was laid out according to the rules of Feng Shui where they incorporated a bend in one of the approaching walkways so the good energy wouldn’t flow into the South China Sea.
We walked thru all the various lands, and went on almost all of the rides. The weather was perfect and we finished our day watching the amazing main street parade followed by a spectacular fireworks display. It’s been a while since I watch Disney fireworks, and they really put on an incredible show.
We left the park around 9PM and jumped in a taxi that was waiting in the nearby taxi line. The nearest UBER driver was 15 minutes away and we weren’t sure where they may be able to pick us up, so we went with a Hong Kong Taxi. We were back outside the Ocean Terminal in 20 minutes – traffic was very light.
Starbucks makes coffee mugs with the names of cities where they are located. Judy collects these mugs and there was Starbucks in the basement of the Ocean Terminal complex where they had Hong Kong mugs for sale. Hong Kong is a high energy city and as we walked back toward the ship at 10PM there was no sign of activity slowing down and if anything, was probably just starting to pick up.
The Amsterdam is very prominent outside the Ocean Terminal mall and many tourists were posing for photos with ship in the background. With the mall so large we wondered if finding our way to the gangway would be difficult, but the path to the ship was very well marked and it was a breeze.
About 200 people will be leaving the ship tomorrow, with 80 people joining. Our hallway was sprinkled with bags outside the doors waiting to be picked up for the departing guests. It was a nice feeling that we were not among them and were only approaching the halfway point of our incredible adventure.
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