Ahoy, Hong Kong: Luxury Cruises in 2023 and beyond
Luxury Cruise Guide
23 May, 2023
Earlier this year, Silversea Cruises’ 608-passenger Silver Spirit sailed into Hong Kong, becoming the first major cruise ship to return to this Asian destination after several years. The ultra-luxury line hadn’t visited the port since March 2020.
For luxury travelers eager for an exotic vacation, the good news is that during 2023, the Hong Kong Tourism Board expects the city to receive more than 160 ship calls from 16 cruise lines. Because the city is a popular “turnaround” port for Asian cruise journeys, pre- and post-cruise city stays are also back.
Airline flights have ramped back up, too, with United Airlines resuming nonstop service from San Francisco to Hong Kong, joining Cathay Pacific among major air carriers with nonstop flights to/from the U.S. To handle the expected surge of travelers—30 million more by 2030—the airport is implementing an expansion via a three-runway system.
Many cruises have historically sailed, and will do so this year and beyond, too, between the major Asian cities of Hong Kong and Singapore, often with exotic calls in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia or Taiwan. Silversea’s 596-passenger Silver Muse will sail a 14-day voyage from Hong Kong to Singapore on October 25, 2023, with calls at six destinations in four Asian countries.
Guests will travel to Ha Long Bay, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City, all in Vietnam. A double overnight in Ho Chi Minh City provides plenty of time for evening dining or touring ashore. Silver Muse will then sails to Laem Chabang (Bangkok for overnight), before arriving in Singapore. Guests will have plenty of time for a relaxing spa treatment, enrichment program, yoga class or pool time given the ship’s six days at sea.
For repeat Hong Kong travelers, Luxury Travel Advisor would suggest considering Silversea’s three-night, pre-cruise “Intimate Macau” program. Cruise guests will arrive in Hong Kong, spend one night at the luxurious Kowloon Shangri-La, located along Victoria Harbour, then, they’ll be whisked by high-speed jetfoil across the Pearl River for a two-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Macau. Included touring will take guests to the A-Ma temple, Macau’s oldest temple with some areas of the religious structure dating back six centuries, prior to the first Portuguese arrival in the city.
That’s followed by a visit to the UNESCO-designated Ruins of St. Paul, perched atop one of the island’s seven hills. Finally, guests will head out on a short Macau city walking tour to Senado Square and Kun Iam Temple. The next day affords free time, for a Mandarin Oriental spa treatment or more touring. Then, guests return to Hong Kong to board Silver Muse and begin their cruise. We’d recommend checking out the Grand Suite or Silver Suite, both still showed availability at press time, although other top suites were wait listed. Veranda suites were also still available.
Separately, the 596-passenger Silver Dawn will operate its first World Cruise and the first ever by any Muse-class ship in 2025, a 136-day “Controtempo World Cruise.” Sailing from Tokyo, Japan, on January 13, 2025, the first segment will end in Hong Kong, and the second will begin from there. This voyage includes many weeks visiting other exotic Asian ports before the ship sails for the Middle East, Mediterranean, northern Europe and the Arctic. The voyage will end in New York. Top suites were sold out at press time, but Veranda, Panorama and Vista suites were still available.
On January 6, 2024, Seabourn’s 600-passenger Seabourn Encore will depart Singapore for a two-week cruise that calls within three Southeast Asian countries and concludes in Hong Kong. Other departures (in both directions) are on January 20, February 17 and March 2, 2024.
On this itinerary, guests can view temples and pagodas, explore the Vietnam War’s underground tunnels, cruise amid karst formations aboard a luxury junk, and enjoy a savory Thai cooking class. Destination highlights include calls at: Laem Chabang (Bangkok) and Ko Kood, Thailand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang (for Hue), and Ha Long Bay (for Hanoi), Vietnam. Guests will spend six days at sea, as well.
In Hong Kong specifically, nothing beats the dramatic night-time scenery and sparkling lights. Hong Kong offers a trip that takes guests under Victoria Harbour by tunnel and then to the Peak Tram Station, recently renovated and sporting a full-immersion video experience. Plus, travelers will discover new sixth-generation tram cars.
Travelers will ride this funicular railway to the top of Victoria Peak for a panoramic night-time view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbour and the Kowloon Peninsula. The peak is 1,805 or so feet above sea level. Driving back down by coach, tour goers will stop at a local tram station and board a double-decker tram for an evening tour of Hong Kong’s hottest nightspots.
Travelers might consider booking the spacious Owner’s Suite (category 01 or 02), located on Decks 7, 8, 9 or 10. Total inside space is between 576 and 597 square feet, plus a sizable veranda. These suites offer a comfortable living area, dining space for six, private veranda, queen-sized bed (convertible to two twins), walk-in closet with personal safe, two interactive flat-screen TVs with music and movies, fully stocked bar and refrigerator, writing desk with personalized stationery, spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower and more. Complimentary Internet/Wi-Fi is a nice perk of these suites.
During their time in Hong Kong pre- or post-cruise, guests might opt to soak up local culture and art. One great option? Along the harbor of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District is the new Hong Kong Palace Museum, with an exclusive collection of more than 900 priceless treasures from the Palace Museum in Beijing, and M+, Asia’s first truly global museum of contemporary visual culture.
For a complimentary pre-cruise Hong Kong stay, we’d suggest checking out Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 746-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, which will set sail on a 14-night “Beyond the Great Wall” itinerary from Hong Kong to Tokyo on February 21, 2024. A great perk is that guests in all suite categories on this voyage enjoy a complimentary three-night, pre-cruise “Jewels of Hong Kong” land program (or, alternatively, a three-night, post-cruise Tokyo land package).
Guests on that pre-cruise program will be transferred from Hong Kong International Airport to the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel, where guests will overnight. Following breakfast at the hotel, they’ll be transported to Hong Kong Island, where they will take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak. Then, it’s on to the Aberdeen fishing village to board a sampan boat and see fishing boats and villagers doing their daily lifestyle tasks. It is followed by a tour of a gem factory, then lunch and on to Stanley Market to peruse — and buy — silk clothing, Chinese costume jewelry or art.
As an alternative in Stanley, travelers can explore Tin Hau Temple and the early 19th-century Murray House. Then guests will board the Star Ferry for a scenic cruise with stellar Hong Kong skyline views. Disembarking, they’ll stroll along the Avenue of Stars which wraps around the waterfront. Then it’s back to the hotel. On Day 3, after breakfast at the hotel, they’ll depart for Tung Chung, a city on Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island. Viewing lush, mountainous landscapes, they’ll ride a cable car to Ngong Ping village and then visit Po Lin Monastery, home to a 100-foot-plus-high Buddha statue, erected in 1993.
After a vegetarian lunch at the monastery, then cruise guests will explore Ngong Ping village on their own. Check out the teahouse with its intricate architectural carvings and curved roof. Then it’s back to Tung Chung. The following day, guests will be transferred from the hotel to the ship for embarkation.
During the voyage itself, guests also will receive up to 41 shore excursions covered within the cruise fare. Guests will go ashore at these destinations: Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan; Shanghai, China (overnight); Busan, South Korea; Ishigaki (Sakishima Islands), Nagasaki and Osaka (overnight). The voyage also has four sea days and ends with an overnight in Tokyo.
Crystal is another option. Now an A&K Group brand with leadership by Geoffrey Kent and Manfredi Lefebvre—who purchased the Crystal name and its two classic ships, the 606-passenger Crystal Symphony and the 740-passenger Crystal Serenity, last year following the insolvency of former owner Genting Hong Kong and court action, which seized the ships for creditors—its ships are being refurbished prior to their relaunch.
The new line—which also brought back many former employees, crew members, and shipboard hotel and bridge officers to the delight of past guests—will set sail later this year. For an enticing exotic itinerary that will appeal even to repeat Asia travelers, we like the Crystal Symphony’s 13-night voyage from Hong Kong to Singapore, departing February 28, 2024.
The cruise calls at Keelung and Hualien, Taiwan; Ishigaki Ryukyu Islands of Japan; Manila (overnight), Boracay (Malay), and Puerto Princesa, Philippines; and Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam.
If guests are staying a few nights pre-cruise in Hong Kong, we’d suggest several eateries. We had previously dined at and loved Duddells, a Michelin-one-star restaurant; it’s on Duddell Street in Hong Kong’s Central District. Known for its high-quality cooking with luxury ingredients, Duddells is back post-pandemic and garnering great reviews. Revamped menus include such items as double boiled chicken soup with fish maw and coquito nuts from East Africa; that imparts a nutty aroma and mild sweetness, according to the Michelin Guide.
If travelers can’t get to Duddells before leaving Hong Kong, it’s good to know that there’s an outlet of the restaurant at Hong Kong International Airport. Early this year, Cathay Pacific also announced that it will be serving up an enticing menu of Hong Kong flavors in partnership with Duddells for its ongoing “Hong Kong Flavors” dining service in the first and business class cabins.
Sailing from Tokyo to Hong Kong is Viking’s 15-day “Far Eastern Horizons” itinerary, offered on several dates in 2024 and 2025. On October 4, 2023, for example, the 930-passenger Viking Orion will sail from Tokyo (Yokohama for overnight) to Hong Kong (overnight) with calls at such ports as Taipei, Taiwan; Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Beppu, Hiroshima (overnight), Osaka and Shimizu (overnight). Nine guided tours are included in the cruise fare.
On the Japanese island of Kyushu, Beppu is renowned for its hot springs and traditional bathing facilities, called “onsen.” They emerge from eight geothermal hot spots that together create the world’s second-largest volume of hot water. While most of the hot springs are public, on Viking’s optional “Private Hot Spring Bath” tour, guests can relax in their own private hot spring at the acclaimed Sakurayu spa resort.
After a scenic drive by motor coach through the countryside, guests will arrive at the resort and enjoy their private onsen bath. Known for their therapeutic qualities, the hot spring waters are brimming with minerals including sodium and magnesium. After the rejuvenating experience, guests can enjoy refreshments in the spa’s café before returning to the ship.
Top suites were sold out on the October 4, 2023, departure, but at press time, several Penthouse Junior Suites (PS3) and Penthouse Verandah (PV1, PV2 and PV3) categories as well as some other smaller veranda staterooms still had availability.
Oceania Cruises’ revitalized 1,238-passenger Riviera will sail in Asia for the first time in the 2023-2024 cruise season. All staterooms and suites have been updated with custom furnishings, wood finishes and designer accent. Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms and Veranda Staterooms are now 291 square feet, and all staterooms have sleek restyled bathrooms with Italian marble.
As for itineraries, the ship’s inaugural season in the region will include 25 voyages of 10 to 82 days. Calls will touch Saudi Arabia, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. Dovetailing with the trend of lengthier voyages based on strong consumer demand, Oceania has unveiled a 72-day “Epic Eastern Explorer” itinerary, departing in early January 2024 from Mumbai, India, to Tokyo, Japan.
Guests will have plenty of time for shoreside dining, nightlife and activities as Riviera will spend two nights in Hong Kong, Yangon in Myanmar and Bangkok, Thailand. Many one-night stays are also included for such ports as Singapore, Halong Bay (Hanoi), Shanghai, China, and elsewhere.
Azamara’s 14-night “Vietnam and Pathways” cruise, a segment of Azamara Onward’s first-ever World Cruise, departs from Hong Kong on March 22, 2024, to Singapore. That voyage calls at three ports in Vietnam including overnights in Halong Bay and Ho Chi Minh City. Guests will also go ashore in Bangkok (double overnight) and Ko Samui, Thailand.
The 684-passenger Azamara Onward is the latest addition to Azamara’s fleet. That ship’s World Cruise will take travelers to 40 countries on six continents, with 22 overnights and 27 late nights in port. On a three-night overland excursion, travelers can visit Beijing and take a guided tour through the Forbidden city and Tiananmen Square, head out on a rickshaw ride through the hutongs, or narrow alleys, dating to the 16th century and visit the Great Wall of China.
A different, 15-night “Asia Intensive” voyage on the 704-passenger Azamara Journey sails from Tokyo to Singapore on April 24, 2024. Club Continent Suite Stateroom, Club Oceanview and Club Interior accommodations were still available, but top suites were sold out at press time.
Calls along the route southward include Osaka and Kochi, Japan; Keelung (Chilung) and Hong Kong, China; as well as Da Nang (Hue) and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Among the shore excursions offered in Hong Kong are “Hong Kong by Night and Chinese Dinner,” “Discover Macau,” and “Panoramic Hong Kong.”
Many cruise lines source many crew members from Asia. Windstar Cruises’ 312-passenger Star Breeze operates a 14-day “Windstar Crew Hometowns: Indonesia and the Philippines” itinerary. Departing from Hong Kong on November 12, 2023, the ship will sail to the Hundred Islands, Manila, Boracay, Coron/Busuanga Island and Palawan Puerto Princesa, all in the Philippines. Then, it’s on to Sandakan, Malaysia on the island of Borneo, as well as Makassar, Loh Liang (Komodo), Lembar, and Benoa (Bali), Indonesia, where the voyage ends.
Highlights? Guests can snorkel with tropical fish and coral, and scuba dive to see World War II Japanese shipwrecks, at Busuanga Island near Coron. On Komodo, they can watch lumbering Komodo Dragons seeking prey on the beach or head inland to look for koalas in the dense foliage of Komodo National Park. On Lembar, we’d suggest guests try the local specialty—spicy nasi goreng, which is fried rice paired with egg, chicken or prawns and served with crunchy, cracker-like kerupuk.
For those coming in several days prior to sailing, Windstar’s Easy Stays program allows guests to stay pre-cruise at curated hotels and in preferred category rooms. In Hong Kong, the hotel used is often the New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel. The cruise line will thus take care of the logistics of getting from the hotel to the ship (or vice versa), and that includes luggage porterage. Guests also will receive breakfast, Wi-Fi (at select hotels), taxes and the resort fee included in the program. A Windstar-hosted service desk at the hotel will assist with planning day trips and providing restaurant recommendations.
Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and other premium lines also turnaround ships or have port calls at Hong Kong. This year as Holland America is celebrating its 150th anniversary, Hong Kong is awakening once again with much to entice travelers.
More Exotic Developments
“The Mouse” is heading to Singapore. In late March, Disney Cruise Line and the Singapore Tourism Board revealed that Disney will begin homeporting a new Disney ship exclusively in the city for at least five years, starting in 2025. The vessel is the former Genting Hong Kong’s new build, the 208,000-ton Global Dream, an unfinished vessel that Disney acquired in November 2022; Meyer Werft is now managing the completion of that construction. Powered by green methanol, the new build will carry approximately 6,000 passengers and a crew of 2,300. Disney said more details about the inaugural voyage, itineraries and onboard experiences will be announced later.
New for 2023-2024 is Scenic’s 18-day “Expedition into Greenland & the High Canadian Arctic” itinerary, operated between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Scenic Eclipse will carry up to 20 Polar Discovery Team specialists and since this is a polar voyage, capacity will be capped at 200 guests. Departing September 17, 2024, the Discovery Yacht will explore Disko Bay, where large icebergs meet whales. Guests can head out kayaking in icy waters and hear the rumbling sounds of icebergs “calving” from the Canadian Arctic’s Sermeq Kujalleq or Jakobshavn Glacier.
Between June 2024 and August 2024, the new Seabourn Pursuit, Seabourn’s second new expedition vessel launching this summer, will venture to Australia’s northwestern Kimberley region; it’s Seabourn’s first time ever in this remote area. Six 10-day voyages will operate between Broome and Darwin. Highlights include visits to the Bungle Bungle Range, El Questro National Park, the Ord River, the Horizontal Waterfalls and Montgomery Reef, one of the Kimberley’s most significant geological marine areas.
In the South Pacific, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ elegant, 500-passenger Europa 2, the line’s international ship with both German and English as official languages, will sail from Valparaiso, Chile, to Lautoka, Fiji on January 1, 2024. During this 21-day cruise, the ship will call at a cornucopia of exotic locations, including Robinson Crusoe Island, Hanga Roa/Easter Island, Chile; Papeete, Tahiti, and Bora Bora, Society Islands; Rarotonga, Cook Islands; Nuku’alofa/Tongatapu, Tonga; and Lautoka/Viti Levu, Fiji.
Also in the South Pacific, luxurious Paul Gauguin Cruises has announced 21 dedicated voyages this year and in 2024 for its “Moana Explorer” program in partnership with Te Mana O Te Moana, a regional marine education and conservation foundation. The partners will collaborate on interactive and educational activities for younger guests from seven to 15 years of age.
article source: https://www.luxurytraveladvisor.com/Find Great Cruise Deals
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