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Day 13: Hong Kong / Macau, China (7th cruise day)

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Day 13: Thursday, December 24th, 2009

7th cruise day: Hong Kong, China (side trip to Macau, China)

We slept soundly for a good 7 hours and then got up to do it all again! We decided that because we did more than expected the first day, and that we weren't happy with the shopping in Hong Kong, that we didn't need to spend another day poking in computer centers and shopping malls, and that instead we would try to figure out a trip to Macau. We got a late start (9am off the ship) as we had breakfast in the buffet with Lynne and Tong from cruisecritic and heard about their adventure in Macau (a lost taxi driver who had their bags). We had a little detour when trying to figure out how to get the Macau ferry terminal, and first stopped at the information center at the Star ferry terminal to get information. They told us to buy the tickets at Hong Kong City Center which was north of the pier. We started walking up Canton Road and then didn't think we were making much ground so we hopped in a taxi at a nearby hotel and when we showed him on the map where he wanted to go, he pointed down the road and said “you walk”. It turned out we were only 1 block away from where we needed to go. And so started our adventurous day! At the terminal, we bought our roundtrip tickets to the island ($540 HKD?). We had gotten our passports last night from the purser's desk. It was a little after 9:30am and we had a 10am ferry, so we sat in Starbucks to check email. At 9:54am we went to the departing dock and saw the gates closed already! We didn't realize there would be a wait or a line! We got out tickets changed for the 10:30am ferry and then waited in line. They quickly opened the line and we had to pass through immigration. The guy didn't like me as I didn't have the right deportation card and had to fill one out, and then he saw we were on the Princess Cruise and called over another immigration official who told us we better make sure we would be back on the boat in time! We promised we would, and they let us through.

The ferry ride was pleasant and fast. We had comfortable airplane-like seats and the high speed ferry took only 1 hour to reach Macau. There was a long line to clear immigration, but it took only 15 minutes and we got another stamp in our passport. We then went upstairs to departures to double-check the ferry times and found out the ferries leave every 15 min and there was one at 1:45pm. We left the terminal and took the long walkway that dropped us off at Fisherman's Wharf which was a very cute Disneyesque playground area for kids with a fake volcano, Aladdin's Castle, bumper cards and a military war-game escapade. We took some pictures and then realized the casinos were too far to walk – Macau is so much larger than we thought – and took a taxi to the Wynn hotel. We got there in time to see the water and fire show out front and then walked through. The casino was very nice – we haven't been to the Wynn in Vegas so couldn't compare it. We walked to the back and exited, then crossed the street to the MGM Grand which was really nice! It was more upscale than the Wynn, but the card tables had lower limits. I gambled about $40 USD and didn't win anything but liked the slot machines as they played lots of music and had lots of flashing lights :) We only had about 1 hour 15 min total in Macau, but it was just enough to get a feel of the island. Hunter bought a $25 poker chip to add to his collection.

Around 1:10pm, we hopped in a taxi at the MGM and told the driver we wanted to go to the ferry terminal. He didn't speak any English and called a valet over from the hotel to translate. I explained to the guy that we wanted to take the ferry home to Hong Kong and he nodded and told the driver the destination then told us “Tapai ferry.” We couldn't understand what he was saying because his English wasn't clear due to the heavy accent, so we just agreed. The driver then started off. Within 5 min he pulled onto the very long white bridge that extends from Macau to a smaller island called Tapai. As soon as we got on the bridge we knew it was the totally wrong direction but couldn't communicate with the driver. We kept pointing backwards toward Macau, and he kept pointing off to the side and saying “Ferry”. There was no way to turn around on the bridge so we had to keep going. He then started rounding the island in a circle and got closer to a terminal which we knew was very wrong as we had to cross the bridge again. We tried different words “Sands hotel” “fisherman's wharf” but he kept shaking his head he didn't understand. We were starting to panic this time b/c we needed to make the 2pm ferry to ensure we were back at the ship by 4pm b/c the ship had to clear immigration too. Finally Hunter said, “Macau Ferry” and the guy said “OOOHH, Macau! Macau ferry!” and we nodded vigorously. He made a quick turnaround and crossed another bridge, close to the correct ferry terminal, and we were confident he finally knew where to go. He was very nice about it at the end and didn't accept the full fare for the ride.

Then, in the terminal, we went to pass through the first gate and were told our tickets needed to be exchanged. It took us a while to figure out what they meant and then saw we only had return coupons for the ferry back, not tickets. After 2 tries with speaking with the attendant as his English was also very limited, we found the place to get tickets and luckily got put on the 2pm ferry. It turned out there was no 1:45pm ferry, so we don't know what that attendant earlier was talking about! We got so used to everyone in Hong Kong speaking such good English that we forgot that we were back in mainland China where very few people speak English and so we really weren't prepared. If we had known we would be doing Macau, I would have had maps and time schedules with us to better communicate with the taxi drivers! Anyway, we finally got through the gate, cleared immigration on the Macau side and made it with plenty of time to spare to the ferry waiting room.

Without any further problems, we took the 2pm ferry and made it back a little after 3pm. There was no waiting line for the immigration on the Hong Kong side. We didn't have time to get a refund on our Octopus transportation card because Hunter wanted to be back on the ship by 4pm in case the immigration officials that needed to stamp our passports were waiting for us. We will keep the cards in case any friends or coworkers travel to Hong Kong and can use it!

Overall, we had a fantastic two days in Hong Kong. It really is our favorite city so far and are glad we had such mild weather to be able to experience everything outside, with all the walking and sight-seeing we did. Today was the first day we didn't need jackets! It is only going to get warmer from here as the next port of call, Chan May / the city of Hue, Vietnam, is running around 82 degrees. Pool day tomorrow! Macau was larger and not as flashy as we thought it would be – it is a much tamer version of Las Vegas in terms of the number and size of the casinos, but it probably has more vices (there were two huge signs in the taxi to call a hotline number to help stop human trafficking, which was sponsored by a women's association of Macau). There were many flashy cars and female hostesses dressed up in ridiculous costumes in one hotel.

Back on the ship, we crashed in the cabin and laid in bed watching the Hong Kong skyline through our window as we pulled out of the harbor. For the first time ever, as the Captain announced, he took his “beautiful white lady” out of Hong Kong through a channel which afforded spectacular views of the Hong Kong skyline. Hunter played on his netbook while I napped. Then it was time for the Christmas Carols at 7:30pm! Most of the choir were members of the crew and we were shocked to see front and center, Captain Stefano Ravera singing away! The crew were all dressed in their dress blues and had handed out booklets of the carols that would be sung. The carols took place on the grand staircase, just outside our room, which connected Decks 4 and 5. The banisters were all decorated with garland and holly and lights and the crew wore santa hats. The caroling definitely put us more in the holiday spirit as we didn't feel like Christmas was approaching. We then went to dinner, where there was another night of fancy foods, this time escargot and frog legs. We stuck to the veal scaloppini cordon blue and the angel hair lobster pasta in tomato sauce. Our dinner companions, Connie and Tony, showed up and were so thankful to see us. They told us last night in Hong Kong was open dinner seating, because most people were away from ship in the city, They got stuck with a “nearly dead” couple from Britain who told horror stories about past cruises, including the last time they sailed on the Ocean Princess and 9 people died and they ran out of room to preserve the bodies and had to take the ice cream out of the freezer to make room for the bodies! Tony said they kept looking for us saying, “man, where's Hunter when I need him!” We had such a fun time sharing stories with them at dinner and it was nice to hear that they enjoy our company as much as we do theirs, and that both couples are satisfied with the seating arrangements! Our waiter showed us the special Christmas breakfast ($32/couple) and dinner menu for tomorrow and suggested we pre-order wine because it gets so busy in the bar on Christmas that sometimes it can take 40 minutes to get a coke. We instead used mom's $20 wine coupon (which we later learned she never ordered or paid for) to order a bottle of chardonnay (Woodbridge - $22) and drank half of it and had the rest bottled up to be served the next night.

After dinner, we walked through the ship to check on the entertainment and saw the casinos were very busy. We stopped to chat at the Cabaret Lounge with Shane, said hi to Ruth and Chantal, and felt like we were regular members of the Ocean Princess! Hunter then went back to the room and I attended the last 35 min of the piano concert of a Philippino man who was very famous in the 1980s and 1990s but was still a young guy, probably no older than mid-40s. I got back a little after 11:10pm and then read for a while until it was time for us to go back to the Cabaret Lounge for midnight mass. Shane had told us it was the only Catholic service to be held for Christmas as the 9:30am service the next day was a nondenominational service conducted by the Captain. The mass was pretty well attended, including the Captain himself. We went back to our cabin after mass and didn't get to sleep until after 1:30am! It was a very good thing I had taken that late afternoon nap!

permalink written by  mohicanfan on December 24, 2009 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
from the travel blog: Beijing/Shanghai and a Princess Southeast Asia Cruise - Dec 2009
tagged HongKong, Asia, Cruise and Macau

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