After eleven consecutive days at sea, we finally left the ship! I continue to be amazed at how quickly the time went. We spent a total of 53 days on the NCL Star. The first two legs of the trip flew by; the final leg went more slowly. But, even with all of those sea days, time passed by faster than I could have imagined.
We had one final meal on board in the buffet and were ready to leave the ship by 7 am. Normally, we do NCL’s easy walk-off program which means that instead of leaving our suitcase in the hall the night before disembarkation, we keep it in our cabin and haul it off the ship ourselves. Being Platinum, however, gave us the best of both worlds. We could leave the ship whenever we wanted (rather than waiting for our color group to be called) and we could have the cruise line haul our bag off the ship for us. Too bad it didn’t quite work out the way we planned.
We lined up at about 6:45 am in the atrium and by 7 am were indeed able to walk off the ship. We walked past the thermometer scan (they were only scanning those that had luggage with them) and continued downstairs to the area where we would meet up with our luggage. We sat near the yellow luggage section (Platinum) and waited. A drug-sniffing dog was brought out to check out the luggage. When they were finished, Clayton asked if he could grab our suitcase. Two slight problems: what looked like yellow tags were actually “gold” tags (suite passengers, perhaps?) and, every suitcase had to be cleared by the drug dogs before anyone was able to retrieve any bag. So, the entire ship’s luggage had to be off-loaded and sniffed before we could get our suitcase. Next time, we will do easy walk-off. We ended up waiting over an hour for all of that to take place.
After we grabbed the bag, we headed right out the door. There was no customs or immigration check (or thermometer scan, for that matter!). There was a well-organized area for passengers to find transportation to their hotels. There is a free shuttle that will take you to a mall. From the mall, you can take the MTR (subway) to your hotel. There are taxis (though limited at the Kai Tak cruise terminal). And, there are pre-arranged shuttles.
One thing that does not exist at the cruise terminal is an ATM. This poses a potential problem if you plan on paying for your transportation (US dollars not accepted). There is a money changer (currency exchange), so Clayton swapped enough US dollars into Hong Kong dollars to pay for our taxi ride and a few incidentals. While he did this a port worker wrote the name of our hotel (Metropark Kowloon) in Chinese to give to the taxi drivers (many don’t speak English). She also gave me a couple of city maps and a subway map.
The current exchange rate is $1 HK = $.13 US or $1 US = $7.7 HK. It is a bit hard to get used to the prices – the taxi ride cost us $99 HK. Of course, this was just under $13 US! As a ball-park estimate, we would divide the Hong Kong price by 8 to get the US price. I should also mention that luggage costs extra in the taxis here ($5 HK per piece). Our backpack counted as a suitcase even though we didn’t have the cab driver put it in the trunk with our suitcase.
The cab ride was pretty fast; we were at the hotel by 9 am. Of course, our room was not ready yet so we checked in and dropped our luggage with the concierge. The Metropark has a free shuttle into Tsim Sha Tsui (the main part of Kowloon) so we hopped on to the shuttle.