A passenger ship operated by Singapore’s Resorts World Cruises, set up by Malaysian tycoon Lim Kok Thay following the demise of his Genting Hong Kong, has arrived in the city and made Kai Tak Cruise Terminal its home port.
The ship, formerly Explorer Dream and rebranded Resorts World One, became the first cruise ship to make the terminal its home base since the Covid-19 pandemic decimated the sector. It set off on its inaugural cruise from Hong Kong on Friday evening, with nearly 3,000 passengers and crew on board.
Operators of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal also expressed confidence in the local passenger ship sector.
“The future for cruising is bright again as Hong Kong is set to receive 150 calls from at least 16 cruise lines in 2023,” said Jeff Bent, managing director of the terminal.
President of Resorts World Cruises Michael Goh said the ship choosing Hong Kong as its home port was an important milestone in the recovery of the tourism sector. He hoped Resorts World One would attract more inbound visitors, as he praised the city’s infrastructure and strategic location.
“We don’t see [operations here] as a challenge. We see it as an opportunity … people have not been travelling for the last couple of years, so everyone is looking forward to travelling,” he said.
Goh added that airline capacity and high airfares had made locals reluctant to travel following the full reopening of the border with mainland China, providing a “great opportunity” for the cruise liner to tap the domestic market.
“You don’t have to worry about whether there’s a seat available and at what cost,” he added.
Goh said the ship would be offering two and three-night cruises, which would depart three times a week from Hong Kong until March 31.
Lim set up the new company in March last year in Singapore after Genting Hong Kong went into liquidation under US$2.78 billion in debt when its shipyard in northeastern Germany filed for bankruptcy.
Lim used to own 75 per cent of Genting Hong Kong, with brands Dream Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises under the company.
Resorts World Cruises is owned by Two Trees Family Holdings, which was incorporated in March 2021.
Worldwide Cruise Terminals, which manages Kai Tak, has resumed international ship calls after ceasing operations when the pandemic hit.
Besides Resorts World One, it welcomed luxury cruise liner Mein Schiff 5 on Wednesday.
Bent added that new transport links, such as the high-speed rail and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge would boost the city’s international connectivity for cruise passengers while providing more options for pre- and post-trip excursions in the Greater Bay Area.
Earlier in January, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit docked at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, marking the return of the first international cruise ship in three years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cruise ships did not visit Hong Kong during the height of the pandemic, except those operating at reduced capacity under the government’s “cruises-to-nowhere” scheme, which began last July.
Cruises were scuppered earlier last year after the government increased efforts to stem the spread of Omicron coronavirus variants, crippling the industry and tourism in general.
Hong Kong started to open up last September when it axed its mandatory hotel quarantine policy. The city resumed isolation-free travel with the mainland last month and lifted its mask mandate on March 1.