A Night to Remember in Hong Kong

Day 36, Grand Asia 2018

Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, Hong Kong:

I keep thinking this cruise can’t get any better, and then it does.

Our berth in Hong Kong is at Kai Tak, the site of the old Hong Kong airport turned into a cruise port on Kowloon. It’s not an ideal location, although if you go somewhere high on the ship you can see that you are virtually surrounded by skyscrapers.

The best view of Hong Kong, though, is from room 2710 in The Peninsula Hotel. That’s where I stayed overnight instead of on the ship. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

A friend on this cruise has always wanted to have high tea at The Peninsula, known as the Grande Dame of the Far East. She heard that the line for a table for tea could be long, and she isn’t a fan of standing in line. So she decided to splurge and book a harbor-view room, never dreaming that the hotel will give her a room on the top floor. And lucky me – she invited me to join her. I said only if she would let me pay for the tea, and we struck a deal.

On the Amsterdam’s first day in Hong Kong, shuttles took passengers to two different subway stations, each of which also had a mall. We opted instead for a taxi to The Peninsula, and it was only 100 HKD, or about $13. Our room wasn’t ready so we left our overnight bags and walked a few blocks to the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry terminal, where we took the iconic boat across the harbor to Hong Kong Island. We wandered up the elevated walkway a few blocks to the Landmark, a – well, a landmark grouping of office buildings, hotels, high-end shops and restaurants.

Looking down to the street, we saw thousands of young adults seeming to shop, fill large cardboard boxes with their purchases, tape them closed and address them, we guess for shipping. Hundreds of others were sitting on flattened boxes for blocks around, eating. We could never figure out if this was normal activity and what exactly they were doing. It seemed more than “maid’s day off,” as Sunday can be known in Hong Kong.

We found lunch at Le Salon de Thé de Joël Robuchon, a more casual offering from this 3-Michelin-star chef. Our small sandwiches were just what we wanted, because we had reservations at 5 p.m. for high tea at The Peninsula. At a Starbucks in the mall (they really are everywhere), we also saw our first signs of Christmas. I guess it is to be expected as Halloween has passed.

While walking around the area waiting for our “tea-time,” I was amazed at the use of bamboo in Hong Kong as scaffolding – not only on small projects but also on high-rise buildings at well.

Back at the hotel, we were delighted to see we were on the top guest-room floor, with a stellar view of the harbor. For someone more accustomed to a Comfort Inn, I found little surprises throughout the room – tablet controls for lights, temperature, curtains and privacy next to EACH bed, the desk, the foyer and the bathroom. Every kind of amenity we could imagine – an all-in-one printer tucked away, a Nespresso machine, terry cloth and cotton robes, slippers, etc. A tray of melt-in-your-mouth chocolates and a bowl of fruit awaited us in front of the huge plate-glass window.

Earlier the line for tea in the lobby had stretched down the hall and around the corner. There were still about 25 people in line when we were seated – without a wait just as promised.

Tea is served in The Peninsula’s beautiful lobby, and it’s a delightful location. The scones were my favorite, with wonderful strawberry jam. We also had a selection of small sandwiches, bread crusts removed of course. By the time we ate our way up to the dessert tray, we were full and had them boxed to take to the room.

My only disappointment was with the service. We started with champagne, but were ready for our tea by the time our food came. But no one brought tea, or even stopped to ask how we were doing. We finally flagged a waiter, who then took another 10 minutes to bring the tea – 45 minutes after we sat down. Perhaps “no interruption” is the standard for service in Hong Kong or at The Peninsula, but it would have been nice to have a bit more attention. Still, a first-world problem, I know.

Back in our room last night, we were in a prime spot to watch the 8 p.m. laser light show from skyscrapers all up and down the harbor. Again, the location was perfect for the show. (I had missed the show last year as I flew in too late from a land tour to Xian.)

This morning we considered where to visit in Hong Kong, but decided we would just relax. We enjoyed gourmet coffee and the view from our room while I finished a sketch of the harbor I started the day before.

Then we moseyed downstairs to have a late morning breakfast in the hotel lobby. The crepes and French toast were a hit and the service a bit of a miss, again. While eating, we saw several friends from the ship, who confirmed that the shuttle today was parked alongside the Peninsula.

It was difficult to leave our little spot of paradise and luxury, but we have more ports awaiting us and more adventures ahead. I’ll never forget this one and doubt anything will top it.