Now, you can take a cruise to Kai Tak
IT WAS perhaps the most spectacular flight approach in the world: amid mountains, seas and frequently tempestuous winds, aircraft nearing Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong would stage a stomach-churning right turn, glide over the densely-populated Kowloon Peninsula and land on a runway that jutted straight out into the sea.
Passengers approaching the old runway now do so at crawl speed - and from the sea, rather than from the sky.
After 15 years of lying idle, the former airport reopened its gates to the world's travellers yesterday - as a cruise-ship terminal at the southern end of the old runway.
A large, manicured rooftop garden with 360-degree views of the Hong Kong skyline will open to the public in the next few months.
The terminal's two berths can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world - behemoths more than 300m long that can carry thousands of passengers.
The first of those giants - the 15-deck, 310m Mariner of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean International and carrying more than 3,000 passengers - docked at the terminal yesterday evening.
The new cruise-ship terminal cost HK$8.2 billion (S$1.3 billion), and was designed by the architectural firm of Norman Foster, whose other designs include the larger airport that replaced Kai Tak in July 1998.
While Hong Kong is home to one of the busiest container ports in the world, cruise companies held off factoring the new terminal into their itineraries until it was actually finished. Just 19 ships are scheduled to dock at the terminal in the next 12 months.
Still, industry executives say that they believe traffic will gradually increase as cruise activity in Asia picks up.