Chinese New Year in Hong Kong: All-You-Can-Drink Cruise

Hong Kong is said to be the best place to celebrate Chinese New Year. This was my experience…

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and there are so many ways to celebrate. Hong Kong is said to be one of the best places to enjoy fireworks and parades without becoming a human sardine. The firework display is supposed to be one of the most impressive in the world. My husband, his family and I got to watch it while drinking champagne on a boat.

We booked the Chinese New Year Fireworks Cruise with Buffet Dinner and Drinks in advance through Viator. We paid around $200 per person for the sightseeing boat with a 55 person capacity, free flowing beer, wine, champagne and soft drinks as well as a buffet dinner. The whole thing was organized by Hong Kong Yachting and it was almost worth the money.

After several sunny days the weather finally refused to cooperate and it started drizzling right before the boat took off at 6PM. We got to the pier early and the six of us were lucky to get seats at a table. Many others had to sit in plastic chairs or on the top deck with no cover. It wasn’t exactly what we expected for the price, but the drinks started flowing immediately which cheered us up.

The buffet was served quickly but the food offered was different than what was promised in the cruise description. There was a warning that the food may change but it was still quite disappointing to get meatballs instead of roasted duck and tofu. The highlight of the buffet was a chocolate cake that made up for the lower-quality food: it was rich, moist and melted on our tongues. Also, no matter how much everyone drank, they did not run out of alcohol!

At 8PM the fireworks began and we had a decent spot to watch among many other boats. The fireworks were beautiful, even though they were obstructed by clouds, and the display lasted for 23 minutes. I may be spoiled by dozens of New Years celebrated in Prague, because I wasn’t as impressed by the fireworks as I expected to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every minute of the cruise, drinks and fireworks. But if I could have a do-over, I would do things a little differently. The fireworks were tiny from the boat, so I recommend getting to the pier early, camping out with a bottle of champagne and watching the fireworks from there. Some people recommend watching from the Kowloon side of the river, but I would pick a spot at Victoria Harbour.

A better way to spend the $200 that the cruise cost would have been in the highest bar in the world. The rooftop sky bar, OZONE, belonging to the Ritz-Carlon, offers beautiful views of the Hong Kong skyline. However, as Anon-man-from-uk so adequately wrote in his Trip Advisor review of the bar, the prices are “eye-watering even for Hong Kong”.

Before you get discouraged from spending Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, please keep in mind that the weather was horrible and I’ve seen too many grand firework displays in the past to get impressed by them anymore. Please keep an open mind and learn more about the celebrations here. You can read about other people’s experiences here. Stay tuned for more Asia adventures!


What Is Macau & Why Should You Visit?

Macau is a unique country worth a visit! You can go on a day-trip from Hong Kong via ferry or helicopter!

Macau is a formerly Western colony that is now an independent territory in China. Quite like Hong Kong. It is also the “new gambling resort capital of the world with 5 of the world’s 10 largest casino resorts” according to China Highlights.

The casinos and the famous Venetian Hotel that I wrote about last week are located in the Taipa region. On the other side of the bridge, north of the modern buildings and casinos, is the historic center. The city is a fascinating blend of European architecture and Chinese decorations. This is a result of being a Portuguese colony for 300 years until 1999!

The facade of St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of Macau’s main attractions, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looms over the city atop an impressive stairway reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. Wandering through the historic center you will be assaulted by the smells of Portuguese egg rolls, Chinese meat sheets and various other multicultural street foods.

Visiting Macau can be the perfect day trip from Hong Kong and you can either get there by ferry or helicopter. The ferry takes 50 minutes and it’s definitely not what you would expect. You get a seat in airplane-style seats that you are expected to stay in throughout the journey while you order drinks and snacks from the crew. It’s no different than being on a plane and the boat engines even sound the same!

Economy class tickets for the ferry cost anywhere between 132 and 172 HKD for a one way trip. The price is higher in the evenings, on weekends and during holidays. It’s best to book in advance, but if you’re willing to wait you can just show up at the ferry terminal in the Shun Tak Center and get in line. Going by helicopter takes 15 minutes and costs 4,300 HKD. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ll tell you all about it once I do!

No matter how you go there, remember that you are going to a different country. This means that you need to get to the terminal early, bring your passport and fill out the necessary immigration forms (Hong Kong departure form, etc.) Nationals from 66 countries are exempt from needing a visa. This includes EU citizens and Americans. Chinese passport holders do need to get visa in advance unfortunately.

If you are a passport stamp collector, don’t get overly excited. Neither Macau nor Hong Kong will stamp your passport no matter how much you beg them to. Instead you get a slip of paper with your entry date and the amount of time you are allowed to stay. You won’t need to show this paper to immigration when you depart, but you should keep it close by just in case.

From my experience, foreigners are not randomly stopped by the police in China, Hong Kong or Macau. Despite the strict image that China has, visitors have much more freedom than you can imagine. You can drink alcohol in public, you can go wherever you want (for example the rooftops of random buildings) and the only time the bus I was on got stopped in Shanghai, the police refused to even touch our passports and only checked the locals. But hey, better safe than sorry!