The One Boat Ride All AvGeeks Must Take
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Did you know Boeing makes jetfoil boats? Say hello to the Boeing 929 Jetfoil, a water jet-propelled hydrofoil designed by Boeing. And, once up to speed, the Boeing 929 essentially flies across the water at speeds of up to 52 miles per hour.
The world's largest operator of Boeing jetfoils is Hong Kong-based TurboJet. TurboJet operates Jetfoils and Premier Jetfoils, both of which are manufactured by Boeing, as well as four other types of equally impressive high-speed vessels. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to determine which sailings use Boeing jetfoils based on the schedules posted online.
There are various high-speed ferry routes worldwide, but the route between Hong Kong Sheung Wan and Macau Outer Harbour is particularly noteworthy because (1) boats run every 15 minutes in each direction for most of the day and (2) prices start from just 174HKD (about $22) each way for the one hour journey. So, while I was in Hong Kong I tried out TurboJet's TriCat catamaran on this route for a day-trip to Macau.
There are two main ferry terminals in Macau: Macau Outer Harbour and Macau Taipa. Macau Outer Harbour is generally better for visiting historic sites, while Macau Taipa is better situated to visit casinos like The Venetian — so if you have a particular destination in Macau, be sure to check which ferry terminal is more convenient.
Likewise, there are three main ferry terminals in Hong Kong that offer service to Macau: Hong Kong Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Kowloon and Hong Kong HKG. Sheung Wan is on Hong Kong Island south of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon is north of Victoria Harbour and HKG is at Hong Kong's airport. (You can actually fly into HKG and connect to Macau by ferry without ever entering Hong Kong, but you can only use the HKG ferry terminal when you have a flight to or from HKG.)
Two companies operate high-speed ferries between Hong Kong and Macau. The first, TurboJet, offers the following routes between Hong Kong and Macau:
- To and from Hong Kong Sheung Wan and Macau Outer Harbour (departures every 15 minutes for most of the day)
- To and from Hong Kong Kowloon and Macau Outer Harbour (15 to 16 departures daily each way)
- To and from Hong Kong HKG and Macau Outer Harbour (4 to 5 departures daily each way)
- To and from Hong Kong Sheung Wan and Macau Taipa (4to 5 departures daily to Macau; 2 departures daily to Hong Kong)
The other company, Cotai Water Jet, offers the following routes between Hong Kong and Macau:
- To and from Hong Kong Sheung Wan and Macau Taipa (departures every 30 minutes for most of the day)
- To and from Hong Kong Kowloon and Macau Taipa (6 departures daily each way)
- To and from Hong Kong HKG and Macau Taipa (6 departures daily each way)
Additional routes are also offered by both companies to and from China.
How to Book
Both companies offer online booking. But, unless you are taking advantage of one of their current promotions, there's usually no reason to book online or ahead of time. Instead, just show up at the ferry terminal shortly before you want to board.
At the ferry terminal, the most straightforward way to book a trip is at one of the official ticket windows for the ferry company. You can pay by credit card at the ticket windows, so make sure to use a card with a broadly-defined travel bonus category such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Premier® Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you have an Octopus card (which you should get if you're visiting Hong Kong and planning to ride public transportation, including buses, trams and the metro) you could also simply tap to board the next ferry from Hong Kong to Macau. But since the Octopus card can only be reloaded with cash, I'd rather wait a few minutes in line to buy a ticket using my credit card and earn points or miles for the purchase.
Alternatively, you could purchase a ticket from a reseller in the ferry terminal. The prices are usually a little cheaper and you can often get on an earlier sailing, but most vendors will only take cash. Plus, purchasing a ferry ticket from resellers seems shady, although I didn't have any issues when I did this once.
There are also a few different booking classes (on TurboJet, for example, there's Economy, Super Class, Premier Grand Class and the Premier VIP Cabin) but I've personally only traveled in economy. After all, it's just a one hour trip.
Once you've purchased your ticket, you'll head through exit immigration (unless you're leaving HKG, in which case you wouldn't have entered Hong Kong) and follow signs toward the departure area for your ticketed departure time. As long as you show up by the stated time — usually 10 minutes before departure — you're guaranteed a seat on your sailing.
When you get to the ticket check for boarding, be sure to ask for a window seat if you want one. If you don't say anything, they'll apply a seat assignment sticker to your ticket and you'll be stuck with that seat. Likewise, if you want to sit with any travel companions, be sure to say so before you're assigned a seat.
About 10 to 15 minutes before departure, the boarding gate will open. Unlike boarding an aircraft with multiple aisles, no one will automatically tell you how to get to your seat, but there are workers that you can ask if you're confused.
Find your seat, put your larger baggage in the baggage storage area and fasten your seatbelt. I smirked at the seatbelt before my first trip, but the waves can in fact cause some pretty significant "turbulence" during the trip.
The TurboJet TriCat that I took on my most recent trip has 3-4-4-3 economy seating on the bottom level.
Each economy seat has 33 inch pitch and an 18.75 inch width. At the back of the economy cabin there are four lavatories.
There's free Wi-Fi onboard, although it frequently disconnected and generally wasn't usable. Just like on an airplane, travelers can purchase duty free goods, drinks and snacks onboard.
The Bottom Line
Although the new 34-mile bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai provides another option for traveling between Hong Kong and Macau, I'd still recommend taking the high-speed ferry at least one way for the experience. Especially if you consider yourself a veritable AvGeek. From boarding to the seats, immigration and the air sickness bags, the experience resembles flying in many ways.