Cotai Water Jet operates the one-hour high-speed ferry ride between Macau’s Taipa Ferry Terminal and several destinations in Hong Kong. More than 67 million passengers have used the service since its inception in November 2007, according to the operator’s website.
The service is particularly useful for business travellers wanting to go to or from Macau directly from Hong Kong International Airport. Cathay Pacific, for instance, codeshares on the Cotai Water Jet service, meaning travellers can check their baggage through to their end destination rather than needing to collect it in between flight and ferry.
On Cotai Water Jet, passengers have a choice of three classes of service: Cotai Class (essentially, economy class), Cotai First and Cotai VIP Class.
Given that this is a short journey, I usually opt for the economy class on personal trips. However, an upgrade to Cotai First can be as little as US$16, so I wanted to give it a try to see if it’s worth paying the extra.
Check-in and boarding
My ticket, which cost HK$327 (US$41.66), allowed me to board any ferry up until 23.30 of the day for which I purchased the ticket.
The Taipa Ferry Terminal, where this service departs, is next to Macau International Airport and is considerably larger than the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal, which is the operating base of Turbojet, another company that offers ferry services to and from Hong Kong. I arrived at the Taipa Ferry Terminal by a private limousine service arranged by my hotel. The journey was effortless and there was no congestion driving into the terminal late on a Saturday morning.
I cleared immigration in a few minutes. If you’re a regular traveller between Macau and Hong Kong and hold a passport from an eligible country, I recommend you register for “Smart Departure”, which allows you to clear immigration via an e-gate rather than having to present your documents to a human immigration officer, which usually takes longer.
Here is the expansive departure area, which is larger than some regional airports…
Remember to arrive at the boarding gate at least five minutes before departure.
One benefit of holding a Cotai First ticket is that, during peak times, you are more likely to get a seat on the service of your choosing, since Cotai First doesn’t often fill up. Here is the line where I waited for my seat allocation.
Boarding is quick and easy. Once you’re through the boarding gate, you first go down a short escalator towards the ferry.
Cotai First passengers board separately by ascending a walkway to the upper deck of the ferry. Cotai Class passengers board at the bottom of the ferry.
Given the relatively few number of passengers using Cotai First, there was no jostling to get on board, which can sometimes happen in economy class when the ferry is busy.
On board, I was delighted to discover that I had been assigned an unlimited leg room seat. In addition, there was nobody else sitting on my aisle of three seats, giving me a good deal of privacy and a place to put my bags. However, my seat was in the middle of the ferry, meaning I didn’t get a view out of the window.
Overall, the cabin was not very busy.
There is fast and reliable free wifi on board. I used it for the duration of the journey without issue.
I noticed these seats at the front-right of the cabin, which I thought would be perfect for a group of four business travellers.
Shortly after we set sail, a cabin crew member came around with a menu and asked me to choose a complimentary drink. This was a nice perk, as in Cotai Class all drinks are chargeable.
I opted for a coffee, and it was brought to me shortly thereafter, along with some crackers and nuts. Each seat has an airline-style tray table that pops out.
The journey was mostly comfortable and uneventful. We encountered some heavy waves (a common occurrence on this crossing), which made me feel a little nauseated, but the turbulence only lasted a few minutes.
One major annoyance was the presence of a large television screen right in front of my seat. This played (on loop) various advertisements for hotels, casinos and restaurants in Macau, invariably presented by gormless models extolling the virtues of shopping and fine dining. This quickly began to grate on me, and it was difficult to look away from the screen given the position of my seat.
If I’m paying a premium for first class, I expect not to be bombarded with unwanted commercials. I doubt business class passengers on an aeroplane would tolerate having their in-flight entertainment screen constantly blare out adverts in their faces.
We arrived punctually in Hong Kong.
Disembarkation was swift, as Cotai First passengers are allowed to disembark before Cotai Class passengers, who are physically restrained by a cordon until every First passenger has got off the ferry. This did make me feel a little awkward having to avoid the glares of the cattle class passengers as they impatiently waited for me to get off.
On the journey to Macau, I had disembarked from the upper deck, separately from the Cotai Class passengers, who disembarked from the lower deck. It seems, however, that only certain berthing points allow for upper deck disembarkation by Cotai First passengers.
The upgrade from Cotai Class to Cotai First really does make this journey effortless. The seating is more comfortable and the cabin is uncrowded. The free coffee and snacks are a welcome perk. Of course, this being only a one hour journey, you may wish to save your money and stick it out in Cotai Class (it’s not that bad, really), but if you have extra money to spend – or your expenses budget allows you to travel in Cotai First – I definitely recommend it. Just ask for a window seat so you don’t have to stare at those garish televisions for the whole journey.