More than 70 percent of Hong Kong's cruise passengers were from mainland China last year, a source market which officials are seeking to expand even more.

In speeches to tourism officials in Beijing and Shanghai last month, Hong Kong Tourism Commissioner Au King-chi said cooperation between the mainland and the island would greatly benefit both by developing multi-destination sea-plus-land itineraries for cruise passengers.

"Hong Kong is ideally located in the heart of the Asia-Pacific region, within five hours flying time of half of the world's population," Au said. "We have excellent airlift capacity. Cruise passengers can fly easily from all around the globe to Hong Kong to start their cruise journey."

Of the 14 million mainland Chinese that visited Hong Kong last year, 50 percent said they would like to try cruising, Au said. Of those 7 million potential passengers, 90 percent said they would prefer to embark in Hong Kong.

"In 2007, we received more than 1,100 cruise vessels. The annual cruise passenger throughput has increased from 2.3 million in 2006 to 2.6 million in 2007. It has doubled since 1999," Au said. "We are also delighted that major cruise lines have deployed their cruise vessels to homeport at Hong Kong."

By developing its new Kai Tak cruise facility and waterfront itself, the Hong Kong government will spend about three times what it had initially planned to, local media reported. Total costs for the construction project, including broad seafront development and a HK$900 million cruise terminal, were now at HK$7.2 billion. An earlier estimate set the price at HK$2.4 billion.

Initially, the government sought private developers to fund the project, and the HK$2.4 billion was offered as a subsidy. But in September, the government had given up trying to find bidders for the project and would finance it with public money.

Officials expect the new facility, able to accommodate vessels up to 100,000 tons in two cruise berths, to be complete by 2013. The project also requires site formation work, including reconstruction of an existing seawall and the construction of government buildings for customs, immigration, health quarantine and police for the cruise terminal.

Crystal Cruises announced last week it would offer a "Mind, Body & Spirit" cruise from Hong Kong on the Crystal Symphony in March. The 15-day cruise offers yoga, Pilates, stress management and general physical and mental health classes in the Feng Shui-inspired Spa.