HONG KONG- Sailors and embarked Marines from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived here for a port visit Nov. 16.

The ship's approximately 3,000 Sailors and embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will have a chance to enjoy the city's culture as well as host members of the local community for tours and a reception aboard the ship.

"Hong Kong is a favorite port of call for U.S. Sailors. The Essex crew is really looking forward to this visit," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex commanding officer.

While in port, the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division will provide a variety of tours and trips for several hundred crew members. The various trips include tours of Disneyland Hong Kong, Lantau Island Monastery, home of the world's largest Buddha statue, and a trip showcasing the culture and history of the city of Hong Kong itself.

During this visit, Sailors and Marines will also have a unique opportunity to spend time with Hong Kong families through a "meals in the home" program.

"It's a great program everyone should take advantage of," said Essex Command Master Chief Brannon Knox. "I've done some of these events before and always had a great time. Sailors who participate always tell me what a great time they had too. Sailors and Marines will have the chance to see Hong Kong in a way that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do with a tour or exploring the city by themselves."

Essex is visiting Hong Kong for the first time in almost two years, so many of the Sailors and Marines aboard have never experienced the city before.

"I am hoping to learn more about the culture and see how China differs from Japan," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Laura Hernandez, a first time visitor to Hong Kong.

As one of the most densely populated cities in the world and an international shopping destination, Hong Kong offers something to almost everyone.

"Hong Kong is a great Asian port visit that's been planned for some time offering many cultural experiences for the crew of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group," said Capt. Mark Weber, commodore, Amphibious Squadron Eleven. "We're excited about the opportunity to be here and explore this beautiful part of the world."

The Essex ARG includes the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and is the only permanently forward-deployed U.S. amphibious squadron. Assigned to the ARG is the 31st MEU consisting of more than 2,000 Marines in ground, command, air and combat support elements that allow the Essex ARG to conduct amphibious operations from the sea and project power ashore.

For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/.