USS ESSEX, At sea - Sailors and Marines assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit experienced Hong Kong Nov. 17-19 through a variety of tours offered by the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department.

Throughout the visit, 194 Sailors and Marines participated in 17 distinct tours that offered a wide range of recreational opportunities, from rock climbing to inner-city shopping tours.

“We always want to offer a variety of options so that people can find something they enjoy, no matter what their interests may be. Hong Kong provided a great opportunity for us to do that,” said Dave Glazier, who served as Essex’s afloat recreation specialist for the Hong Kong port visit. “We had a lot of people take advantage of our Hong Kong tour packages and I hope that everyone enjoyed their experience.”

From bright lights and busy city streets to the airy mountains of Lantau Island, Essex Sailors and Marines experienced virtually everything Hong Kong has to offer. Many said they preferred to MWR opportunities because of the affordability and convenience of the tour packages.

“You end up saving a lot of money doing tours through MWR,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class (SW/AW) Kevin Rodraungsri, who participated in MWR’s Hong Kong island tour. “It definitely costs a little bit more to take cabs when you’re trying to get out and see things.”

The Hong Kong Island tour took participants to a number of distinct locations on Hong Kong Island, including Man Mo Temple at Hollywood Road, Stanley Market and Victoria Peak.

“My favorite part of the tour was most definitely Victoria Peak,” said Rodraungsri. “They have everything you could want up there and I wish I could have spent more time there.”

For Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) First Class (AW/SW) Nathaniel Sukal, another advantage of taking an MWR tour is convenience.

“It’s really nice to be able to take a trip and not worry about how you’re going to get there, how much it costs and those kind of things,” said Sukal. “When you take a trip through MWR, you don’t have to worry about all of that because they take care of everything.”

Sukal participated in the cultural heritage tour, which was designed to highlight the culture of Hong Kong through a number of historic sites, including Lo Wai village, Tin Hau Temple and the Bamboo Forest Monastery, which houses the three largest Buddha statues in Hong Kong.

“My favorite part was definitely the big Buddha,” said Sukal, who is serving his second tour on Essex. “When I was stationed here before, I really wanted to get out there and check it out, but wasn’t able to do it. Being out here on Essex for a second time has given me that opportunity.”

MWR is already looking forward to future visits in other countries, said Glazier.

“We have a really unique opportunity to see a number of interesting places with very distinct cultures,” said Glazier. “Every time we pull into a port it’s another chance for our Sailors and Marines to have an experience that they will remember for a long time, and our goal is to make it a little bit easier and more affordable for them to do that.”

Essex, commanded by Capt. Troy Hart, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the Western Pacific.

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