Floating Restaurant Jumbo, Owned by Melco Resorts Subsidiary, Sinks in the South China Sea

By | June 21, 2022

An attempt to relocate a floating restaurant out of Hong Kong took an unexpected turn this weekend. During transit, Jumbo, owned by a subsidiary of casino giant Melco Resorts and Entertainment, capsized and sank.

Floating Restaurant Jumbo
The floating restaurant Jumbo in Hong Kong has received many high-profile visitors over the years. An attempt to relocate the vessel resulted in its sinking in the South China Sea. (Image: Getty Images)

Jumbo has been a Hollywood movie set and a Hong Kong tourist attraction. But, unfortunately, the floating restaurant sank in the South China Sea shortly after leaving the port of Aberdeen, where it had remained for nearly half a century. The ship had ceased operations due to financial difficulties.

In 2020, its direct owner, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, cited the financial crisis brought on by the pandemic as one of the reasons for closing the establishment. It racked up losses of $12.7 million since 2013 as maintenance became an increasingly larger burden.

Sunken Dreams

In a statement released on Monday, the company reported that the ship was passing through the Paracel Islands, which the Chinese call Xisha, on Saturday when it encountered adverse weather conditions and began to list. The complete shipwreck occurred this Sunday; fortunately, there were no injuries.

The South China Morning Post added that a rescue would be “extremely difficult.” The area where the ship went down has waters up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) deep.

The Jumbo was 76 meters (249 feet) long and had authorization to carry up to 2,300 people. The establishment received distinguished visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II and actor Tom Cruise. Sir Richard Branson also dropped in on occasion.

The venue has also appeared in several films, including Contagion, a 2011 film about a virus that kills 26 million people worldwide. It also appeared in a 1985 Jackie Chan movie, The Protector.

Opened in 1976 by Stanley Ho, Macau’s casino king and Melco founder who died in 2020, the Jumbo was a symbol of luxury. It took its design from the standard features of an imperial palace. The South China Morning Post said that the site housed a “dragon throne” in the style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

In perhaps a premonition of what was to come, Jumbo experienced a catastrophe on June 1. Its kitchen was housed in a separate boat, which began to capsize after taking on water. The vessel listed 90 degrees before coming to a stop and was left behind when Jumbo set sail last week.

An End of an Era

This year, Melco announced that the Jumbo would leave Hong Kong before its license expired. It added that it had found a new operator overseas, but didn’t reveal any other details. It had also tried to work out a deal to donate the floating piece of history to an amusement park, but wasn’t able to consummate the arrangement.

Jumbo was part of Jumbo Kingdom, which Ho initially began building in 1976. However, its roots include a sister venue, the Tai Pak Floating Restaurant, which first launched in 1952 under different ownership. It, too, made appearances in several films, including Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon from 1973.

Ho purchased the Tai Pak restaurant in 1980 to add it to his Jumbo Kingdom dream. He also added a third in 1982, the Sea Palace. In 2000, the company decided to move the latter to the Philippines. It hoped it would find success at the mouth of Manila Bay. However, eight years later, it shut down.

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