There’s a slight nip in the air as we start our journey aboard the Majestic Cruise. After settling into our rooms, we lie down on our bed, simply gazing at our cabin’s window when one gigantic limestone karst makes an expected appearance. Within minutes, we are far away from the chaotic Halong Bay pier, probably in some far-flung striking corner of the world. All around tiny islands with their piercing cliffs and peaceful coves surprise us now and then. That’s how a day aboard best Halong Bay luxury cruise looks like.
To explore Halong Bay at a gentle pace, there’s just no better way than aboard a luxury cruise. You get to discover the most dramatic landscapes of one of South East Asia’s captivating destinations – Halong. Depending on what your expectations are, you can reserve a room in a small, personable Halong Bay Cruise or a massive cruise liner. While a small cruise line has a limited capacity of 11 rooms accommodating about 25-30 people, a big cruise liner can carry double the number.
We loved this cruise holiday in Vietnam so much that now we just can’t wait to plan the next one.
How to choose the best cruise for your Halong Bay trip?
A number of Halong Bay’s popular sites are only accessible by a boat or cruise. The charm of living in a cruise ship, exploring the famous vantage points along with all the creature comforts will definitely leave a lasting impression. And no doubt, now we know what the hype is all about, and why luxury Halong Bay cruise in on every traveler’s bucket list.
Let’s talk about selecting the best Halong Bay Cruise now!
Going by the popularity of it all, Paradise Halong Bay is one of the choicest cruise options amongst the travelers for overnight stay. However, let’s face it there are tons of options of cruises to choose from which can get really overwhelming at some point of time. We spent almost a week researching insanely about all the cruises and reading what offered what. Was it worth all the effort? No, honestly, NO! So, we’ll make it easier for you to pick the best cruise for your Halong Bay Vietnam trip.
How Long Would you like to Stay in the Cruise?
There are four main itineraries for Halong Bay luxury Cruise trips in Vietnam. So, you can choose to opt from these:
a. A day trip on the cruise – In this itinerary, you get to cruise through the Halong Bay from morning until evening. And later, the cruise leaves you ashore and you can stay in your standard hotel! No overnight stay on the cruise!
b. 2D 1N Cruise – This option is simply perfect for the traveler who want to get a taste of the cruise life but do not want to stay for a long time on the ship. In one day, you get to do some sightseeing, soak up the lush scenery onboard the cruise, and spend an intimate overnight tour. We decided to go for this option since we were traveling with our family, and some of our family members get sea sick easily. Also, after spending the time on our cruise, we can easily say, this was indeed a great option. It is quite popular amongst travelers.
c. 3D 2N Cruises – In this Halong Bay cruise option, you get to stay one night on the cruise and 1 night on the island.
d. 4D 3N Cruises – This tour is most recommended for those travelers who want to spend some idyllic moments of bliss in Halong Bay with their loved ones! You’ll get to experience some of the prettiest bays aboard Halong cruise. Also, it would be possible to experience a gamut of thrilling activities such as kayaking, swimming, caving, etc.
Once you have clarity of how many days would you like to spend on the best Halong Bay cruise, you can then decide the budget for your trip.
Set your Budget for the Cruise Stay:
Once you know how many days you’d like to stay on a cruise, it’s time to decide how much are you willing to spend on your trip. Your trip can be done in tens of dollars or you could spend lavishly and extend your budget to thousands of dollars.
Standard Halong Cruise –
These cruises are not going to burn a hole in your pocket. Typically, used for daily excursions, these cruises are best for solo travelers who don’t mind sharing public spaces with strangers. An overnight stay abroad standard cruises in Halong would cost you anywhere from $70 to $100 per person. Some travel agents might even offer you package at a lower cost but be careful as they might not include round-trip transfers. Some of the better cruises are Garden Bay Cruise, Swan Cruise, and Halong Glory Cruise.
Mid-Range Halong Cruise-
The decision of selecting a mid-range cruise can be really testing as there are hundreds of cruise options online to choose from. These ships are really better than the standard ones. You can think of them as 3-Star or 4-Star rated hotels. The infrastructure would be wooden with fewer facilities as compared to the luxury cruises! An overnight stay in mid-range Halong Cruise would set you back by $100-$150 per person. Some of the cruises in this line include Luxury Flamingo Cruise, Pelican Cruise, Bhaya Cruise, and Gray Line Halong Cruise.
Luxury Halong Cruise –
Now those who prefer luxury over everything shouldn’t think twice before booking a luxury Halong Cruise stay. You can expect a well-maintained boat with furnished cabins and amenities comparable with any 5-star rated hotel. Expect super attentive service and properly organised tours & onboard activities in this range. An overnight stay would cost you anywhere between $150-$250 per person. Some of the recommendations in this category would be Emperor Cruise, Paradise Luxury Cruise, and Athena Cruise.
You can check the reputation of the Halong Bay cruise you are going to book on Trip Advisor, and it will be a big help. In my opinion, the smaller (cheaper) cruises are not the best option, especially when traveling with family or your partner. It’s always best to go for mid-range cruises with better reputation online.
My recommendation – Go for Paradise Cruise tours! They are credible and have great online reputation as well.
We boarded our Halong Bay cruise on a sunny morning from the Tuan Chau Harbor Checking-in was a breeze though we were a bit hassled after seeing enormous groups of travellers who had booked the tours on the pier. Anyway, our cruise operator found us and took us to the cruise in no time. We were left grieving once we found out that the agents had booked us in the non-balcony rooms on the cruise, however a little assurance came after they agreed to give us the refund. We were not quite keen on the refund part as we wanted our balcony rooms but then we had to bow down!
No doubt, The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay is incredibly gorgeous, even more when viewed from the pristine blue waters.
Tip: Always book a cruise through your hotel well in advance. Your hotel won’t have anything hidden. And even if you’ll spend a few bucks extra, you’ll get worth of it.
Coming back to our cabins, they were nicely furnished in the start of the ship. The cabin was equipped with a double bed, shower cubicle, and enough space for us to walk around. After check-in, we walked in and around our ship to get an idea about the layout, upper deck, and the dining options. To be honest – we just love prancing around our cruise ships and that is our favorite ritual after boarding. The only downside was No WI-Fi availability but on the hindsight it helped us disconnect from the outside world for 24 hours and simply soak in the panoramic sea views.
We spent most of our time on the upper deck and it was so beautiful. We had a lot of activities in between to keep our day packed. A number of famous sites were accessible on this tour and all the excursions were included in our package. No wonder, Halong Bay Cruise is on so many traveler’s bucketlist. The cruise paid homage to the old tradition of cruising and brings out the romance of a bygone era.
Having been through each and ever corner of the cruise thoroughly, we ended up relaxing a bit on the upper deck. We were called for lunch in the afternoon where the chef had prepared vegetarian meals for us. Always inform them in advance about your meal preferences. Later, we got ready for kayaking activity!
Activities with Halong Bay Luxury Cruise
I was the most excited about kayaking under the immense blue skies! The weather was thankfully good and the clear blue waters enchanted us completely. Don’t miss this opportunity of being close to the nature and experiencing Halong Bay’s stunning beauty unclose and personal.
We were taken to a calm area of the bay for kayaking and gazing out over the bay. It would be a pity to visit Halong Bay and not kayak around the beauty. In fact, National Geographic listed Halong Bay amongst the 25 best places for kayaking in the world. This activity is included in the cruise package but if you wish to do it anywhere in Halong Bay then it would cost you anywhere between VND 100,000 to VND 200,000.
Exploring and Admiring Ti Top Island:
Sailing around the limestone cliffs and admiring the spectacular beauty of this World Heritage UNESCO Site makes for a relaxing voyage in Vietnam. This is what we came to Halong Bay for. Simply surrendering ourselves to the prettiness of this bay and looking at the jagged karst formations gave us memories worth a lifetime. A closer look at the glittering turquoise waters and towering sea cliffs brought a sense of serenity!
Sung Sot Cave Tour:
- You get to visit one of the most beautiful caves in Halong Bay on this cruise trip. This is a year-round attraction and can be accessed only after a steep climb of 50-60 odd steps. The cave is located on Bo Hon Island and is really close to Titov Island and Luon Cave.
- Sung Sot Cave was a result of intense tectonic plate movement and it welcomed the first visitor in 1993. The main attraction of this cave is its sizeable cave and coloured lighting.
- Sung Sot Cave is enormous and there are a numerous caverns inside which makes everything so interesting.
- This cave was found in 1901 and can be visited round the year. But the best time to visit is definitely from October to December.
- Make sure you wear sensible footwear because there are too many stairs and it was a bit slippery when we were there.
- Carry your water bottle for the steep climb and exploration.
Dining On Board Halong Bay Cruise
To be honest – we weren’t expecting a lot from our cruise company especially after they had let us down with the whole room fiasco. Also, we are vegetarians and Vietnam is quite popular for it’s seafood. But our cruise team way ahead in terms of efforts they put to ensure we were well fed during the entire tour. We might not have been put on the best Halong Bay Luxury Cruise but the food really made up for everything. After all, cruise holidays involve food, food and a lot of food.
During the lunch, we had a great spread of fresh fruits, Vietnam style sautéed potatoes, caramelised pineapple, creamy pumpkin soup, and leafy green salads. Drinks were not included in our package and we had to pay separately for the juices and wines.
Dinner was delicious and we had a wide range of food and salad choices. We were served braised tofu, veggie spring rolls, spicy curry, sweet potatoes, sweet reddish dressing, fried sweet corns, leafy salads, and traditional Vietnamese noodles and rice.
Breakfast was all about a great spread of fruits, bread and butter with nice Vietnamese coffee.
The chefs were extremely talented and they had every idea about keeping a balance between flavours and healthy eating. Aside that, they had great skills of carving dragons into ice, making peculiarly nice vegetable ships and watermelon lotus flowers. You’ll be amazed by the presentation itself.
You must not skip Halong Bay Cruise trip especially because of your food concerns. Veggies and vegans can inform their cruise partners well in advance about their food preferences and the same will be met during the trip.
Best Halong Bay Cruise – it’s just the kind of tryst that kicks in wanderlust and makes us want to uncover each and every part of this world.
A romantic getaway or family excursion to Vietnam is perfect for kickstarting your trip to Halong Bay. You don’t have to be connected to the outside world in this part of the world. Simply gaze out of the window of your cruise room and experience calm like never before.