Even when you have not yet visited Halong Bay, you can easily realize how many cruises there are on the Bay. The fifty some posted elsewhere online does not speak it all: there are as many as four hundred vessels running daily. It cannot be denied that the best way to visit the myriad of islets and grottos is by a cruise, but choosing one can be a daunting tasks: so many prices, so many pictures and so many itineraries. We are suggesting below some of the best options for a Halong Bay Cruise:
BEST LUXURY CRUISE: PARADISE CRUISE
If you are looking for an ultimate luxurious cruise around Halong Bay, Paradise Cruise (including Paradise Luxury, Paradise Peak and Paradise Privilege) is top of chart in every aspect. At first glance, the cruise is not only aesthetically appealing but it also has amazing amenities fitted for royalties. The cabins are spacious and spotlessly clean. It is well worth the money to upgrade to a cabin with a lovely private balcony so you can chill and enjoy the view. The staffs are attentive and welcoming. Besides the superb fresh seafood platters on board, there are unlimited Vietnamese dishes and a cooking demonstration for you to try.
The unique 3 sails cruise and the excellent service set Paradise Luxury Cruise one class above many other operating cruises in the bay. By spending $200/pax for a 2 day-1night, you will definitely be satisfied with your stay on board while visiting the magnificent Halong Bay.
2017 updates: From October 1st 2017, Paradise introduce its latest product: Paradise Prestige. This new liner delivers a unique 3 day trip that does not involve change of boat like the rest of the cruises, meaning that passengers will have full access to their cabin during the second day. Besides, inhouse guests will enjoy exclusive offers such as spa service, free drinks, free use of business lounge at Noi Bai Airport, to name a few.
BEST DAY CRUISE: EMERAUDE DAY CRUISE
Emeraude day cruise Emeraude Cruise has a rather different take on the appearance as it models the French paddle steamer, probably reflecting the origin of the French owner. This different interpretation from Chinese junk of other boats makes cruising around Halong Bay a wholly unique experience, especially when you only spend 1 day on board. With the short visiting time, the cruise will take you to the finest and widest grotto: Surprise Grotto. The hanging stalactites form various bizarre but also intriguing shapes. After that, Hang Trong cave is next in the destination list where you can go kayaking or take a refreshing swim.
Considering the long drive to and from the pier, a one day trip at Halong Bay is probably less satisfying comparing with longer package. This may make you feel like being rushed to destinations all the time. However, the great service and amenities by Emeraude cruise will compensate to it.
BEST VALUE CRUISE: GLORY CRUISE
There is probably no other cruise that can match up with Glory Cruise at the price that it is offering its service. At approximately $110 (or even lower during promotion period), the cruise takes you to fishing village where you can see no busy traffic or high rise building. Instead, the fishermen amaze you with their traditional cultures and daily activities, carrying out mostly on herds of boats and rafts. You can choose to take part in the on board cooking class or discovering Bat Cave by kayaking. The night can be spent relaxing at the bar or squid fishing on the deck. There is also a visit to Sung Sot cave on the cruise itinerary.
While bringing you to popular Halong Bay destinations on a budget, the cruise food can get repetitive and the range of extra services is limited. However, this cruise is perfect for those who want to experience the wonder of Halong Bay without the additional cost of unnecessary frills.
2017 updates: Glory is a very poppular budget-mid-range cruise and it can become fully booked any time in a year. From mid-2017, Glory will operate one vessel only so it’s advisable you book your trip well ahead.
BEST ITINERARY: DRAGON PEARL JUNK (by Indochina Junk)
Halong Bay is congested with many kinds of cruises that sometimes your precious time is wasted waiting for your cruise turn to visit a site. That kind of poor planning is not the case at Dragon Pearl Junk. It has the best program that plans to a tee to make sure you can visit many attractions but also have plenty of time to just chill at the bay. The boat anchors in a secluded area that you can freely gaze at the sky line without being blocked by other junks. You can also enjoy a relaxing swim at an exclusive beach and a fabulous dinner in a cave.
The staffs are courteous when helping the tourists. All meals are served with excellent standard; even those prepared on short notice for special dieters. Drinks are appropriately priced.
2017 updates: Dragon Pearl Junk now operates both 2 day and 3 day cruise trip visiting Bai Tu Long Bay. Although cave dinner is no longer allowed, the cruise has replaced it with other exciting activity such as beach BBQ for its 3 day program.
BEST NON-WOODEN CRUISE: AU CO CRUISE
Although most of the junks and cruises are made from wood (or most of their body are from wood) there are some larger vessel made of steel like a cruise one normally see. The advantage of these cruises are that they are larger with more facilities, bigger cabins and provides more stability while sailing.
Au Co cruise is one of its kind as the cruise runs exclusive 3 day 2 night program: it takes you to all 3 bays in 1 itinerary: Halong bay, Bai Tu Long bay and Lan Ha bay. Besides that, you will get a chance to visit Cat Ba Island where you relax on the beach. There are many exciting activities await you when you choose to cruise with Au Co.
Kayaking, biking, swimming and cave exploring will keep you busy all 3 days. Being one of the biggest cruises in the bay, Au Co is well equipped with a full range of amenities. There is also a Spa and Jacuzzi area for therapeutic massages or unwind time after a long day of excursion. The hefty price tag $540/pax may be a splurge but it is worth it to see many unusual locations in just one trip.
2017 updates: Au Co cruise recently launches special offer program where you can enjoy free transfer round trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay and back on certain trip dates. This will be a major saving considering that the shuttle bus normally costs $40/person/round trip.
Tips for how to book a Halong Bay cruise:
There are as many websites to book Halong bay cruise as there are actual cruises at the pier. The main idea is that always select a reliable vendor with a competitive price.
– Local agents are often the one offering the best price and more importantly, the best insiders’ knowledge of Halong bay travel. Some maintain their own collection of the best Halong cruises which come from both the agent’s experience and guest feedbacks. The advantage is also that as they work with a number of providers, local agents will be able to advise you the most suitable cruise trips based on your needs.
– Most cruises will maintain their official website such as Paradise cruise (www.paradisecruise.com), Au Co (www.aucocruises.com). However, always double check to make sure you are on the official website as there are many replicas run by agencies which do look as if they were real. Booking a trip via the official website means that you can discuss any special request or concerns with the cruise directly. However, the price is usually highest on official website.
– Online travel website: Booking.com and Agoda.com are also good sources if you plan to book your Halong cruise trip. However as information is displayed in hotel setting, the information may not be as resourceful as the formal two, and you will have to compare and decide on your own which cruise you will take.