Cruise Booking Advice From Our Experts

Without doubt, Cruising tops the list of must-dos when visiting Halong Bay. But what itinerary to take, how to choose the one cruise that best suits your likings and budget, what to remember when booking… We have it all here so you can make the best of your cruise!

Everything You Need to Choose Best Halong Bay Cruise

Everything You Need to Choose Best Halong Bay Cruise

No doubt, cruising Halong Bay is a must. But, with the crowded number of boats there and the all-too-similar itineraries those companies promise, you will surely be overwhelmed. A wrong decision could totally spoil your trip.

So, better safe than sorry, to save yourself from tons of cruise mishaps caused by rush decision: 

  • Being on wrong boats,
  • Having to share rooms with strangers,
  • Visiting the claimed destination, 

and many other travel scams

Let’s check out our guide below on how to choose best Halong Bay cruise in 2018!

Checklist for quick and wise decision: How to choose best Halong Bay cruise?

Here are 8 questions you should ask yourself before you make your final cruise decision:

1. When do I visit?

when to visit halong bay

Even though Halong Bay welcomes you all year round, it’s better to visit this place from March to May when the weather is ideal. Remember to avoid Vietnamese national holidays (April 30th and May 1st) if you don’t want to be choked with crowds.

June to September is low season so you can have better deals and promotions. Yet, be wary of storm forecasts. October and November is high season again and it is still sunny. 

December is cool, cloudy but dry while January and February are cold, foggy and drizzly. The showers will hide the splendor of the bay. But for many, misty Halong brings a whole different view from the normal green and blue color.

For more information about Halong weather throughout the year, please check this out.

misty Halong Bay
Misty Halong Bay - a different look
misty halong bay
Halong Bay on a foggy day is like a mistery

2. How long do I want to go?

There are mainly 3 types of cruise tours operating in Halong Bay:

  • 3 Day-2 Nights cruise
  • 2 Day-1 Night cruise
  • Day trip cruise

However, a day trip to Halong Bay is not a good idea at all. It takes you up to 4 hour drive from Hanoi to Halong. Just by a simple calculation, how much time left do you have? 

A day trip, minus all the road time, won’t get you far out of port and away from the shipping channels to see the most beautiful areas of the bay.

For most travelers, the joys of Halong are kayaking, swimming, sitting on deck and watching the sunrise and sunset (most tourists agree that Halong Bay sunset and sunrise is a scene you must watch once in your life, so jaw-dropping!). 

You will miss all those with a day tour. Therefore, we highly recommend you choose to spend at least 1 night in Halong Bay. Believe us, you will never regret that decision!

3. What is my budget?

Undeniably, your budget is an important factor that decides your trip. The differences between budget, mid-range and luxury cruising usually come from cabin amenities, on-board facilities and furnishings, as well as the quality of the food and service. 

As you get what you pay for, you may want to spend a few extra dollars to ensure a memorable journey in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Budget cruise (3* or 3* plus): price starts from $90
  • Mid-range cruise (4* or 4* plus): price starts from $107
  • Luxury cruise (5*): price starts from $120
Want to have a closer look at cruise prices? Click HERE to quickly jump to our table for comparing cruise prices!

4. Is the boat big or small?

It’s important to consider how big is the boat, how many cabins it has and how many passengers it accommodates. If you want to spend your trip with worldwide tourists, go for a medium to large boat. On a bigger boat, there are more new people to make friends and more public spaces to move to, especially if you want some alone-time.

If you’re on a honeymoon or travelling with your family or friends, consider chartering your own small boat. Yet, one thing to take note: smaller boats may get you seasick more easily.

Whichever cruise company you choose, make sure to check the number of cabins before you book. A boat of more than 20 cabins is considered big, so get well-prepared with crowds!

5. What are the cruise routes + destinations?

Although the whole area is mostly known as Halong Bay, there are in fact 3 different bays: Ha Long, Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha Bay. They all have a similar charming landscape of limestone cliffs, gorgeous bays, caves and beaches.

However, there can be some other factors that make one preferable than others.

Here is a quick look of cruise itineraries that helps you decide between these three bays:

  • Halong Bay

Halong Bay is the most popular destination, thus attracting hundreds of boats and tourists. Especially in the peak season, you will be amazed at the overcrowdedness there. Despite efforts and attempts to protect this bay, it is getting more crowded and polluted.

  • Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay is a small bay located 10km from the south of Cat Ba. Luckily, it still remains pristine and unspoiled. A great choice if you prefer to enjoy the purity of nature. Some cruise boats even offer you a night sleeping in a resort in Cat Ba.

  • Bai Tu Long Bay

This itinerary combines the best of Halong Bay with some more remote areas in Bai Tu Long Bay. However, Bai Tu Long is harder to reach, with fewer accessible caves, so you should expect a higher price for this tour.

6. What are cruise activities?

Also, don’t forget to check what activities are included during your cruising tour. Consider your interests then choose the best activities in Halong Bay you want to engage in:

  • Water sports: kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Exploring caves
  • Visiting floating villages
  • Squid fishing
  • Cooking class
  • Tai Chi exercises
  • Spa

Kayaking in Halong Bay

Tai Chi exercises

Exploring caves

Watching sunrise on deck

Swimming

7. Is transfer included?

From Hanoi to Halong city, 160 km away, it takes roughly 3 and a half hours by bus and from the bus station to the pier is about 15 minutes. 

Most Halong Bay cruise lines charge extra for transfers from Hanoi to the port, although the luxury cruise boats are increasingly including transfers in spacious luxury vans with business class airline-style seats and many boats will throw in transfers during the low season or rainy season.

You can choose 1 out of 4 main ways to transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay:

  • Shuttle bus
  • Seaplane
  • Private car
  • Taxi
For detailed information about transportation to Halong Bay from Hanoi, please read this post.

8. Which food will be served?

Cruise boats might serve Vietnamese food, Euro-Asian fusion, and Western dishes, and of course seafood will be in abundance. But, what if you have allergies or you are a vegetarian?

Don’t worry, most cruises can accommodate your dietary preferences, whatever they are. 

Whether you are a vegan, have a food allergy or need gluten free, just notice your cruise beforehand about your special diet within at least 48 hours before departure. 

Pelican, Orchid, Garden Bay Luxury, and Garden Bay Premium are highly recommended cruises for their special care to meet passengers’ requests.

Ask yourself those 8 questions then answer each one by one. 

Now, you can browse the best Halong Bay cruises available here to pick out your ideal cruise.

Cruise NameRatingLaunched YearDesign StyleHullMinimum PriceNumber of CabinsCabin SizePrivate BalconyPrice Range US$Cruise AreaBoarding Port
Aclass Legend3.5*2010Classic & TraditionalWood921415-16Yes92-121Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Carina3.5*2014Classic & TraditionalWood107915-16Yes107-117Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Aclass Stellar4*2015Classic & Traditional Wood1072114-23Yes107-140Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Glory Legend3.5*2013Classic & Traditional Wood872216-32No87-102Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Pelican4.5*2014Classic & TraditionalWood1132218-36Yes113-173Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Gray Line3.5*2010Classic & TraditionalWood961415-20Yes96-140Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Rosa3*2015Classic & TraditionalWood90918-28No90-92Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Ginger Cruise5*2018Classic & TraditionalWood2101237-50Yes210-295Lan Ha BayTuan Chau Marina
Jasmine Cruise5*2007Classic & TraditionalWood1772316-18Yes177-274Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Violet Cruise5*2009Classic & TraditionalWood286638-43Yes286-353Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Paradise Luxury5*2011Classic & TraditionalWood2801716-23Yes280-380Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Paradise Peak5*2012Classic & TraditionalWood302838-42Yes302-372Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Paradise Elegance5*2017Classic & TraditionalWood1923113-35Yes192-257Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Alisa5*2017ContemporarySteel1202220-40Yes120-170Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Bhaya Classic (III)4*2009Classic & TraditionalWood1362013-17Yes136-216Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Bhaya Premium (VII)4*2015Classic & TraditionalWood164519-21Yes164Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Alisa Premier5*2017ContemporarySteel1302222-45Yes130-180Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Indochina Sails5*2003Classic & TraditionalWood1422316-29Yes142-219Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Syrena Cruise4*2010Classic & TraditionalWood1031715-21Yes103-159Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Hera Cruise5*2016Classic & TraditionalWood3851128-55Yes385-649Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
La Fairy Sails Cruise4*2015Classic & TraditionalWood1291115-30Yes129-149Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Aphrodite4.5*2011Classic & TraditionalWood1501717-22Yes150-280Halong BayTuan Chau Marina
Au Co5*2012ContemporarySteel3903220-40Yes390-703Halong BayTuan Chau Marina

Choosing the best Halong Bay cruise that suits your taste is not a rocket science. But not a piece of cake, either. 

Don’t rush. Read on as you may want to consult more from real experience of real people, instead of advertising or flattering posts on some boat-selling websites.

Cruise reviews from worldwide travel bloggers

Our team have conducted an interview with travel bloggers from over the world. They have come to Vietnam and gone on a cruise on Halong Bay once, twice or even three times. 

Let’s read on to find out what these travelers have faced up to from the time they do research, book a cruise, to the date they get on board and explore the giant “Descending Dragon”.

Mirela from AboutVariousThings

Hi Mirela, could you share with us how you chose your cruise? And why that cruise appealed to you?

For me, to come to Ha Long Bay meant fulfilling a dream, that’s why we wanted this cruise to be a special one. 

I searched for a lot of information on the internet and I decided to choose a one-night cruise in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was not easy to choose from dozens of companies that offer such services. 

But Orchid Ha Long Cruise has come close to what I wanted. First of all, the ship was built recently, had extremely comfortable rooms and modern design, culinary preparations and promised services sounded quite tempting. 

halong orchid cruise
On deck an Orchid Cruise. Source: Mirela

Also, the bathrooms with the glass that is located above the bathtub with Jacuzzi, was another reason why I chose this company. The fact that it is a company that offers 5 star services and is considered one of best Halong luxury cruise, also meant a lot in my choice.

So, you must have enjoyed your cruising trip. How was it? Is there anything you weren’t satisfied with?

The Ha Long Cruise Orchid has exceeded my expectations. Although the price was not small, it deserved this money in all aspects. Everything was perfect: crew, food, services offered, friendship and smiles of everyone. The program proposed by the cruise manager was well established and respected to the smallest detail.

The crew, along with the cruise manager, were dedicated. They did everything so we won’t miss anything. They were always smiling and they responded promptly to any of our requests. 

I felt safe all the time, even when we did kayaking, a few crew members watched us and they were always with us.

halong orchid cruise - pic 4

Beyond the human side, I loved the cleanliness and the decor of the room. And, I was most impressed with the landscaped balcony and the spacious windows to view amazing attractions in Ha Long Bay.

A special place in my soul was the bathroom with Jacuzzi tub placed near a wide window that gave a dreamlike view. 

The fact that the alcoholic drinks at the bar were not included in the cruise price was not a point in the minus. Since they were not so expensive and, if you bought a cocktail then the second one you received for free. All in all, we totally enjoyed that 2 happy hours.

jacuzzi-bathtub-on-best-halong-bay-cruise
Jacuzzi tub was placed near a wide window that offered a dreamlike view

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?
Yes, of course. I have some tips for you to keep in mind when choosing a cruise in Ha Long Bay. I hope you will find them useful:

  1. Set up a budget that you can afford and choose a cruise that will provide you safety throughout the trip. Do not opt for a very cheap boat because the conditions that will get will be below the expected level
  2. Make sure the company services you choose include transfers to/from Hanoi or the airport
  3. Choose to spend at least one night on the cruise because Ha Long Bay will tell you stories at night too. A full moon that lightens the rocks from the water is the perfect setting to live a beautiful love story, or just a romantic night. If you are thinking of choosing a short day trip, you will not enjoy the beauties offered by the entire area
  4. Choose, if you have this option, a room with its own terrace. It is magical to admire the stars standing on a lounge chair in the balcony of your room with a cocktail in front and the pleasant sound of the water that will accompany you discreetly all night.
  5. If the weather does not keep up with you and there are a few drops of rain you do not despair, Ha Long Bay is great also when the weather is unfavorable. I’m sure that if you choose the right cruise, the crew will adjust the schedule to the weather outside.
  6. Take a sunscreen for you, because you do not know when you need it
  7. Have fun and take advantage of every moment, you will gladly remember your whole life of this trip.

Many thanks for your great advice, Mirela!

Helene from HeleneInBetween

Hi Helene, which cruise did you go on in your trip to Halong Bay last year?
Hi Halong Hub, we went on the Dragon Pearl Junk with Indo China Junk. It appealed because of the beautiful views, the wonderful pricing, that I could choose to spend a short amount of time on the boat. My trip to Asia was so short and I wanted to do so many things so this was an easy way to so it all.
Halong Bay cruise

What was the highlight of your trip?
The best part of the cruise was the magnificent views and the people. Mr Kim led our cruise and made it such a memorable experience. The food was also particularly delightful. It was a nice intimate setting and I really go to know the other people on the cruise as well.

A smiling waiter with well-decorated Vietnamese food
A smiling waiter with well-decorated Vietnamese food. Source: Helene
kayaking-in-halong-bay-is-worth-trying
Kayaking is worth trying. Source: Helene
Kayaking through caves.
Kayaking through caves. Source: Helene

Could you share with us some advice on picking the right Halong Bay cruise?
Yes, definitely! I think the best way to choose a cruise is based on how much time you’ll have. I would have loved to do a longer cruise but I simply didn’t have enough time. If I was to go again I would definitely make sure to be there for an extended time. 3 days would have been perfect!

Sarah & Kris, from JetSettingFools

Which cruise did you go on? Why that cruise appealed to you?
We sailed with Aclass Legend Cruise. It was recommend to us by our hotel as one of the best mid-range cruises.
How was your experience? Is there anything you weren’t satisfied with?
We loved our cruise! We had a great group on-board, some of whom we still keep in contact with today. The ship’s crew was fantastic as well, and of course Halong Bay is magnificent!
Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?
I think booking the 2-Day cruise is highly recommended. The full day spent exploring on the smaller boat was so amazing and we got to see so much more of Halong Bay. We trusted our hotel’s advice on which cruise to book, and for us it was perfect!

Jolene & Andrzej – the owner of WanderlustStoryTellers

Hi Jolene and Andrzej, you two have recently visited Halong Bay. Can you share with us about the cruise you went on? And what made you choose that cruise?
Hi Halong Hub, we went on one of the Indochina Sails cruises. Our Vietnam trip was special as we went without the kids on a trip to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.
So we were after a 4 or 5 star luxury cruise experience. We also wanted a cruise that only had a small number of cabins. Lastly a criteria for us was to choose a company that went into Bai Tu Long Bay in order to escape the masses of Ha Long Bay crowds.
Beautiful Halong Bay Views
Beautiful Halong Bay Views. Source: WanderlustStoryTellers

Indochina Sails was one of the top companies that people were recommending on sites such as TripAdvisor. We also asked our local Vietnam tour guide which company he recommended and he also told us that it is one of the most popular cruises. In actual fact the boat was sold out when we booked a room and we had to purchase a cabin on a different boat. But fortunately there was a late cancellation and we could make a last minute swap over to this company instead.

How was your experience about the cruising trip? Is there anything you weren’t satisfied with?

We absolutely loved every minute of the cruise. Our cabin was small but comfortable and we truly loved the personalized experience from the staff. We enjoyed all the optional on-board experiences such as cooking classes and squid fishing lessons.

Whilst we absolutely loved the itinerary we did feel that some days were too fully-packed with ‘stuff to do’ and not enough time to just relax. We especially enjoyed visiting the cave, the fishing village, doing some kayaking as well as climbing to the top of TiTov Island.

Overall we truly felt that the cruise was worth every single dollar and we would return in a heartbeat.

It is obvious that you two picked an ideal cruise for your wedding anniversary. So, could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

We highly recommend that you choose the 2night/3day cruise option. The 2 night option will be way too rushed and you won’t have enough time to simply soak in your beautiful surroundings.

Unless you are a party animal, we also suggest that you choose a boat that have a smaller number of cabins on board, don’t go for a company that has over 20 cabins.

Try to find a cruise that ventures into Ha Long Bay as well as Bai Tu Long Bay. Indochina Sails had a brilliant itinerary that always got us to the sights before the other companies arrived, so that we could enjoy each area without being squashed by masses of other tourists.

Think about whether you would like a traditional-style junk boat (there rooms will be smaller and older) or if you want a new boat that offers large rooms, Jacuzzis and up-to-date furniture.

Do ask the company to send over the itinerary for you to check out before you book. Have a look at what is included and think about whether you like to stay busy or whether you would like to have a more relaxed itinerary.

Lastly, read the small print to figure out what is included in the coast of the cruise. Some companies might seem like they are cheaper, but if you look closer they will charge you extra for activities such as kayaking.

Thanks for your sharing. Hope your next trip to Halong will be just as unforgettable!

Nic Hilditch-Short from TheRoamingRenegades

Which cruise did you go on? Why that cruise appealed to you?

We actually chose to take the public boat over to Cat Ba island and then take one of the cheaper tours from there, this meant we paid a lot less and could also explore the island at our own pace. We wanted to do this mostly because the tours from Hanoi were really expensive and also we wanted some more flexibility.

How was your experience about the cruising trip? Is there anything you weren’t satisfied with?

For the price the tour was actually really amazing, in one day we were able to see much of the bay, we went kayaking and also had food included and went swimming. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t go further into the main bay itself on the cheaper tour but what we did see what amazing.

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

Think about what your priorities are, if you are short on time and have the money then I would still do one of the multi-day tours from Hanoi where you can see much more and with a lot more ease.

Do your research though as many companies over charge and have bad facilities. If you are a backpacker then heading to Cat Ba and taking a tour from there is a great option, they have many different trip and they are a lot cheaper, you could even do another if you didn’t get the weather or wanted to do several that go to different places.

Megan from BoboAndChichi

Which cruise did you go on? Why that cruise appealed to you?

We went through Halong Bay on the Viola cruise for 2 nights and 3 days. We wanted this boat because we were celebrating and wanted a 4 star cruise. The elegant rooms is what attracted us to Viola.

Viola boat. Source: Boboandchichi.com
Elegant room of Viola boat. Source: Boboandchichi.com

How was your experience about the cruising trip? Is there anything you weren’t satisfied with?

Overall, we ended up being blown away by Halong Bay’s beauty. The only thing we didn’t enjoy was how many boats were parked on top of each other every night. It made for a noisy night. We also didn’t enjoy some of the mandatory stops like the Pearl Farm but we really enjoyed the kayaking through Halong Bay.

Orange huge sky above Halong Bay. Source: boboandchichi.com
Kayaking on Halong Bay
Kayaking on Halong Bay. Source: boboandchichi.com

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

We recommend first setting your budget and shopping around. You don’t get to spend a lot of time on your cruise and in your room, so if you’re worried about budget don’t go for the 4 star rooms. 

We also realized we would have much preferred choosing the route that went through Bai Tu Long bay as we were told it was less crowded than Ha Long Bay. And last, check reviews online before booking your cruise.

Bai Tu Long Bay
Bai Tu Long Bay is the same as Halong Bay but less touristy.

Tasha Amy, from BackpackersWanderlust

Which cruise did you go on? Why that cruise appealed to you?

To explore the magnificent Ha Long Bay I booked with Ocean Tours on their cocktail cruise 2 night 3 day tour. There are honestly so many options of different cruises to do, so choosing one was not an easy decision.

Though, what I liked about the cocktail cruise run by Ocean Tours was that it is an affordable option, making it perfect for a backpacker like me. As it is also advertised in a variety of hostels in Hanoi, so I knew I would be exploring with a group of like-minded people.

Like most cruises in Ha Long Bay the tour included kayaking in the famous light and dark caves, though it does not include the other common activity of squid fishing (which is a plus for any vegetarian like me).

Throughout my research I came to hear of many horror stories regarding sleep aboard Ha Long Bay tours with run down junk boats, so knowing that on the cocktail cruise the nights would be spent on a well facilitated private island was certainly a bonus.

How was your experience about the cruising trip? Is there anything you weren’t satisfied with?

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with my experience on the cocktail cruise with Ocean Tours. The guides we had throughout the journey were knowledgeable, approachable and knew how to make everyone feel comfortable. 

Many delicious meals were had, which can sometimes be risky when you are on an island with one restaurant and there were plenty of activities such a kayaking, swimming, hiking and visiting the nearby Cat Ba Island. Also, even though it is called a cocktail cruise everyone only had a couple drinks and it never got messy. Some of the people I met on the tour I caught up with again further down in my adventures throughout Vietnam, so it is the perfect place to meet new friends!

There was not too much I was unsatisfied with about the tour itself, though if I were to go back to Ha Long Bay I would definitely do it differently. As it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an item on many people’s bucket list it is truly an experience you do not want to skimp on.

Next time I would brave it and do a sleep aboard junk boat, even if it is a more expensive option. This way I would feel like I am getting the full Ha Long Bay experience, not just a drive through for a few hours.

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

Honestly, my best tip on choosing the right Ha Long Bay cruise for you would be to do your research (and if you are reading this article you are obviously on the right track). You will want to make sure you book with a reputable company, know that their boats are safe and comfortable, as well as the variety of activities they provide. 

For example, the cocktail cruise does not visit Ti Top Island which has one of the most picturesque views of Ha Long Bay. This could be a make or break for some people, so make sure you are fully informed before deciding on your Ha Long Bay tour.

Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you with all the necessary information on how to choose the best Halong Bay cruise. Once again, preparation counts. Do careful research on reliable websites and pick your ideal cruise for your next trip.

Don’t forget to get in touch with us for further advice, ideas, and bookings!

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More from Halong Hub

Halong Hub Reviews Azalea Cruise on Grand Opening Day

The newest cruise to join the fleet in Halong Bay, Azalea Cruise Halong, took to the water for the very first time on the 8th of November 2017, and Halong Hub were onboard to conduct the first of what is set to be a series of professional Halong Bay cruise reviews.

Azalea Cruise Halong, a 5-star luxury cruise liner, is the latest to join ranks with a collection of other high-end Halong cruises. Spread across three decks, Azalea promises a lavish cruising experience where guests can enjoy full access to the spa, sundeck, dining facilities, a fully stocked bar complete with cocktails and wines, and their own private space among the 20 well-appointed cabins.

Azalea cruise liner halong bay
The Azalea cruise ship

In an effort to give our audience a full-on look at everything Azalea has to offer, we set out to film a comprehensive review of the cruise; the ship itself, the services, and amenities onboard. In order to cover the Azalea cruise review, we sent our Halong Hub travel writer behind the scenes with our production partners from Dagiac, to get a glimpse at all the action before the cruise picked up its customers and took them out touring for the very first time.

Azalea’s captain at work in the control room
azalea cruise halong captain at work in the control room

We shot on Azalea’s first ever sail-day, which was quite a challenge as the crew were still getting the final pieces in place by the time we were getting on board and turning on the cameras, but that didn’t stop us from capturing all the elements we needed to create a piece that will inform and inspire our viewers.

Suite on board Azalea Cruise Halong
Suite on board Azalea Cruise Halong

The Azalea cruise review features our honest evaluations of each aspect of the customer experience: inside the spa, atop the sundeck, around the restaurant and at the cocktail bar.  We covered all the most relevant details of the cruise, from the size of the bathrooms to comparisons of the room types; basically, we made sure we covered all the finer points that you’d never be able to gather just from reading facts on a sheet.

sea-view bathtub on Azalea Cruise Halong
sea-view bathtub on Azalea Cruise Halong

In keeping with our ethos of innovation, Halong Hub is the first to conduct professional level cruise reviews in Halong Bay. The Azalea cruise review is set to be the pilot for our upcoming series of Halong Bay cruise reviews, which will give would-be cruise goers a chance to have a walk through their dream cruise before ever having to make the commitment of booking it. The primary goal of the Azalea cruise review, and all future reviews, is to further inform, support, and inspire our customers from beginning to end of their Halong experience.

Azalea Cruise Halong can now be booked through our platform! Reservations are flying out the door since their launch; make sure to grab yours fast.

Top Budget Halong Bay Cruises that are Great Value for Money

Cruising through Halong Bay is on top of most people’s lists when it comes to traveling in Vietnam, but despite what you may think when you hear the word “cruise” it doesn’t always need to cost an arm and a leg. You might be among those who have your reservations about a ‘budget Halong Bay cruise’, but don’t let your impressions of a couple horror stories scare you into parting with money you don’t have.

We’ve picked out a couple of top budget Halong Bay cruises that are great value for money, and that don’t skimp out on quality, service, or safety.

Rosa Cruise

cabin on rosa cruise halong
Cabin on Rosa Cruise

Rosa Cruise Halong is a more than comfortable 3-star, cozy-sized, budget Halong Bay cruise option. By cozy-sized we mean the boat itself; there are only 9 cabins on each junk-boat which makes for a much more private experience than if you were on a boat of 25 cabins.

The rooms themselves are actually spacious enough, and are all decorated to match the traditional Chinese junk-boat style.
The best thing about the cabins though is that each one has its own private balcony- and trust me when I say there is really no better view in the world than waking up and drinking your morning coffee on your own private balcony as you stare out at that stunning scenery. The whole ship has been thoughtfully designed so that wherever you are you can enjoy the view, thanks to the massive panoramic windows.

Just because this is a budget Halong Bay cruise doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on any entertainment; there are a ton of included activities offered on Rosa Cruise. You can take part in a cooking class (you’ll have some impressive skills to show off when you go back home!), get involved with some night-time squid fishing, or take out a kayak and explore the bay at your own speed.

In fact, in terms of the experience offered, this budget Halong Bay cruise with Rosa is on par with the more expensive luxury cruises in many ways. You’re sure to be well taken care of on board, considering how highly the Rosa Cruise staff are recommended by other travelers. Here’s what one traveler had to say:

“We loved our 2 day adventure with the Rosa Cruise team. Following a well planned itinerary, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy. The natural beauty of Ha Long Bay is unparalleled. This combined with a expansive offering of food and drink made, for delightful 2 day experience for my wife and I. The crew was very accommodating and professional meeting every need and request during our journey.”

A budget Halong Bay cruise with Rosa Cruise starts at $152.

 

Aclass Legend Cruise

cabin on aclass legend cruise halong
Cabin on Aclass Legend Cruise

The Aclass family offer a whole host of Halong Cruises, and last year they won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence (so you know they have plenty of experience under their belt, for starters). The Aclass Legend Cruise Halong (not to be confused for the Aclass Stellar Cruise- the two are combined on TripAdvisor) is their budget Halong Bay cruise.

The cruise ship has 14 cabins, so it’s still not massive (you’ll be able to enjoy a more private experience if that’s what you prefer) but it does have a social feel to it, and you’ll get plenty of opportunities to mingle with the other guests and make some new friends.

The interior of the ship and the rooms are decorated in such a way that it seems more like a hotel than a boat. There’s a full spread of amenities- air con, shower, restaurant, etc., so you won’t go without while on board.
Again, you’ll see that the view has been prioritized by whoever designed the boat; you’ll be treated to a glimpse of that amazing landscape every time you pass by one of the huge panoramic windows.

The guides on board Aclass Legend come in very well recommended by guests, which you’ll be thankful of once you start touring around and realise how much there is to know about Halong Bay.

From the folklore of the caves and grottoes, to the story behind the traditional fishing villages and their people – having a knowledgeable guide like the ones on Aclass Legend who can tell you the back stories makes all the difference.
Check out what one of the recent cruise guests had to say about it:

“[Our guide] is quite knowledgeable in Hanoi History and explained well. And lead the whole group of tourists very well throughout the Halong Bay trip. The service on cruise is also very good. The crews on board are quite friendly and ready to help whenever the customers needs. I will definitely recommend this cruise to my friends who will visit Halong Bay.”

A budget Halong Bay cruise with Aclass Legend starts at $167.

Between Rosa Cruise and Aclass Legend, you’ve got a choice for whichever top budget Halong Bay cruise you feel will suit you best. At the end of the day though, whether it’s a 5-star top of the line luxury cruise liner or a budget-friendly cruise on a junk boat, the outstanding Halong Bay scenery is going to be the exactly the same.

The Best Halong Bay Cruises to Off-the-Beaten-Track Areas

As more and more people flock to visit the famous World Heritage site, visitors are craving a more intimate experience. If you’re one of these travelers seeking a Halong Bay cruise “off the beaten track”, then this article is for you.

Which are the best Halong Bay cruises off the beaten track?

Below you’ll find details of a couple of the best Halong Bay cruises off the beaten track, both of which promise to take travelers on a unique adventure shared by few others, far away from the crowds, and deep into the wild Halong landscape.

Orchid Cruise Halong

Orchid cruise vessel anchored in halong bay at sunset
Orchid Cruise ship

Value, authenticity, and originality are just a few of the factors that make Orchid Cruise Halong one of the best Halong Bay cruises off the beaten track. Spread across 14 luxury cabins, Orchid Cruise is one of the newer cruises to ply the Halong Bay waters.

Orchid Cruise pride themselves on offering their guests a unique Halong Bay experience, thanks to their route which visits the far less populous areas of Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay, as well as Halong.

In terms of the cruise ship itself, nothing was spared in terms of comfort or facilities. If you really want to indulge you could even soak in the scenery from your own private balcony!

Azalea Cruise Halong

exterior of azalea cruise ship
Azalea Cruise ship

Azalea Cruise Halong is brand new in 2017 and will be open from November onwards; despite their short operation period so far they are already set to establish themselves as one of the most popular choices for travelers in search of a Halong Bay cruise off the beaten track.

The cruise ship offers 21 cabins, across 3 decks- including a massive sun deck up top for panoramic views of the bay. The ship has been designed to include all modern functionality and comforts, but always with an eye for traditional style and design.

Where Do They Visit?

Both Orchid Cruise and Azalea Cruise are great options for those looking to get a well-rounded Halong experience without having to sacrifice anything and make choices between where you visit.

As well as touring through Halong Bay and the quieter neighboring region of Bai Tu Long Bay, you’ll visit some of the really secluded areas that few cruises go to.

Lan Ha Bay

fisheye view of lan ha bay in halong
Lan Ha Bay

Although it’s considered to be an extension of Halong Bay, it technically belongs to a different province- and due to its respectable distance from Halong, few cruises venture this far.

If you do though, it will certainly be worth it, as Lan Ha Bay loses nothing in comparison to Halong or Bai Tu Long Bay in terms of scenery, but still it is not uncommon when visiting there to find yourself completely alone.

If you’re into snorkeling or diving, Lan Ha Bay is an absolute paradise, thanks to its clear blue waters and rich marine life (3 species of dolphin, 200 species of fish, hard and soft coral, and seals). Factor in the almost completely secluded white sandy beaches, and you can easily see why Lan Ha Bay has an appeal.

Ba Trai Dao Beach

empty shore at ba trai dao beach
Ba Trai Dao Beach

Many people assume it’s near impossible to find solitude on a beach in Halong Bay, but the truth is you really just need to know where to look (any decent Halong Bay cruise off the beaten track is sure to take you to one of Halong’s secluded beaches). Situated in Lan Ha Bay about 22km away from Bai Chay Wharf, Ba Trai Dao Beach is located on an island of the same name.

Also sometimes known as the “Three Peaches Beach” (because of the supposed peach-like appearance of the rock formations), it’s a sheltered shoreline perfect for swimming, kayaking, or just taking in the scenery.

When planning your visit here you should be aware (although your cruise guide will surely advise you on this) that Ba Trai Dao Beach is heavily affected by the tides (at high tide the beach will all but disappear), so swimming is only permitted at certain hours of the day.

Viet Hai Village

gateway to viet hai village, halong bay
Entrance to Viet Hai Village

Enshrouded by dense jungle and towering mountains on one side and ocean on the other, it’s no wonder Viet Hai Village has such an isolated feel. The few visitors that come here will get treated to a genuine impression of everyday life for the indigenous people here, who invariably greet guests with warmth and openness, as is their way.

Nestled in the valley, bordered by bright green rice paddies guarded by buffalo, Viet Hai Village still maintains an air of the olden days. A handful of activities have begun so as to cater to the tourists who come to visit Viet Hai, which serve to entertain as well as educate about local life- think rice wine cooking, and animal care.

Touring through Lan Ha Bay is the easiest way to access Viet Hai unless you feel extra adventurous and fancy doing an 8-hour mountain trek!

Dark and Bright Cave

silhouette of kayakers exploring dark and bright cave halong
Dark & Bright Cave

Only accessible by kayak or rowboat, Dark & Bright Cave is one of the least visited and most intriguing of all the Halong Bay caves. The partially concealed entrance is sheathed in orchids and fig trees, which, once you pass through, opens up to reveal a 100-meter long tunnel- the ‘dark’ portion of the Dark & Bright Cave.

Paddling through this tunnel is an adventure in itself, as there is very little natural light, but once you approach the end you’ll see streaks of sunlight peeking through, signifying the entrance to the ‘bright’ area (and the secret lagoon!).

What You’ll Miss if You Book a Halong Bay Day Trip

Almost everyone who visits Halong Bay agrees that one day of touring is not enough. But what exactly will you miss on a Halong Bay day trip, and is it worth it?

What You’ll Miss if You go with a Halong Bay Day Trip

Considering that most people will be traveling from Hanoi (or maybe Hai Phong in some cases) which takes around 4 hours of road travel, by the time you reach Halong Bay and board your cruise, you’ll probably be left with somewhere near 4 hours to explore the bay.

Realistically, you won’t be traveling far in that space of time, and you might be limited to 1 hour to either visit one cave or go for a quick kayak session. Here’s what you’ll miss if you go with a Halong Bay day trip:

Bai Tu Long Bay

bai tu long bay
Pristine and serene in Bai Tu Long

Halong Bay has become a household name across the world, but far fewer know about its quieter, yet equally beautiful neighbor. Bai Tu Long Bay sits just to the northeast of Halong, but still remains relatively under-visited in comparison.

It lacks absolutely nothing in terms of scenery, and the whole experience is intensified so much more when the other ‘junk’ boats slips away.

Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay at sunrise
Lan Ha Bay at sunrise

Perhaps even lesser known than Bai Tu Long, Lan Ha Bay is another quiet and serene alternative to the Halong Bay. Lan Ha homes about 300 of the 1960 karst limestone islands that populate the Halong area, as well as a number of secluded beaches and caves.

Touring through these otherworldly formations is so much more impressive when you feel you are virtually the only boat in the bay. Halong Bay day trips generally don’t sail this far into the bay, so it’s likely you’d end up missing out on this one.

Ti Top Island

Ti Top Island
Ti Top (also known as Titov) Island

Known for its white sandy beaches, azure waters, and panoramic views of the bay, Ti Top Island tops the list of must-see areas of Halong Bay.

What it lacks in size (it’s far from the biggest beach in Halong) it makes up for in atmosphere, it’s the perfect spot to take a break from the boat and clock in some beach hours. Halong Bay day trips tend to stick to the larger beaches closer to the wharf, so there’s a slim chance you’ll make it this far unless you go for an overnight trip.

Sung Sot Cave

large interior cavern of Sung Sot Cave
Interior cavern of Sung Sot Cave

The caves are a big part of what makes the Halong Bay ecosystem so unique. Out of the 59 caves discovered so far, Sung Sot Cave is the biggest of them all.

Located on Bo Hon Island, Sung Sot Cave was discovered back in 1901 by some French explorers, who gave it the name “grotte des surprises” (because of its unexpected beauty and intrigue), which is why today it’s also known as Surprising Cave. The interior cavern is covered with stalactites and stalagmites, which are said to represent all sorts of different things- from demons to dragons. You’ll be filled in on all the Halong legends when you visit Sung Sot; unfortunately, the Halong Bay day trips often miss it.

Ban Chan Beach

a small few people walking on ban chan beach in halong bay
Ban Chan Beach is hidden away from the crowds

Still widely unknown by most visitors to Halong Bay, Ban Chan Beach is nothing short of paradise. Seemingly unaffected by the tourism boom in Halong Bay, Ban Chan Beach has remained quiet, peaceful and isolated- the appeal is obvious.

It’s situated in Bai Tu Long Bay, much of which falls under the protection of the National Park, which means that the ecosystem and the marine life here are rich and flourishing as they should be.

Beach activities, exploring the coastline, snorkeling, kayaking, and taking in the views of Bai Tu Long Bay at your own speed, in peace, is what Ban Chan Beach is all about. Like we mentioned before, most of the Halong Bay day trips will hover around the beaches close to the wharf (which tend to be much more touristy). If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, this one is for you.

A Visit to a Floating Village

colourful houses in a floating village in halong bay
One of the colourful floating villages in Halong Bay

Many of the indigenous people of Halong Bay lived, at one point, in the floating villages. There are 4 main floating villages remaining in the Halong Bay area, and although a couple of years ago the permanent residents were moved inland, the villages remain possibly the most culturally rich places in Halong Bay.

Interestingly, the villages have undertaken some really forward-thinking programs when it comes to environmental protection and ecologic awareness, and tourists are getting in on the action (you can find out more in our previous article about Vung Vieng fishing village), so if you’re interested in getting educated about Halong Bay, the floating villages should be high on your list. It’s a shame that many Halong Bay day trips don’t include them in their itineraries!

Swimming & Kayaking

red and yellow kayaks empty and waiting for visitors in halong bay
Take to the Halong waters

Taking to the water offers a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of the Halong climate. Most cruises have a couple of favored places to anchor up and let their guests go for a dip. Taking a kayak out, although it requires a little more time (many one day cruises won’t offer it at all), is really one of the best ways to see Halong Bay and the surrounding areas.

A lot of the best beaches, caves and natural tunnels are only accessible by kayak, which means not only will you be able to gain a perspective most other visitors have not, you’ll also get the chance to cruise around and explore at your own speed.

The Halong Bay day trips generally don’t include kayak time in their itineraries (or if they do, it’s only for a very short period of time), so your in-water experience will almost certainly be cut short.

Squid Fishing, Cooking Classes, and Tai Chi Workshops

group tai chi session on top deck of halong bay cruise ship
Tai Chi on the top deck

Overnight cruises include some amazing activities you shouldn’t miss.

These are just a few of the master classes offered on board the Halong Bay cruises. Taking a workshop is a great way to gain a bit more insight into the local culture, connect with people who have deep knowledge of Halong Bay and of Vietnam, and it’s also a chance to learn some skills you can show off back at home!

And trust us when we say there is no view in the whole world better than watching the sunrise over the Halong Bay islands, on the top deck of your cruise ship during the morning tai chi session. You can thank us later!

Convinced Yet?

Find out further info on why a 2 or 3 day cruise of Halong Bay is the way to go.

How to Find the Best Halong Bay Family Cruises

Halong Bay, the internationally renowned World Heritage Site, is certainly a trip not to be missed by you and your family during your time in Vietnam.

Thanks to the extensive Halong Bay family cruise options available, you can be sure to find something to suit the specific needs and desires of each of your family members. All of the cruises outlined below have discounted policies for families cruising Halong with children, kids under 4 stay for free and from 4-12 qualify for a discounted children’s cruise ticket price (extra beds are usually available too, if you ask).

Direct transport options are on offer to and from Hanoi to Halong, all meals are included in the cruise price but any extra dietary requirements can be tailored for, and all of the cruises listed with us are guaranteed to meet our rigorous health and safety standards.

Whether you are planning to travel in a big family group, with children or elderly members, finding the best Halong Bay family cruise for your family doesn’t need to be a difficult task as long as you know your options.

Halong Bay Family Cruises Options on Halong Hub

Glory Legend Cruise Halong

Glory Legend Cruise Halong is a brilliant Halong Bay family cruise option. You and your family will have the choice to stay on board for either 2 or 3 days, which is the recommended cruise duration if you want to enjoy the journey without feeling rushed.

This Halong Bay family cruise offers tons of workshops and activities onboard- ceramics, tai chi, kayaking; so there’s sure to be something for everyone. Cabin sizes go up to 28sq meters (that’s cosy space for 4 adults and a child), so your family can choose to enjoy Halong in just each other’s company.

Enjoying the view on board the Glory Legend, one of the best Halong Bay family cruises
Enjoying the view on board the Glory Legend, one of the best Halong Bay family cruises

Aclass Legend Cruise Halong

For families looking for a more upmarket Halong Bay family cruise choice, Aclass Legend Cruise Halong offers top of the line service in the comfort of a modern, stylish cruise ship. The ambiance on board is closer to that of a five star hotel than a cruising vessel, and the buffet dinner and cocktails on board the top deck match the same calibre. Rest assured this cruise is very much family friendly, with connecting cabin options available so your family can cruise Halong together.

Connecting suite on Aclass Legend Cruise Halong
Connecting suites on Aclass Legend Cruise Halong

Pelican Cruise Halong

The Pelican Cruise Halong Bay offers a wonderful choice of amenities in a comfortable environment; a perfect Halong Bay family cruise option. All cabins are big enough to accommodate at least 2 adults and a child, but if your family is on the bigger side there are larger cabin sizes that you could book depending on your needs. At 36sq meters, the Family Deluxe Cabin is big enough for 4 adults and a child (and extra beds are usually available if you ask).

The rooms, much like the rest of the ship are tastefully decorated, and many cabins come with a private balcony. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s not one but two viewing decks, so you can make the most of the incredible beauty of the world famous Halong Bay.

Views of Halong Bay from Deluxe Cabin on Pelican Cruise
Wake up to panoramic views of Halong Bay

Signature Cruise Halong

The Signature Cruise Halong boasts one of the largest cruise ships of all the Halong Bay family cruise options, yet only accommodates 40 at a time meaning plenty of space for your whole family onboard. This cruise offers the widest range of cabin options, including our highly recommended ‘Elite Family Suite’ which can hold 4 adults and 2 children.

Activities wise, the highlight has got to be the squid fishing- a great chance to learn some traditional Vietnamese techniques, and have some fun. Be sure to check out the top deck too, it’s the best place for your family to get the full panoramic views of Halong Bay.

Deluxe Cabin onboard Signature Cruise Halong Bay
Elegantly decorated Deluxe room with private balcony

Orchid Cruise Halong

The Orchid Cruise Halong offers the largest and most spacious family cabin of all of our winning Halong Bay family cruises . ‘The Family Suite – Balcony’ comes in at 72sq meters, which we recommend is more than enough space for 4 adults and 1 child as is, with plenty of room for extra beds if your family needs it. It’s the perfect way to experience the Halong Bay adventure together.

View of Halong Bay from Deluxe Room onboard Orchid Cruise Halong
The interior of one of Orchid Cruise Halong’s tastefully decorated Deluxe Cabins

 

Glory Legend Aclass Legend Pelican Signature Orchid
Picture Enjoying Halong Bay on board the Glory Legend Cruise Halong Connecting suite on Aclass Legend Cruise Halong Views of Halong Bay from Deluxe Cabin on Pelican Cruise Deluxe Cabin onboard Signature Cruise Halong Bay View of Halong Bay from Deluxe Room onboard Orchid Cruise Halong
Room Name Family Deluxe Cabin Connecting Suite Cabin Family Deluxe Cabin Elite Family Suite Cabin Family Suite Cabin
Room Size 28m2 24m2 36m2 45m2 72m2
Deck Level 1st 1st 1st 2nd 1st
Private Balcony No Yes Yes Yes Yes

To see full list of the best Family Cruises in Halong Bay on our website, click here.

Tips Before Your Halong Bay Family Cruises

Packing

  • Pack light! Your family will only be cruising Halong for a couple of days, so if you can, leave the majority of your luggage in Hanoi.
  • We recommend bringing a life vest for young kids, and they should wear it when they are on the top deck or anywhere near an opening to the water.
  • Bring your own insect repellent, mosquitos love the warm damp climate here.
  • Bottled water can be expensive on board, consider bringing your own.
  • Don’t forget your personal documents: passport, etc.

Food

Special requirements and tastes can be catered for onboard, including:

  • Kid-friendly menus
  • Vegetarian options
  • Seafood-free options

Weather

  • May-October will be quite warm, so pack for summer.
  • October-May can see temperatures dropping quite a bit, so bring something warm to wear in the evening.

You can check out Halong Bay weather here.

Private Charters

Private Halong Bay family cruises are an extra special way for your family to experience this once in a lifetime tour. Private transport options are available to and from Hanoi also, inquire with us for more information.