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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, not visiting the claimed destination, and many other travel scams,

let’s check out our definitive 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 - a different look
Misty Halong Bay – a different look
Halong Bay on a foggy day
Halong Bay on a foggy day is like a mistery

2. How long do I want to go?

There are mainly 4 types of cruise tours operating in Halong Bay:

  • 4 Day-3 Nights cruise
  • 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.

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 & Cat Ba island
    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.
  • Halong Bay & 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

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:

  • Open bus
  • Seaplane
  • Private car
  • Taxi

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.

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

“The Ha Long Cruise Orchid has exceeded my expectations, and although the price was not small, I think it deserved this money in all aspects”

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. 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 a Halong luxury cruise, also meant a lot in my choice.

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On deck an Orchid Cruise. Source: Mirela
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On deck an Orchid Cruise. Source: Mirela
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On deck an Orchid Cruise. Source: Mirela

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.

Sure, we could choose not to take part in an activity. But, the engaging rhythm there kept us in a state of continuous effervescence. It was an unforgettable experience that I would repeat at any time with the same desire.

Immediately after we got to the boat and met with the crew and the other passengers, we formed a small family. We got together and enjoyed each minute of our trip. The food was sensational, the luxury restaurant had nicely-decorated tables. Above all, the chefs received many applause and thanks from the tourists.

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.

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.

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The friendly and dedicated staff of Orchid Cruise. Source: Mirela

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Delicious Vietnamese food served on Orchid Cruise
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Attractive and tasty food served on Orchid Cruise
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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:

  • 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
  • Read carefully the proposed schedule, see what it involves and if it fits perfectly on what you want
  • Read reviews of other passengers who were on that cruise you want and see if they have any concerns about various important issues: hygiene, food, safety, in the end is your vacation and nothing has ruin your stay
  • Try to avoid crowding in the area in December, January and February. In these months neither the outside nor the water temperatures are optimal. March-April and September-October are the months when the temperature is moderate and you can enjoy a dip in the bay’s waters.
  • Make sure the company services you choose include transfers to/from Hanoi or the airport
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Take a sunscreen for you, because you do not know when you need it
  • 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

“If I was to go again I would definitely make sure to be there for an extended time. 3 days would have been perfect!”

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
Source: Helene In Between

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 In Between
Kayaking in Halong Bay
Kayaking is worth trying. Source: Helene In Between
Kayaking through caves.
Kayaking through caves. Source: Helene In Between

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

“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!”

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?

As we mentioned in our blog post, 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!

Holly Connors, the owner of FourAroundTheWorld

“We had a couple of great stops incorporated into our cruise that enhanced the whole experience so it is worth checking to see what each one offers before you pick.”

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

We did the 3 day, 2 night Halong Bay cruise with Au Co. There were two main factors that contributed to us choosing this particular cruise over all the other options. The first was the fact that it was 2 nights instead of 1 as we wanted to really enjoy our time in Halong Bay and see as much of it as we could. One night did not seem long enough. And the other was due to it being a little more luxurious and modern, it seemed like a great choice for our first cruise as parents. Our daughter was only 14 months at the time of our cruise and this gave us a little more peace of mind.

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

We loved our cruise with Au Co! The staff were incredible and so friendly. They were wonderful with our daughter, which was so lovely for them to take that extra time for her. Our room was great, with lots of attention to detail and we enjoyed having our own deck to enjoy the views from too. And the food was amazing! There was nothing we were not happy with during our cruise.

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

There are so many different options for choosing a Halong Bay cruise so I think it comes down to inclusions. Every one of them gives you the breathtaking views of the bay, however it is worth considering how long you want to spend on your trip as to whether one or two nights is offered. Also, check if there are any stops or excursions you would enjoy doing. We had a couple of great stops incorporated into our cruise that enhanced the whole experience so it is worth checking to see what each one offers before you pick.

Michelle from FullTimeExplorer

“My best tip though, is to spend extra time on Cat Ba Island. It was my favorite part of the whole cruise.”

Hi Michelle, which cruise did you go on? Why that cruise appealed to you?

We went on the Syrena Cruise for three days and two nights. Originally, we chose this one because our guest house owner in Hanoi recommended it. She showed us beautiful photos in a brochure and it was within our budget.

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

Our boat looked nothing like the photos we were shown, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that amazing. I was upset that we’d been promised a cooking class on board and none ever happened. We were also told we could go night fishing, but no one showed us how. Instead, a few bamboo sticks with string were available to use if you could figure it out on your own. That being said, the food was incredible!

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

I would definitely recommend reading all the reviews. Sometimes spending a few extra dollars will get you a much better experience. Also, be very clear when booking, what is included and if you will be on the actual boat in the photos. My best tip though, is to spend extra time on Cat Ba Island. It was my favorite part of the whole cruise.

 Erin from ExploreWithErin

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

We were delighted with Maya Cruises. They offered a small cruise feel with ultimate luxury. We wanted personal service, not to be just one of hundreds. Plus we wanted to be able to use the ships facilities without fighting for a spot on deck. They also offered a luxury shuttle service for the long drive from Hanoi.

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

The staff were super friendly and helpful. The cruise really stood out by getting us to the cave first thing in the morning so we didn’t have to wait in line once all the other boats pulled in. I loved the cooking class and sunrise Tai Chi. The food was top notch. The only complaint I had was I would have liked an option to purchase food and drinks throughout the day, I got a little snackish mid-afternoon.

Could you share some tips on choosing the right cruise?

3 Tips.
Check they have a comfortable shuttle. The drive is a few hours.
Check how many people on the boat. For a more personal feel go with a smaller crowd. For a more party feel go with a larger crowd.
Check out the two night option verses one night. There is so much more to do in Halong then 1 night gives you the ability to do. Choose a boat that can give you the ultimate 3 day experience.

Tahsa 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 likeminded 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.

Jolene & Andrzej – the owner of WanderlustStoryTellers

“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.”

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
Halong Bay beautiful views. Source: WanderlustStoryTellers
Halong Bay beautiful views from best Halong Bay cruise
Halong Bay beautiful 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!

Leyla from TheCutleryChronicles

“Ha Long Bay is always shown in glorious sunshine with azure waters and clear blue skies. And that would have been no bad thing. But despite the fact in was either raining or very misty during our short two day cruise around these waters, I totally loved it.”

Below is what Leyla shared with us about her cruise to Halong:

“We stayed on the Dragon’s Pearl Junk (of which there are three), the bigger and therefore cheaper option from the boats available in the Indochina Junk family. They’re modeled on the traditional Chinese sailing junks of old, with 11 double or twin cabins, 3 decks, and both outside and inside dining areas.
En suite cabins are snug but comfortable, and classically decorated with dark wood and windows with sea views. The bathroom is well kitted out with all mod cons and a plentiful supply of hot water.”

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IndoChina Junk boat. Source: Leyla

Though her two day cruise was enveloped by misty sky, she really loved it as it brought her a whole different view of Halong compared with the regular yellow sunshine, blue water and green islands.

“Ha Long Bay is always shown in glorious sunshine with azure waters and clear blue skies. And that would have been no bad thing. But despite the fact in was either raining or very misty during our short two day cruise around these waters, I totally loved it.
Particularly the shower in our cabin, which had a porthole in the cubicle itself. I was showering with it open, with loads of lovely hot water and a cool breeze coming in, watching these towering dark colossus passing in silence as I was doing so.

It’s worth noting though, this was only possible because we had a room on the side of the boat that didn’t have the walkway in front of it. So if you’d like to keep your curtains open to soak in the glorious views, even when you might be getting dressed, request one of these.
I also liked that during the trip to the floating village, there was the chance to leisurely browse a handicraft shop (you can get an overview of best souvenirs to buy in Halong here) with hardly anyone around, meaning there was no one looking over your shoulder, pressuring you to buy.”

Thomas from ContemporaryNomad

“In my opinion, a 3-day tour of Halong Bay represents a better value as you have more time to venture out further into the surrounding bays.”

Here is Thomas’s review about his Halong cruise on the Imperial Deluxe Junk, you can find quite a lot of tips for your next booking:

“This cruise through Halong Bay was one of our highlights while traveling through Vietnam. The amazing string of jungle-covered islands definitely rivals the beauty of similar karst landscapes we have seen in Thailand, China, and the Philippines. And to explore all of this in a luxurious junk ads tremendously to the experience.

After quite a bit of online research, we booked a 3-day, 2-night cruise on the Imperial Deluxe Junk. We chose to pay a little more for a nicer experience and hoped it would pay off. And it did.

The junk itself was amazing. It was spacious, super clean, and covered in gleaming wood. Our room was also great. It was air-conditioned, had its own bathroom (with a rain shower head!), and they even provided water and fruit as a nice welcome. (A little tip: When booking the tour, ask for a cabin away from the dining room and the generator. We had done that and ended up with a really quiet room).“

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Cabin on Imperial Deluxe Junk. Source: ContemporaryNomad.com

Thomas suggest booking a several-day tour (if you can) to enjoy all the striking features of this natural wonder in Vietnam:

“In my opinion, a 3-day tour of Halong Bay represents a better value as you have more time to venture out further into the surrounding bays. Most 3-day cruises spend the second night in a hotel on Cat Ba Island or in a bungalow on one of the islands in Lan Ha Bay. We specifically booked a premium bungalow on Monkey Island, a beautiful place backed by towering cliffs with a panoramic view of the bay. (Make sure you go for the premium rather than the budget option, we found there was a huge quality difference).”

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Beautiful premium bungalows on Monkey Island. Source: ContemporaryNomad.com

Cruising and sightseeing on Halong Bay is a must-do activity, but you can definitely color your experience here with many other interesting activities:

“While gliding through the surreal landscapes is fantastic, we also enjoyed the activities that came with the cruise. We visited the Sung Sot Cave, wrote bikes through Cat Ba National Park, kayaked off of Monkey Island, and had the chance to jump right from the junk into the bay for a refreshing swim. And one more thing: the food was superb. We especially like the onboard seafood buffet and BBQ!”

 Megan from BoboAndChichi

“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.”

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.

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Viola boat. Source: Boboandchichi.com
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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.

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

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

Sarah Shumate from TheWanderBlogger

“Perhaps the thing I liked best about our cruise was that it wasn’t overcrowded. It was a smaller boat, so we got to know our fellow passengers and were able to enjoy a quieter Halong Bay experience which was exactly what we were looking for!”

Like what I have suggested, Sarah also thinks that using budget to narrow down the available options is a good way to make quick decision on choosing the best Halong cruise:

“Visiting Halong Bay has been a dream of ours for years, so when the opportunity to travel to Hanoi came up, we knew we’d be factoring in a side trip to Halong Bay as well. Our next big step was choosing the perfect cruise company to travel with. With so many options out there, it can get a little overwhelming, but we narrowed our choices down by budget first and then by how family-friendly the cruise looked.”

Finally, she decided to go on Cristina Diamond boat with her family:

“We ultimately went with the Cristina Diamond Cruise and couldn’t have been happier with our choice. Our family room was beautiful and quite spacious with a large private balcony. The boat itself looked new and had a lovely open top deck for relaxing and a cozy dining room for meals. (The food served was always delicious!) The schedule of activities on the Cristina Diamond Cruise kept us busy, but not so busy we didn’t have time to enjoy relaxing on the boat. But perhaps the thing I liked best about our cruise was that it wasn’t overcrowded. It was a smaller boat, so we got to know our fellow passengers and were able to enjoy a quieter Halong Bay experience which was exactly what we were looking for!”

Jessica Norah – the owner of IndependentTravelCats

“We had a wonderful experience on our cruise and it was one of the highlights of our trip to Vietnam. We would recommend an overnight cruise versus a day cruise as you get to see more and have a more relaxed experience.”

Hi Jessica, could you tell us about the cruise you went on? Why did you choose that cruise?

We did a 3-day, 2 night cruise with The Au Co. The things that stood out to us were the longer cruise itinerary which included more exploration of the surrounding bays than many other cruises, the more luxurious nature of the cruise compared to others, and its stated commitment to responsible tourism.

How was your experience about the trip? Are there anything you wish to improve?

A: We had a wonderful experience on our cruise and it was one of the highlights of our trip to Vietnam. Although there were some minor disappointments, there are no major issues and we would cruise with the same company again.

Could you share with us some tips on choosing the right cruise?

I think that for most people they choose a cruised based on budget and time. I would recommend an overnight cruise versus a day cruise as you get to see more and have a more relaxed experience. For those with bigger budgets, I’d recommend doing a 2 night cruise or longer to see even more. We list a number of tips on finding a cruise company in our article noted above.

 

Jia Hui – a passionate blogger from FaithJoyHope

“Though the cruise was not as luxurious as a larger scale ship, it had all the necessities which included travelling and stop-overs at the attractions along Halong Bay and all meals on board.”

Hi Jia Hui, which cruise did you go on? Why that cruise appealed to you?

I went on the ‘Scorpion Cruise’ and chose that partly because of the fair, economical pricing for a 2D1N cruise on board. I had gotten to know about this cruise through a travel agency.

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Halong Bay. Source: Jia Hui

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

My experience on board was awesome and totally a fresh experience worth reliving. Though the cruise was not as luxurious as a larger scale ship, it had all the necessities which included travelling and stop-overs at the attractions along Halong Bay and all meals on board.

There were also entertainment segments such as live cooking demo and hands-on activity such as spring rolls making, fishing at night, Taichi in the early morning and BBQ dinner! The host/guide was a lively guy who kept up the spirits of his guests. If there is something I have to pick on, that will be the bedroom. The bedroom was not the most spacious and the facilities were not the most updated but just for 1 night, it was not a problem for us.

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Sitting on deck a Halong cruise boat. Source: Jia Hui

What is your advice on choosing the right cruise?

A: My advice is short and simple: Research and do your homework. Make a search on Google and travel portals such as Tripadvisor and read on past reviews. For me, it has always been about getting the most economical deals.

Nic Hilditch-Short from TheRoamingRenegades

“We actually chose to take the public boat over to Cat Ba island and then take one of the cheaper tours from there. We wanted to do this mostly because the tours from Hanoi were really expensive and also we wanted some more flexibility.”

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?

A: 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 multiday 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.

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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