Halong bay is the top destination in vietnam and Halong cruises is a must for all visitors. In this article I would like to share some experience to arrange a trip to Halong bay by yourself.
As there are a lot of cruises in Halong bay serving all types of tourists, each cruiser has it’s good points and depending on your budget travelers can choose the most suitable for your trip.
Most cruises in Halong tour have their own website and you can make a booking online through the web. There are some things you need to be aware:
Online booking – Booking the trip directly with the cruiser via official website is more expensive than you book through an online travel agent, this is a normal practice in Vietnam tourism industry as the cruise companies usually offer a better price for travel agents. However not all travel agents are reliable and passengers may find themselves end up on another cruiser and not the one they have been confirmed. My advise is book directly with the cruiser, price is higher however your trip is secured and you will get what you paid for.
Transport to and from Halong bay: Most cruises offer bus service roundtrip as part of the package, passengers will be picked up from different hotels in Hanoi centre, some high class cruises charge an additional cost for the transfers, travelers can also arrange their transport by themselves, it takes about 4 hours drive each way with 30 minutes stop at a shopping centre, if you are on a family trip with children we recommend that you rent a private car, about 150 usd for a 2 day trip and thus you can start at your convenience.
Cruising itinerary: Each cruise company built their own itinerary however the programs are pretty similar, the cruise will cover the best part of Halong bay such as Fighting cock islet, Heavenly cave or Amazing cave, a short visit to a fishing village and then to Titop island beach for swimming. If you take a 3 day tour the whole second day will be kayaking or other activities, travelers will be sent to a smaller boat going further out to different part of Halong bay for kayaking, swimming or relax at an isolated island beach and return to mother cruiser at the end of the day. Some companies extend the itinerary to Lan Ha bay or Cat Ba island, staying overnight at hotel in Cat Ba island and go trekking the next day in Cat Ba national park. Visitors can also choose to stay at a beach resort bungalow such as Monkey island resort, Cat Ong resort or Suoi Goi eco lodge resort. As Halong bay has become touristy in recent years more cruisers have change their itinerary to Bai Tu Long bay which is more natural and still unspoilt by tourism.
Food and drinks: Halong is a sea bay and no wonder food served on cruise ship is mostly seafood with fish, crabs or sentinel, prawn, squid…The food on board is cooked in Vietnamese style, you can also request other things like beef, chicken or pork when you make a booking, vegetarian food is also available. For cheap and midrange cruises, food is served for the whole group on a big table, food is nice but maybe not enough for all. Some cruisers like Indochina arrange dinners in the cave with candle light that is a very nice experience, other boats organize BBQ lunch at a beach. Drinks on board are not included and it is pretty expensive compared to average price on shore. Wines and fizzy drinks are available at bar on the cruiser and travelers are recommended to check price before you order.