Are you preparing a cruise trip on Ha Long Bay? Read this article to prepare an unforgettable journey to one of the most beautiful landscapes in Vietnam.

Taking a Halong Bay cruise is undoubtedly one of the most memorable experiences on your Vietnam discovery tours. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage in 1994 and 2000, Halong Bay is a surreal landscape with a system of imposing limestone mountains, magnificent grottoes floating on the emerald water, as well as mist-shrouded bays dotted with various fishing villages. Your trip to Halong would not be complete if you miss a cruise to this area. Relaxing on a luxurious vessel, savoring sumptuous meals, admiring the beauty of the bay from a private balcony, and participating in some exciting activities are lasting memories that you can bring home.

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1. Cruise Routes

Surprising Cave - Halong Bay
Surprising Cave – Halong Bay

Cruise operators offer different itineraries and you can choose which one you prefer, whether it is a touristy area or an off-the-beaten-track one:

Route 1: Halong Bay – Surprising Cave, Hang Sung Sot – Titov Island (Start from Tuan Chau Pier)

Vietnam Tours 2020

Route 2: Halong Bay – Heaven Palace Cave, Dong Thien Cung, Wooden Stakes Cave, Hang Dau Go (Start from Tuan Chau Pier)

Route 3: Halong Bay – Bai Tu Long Bay – Surprising Cave, Hang Sung Sot – Titov Island (Start from Hon Gai Pier)

Route 4: Lan Ha Bay (Start from Got Pier, Hai Phong)

You can choose different cruise packages to Halong Bay: day trip, overnight cruise, and 2-night cruise. We recommend that you choose a 2 days, 1 night or 3 days, 2 nights packages since Halong is very beautiful and a day trip is not enough for you to discover.

2. Cruise Classification

Paradise Luxury Cruise - Halong Bay
Paradise Luxury Cruise

Note that currently we do not any official standard for cruise star rating and cruise companies rate their vessel by themselves based on the vessel’s quality, the number of rooms, amenities, services, and activities. Our advice is: Do not go for the cheapest boat you can find! We all want to save money but the vessel’s quality is worth the little extra cost. Research information about cruise operators and cabin quality before booking!

Here are some recommendations that would narrow down your selections:

Luxury Cruise

Mid-range Cruise

Budget Cruise

3. Transfer to Halong Bay

Luxury van to Halong Bay - Dragon Legend Cruise
Luxury van to Halong Bay – Dragon Legend Cruise

Previously it took roughly 4 hours to transfer from Hanoi to Halong, but thanks to the introduction of a new highway at the end of 2018, the time is shortened to 2 to 2.5 hours by car. Most travelers get to Halong by land, using a shuttle bus offered by cruise companies or purchasing local bus tickets.

You may think that it is cheaper to travel on your own, but let’s imagine you have to take a taxi from your hotel to Luong Yen or My Dinh Bus Station.  It is not easy for foreign travelers to take a local bus.

Shuttle bus services only charge around $5 to 10 one way. For privacy, you can use our Vietnam car rental service to book a private car for your group.

Remember to check carefully the inclusion and exclusion section since some cruises do not include the transportation price from Hanoi.

4. Cruise Amenities

Bhaya Cruise - Halong Bay
Bhaya Cruise

As a movable hotel, Halong Bay cruises include all amenities to comfort you, from TV, DVD player, mini bar, bath tub, Jacuzzi to wifi and air-conditioners. There are different types of rooms for you to choose: deluxe, suite, superior, and so on. Remember to choose a room that is away from the engine to avoid the noise. Window from rooms and private balcony is a great place to admire the bay at dusk and at dawn. In addition, in leisure time, tourists can relax with massage, spa, enjoy a cocktail at the bar or a movie at outdoor cinema.

5. Booking Channel

There are a lot of re-sellers for Halong Bay cruise in the marketplace, both online and offline. You can be surprised that if you book through your hotel or even the cruise operator themselves, the price is always higher than through travel agency or tour operator.

Booking Halong Bay cruises online
Booking Halong Bay cruises online

The advantage of booking online via online travel agents is that it is easy to choose a variety of options: budget to luxury, different itineraries, and visiting points. You can even check the reviews on the quality (vessel, cabin size, facilities, and sanitation). But be careful, online booking sites cannot guarantee what they advertise and promote. They cannot ensure you are satisfied 100% with the cruise, for example, you may find the visiting points are not interesting, staff attitude is unacceptable, activities are not as exciting as they promised, or facilities are obsolete. Do not choose the cheapest cruise, low quality and unsafe vessel will ruin your trip and hidden costs will usually not be explicitly announced.

Tuan Chau Tourist Wharf
Tuan Chau Tourist Wharf

There may be a situation like this: you are short for time, or you just spontaneously want to book a Halong cruise. You head to the pier to book directly on arrival, and you are approached by a tout who offers you a very cheap price. He promises that you will have an unforgettable trip with luxurious cabins, sumptuous seafood meals, and exciting activities like kayaking and swimming. Sound like a good deal, but No!  There will be many hidden cost you do not know for every single service, and with that cheap price the vessel quality is not guaranteed.

For your hassle-free trip to Halong Bay, we recommend that you book via a prestigious travel agency. Local travel agencies have better understanding about different cruise options, thus their staff can suggest you the most appropriate cruise and process your booking quickly.

6. Food Quality

Delicious food is served
Delicious food is served

Normally, Halong Bay cruise includes a welcome drink, an early brunch and some main meals; some cruises may offer BBQ-themed dinner. The quality of main meals depends on your budget; however, there are a wide range of options depending on the vessel.  The meals are either buffets or à la carte and seafood is usually served.

It is extremely important for customers to inform in advance if you have allergy or dietary requirements. Remember that the menus are predominantly seafood, so tell the staff if you do not like fish and seafood. Be specific about what you can and cannot eat (for example, no seafood but fish is fine or no seafood and fish but meat is fine).

Some luxury cruises offer international menu which includes both Vietnamese and international cuisines, vegetarian menu, and gluten-free menu. If you travel to Vietnam from India, choose a cruise that has Halal menu.

7. Activities on Board

Practising Tai Chi on board
Practicing Tai Chi on board

Different cruises offer different activities, depending on the route and attractions they include. Check the itinerary and inclusion carefully for your preferred activities. Sometimes, some outdoor activities may be canceled because of bad weather.

Here are some most popular activities you can find on Halong Bay cruises:

  • Tai Chi class on the sun deck
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Visit Pearl Farm
  • Visit fishing villages
  • Cycling around local villages in Cat Ba
  • Cooking demonstration class
  • Squid fishing
  • Cave boating
  • Outdoor cinema
  • Other voluntary activities

8. Shopping

Shopping for pearl in Halong
Shopping for pearl in Halong

When the shuttle bus to Halong Bay may stop for a while, remember that it is not compulsory for you to purchase any food or souvenirs at the rest stop. Most Halong Bay cruises include a tour to floating fishing villages or pearl farms. Consider carefully if you want to buy gem or pearl jewelry there. You can buy some seafood and ask the cruise’s staff to cook for you but ask them in advance whether they charge you or not.

9. Halong Bay Cruise Cancellation

Research the weather before your trip to Halong Bay
Research the weather before your trip to Halong Bay

Travelers should be aware that the weather in Halong Bay is unpredictable since Vietnam is a sub-tropical country with a long coast line. Spring (from March to early May) and autumn (late September to November) are the best times for a cruise to Halong Bay as the weather is warm with little or no rain. Summers which last from May to early September are hot and humid with a high level of rainfall.

Summers are also the time when the bay suffers from tropical storms and typhoons. In case of bad weather, the Management Board of Halong will postpone or cancel all cruises to ensure the safety of tourists. Besides, sometimes cruises are canceled due to monsoon from October to late March.

10. Responsible Travel

Millions of plastic straws are dumped into the ocean every year

Plastic waste management is a pressing environmental issue in Vietnam at the moment. When you are on a cruise, it is recommended that you minimize environmental impacts that negatively affect local life. Here are some small things you can do on your trip:

  • Minimize the use of plastic products (single-use bottles, plastic straws, and plastic bags)
  • “Take nothing but your photographs, leave nothing but your footprints”: Collect all your rubbish wastes before disembarking. Do not litter when you visit local villages.
  • Pay attention to the local community and participate in some voluntary activities if possible.

What do you think is the ideal way to discover Halong Bay? Contact us and we can arrange the best Halong Bay Cruise for your tour to Vietnam.

Start planning your tailor-made Vietnam tour by contacting one of our specialists…

Chi Nguyen

My name is Linh Chi, a true beach lover. My passion is to explore off-the-beaten-track destinations in Vietnam and introduce our S-shaped country's culture and beautiful scenery to friends all around the world.


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