Tips for Choosing Suitable Cruise for Your Halong Bay Tour

There are literally hundreds of boats floating around Halong Bay every single day, catering to all interests and budgets.  But to find the one that caters to you, you need to know what it is you are looking for.  That means:

How to travel


A lot of travelers think that traveling on your own is always cheaper than booking a tour. However, let's imagine, if you travel on your own,  you will take a bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, you have to take a taxi to Luong Yen bus station or My Dinh bus station. It won’t be easy for tourist to take a local bus. There are a lot of people is in the tourist wharf who offer plenty of choices for cruises. To be honest, you wonder who is a good one and who will tell you the truth. You don’t know that you go on the right cruise which you have paid for. The cruise may be a different one with lower quality such as boat, food… It’s your choice.  I recommend to book a tour with a reliable travel agent or the hotel where you stay in Hanoi. If anything happens, you are able to deal with them.

Price


Of course, everyone's budget is different. A good price shouldn’t be cheap but reasonable for the quality. As there are hundreds of Halong Cruises in all category, you are recommended to choose a good one, from the mid-range cruise, to ensure the safety, comfort and pleasure. It is so important to see what a company reputation is before booking with them. The cheap cruises may not be a good ones. The small one but with a good reputation can be your choice. Let’s choose ones suitable your budget. You should choose a cruise that is run by a reliable Halong Cruise Company. Among hundreds of cruises on Halong Bay, some are owned by big companies, some are run by private family, others invested by the affluent in other areas. The cruises run by big and reliable companies are more recommended for you. They have more experience, more professional in providing cruising service. In addition, please check what’s included in the tour price.

Budget Cruise: For budget option, you can get good ones such as Glory Cruise, Aclass Legend Cruise, Phoenix Cruise, Oriental Sails, Majestic Cruise...  

Mid-range Cruise: If you prefer premium cruises, I can recommend Paloma Cruise, Pelican Cruise, Gray Line Halong, Glory Legend Cruise, Dragon Pearl Junk, Carina Cruise...

Luxury Cruise: If you are looking for a luxury cruise, my recommendation is Signature Cruise, Jasmine Cruise, Indochina Sails, Paradise Cruise, Aphrodite Cruise ...
 

Halong Bay Cruise

 

Time


Depending on your schedule, you will decide how long to stay. There are basically two options here: 2 days/1 night or 3 days/2 nights.

In my point of view, you absolutely should go for the 3 days/2 nights option, you won't regret. If you do go for 2D/1N, be aware that you will spend less than 24 hours actually on Halong Bay. The first day you will make the four hour trip from Hanoi and arrive at the boat after 12 noon, after spending overnight on board, you will then disembark at around 11 am before making the four hour trip back to Hanoi while asking yourself why you didn't go ahead and do the 3 day tour. On most boats, the 3 day tour does the same itinerary as the 2 day tour, with an extra full day added in the middle where you will get the whole day exploring some of the further out areas, away from the tourist hordes.

If you take a day tour. You will spend 4 hours cruising on Halong Bay, joining these activities such as: kayaking or visiting a fishing village on a sampan rowed by locals and visiting Thien Cung (Hevenly Palace cave). It’s good for visitors who only have a short time. Most of the cruises offer the same itinerary, just choose a good tour company one as Phoenix Day Cruise, Alova Day Cruise, L’Azalee Day Cruise...

 

Itinerary


Halong Bay Cruises have different itinerary, you should study some itinerary options and choose which you prefer. They may include visit caves, fishing villages, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. As Halong Bay more and more crowded with cruises, travelers are looking for less crowded area, offering more peaceful and pristine beauty. Less popular route to further area will bring more surprise and comfortable feelings during the journey.

 

Destination


In broad terms there are two basic options: Halong Bay (to the west) and Bai Tu Long Bay (to the east).  Both are spectacularly beautiful, however, Ha Long Bay has many more boats giving you many more options, whereas Bai Tu Long Bay has less boats making it less busy and less crowded. If you go to Bai Tu Long Bay you will miss out on seeing some of the more famous caves but you might get to visit some more untouched caves. Most boats provide a description of where they go on their website so check it out.  

A third option is a tour that spends one night on Cat Ba Island. These tours are generally less expensive than the other options, however, be careful to check out not just the boat but also the accommodation offered on Cat Ba to make sure it fits your requirements.

 

Food


The quality of the food will largely be determined by your budget, however there is quite a range of options depending on the boat.  Some are predominantly buffets, however there are others that serve you individual courses, or even ones where you can choose your main course from a menu. This is especially important if you have special dietary requirements. Make any special food requests. Keep in mind that most boats offer a predominantly seafood menu so if you don't like fish and seafood just tell them.  Also be clear about what you can eat (e.g., no seafood but fish is fine, or no seafood and fish but meat is fine).

 

Responsible travel


What the cruise does to, to respect and benefit local people and  minimize environmental impact.  Here is things to do for responsible travel in Halong Bay:

- Take a sampan to visiting the fishing village rowed by locals

- Collecting rubbish  and wastes in Halong

- Offering life vests to the local fishermen

- Re-planting mangroves forests in Halong Bay

- Repainting and building floating schools for local children

- Taking a fishing trip with locals.