Naturally blessed with exquisite natural settings of limestone pillars and emerald waters, Halong Bay is one of the top tourist attractions in Asia. Halong Bay Cruise, as a result, is a trend of traveling that draws in huge interest from nature lovers worldwide. This article will get you covered with the essential things to know when paying a visit to this wonderland.
Table of Contents
I. Halong Bay Cruise Overview.
Source: Greyline Cruise
Located in the Gulf of Tonkin to the northeast of Vietnam, Halong Bay is a famous destination for Vietnam tours. It covers an area of 1,553 km2 and consists of nearly 2,000 limestone islands and islets of different sizes and shapes. Thanks to its significant geographical values and majestic natural seascapes, Halong Bay has been recognized as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage twice in 1994 and 2000. It was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011 also.
With the increasing interest in exploring the wild nature, numerous fleets of Halong Bay Cruise have been established to enable tourist to get a deeper approach to the Bay. You will get the chance to explore every single corner of the Bay as well as get involved in fascinating activities during your voyage.
II. How to choose the best Halong Bay Cruise.
As there appears to be plenty of cruise options available, it is quite a hard task for travelers to pick up the best Halong ship for your excursion. If you are about to take a cruise to Halong, do not miss out our ultimate guide below. Let’s see what we should do to have the best Halong trip.
1. Define your budget – which boat type to take.
First of all, check your wallet. It is essential to see how much money you could spend on the cruise because it would entail in several steps later such as choosing the itinerary, cruise line, and personal expenses during the trip.
A trip to Halong Bay may cost you from tens of dollars for a dayboat to hundreds and thousands of dollars for a luxury overnight one. So, make sure you have well prepared the money before you go.
Most of your money will go for the cruise booking, as everything has been included already in a Halong Bay cruise package. Hence, check out the boat range carefully before going.
The fleets of ships in Halong Bay are now divided into 04 main levels: the standard, mid-range, luxury, and high-end cruise.
a. Standard boat.
It refers to the ordinary tourist boats which are mostly used for daily excursions. It is small and cheap. However, as the whole boat is the public area, you will need to share the space with strangers.
It costs only tens of dollars for a day excursion. So if you are on a budget Halong Bay cruise, it is not bad an option!
b. Mid-range cruise.
Halong Bay mid-range ship is perhaps the most chosen option for the excursion. Most of the ships see themselves as 3 – 4-star cruises with private cabins for overnight stay and English-speaking guides. The service is also superior to the standard boat, for sure.
The prices of mid-range cruises ranges from 80 – 120 USD/pax/night in peak season and 70 – 100 USD/pax/night in low season, with meals and kayaking included already.
c. Luxury Halong Bay cruise.
5-star Halong cruise is also a preferable choice. It is actually the luxury hotel that floating on the waters! Here there are private rooms with expensive interiors, a spacious dining room, a beautiful sundeck, and excellent services. The activities are also more diverse, promising to offer passengers an unforgettable stay on the Bay.
Of course, it would cost more for a luxury stay. The average price for the luxury cruise is about 30 – 60 USD higher than the mid-range one for a person per night. For example, the lowest price for the standard double room on the 5-star Paradise Cruise is approximately 330 USD/night.
d. High-end Halong Bay cruise.
Even greater than the luxury cruise, A-class ship is the perfect choice for the most discerning visitors. If you have a thick wallet and strict requirements for the room and services, a high-end cruise is what you should choose. You will be treated like VVIP guests with extra-large rooms with high-end amenities and top-notched services. The special care from multilingual staff will make your visit to Halong Bay the trip of your lifetime.
Just for your references, the public rate for an all-inclusive package for a 2D1N program on Emperor Cruise in the low season (summer) is more than 840 USD/Suite. Still, don’t hesitate to spend your money, as the experiences you would get will definitely worth it.
2. Decide the length of Halong Bay cruise.
The next thing you need to do is to determine your schedule to see when you will start and how long you could stay. Depending on your budget and time, you can choose among 03 options: day trip, 2 days & 1 night, or 3 days & 2 nights.
a. Halong Bay Day trip.
Day trip is the shortest and most affordable option to be considered. The trip would last 04 to 06 hours, enabling tourists to have a quick tour around the famous landmarks of the Bay. For most of the time, you are expected to stay onboard while the ship comes across the incredible islets. Of course, the ship will stop by some famous spots for you to wander around, but the time will be limited.
b. Overnight Halong cruise (2D1N, 3D2N)
If you want to spend more time on the sea, choose the overnight Halong Bay cruises. The longer you stay, the more experiences you will get. You will visit more destinations and participate in more activities during the trip. Meals and accommodation are also well prepared for your overnight stay.
While the day trip is the more preferred choice for domestic clients, international travelers tend to spend their night on the Bay. The price for 2D1N or 3D2N cruise might be higher but the experiences would be definitely worth it.
To choose between the two itineraries, 2D1N Halong Bay cruise seems to be more preferable. Most of the cruises on the same route will have quite the same itinerary, which would include all the must-do activities that every Halong cruise should have. IN other words, whether you are on a 1-night or 2-night program, the activities are roughly the same. 3D2N itinerary only takes you to more destinations, honestly.
3. Decide the exact destination for Halong Bay Cruise.
Source: Emperor Cruise
The next question to be answered is where you exactly want to go. If you think every Halong Bay trip is the same, you are totally wrong. In fact, there are 03 distinctive touristic areas: Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Lan Ha Bay.
In general, the three areas mentioned above all shared the same geographical and geomorphological features. They all have limestone pillars, karst caves and grottos, and turquoise water. However, the experience you might get when visiting the three places are different.
a. Halong Bay Main Route – an excursion to a UNESCO Heritage.
This is the most famous and crowded route. Ships will depart from Tuan Chau Harbor (mostly overnight cruise) and Bai Chay Pier (dayboat) and take a voyage around the famous tourist attractions in Halong Bay. You will visit the well-known islets, caves, and beaches that appear a lot on media. However, as it is the main route, Halong is usually crowded with flocks of tourists.
This route concentrates the majority of cruise lines. Some outstanding names to be considered are President Cruise, Paradise Cruise, Bhaya Cruise, Au Co Cruise, etc.
b. Bai Tu Long Bay – A hideaway from the bustling life.
It is located more to the east of Tonkin Gulf. To reach there, you will need to take a ship that starts from Hon Gai Pier. Not attaching as much attention as Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay well maintains its primitive look. The water is exceptionally clean and transparent, and the biodiversity is well preserved. It is a perfect place for those seeking a quiet place for their north Vietnam getaway. However, its islands and caves are said to be not as stunning as the ones in Halong Bay.
If you are about to take this route, consider Emperor Cruises. This A-class ship would enable you to travel like a King or Queen with its all-inclusive luxury package.
c. Lan Ha Bay – The hidden gem for luxury travel.
Lan Ha Bay is a separate Hai Phong – owned area that has similar characteristics with Halong. Despite covering not so large an area, the Bay is home to breathtaking beaches and clean sea water. Lan Ha also steals tourists’ hearts with the beautiful Cat Ba Island, where exists evergreen forests with extraordinary bio-ecological systems. Lan Ha Bay cruises normally start from Binh Pier or Beo Pier in Cat Ba. It is the perfect destination for a get-off-the-beaten-track tour.
La Regina Cruise, Serenity Cruise, and Mon Cheri Cruise are some great names to consider in this Hai Phong route.
4. Check Halong Bay Cruise itinerary.
Source: Emperor Cruise
Once you have decided the length and destination already, it’s time to take the itinerary into consideration. It is the first step to sort out the cruises that you might take.
It is significant to search in advance the detailed cruise itinerary to see what you could get during the tour. A great cruise should include the significant things to do in Halong Bay such as a quick glide through the limestone islets that have special shapes, a visit to the marvelous karst caves, a stop at the Colgate-white beaches, a Halong bay kayak ride, a tour to the pearl farm or the fishing village. Some additional activities to consider are squid-fishing, cooking class, morning Tai Chi practice, sunset party, etc.
Take Halong Bay for example. There are 05 distinctive routes in Halong, each of which would take you to different places on the Bay. The time spent on each program is different, also.
5. Make Halong Bay Cruise booking.
After deciding which cruise to take, it’s time to consider the pros and cons of booking channels. You can make Halong Bay cruise booking by 03 ways: tour operator, online booking sites, and direct booking via cruise’s website.
a. Book Halong Bay Cruise with Vietnam tour operator – the 1st priority.
Source: Emperor Cruise
Tour operator is considered the best way to book a cruise, especially when you are on a customized trip that Halong Bay is only one of your destinations. Vietnam tour operator will assist you in providing every necessary information for your trip. Not only will they book the ship for you, they also take care of transportation and other services. The price is also bargainable because travel agencies often get a lower contract rate form the cruise lines than the public rate we see online.
Booking Halong Bay cruise via travel agents or tour operator, clients will get the care from both the cruise crew and the tour operator. It is a very reliable way for those wanting to have an easy and smooth trip.
Having been in this industry for decades, Vietbiz Travel Ltd. is one of the most reputable tour operators in Vietnam that organizes luxury tours to different destinations in Vietnam and other Asian countries. It has received Excellent Awards from TripAdvisor for several times, proving itself to be a reliable agent to lay your trust on. Especially, it has its own cruise line that sails in Halong, so you will definitely get the best consultant and price.
b. Online booking sites.
Source: Emperor Cruise
Another popular option is booking via online booking agents like booking.com, agoda.com, and expedia.com. You will do the search yourself to compare the prices among the cruise, check every inclusion and exclusion, read Halong Bay cruise reviews, and finally book the tour. Once you confirm your booking, you will contact directly with the cruise’s staff to discuss the trip.
You might wonder why we don’t mention the big sites for cruise booking like cruise.com and cruisecritic.com. In fact, these huge sites do not pay much attention in small and medium-sized Asian cruises, including Halong Bay ones. If you try to find a Halong cruise line on these sites, the results might be about the Bay’s information only.
If you book via online booking sites, pay serious attention to the inclusions. Many of the cruises omit some services from the packages to set a lower price to attract clients, hence there would be the hidden costs. In other words, you might need to pay extra for some optional services like kayaking or sightseeing tickets.
c. Halong Bay Cruise line’s website.
Source: Margaret Cruises Halong
Many travelers choose to contact the cruise line directly via their official websites with the hope of getting a good Halong Bay cruise deal. By communicating directly with the sales staff, you can check every detail carefully and negotiate the cruise price. However, for many of the times, clients might be easily overcharged if you do not know much about bargaining.
To sum up, booking Halong Bay cruise with tour operator is the best choice that you should opt for. Excellent customer service, in-depth consultant, and smooth combination with trips to other destinations have made Vietnam tour operator a reliable booking source to put faith in.
6. Decide the means of transportation to travel to Halong Bay.
You have got a ticket to enter the Bay already, but wait, have you known how to get there? Some available Halong Bay transportation options are seaplane, limousine shuttle bus, private car, and public bus. While you need to take the public bus yourself, the other three are available to arrange with travel agents.
Source: Emperor Cruise
a. Seaplane – the most luxurious means of transportation for Halong Bay cruise.
Seaplane is the most luxurious way to reach Halong Bay from Hanoi. It will take you 60 minutes for a seaplane flight from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Clients will get the opportunity to admire the aerial views over the Northern countryside. It also includes a 15-minute scenic flight when you can catch the bird’s eye view over the majestic limestone islands and emerald waters.
Hai Au Aviation is now the one and only seaplane operator in Vietnam that offers flights to Halong Bay.
b. Limousine shuttle bus.
Limousine shuttle bus from Hanoi is the most popular choice. The limousine car has soft large leather seats and spacious storage for luggage. The two most common vans are the Dcar Limousine with 07 – 09 seats and Felix Limousine with 16 seats. You will be picked up and dropped off right at your hotel.
Since September 2018, a new Halong – Hai Phong Expressway has been opened, reducing the travel time to only 2.0 hours. Most of the vans would go that way, so it takes roughly 2.5 hours to travel, including a 30-minute break at the waypoint.
c. Private car.
If you don’t want to share space with strangers, a private car is the right one. Depending on the number of members in your group, you can book a 4-seat, 7-seat, 16-seat, or even a larger car. You can decide whether to go on the new Expressway or the conventional road, also.
d. Public bus.
It is the cheapest way to travel to Halong Bay. Using the public bus, you will need to go to the station to wait for the bus and then share the narrow space with lots of people. Drop-off is available at some certain points also, so you might need to take a taxi to reach the harbor.
7. Pack luggage and head to Halong Bay.
After having done all the steps above, it’s time to pack your luggage and wait for your trip. Don’t forget to bring along important items like cash, sunscreen, hat, repellent, camera, sport outfits, waterproof backpack, etc. Especially, remember to keep a positive mind and hang on a smile to get started. It’s a lifetime trip, so welcome it with the best attitude!
Halong Bay is irresistibly stunning and worth a visit. Whether you are about to have a leisure trip or just simply wanting to escape from the bustling city life, Halong Bay Cruise is definitely a should-try. Do not hesitate to go, as the beauty of nature here will make your jaw drop.