When we visited Vietnam, Halong Bay was on our short list. We’ve seen beautiful photos of the bay and couldn’t wait to take our own. Rather than taking a day cruise into the bay, we decided to spend a night on the water. Though we didn’t get sunny weather and the vibrant green colors of the water, the ethereal fog made us feel like we were floating into an Asian silk painting.
The Golden Cruise Halong Bay
We took the Golden Cruise, which was the nicest option and was booked for us by a family friend. Although the ship isn’t huge (capacity of 100 people), as we made our way out on the water, it became really obvious that it was the nicest and largest boat in Halong Bay. Looking around, the other boats looked tiny!
The Good and the Bad
Halong Bay is more about the views for us than anything else. The Golden Cruise is considered a 5-star luxury cruise in Vietnam, but it’s a 3 star at best for first world standards. It reminded me of a smaller Carnival cruise except everything was clad in gold. We were happy that the rooms were spacious, comfortable, and clean, and that the staff was friendly. We also had an amazing view from our balcony and spent most of our time looking out at the layers of mountains.
Besides that, the meals were just okay, and they had some activities during the downtime. The chef taught a class on how to make spring rolls, and we learned that in Vietnam they don’t normally tuck in the ends. Is the US the only place that does that?
The one big complaint is that you have to clean up and check out before you arrive back on land. Because they are bringing on a new boat full of guests as soon as we get back, they have us waiting in the dining room on the long ride home.
During dinner, they mentioned squid fishing, which grabbed Jacob’s attention even though no one else on the boat seemed interested. The crew member seemed surprised when we asked about it and pointed us towards the back of the boat. We made our way walking by the kitchen and staff quarters and were met by their resident expert. She untangled the rods, which were basically bamboo rods with some line on the end, and then handed one to each of us. As we proceeded to drop the line in, she showed us how to move the bait to entice the squid. They stay near the surfac, and we saw one or two pass by. Unfortunately, that night we left empty handed, but apparently, there were a ton the week before! Always up to the animals.
We wouldn’t have minded getting to kayak out on the water, so next time we’re back in Vietnam, we’d probably do a 2 night cruise.
ITINERARY ON THE GOLDEN CRUISE
- Boat takes you out to the Golden Cruise
- Cruise out to Halong Bay (“Descending Dragon” Bay)
- Sung Sot Cave (“Surprise” Cave)
- Hike to the top of Ti Top Island (the hike is optional. you can stay on the manmade beach)
- Cooking Demonstration – Learn how to make spring rolls + happy hour
- Squid Fishing at night (optional)
- Tai Chi Lesson early morning (optional – we did not wake up for that)
- Take a bamboo boat to Luon Cave – Monkeys followed us, climbing up and down the cliffs in hopes to get some treats from the guides. I really wish I had a longer lens for this!
- Check out and wait in the dining room for a couple hours until you get back to the pier.
- Light lunch at Cua Vang Restaurant.
WHAT TO PACK
- Sea-Bands and Dramamine in case you get sea sick.
- Layers – depending on the weather, it can get cold and windy while out on the water.
- Bring both a wide for landscapes and a long lens for the monkeys.
If you’re planning a trip, you can check out the boat cruise we took here. Keep in mind, you are at the mercy of the weather, so the more time you’re out there, the better chances you have to capture the photos and get the weather you want!
Have you been to Vietnam? What are your favorite spots? Do you have a Southeast Asia trip you’re hoping to do in the future?