Now you have decided that you would like to visit Halong Bay. Here are some tips for finding a finding a perfect Cruise in Halong Bay for you.
Choose your boat:
There are hundreds of ships in Halong Bay. They vary from high-end cruises to budget cruises, so there are options for everyone! You could also charter a private boat if you have your group. If you are traveling with kids, you can find a kid-friendly boat with family suites. There are lots of options for couple and singles too. Check the reviews online before you book the cruise as boats can vastly vary in quality.
Choose the duration of the trip:
There are plenty of options, depending on how much time you have. You can choose:
Day trip cruise: This is a great way to experience the beauty of Halong Bay in the day if you are short on time. Some people take a day trip from Hanoi and take a half-day cruise at Halong Bay. This option could be tiring, and you would miss on many attractions. It is 3 to 4 hr drive each way from Hanoi.
Overnight cruises (1-night/2-day or 2-night/3-day cruise are most common)
If you have time to spare and looking to explore the bay in the more relaxed setting without worrying about itinerary, activities, and food. Then longer itinerary might be a perfect option for you. In the overnight cruises, you are transferred to excursion boat to do daily activities, and you return to the ship in the evening. This options could give you change to explore different Bay (LaHan Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay) and participate in various activities (Kayaking, snorkeling, swimming etc). This is also a good option if you are traveling with children, to avoid the hassle of packing and unpacking.
Most of these cruises depart from Cat Ba or Hanoi, Halong City.
Select the itinerary:
Every cruise has a different route, so be sure to do your homework. Some cruise company explores Halong Bay and others LaHan Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay. There are several floating villages ( Vung Vieng Fishing Village, Cua Van Fishing Village, Viet Hai Village, Cong Dam Area etc), caves (Thien Canh Son Cave, Dau Go Cave, Surprise Cave, Drum Cave, Me Cung Cave, Me Cung Cave etc) and beaches (Ti Top Island, Soi Sim Island, Hon Co Island etc) in the area.
Please make sure to check the itinerary map before you book the cruise. Halong Bay is the most popular route taken by the cruise boats. This itinerary is usually crowded and polluted.
Know what is included:
The cruises are usually all-inclusive (food, tea, coffee, and excursions). Alcoholic beverages are extra. The cruise company is careful in creating a menu that takes individual preference and allergies into consideration.
The cruise company can arrange bus (free of charge with some cruises), minivan or luxury minivan from your hotel or the airport in Hanoi to Halong Bay cruise and the visa on arrival for an additional cost.
Excursions: What are your interests?:
Snorkeling, Cycling, swimming, cooking class, kayaking, squid fishing, floating village, Tai Chi, Spa are few of the activities you can find on your cruise ship. Make sure your favorite activities are included in the cruise of your choice. All these activities should be included but double check before you book.
When to visit:
Best time to visit Halong Bay is from September to April as the weather is dry and pleasant. May to September is a great time to visit if you are looking for a great deal (low season) and want to enjoy water activities during the hot summer day. July and August is a hurricane season so be aware.
Where to book:
There are many websites available to book the cruises – www.Booking.com, www.viator.com and www.halongbaytours.com are some of the popular ones. I recommend booking a cruise directly from the cruise company (I have provided the link below for few cruises) and not through the travel sites since the prices are significantly lower. That was the case for our cruise. If you decide to book from a travel agency, please choose a reliable one. Hotel in Hanoi could help you with booking a day cruise or an overnight cruise.
Recommended cruises for families:
The nearest airport is Hanoi Airport (Noi Bai) in Vietnam.
I hope these tips help you book the best cruise to suit your needs and requirement. Please comment if you have any additional questions or your travel experience.