Cruise Halong

Halong Bay, Hanoi & North, Vietnam

Cruise through Vietnam’s most famous bay, where floating villages huddle at the foot of mountains that rise from the sea
Imperious Halong Bay - a Unesco World Heritage site that resembles the set of a James Bond movie - has 1,500 forested limestone karsts rising sharply from the azure waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. You zip up from Hanoi early in the morning, then decant onto one of these wonderful junks for a rather good lunch while sailing through magical landscape, stopping off to check out beaches, snorkelling in crystal clear waters, cruising past floating villages, then anchoring up amid magnificent scenery before tucking into a 5-course dinner.

After a nightcap on the top deck, drop down to your cabin for a good night’s sleep and find comfy beds, shiny wood, huge views and fancy showers. Sleep with your curtains open and wake to magical views. In the morning there’s tai chi on the deck (your teacher’s performance is quite sublime) and a trip to mountain caves for the best views in the islands. Then you jump back on board for a leisurely brunch before heading onwards. Choose from Halong Ginger or the very fancy Halong Jasmine; either way, it's an unforgettable - if slightly touristy - experience.

Why we chose this partner

  • Of the many Halong cruise operators, these guys are probably the most reputable and the most comfortable
  • They have had country ambassadors and high-level travel experts on their cruises, and feedback has been superb
  • Our own experience with them was excellent

Best time to go

The rainy season here is at its peak in July and August; September is also wet. July is the hottest month, January the coolest. The dry season runs from November to April.

Our top tips

Nights can get chilly, so bring a sweater. Also bring a pair of walking boots, a lightweight waterproof jacket in case of rain, and your swimmers.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
Room:

Lodging

Halong Ginger is a small junk (38mx8m), but despite its size, the cabins offer everything you need: a great night’s sleep and a surprisingly sophisticated bathroom. They are fairly simply decorated - shiny wood floors and bamboo panelling are the order of the day - and if few pictures hang on the walls, it’s simply because windows frame huge views of sea and rock. Excellent mattresses are covered in crisp white linen, sparkling granite shower rooms come with robes and potions. Two Deluxe Rooms are available; they are slightly bigger than the others and come with rain showers. There are blinds to drop if the sun’s too bright, but make sure you wake to the world outside - it’s a great way to meet the day.

Halong Jasmine is slightly bigger (55mx11m) with 24 cabins and the interiors are more sophisticated and luxurious - think 1930s Indochine style. The shiny wood floors and pressed bamboo panelling is still present, but there are additional comforts - private balconies with curved chairs; spa baths that overlook the ocean and bath tubs. You can choose from 3 categories: Premium (fairly standard); Deluxe (with private balcony) or the decadent Suites (with private balcony and Jacuzzi).


FOOD

You certainly don’t starve on Halong Cruises. You embark for lunch and the junk cruises through the islands while you eat. Course after course comes to your table: Vietnamese chicken soup, fresh spring rolls, Halong Bay squid, grilled prawns with lemongrass, chilli chicken, stir-fried beef, steamed rice topped with sesame, then tropical fruits and yoghurt. Dinners are equally indulgent: pumpkin soup, mango salad, char-grilled beef skewers, prawn cocktail, lamb masala with coconut rice, then chocolate cake. In the mornings, you may rise early for a trip to some caves; coffee and patisseries are served before the trip, then, when you return, a buffet brunch is served as you sail onwards. You’ll find cereal and yoghurt, rolls and toast, freshly-sliced fruit and freshly-squeezed juices, then a hot buffet for Vietnamese noodles or bacon and eggs. Both junks have lovely indoor and outdoor dining areas.

Activities

  • Make land at a small beach, where you can stop for a drink or swim in the sea
  • Snorkel in clear blue water or set sail on a sea kayak and check out the caves
  • Cruise past floating villages that shelter in the calm waters at the foot of mountains
  • Before you anchor for the night, guests decant into a punt-like bamboo rowing boat for a stunning dusk journey back to the boat that takes you across looking-glass waters, under limestone tunnels, into hidden lagoons and then back to the boat as the sun sets
  • Wake for tai chi on the top deck. Your performance might be hopeless (ours certainly was), but your very own tai chi master will show you how it’s done with seamless perfection; it is worth getting up simply to see this
  • Discover the caves of Sung Sot - they resemble a set from Raiders Of The Lost Arc

Activities include:

  • Boat trips
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
Activity:

With Kids

Children under 5 stay for free in parents' room (only applicable if cabin already contains 2 adults); 1 child max per cabin. There are also 2 extra beds per junk for a supplement cost.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Transport

Transport:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 10 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
8/10
Value
9/10
Overall

Our cruise in Halong Bay was a very nice experience - everything (room, food, service) was excellent

10/10,

A great experience! Because the boat has only 10 rooms, it is a small number of guests which became friends after a while.The scenery during the trip is spectacular and the service on the boat is perfect

10/10,

Fantastic experience. We only went for 1 night (2 days) but I would recommend going for longer. They cram a lot into the 2 days with a full program with little time to relax and take in the sights/enjoy the ship. Try to take a 2 night cruise and do not feel obliged to attend all the events on the agenda.

9/10,

Particularly liked the 2nd day excursion to the bigger island, cycling, kayaking & swimming from the boat, all wonderful. They need to improve their English language skills across the board as we struggled to comprehend. The tour guide Chi was the exception.

7/10,

The staff was lovely! I have nothing bad to say about them! Our room was very nice. However, since we were in the back of the boat, we woke up with terrible headaches from the exhaust. If I were ever to book again with Heritage, I would insist on having a room closer to the front. Also the bathroom could use a little more light.
The first day's activities, into the cave, was a little lack-luster. I probably would have enjoyed seeing something else. The second day's activities to the Bat Cave and Cat Ba Island were amazing! I absolutely loved our guide on the second day and wish he could have been a part of more of our activities.

8/10,

everything was perfect.

9/10,

We had a wonderful time on the Halong at the tail end of our honeymoon. The weather was a bit brisk to be on a boat, but we enjoyed the scenery immensely and the staff took great care of us and even gave us a special honeymoon bouquet!

10/10,

Had a really nice time on this cruise. Staff were pleasant but sometimes a bit too accommodating that it felt somewhat stifling. Food was lovely although the breakfast on the smaller boat wasn't great. Enjoyed all the activities and we were with a small group so it didn't seem overly touristy. Drinks on the boat are expensive.

7/10,

Amazing service from the staff who can't do enough to help make your stay an enjoyable one. Stunning scenery through Halong Bay - really breathtaking. A good drinks selection, reasonably priced and gorgeous food. Some of the day trips are a bit busy and contrived as all of the other boats seem to operate the same itinerary but the kayaking and swimming in Bat Cave are exceptional and really tranquil. Definitely do 2 nights rather than just 1 - you won't regret it. Prepare yourself for some crazy driving from Hanoi - over three hours of it.

10/10,

Service, comfort, attention to detail and food exceeded expectations. The one-night trip is just enough to give a flavour of Halong Bay - next time I would do the two-day trip to leave enough time to soak in the scenery as the activities fill the day quite well. The excursion to Cửa Vạn fishing village was fascinating, while on the other hand the morning "hike" (and view from the top) was a bit disappointing. Overall though I would recommend this operator highly and would definitely take another cruise with them.

9/10,

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Itineraries