The Allure of Halong Bay: Is An Overnight Cruise Worth It?

The jagged limestone peaks jutting out of the calm, emerald waters create an almost magical scene in Vietnam’s Halong Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been enchanting visitors for decades with its natural beauty and allure.

Halong Bay

One of the most popular ways to experience Halong Bay is by booking an overnight cruise. But with cruise prices starting around $200 per person, you may be wondering – is it actually worth spending the money? What can you really expect to get from one of these Halong Bay cruises?

I recently spent a night aboard a Halong Bay cruise to find out if it lives up to the hype. Read on for a completely transparent account of my experience and whether or not I think a Halong Bay cruise is worth your hard-earned travel dollars.

Halong Bay

Choosing a Halong Bay Cruise Tour Operator

There are literally hundreds of cruise companies offering overnight Halong Bay tours. Prices and amenities can vary widely across the different operators.

After doing some research, I decided to book with Genesis Regal Cruises. This mid-range cruise line had excellent reviews and offered good value at $320 total for two people.

I easily booked through HalongBayTours.com. The site lets you easily compare different cruise options across various price points.

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Arriving for Our Halong Bay Cruise

After a 3-hour van transfer from Hanoi, we arrived at the Genesis Regal Cruise office. Staff warmly welcomed us with fresh juices before escorting us to our boat. As we sailed through the bay to reach our cruise ship, we caught enticing glimpses of Halong’s towering peaks.

I could barely contain my excitement! After seeing breathtaking photos for so long, I couldn’t believe I was finally gazing upon the majestic seascape of Halong Bay with my own eyes.

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Settling In Onboard Our Halong Bay Cruise

Stepping onto the cruise ship, we were impressed by the elegant yet cozy aesthetics. Our room attendant showed us to our clean, comfortable room equipped with a mini-fridge, TV, and small private balcony.

After freshening up, we headed to the dining room for a tasty Vietnamese lunch. Genesis Regal easily accommodated our gluten-free, dairy-free dietary needs.

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Looking at our detailed itinerary, I saw that they pack in loads of sightseeing. For travelers who crave action, this rigid schedule is ideal. For a more relaxed pace, it may feel overly regimented.

Visiting Kai Tho Cave By Bamboo Boat

After lunch we sailed to our first excursion – bamboo boat ride through Kai Tho Cave. Local boatmen poled us through the cave’s tiny entrance into an interior grotto surrounded by towering peaks.

Halong Bay

As our boat glided through the ethereal space, the silence was broken only by gentle plips of water drops and the occasional echoing shriek of bats above. We then emerged into a peaceful inland lagoon ringed by verdant jungle.

The relaxing pace gave us time to admire our surroundings. While undeniably touristy, it still made for a pleasant and scenic experience.

Back on board, I was finally able to soak in views from our private deck. Gazing out at the scattered armada of crafts, I noticed a tiny boat paddling between ships, with someone waving items for sale. After negotiating a 30% discount on souvenirs, I happily completed my first-ever “floating market” transaction!

Admiring Dazzling Halong Bay Views at Sunset

As the failing light cast a golden glow over the landscape, we headed up to the top deck for cocktail hour. Mingling with other passengers, we secured a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Halong Bay

The vivid hues reflecting off the water were positively mesmerizing. Cameras clicked furiously around me as we all tried capturing these fleeting moments of magic. I couldn’t imagine a more breathtaking sunset scene.

After the show ended we headed to dinner, welcomed by candlelight and red lanterns. The 5-course meal was fresh and beautifully presented. Lobster was even on the menu – fancy!

Later on deck, a Vietnamese woman performed popular songs on her guitar. Two British newlyweds were fêted with sparkling wine and cake. The convivial ambience made me feel like I was at a dinner party with friends rather than crammed onto a tour bus.

Attempting Squid Fishing Under the Stars

As one of the last activities I definitely wouldn’t consider squid fishing an essential inclusion. But for something different, a small group of us tried dangling lures off the back of the boat, hoping for a bite.

After 45 minutes without even a nibble, we called it quits. But the crew told tales of epic 10 squid nights, so maybe other visitors will have better luck!

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Waking Up to Halong Bay’s Spectacular Scenery

Rising before sunrise, I was initially miffed about getting up so early. But dragging myself to the deck proved worthwhile. We were rewarded with a sublime sunrise backdrop of glimmering water and peaked islets materializing through ethereal mist.

My favorite sight was gazing right from our balcony though, with no crowds, just calm bay vistas accompanying my coffee. I let the splendid scenery wash over me, etching these lovely images into my memory.

Capping Off Our Cruise with Kayaking

Guides next led us to shore for a final excursion – kayaking! Paddling through isolated coves and channels, we could truly soak up the astounding landscape. With barely another soul around, we felt alone amidst Halong Bay’s natural splendor.

This adventure topped off a practically perfect cruise itinerary. As our ship cruised back towards port, I experienced pangs of regret. I now understood why many travelers opt for 2-night cruises. I simply didn’t want this dreamlike experience to end!

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Is Booking a Halong Bay Cruise Worth the Cost?

Without hesitation, I can declare booking an overnight Halong Bay cruise is 110% worth the splurge! This once-in-a-lifetime experience was worth every penny.

Halong Bay’s mythical appearance simply has to be seen first-hand. No photo can do justice to the awe you’ll feel beholding those towering islets magically emerging from vibrant green waters.

The cruise also lets you safely access stunning viewpoints and remote caverns. And you’ll slumber overnight amidst the tranquil bay. For these reasons alone, the cruise makes all the difference versus attempting a hasty day trip from Hanoi.

By booking through an agency like HalongBayTours.com, you’re also getting tremendous value. When you factor in comfortable lodging, all meals, drinks, sightseeing and transfers, what you receive is unmatched at this $200 per person price point.

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The crews also excel at catering to visitor needs. So don’t hesitate booking a cruise if you have dietary restrictions, activity limitations, etc.

Tips for An Awesome Halong Bay Cruise Adventure

  • Book a room with a balcony to fully capitalize on the sublime views
  • Pack light layers as temperatures fluctuate
  • Don’t shy away if traveling solo – the communal dining and excursions facilitate mingling
  • Consider splurging on a 2-night cruise to avoid feeling rushed
  • Accept that this is a touristy experience – just sit back and enjoy the sublime scenery!

Have any other questions about booking a Halong Bay cruise? Let me know in the comments!

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