For any traveler who is eyeing Northern Vietnam as a prospective place to visit will without a doubt have one place at the tippy top of their destination list: Ha Long Bay. With over 1,600 limestone islets making up the landscape of Ha Long Bay is it easy to see why the most popular way to visit these is on a cruise! A Ha Long Bay cruise is a total bucket list experience.
Though it is possible to visit to the bay while staying at a hotel on land, it really doesn’t hold a candle to the epic 24 hour journey through the islets, caves, and beaches which a cruise gives you. No Ha Long Bay cruise does it better than Indochina Sails!
The pick up:
Indochina Sails sent a car right to where I was staying at 8:00AM. The pick up was seamless, and we were on the road by 8:15. The car/minivan was comfortable, air conditioned and came with a bottle of water for the road. I dozed off for the first two hours while we meandered out of the city.
After two hours we stopped at a rest stop, which had bathrooms, souvenirs, art, jewelry and food. I think it also doubles as a marble statue/craving export shop. There were many different interesting and beautiful marble statues! We took a break here for twenty minutes before continuing our journey. After another two hours we arrived at the pier in Ha Long Bay.
As we arrived at the pier we were welcomed with a refreshing towel and cool drink! The tea was absolutely delicious, and after around ten minutes, after everyone had gotten out of the cars and the luggage had been sorted, we boarded a small boat that would take us to the ship.
As we motored up to the main ship you could see the crew waving to us, welcoming us on board. They were wearing traditional Vietnamese masks and playing music. As we got on board we were given another refreshing towelette which was amazing and so needed due to the 100 degree heat!
We were directed upstairs to the main cabin of the ship where we were given another welcome drink! This time it was a gorgeous ginger tea and it was oh so tasty. So far I was feeling very pampered and well hydrated! As we cooled off in the A/C, the manager gave us some instructions about safety on board and reviewed the schedule for the day with us. By now it was around 12:30 PM and we were given a little bit of time to change our clothes or freshen up before lunch.
First look at the room:
As we opened the door to our cabin I was absolutely blown away! On other Ha Long Bay cruises that I have been on the rooms have been very basic and small but not this one! There were two beds, (one for me and another for my friend who was visiting me from the USA). There was a small desk, and in the closet there was a mini fridge, robes, a safe and hangers just like you would have at a nice hotel. The bathroom was spacious and clean. The shower had great water pressure and you could flush toilet paper down the toilet!! I know that may seem strange to people who haven’t been to Vietnam before but this is not the case everywhere!
Overall we were super impressed and proceeded to flop down on the bed for 15 mins before lunch, utilizing the wifi on board to catch up with things!
At 1:00 PM lunch was served! It was a set menu consisting of five courses. Before starting we were asked if we had any allergies or food preferences as they said that they would be able to accomodate them. The table was set immaculately with a pretty orange daisy in the middle. Attention to detail was amazing!
On board there is a full bar and is stocked with a good selection of wines. We promptly ordered a bottle to split and enjoyed the view out the window. We were moving at a very slow pace so we did not feel any signs of being sick or nauseous. I normally do get sea sick but this was not the case at all.
Our first course was a pumpkin soup which was wonderful! Served over an open flame it stayed hot all the way through eating it. The servers were so friendly and attentive, the empty bowl was removed when I was finished and the second course was being placed down.
This one was a tuna spring roll and papaya salad. I had never had a tuna spring roll before so I was a little confused but was pleasantly surprised. It was tasty but so far the pumpkin soup was the favorite.
The next two courses were great as well! One being two grilled prawns with a tamarind sauce and the other was a white fish which was breaded and fried with some chillies. The meal was finished off with a small piece of cake and some fresh fruit.
We were given some time fo meander around the boat and relax before the first outing. As we floated through all the different small limestone karsts, we were able to sit on the top deck which was furnished with lounge chairs.
Sung Sot Cave:
Our first outing which you could opt in to doing or you could stay on the boat was to hike through the Song Sot cave which is one of the biggest caves in Vietnam. We hiked up around 200 steps to the first view point. This is a very famous landmark in Ha Long Bay so it was quite busy.
Next we went through the large cave with our guide from the boat. He provided some interesting tidbits of information about the cave and the different formations. After a few photo opts we hiked back down to the boat.
After we got back on to the boat we were given a little bit more time to relax and freshen up again. This is one of the things I loved about this tour – there was such a good mix of structured and unstructured time.
During this unstructured-time we did a quick golden hour photo shoot on the boat and got some great photos! Also it’s good to note that there was a buy one get one free happy hour going on which is fab, love a good happy hour! We got some great shots and shortly afterwards the fresh spring roll demonstration was about to start.
A beautiful platter of veggies and herbs were placed on the top deck while everyone crowded around to watch how to skillfully roll the rice paper. After the demonstration people were given a chance to make some of their own. The fresh rolls were delicious and it was so unique to be making them whilst also floating around the bay!
Dinner was a gorgeous buffet style spread with all sorts of different types of seafood, rice dishes, noodles, fresh fruit and soups. My favorite was the coconut fried rice which was so yummy!
After dinner was finished there was the opportunity to watch the world cup on the TV or to sing some Karaoke as there was another happy hour for drinks post dinner. I was spent though and opted out of this seeing as we had an early morning the next day!
Our day started bright and early, with a 6:30 AM Tai Chi lesson on the top of the boat followed by coffee and pastries in the main cabin area. Sipping coffee while watching all the islets and islands pass by is something I will never forget! So incredibly gorgeous.
At around 7:00 we embarked for another hike up to the top of Titop Island. This was a small island that has a popular beach and gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding area. I had never been here before and I was so pleasantly surprised at how great the hike and view was. I think it is far better than the traditional one you get at the Song Sot Cave.
After a short break at the top we were very ready to get back down and go swimming as the temperatures of the day were already climbing near the 100’s and it was only 7:30 AM! Near the beach there were restrooms and small shops where you could buy a coconut or some water. We spent the next thirty minutes on the beach and then we were on our way back to the boat!
Breakfast was served when we arrived back on the boat! Again there was an impressive display of different foods to choose from including, traditional choices like Pho or rice, to western favorites like bacon, eggs and toast. The full omelette bar was on par with large scale resorts and one of my favorite things about breakfast was the fresh juices that were made right there for you! I tried the green version of this which I believe was cucumber and cilantro blended with a citrus. It was so refreshing!
Around 11:00 AM we docked back at the pier and everyone started their journeys back to their next destination.
Overall I was super impressed by this two day one night cruise with Indochina Sails! The service, amenities and food were all top notch! They do offer a two night, three day option which I think would be amazing, as the two days flew by so quickly I would have loved some more time!
A huge thank you so Indochina Sails for hosting me for this tour of the incredible Ha Long Bay!
Disclosure: This stay with Indochina Sails was sponsored by the company but I was not paid for this article and all opinions as always are my own 🙂