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Ha Long Bay Cruises

Everything You Need to Know About Cruising in Halong Bay

Ha Long Bay cruises are available at almost every hotel and travel agency in Vietnam. Halong Bay is an impressive geographical formation in northern Vietnam. It has over 1,900 islets with pristine beaches, limestone caves, inland lakes, and floating villages. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the best way to experience this landscape is by boat.

Depending on your budget, you can opt for a luxurious cruiser or budget diesel-powered junk to explore Halong Bay. Do allow for at least an overnight stay as there are plenty of things to see and do here.  These cruises typically include English-speaking guides, hotel transfers, and entrance fees, meals, and on-board entertainment. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about Ha Long Bay cruises.

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Ha Long Bay Cruises Highlights

Joining a two-day, one-night Ha Long Bay cruise is a good option for first-timers.  You get to discover various islets, beaches, villages, and grottoes on a more relaxed pace. It also offers stops for swimming, fishing, snorkelling, kayaking, and trekking. If you're not a fan of outdoor activities, you can just relax and admire the stunning scenery. 

Ha Long Bay cruises vary depending on the season and weather. One of the most popular stops in Halong Bay is Cat Ba Island. It has floating villages, hotels, restaurants, and bars that are set against a backdrop of lush mountains. The island is also home to endangered animals, such as Cat Ba langurs, southern serows, black giant squirrels, and civet cats.

Located 28 km from Bai Chay Port, Dau Be Island is another island listed on most Ha Long Bay cruises. It's a prominent swimming and diving spot with a rich coral system, deep grottoes, and six inland lakes. You can only visit the caves by rowing boat at low tide. You can spot golden monkeys and flying squirrels here.

Bo Hon Island is where you can find Halong Bay’s most famous caves. Sung Sot, Trinh Nu and Trong Cave are set against a backdrop of mountains, cliffs, and lush forest. Accessible within a two-hour boat ride from Bai Chay Port, it’s widely regarded as Halong Bay’s natural park. There are plenty of cycads, orchids, and banyan trees. It's also home to wild monkeys, deer, and chamois.

Ti Top Island is 8km southeast of Bai Chay Port. The islet was named in 1962 after a visit from former Soviet Union astronaut, Ghermann Titop. The beach is its main draw, where tourists can enjoy swim or lounge on the sandbank. High-end resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops are set along Ti Top Beach. Take the 400-step stairway to the peak of Ti Top Island to enjoy a panoramic view of Ha Long Bay.   

For more than 5000 years, these islands are home to locals living mainly on agriculture and fishing. Ha Long Bay now houses just a few fishing villages, namely Cong Dam, Cua Van, Viet Hai, and Vung Vieng. Here, travellers can join kayak tours, visit a pearl farm, try fishing with local fishermen, or simply observe their daily lives.  

No trip to Halong Bay is complete without a visit to its limestone caves and grottoes. Most are home to stalactites and stalagmites that are over 2 million years old. Dau Go Cave is one of the most visited caves in the bay. You can see stalactites and stalagmites that are 20 metres tall. An English-speaking guide leads you through a 90-step stairway to get to the cave. It's has three main sections that are illuminated with natural and artificial lighting. There are formations in shapes of people, animals, and objects. At the end of Dau Go Cave is a small pond with clear water. Locals claim that fairies use the pond to descend to Earth.

Trinh Nu or Virgin Cave has a statue of a woman. She was turned into stone after her death, having unable to return home after being forced to marry an old Mandarin. Local legend states that she escaped from him because her father could not pay a debt. When fishermen found her body, they buried her and built a small shrine inside the grotto.  

Sung Sot Cave has two chambers with a square-shaped outer chamber and a 30-metre-tall limestone ceiling. Set within Bo Hon Island, its inner chamber formations resemble sentries conversing with one another. There’s another formation in the middle of the chamber that looks like a general surveying his troops.  

The Kissing Rocks islets are undoubtedly the symbols of Halong Bay. The two rocks resemble a rooster and a hen facing each other. Locals believe they symbolise eternal love as they've been in Halong Bay for thousands of years.

Ha Long Bay Cruises Dining

Ha Long Bay cruises typically offer Vietnamese dishes such as spring rolls, stir-fried vegetables, fried rice, seafood, poultry and meat dishes. A fruit platter is commonly served as dessert. Alcohol and snacks are available at additional charges. Breakfast is served from 07:00 until 08:00, which is typically eggs and toast with coffee.

In the evening, cruisers are docked. Most travellers retire early and rest in their cabin. However, there’s always a group that stays up to drink and socialise at the bar on-board until late. The cabins on board are usually fitted with either bunk beds or double beds.

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