We left Hanoi at 8am to be at the pier in Ha Long Bay for 11.45. We thought we left giving ourselves enough time as the sat nav said it would take two and half hours, but we were wrong! Half an hour into the journey the sat nav took us to the highway. Here there was a massive sign saying no scooters were allowed on the highway. In panic we decided there was nothing we could do than to carry on straight. Using ‘Waze’ instead of ‘Google Maps’ we could avoid highways on route through the settings. This took us on a little detour but we were quickly back on track. With the time slowly reaching 11.30 and still a while away. We messaged our tour provider who told us not to worry the boat would wait. Luckily we arrived at 12pm so we were only fifteen minutes late.
When we arrived at the pier there was so many cruise companies. After asking a few people we finally realised where ‘Signature Cruise’ was. We drove the scooter to the entrance as we didn’t know where to leave the bike for two days. Vingh the cruise manager greeted us. He was surprised to see us rock up on the scooter, due to everyone normally riding to the pier in luxury minibuses. He took our large bags to be loaded onto the ship, then asked a colleague to park our scooter for the evening. We waited in the lounge for about half an hour and enjoyed our welcome drinks, then it was off to the pier to get a small boat to the cruise ship.
We boarded the cruise ship and taken into the restaurant. Here Vingh went through a few safety regulations and gave us our schedule. He then gave us our room keys and we had 45 minutes before lunch was served. When we got to our room we realised we had been upgraded to a balcony cabin. The room was enormous, the bed super comfy and we even had a jacuzzi bath tub! We dropped our things off and headed to the top deck to enjoy the views of Ha Long Bay. When we were called for lunch we headed back to the restaurant where we was served a 3 course, gourmet meal.
Once lunch had finished we reached our first destination ‘Floating village’. We all boarded the small boat from the cruise ship which took us to there. This village has been around since the 19th century. The people who live here have floating houses with a little boat to get to and from. They rely on the fishing and tourism trade, although later we found out there was a pearl farm. Here you had two options. Either to kayak around the village or board the rowing boats. We chose to kayak for $10 extra. Being so low down in a kayak you realise the sheer size of the rocks in the bay. After about forty-five minutes we could see where we started in sight. From a distance we could hear our names being shouted from the other side of the village. Confused how these random people knew our name, we decided to kayaking towards them. When we got closer we realised it was the cruise manager Vingh. He waved us to come over, here we left the knack and taken to a pearl farm. It was interesting to see how the pearls were bred, but there was no way we could afford the jewellery in the shop! Once everyone had looked around we all boarded the small boat back to the cruise ship.
Here we could either enjoy a cooking class or have some free time until dinner. We decided to sit on the top deck enjoying the views. The cruise ship took us to ‘Bay Tu Long Bay’. This bay is the least touristy but you do have to pay a slight premium if you want to do a cruise that takes you here. We met a lovely family who were on their second day of the cruise. After chatting for a while and enjoying the sunset we headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. Our table for dinner was on the balcony, the four course dinner was exceptional. After dinner the guy who we met earlier invited us to share a bottle of Champagne, which was lovely. After a great day we headed to bed as we had to be up at 7.30 for breakfast.
The next morning we was up early for breakfast and then we all headed to the small boat to transfer to ‘Quan Cave’. Although it was full of tourists from other cruise ships it was still quite spectacular. Our cruise manager took us around and gave us information on the cave and when it was discovered. Although he did say a family used to live there so we wonder what happened to them when it wanted to be used as a tourist attraction! After about an hour we all headed back on the little boat to the cruise ship to check out of our rooms, settle our bill and then enjoy brunch as we sailed back to the dock.
All in all we really enjoyed the cruise. Although it was a bit more expensive than other options we were glad we splurged out on it. To have a couple of days of relaxing and enjoying the views of ‘Bai Tu Long Bay’ with amazing food, you can’t really go wrong. The rooms were spacious and really comfy and after living out of a back pack and mainly staying in hostels for the past three months a jacuzzi bath was pretty amazing!
Tip: Don’t ride the scooter to Ha Long Bay just get the free transfer as you have to head back towards Hanoi to travel elsewhere in Vietnam anyway!