28 Halong Bay Cruise Tips You Must Know For A Valuable Trip!
Why Should You Go On A Cruise In Halong Bay?
In Halong Bay
One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Halong Bay is on a cruise journey. Here's why:
It saves money and time
Choosing a luxury cruise in Halong Bay is not only about the destination but also about the journey itself. Unlike dealing with the hassles of travel, you can relax and enjoy the trip on a cruise.
Cruise packages usually cover everything, including your stay, meals, and fees for various attractions. So, you'll save money as you don't have to worry about unexpected costs.
It offers exciting and different experiences.
Have you ever tried Tai Chi at sunrise on a cruise ship? Or how about an afternoon cooking class with a chef whipping up Vietnamese magic? A cruise is a cultural adventure with a cherry on top.
The cruise ships also have big swimming pools with ever-changing bay views. Swimming in a pool while the cruise sails through the bay is a unique experience you won't get on land.
For adventurous souls, kayaking is a must-try. You can paddle through clear waters, explore caves, and enjoy the beauty of limestone islands. In the evening, there's squid fishing, a thrilling activity under the sparkling night sky.
It's suitable for everyone.
The variety of entertainment options, including onboard and offboard activities, means nobody gets bored, whether traveling alone, with a partner or as a family.
It serves delicious food.
Halong Bay is known for its fresh seafood, and cruise packages often include meals prepared by skilled chefs.
You get to taste local dishes without worrying about extra costs. The dining experience on the cruise becomes a memorable part of your journey.
Tips To Plan Your Trip On A Cruise In Halong Bay
Tips To Plan Your Trip On A Cruise In Halong Bay
Any first-time tourist coming to Halong is confused and doesn't know how to plan their cruise. Please consider my following tips if you are one of them!
Consider The Time To Visit
Timing is everything when planning a cruise here. The sweet spot is spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). The weather is just right, and the bay flaunts its beauty under clear skies.
Even in the winter (December to February), when it gets a bit cooler, there's a certain mystical charm with the mist hanging around the karsts.
Steering clear of the summer rush is my go-to move. That way, you get a more laid-back experience and avoid the crowds.
It's all about finding that sweet spot between pleasant weather and a quieter, more personal connection with Halong Bay.
Consider Your Budget
Cruises here cater to all sorts of wallets, so finding the right balance between what you're willing to spend and what you want is key.
I often choose to cruise on a mid-range ship because it offers decent cabins, good food, and a mix of fun stuff to do, all without burning a hole in my pocket. A mid-range ship is from $300/cabin to $500/cabin for a 2D1N tour.
But, if you're feeling a bit fancy and want the whole luxurious shebang, splurging on a premium cruise of above $500/cabin might be up your alley.
Consider Your Budget
Consider The Duration
Let's talk about how long you want to cruise through Halong Bay! You have options, from quick day trips to longer adventures that stretch into two or three days, each giving you a different taste of the bay.
If you're in a rush, a day cruise is a choice. You'll see the famous karsts and the stunning water, but it's a bit of a whirlwind.
If you're up for a deep dive, go for the two to three-day cruise. That's when you'll explore, check out hidden caves, and soak in the bay's vibe at different times, including sunrise and sunset.
Consider The Itinerary
When choosing an itinerary, consider your preferences. Are you a thrill-seeker eager for kayaking and cave exploration, or are you more of a leisurely cruiser wanting to soak in the scenery from the deck?
Don't forget to look for variety. A good itinerary needs a mix of activities, sightseeing, and downtime to ensure a well-rounded experience.
After considering the above, what you need to do is choose a reputable, highly-rated cruise company that matches your needs.
28 Halong Bay Cruise Tips You Must Know
Tips You Must Know
Below are tips I've learned after many cruises on Halong Bay that will help you have a more convenient and memorable cruise!
#1. Visit Halong Bay In The Autumn Is A Wise Choice For First-Time Travelers.
If you are coming to the Bay for the first time and wondering which season to go in, autumn is the perfect choice. The scenery during autumn is breathtaking, with clear skies, calm waters, and a touch of mist.
There are also fewer crowds in this season because domestic tourists often go in the summer. Less hustle and bustle means you can connect with Halong Bay fully. No need to jostle for the perfect view; you get to take in that stunning scenery at your own pace.
Autumn also opens up many outdoor adventures, including kayaking, hiking, and chilling on the beach. The mild weather makes everything more enjoyable.
Halong In The Autumn
#2. Visiting Halong Bay During The Rainy Season Isn’t Too Bad.
Let's debunk the myth about visiting Halong Bay during the rainy season (from May to September)! It's not as bad as people said.
I know that none of us want to be disturbed by the rain during our travels. But it's not a never-ending downpour. Between the raindrops, you still get moments of clear skies and sunshine.
But the good news is the whole bay transforms into a lush, green paradise this season. The mist vibe and occasional drizzles turn those towering limestone karsts into something out of a movie.
Of course, during this season, there will be fewer tourists. What does it mean? It's more peaceful. This time is when Halong Bay exudes a wild beauty you cannot see in other seasons.
The rainy season is even more appealing to rain lovers. Imagine kayaking through the bay in a drizzle or chilling on the cruise deck, watching raindrops do their dance on the water. It's unexpected, but that's where the charm lies!
Kayak In Rain
#3. Booking In Advance Is Best.
Halong Bay is a hot ticket, especially during peak times. Booking in advance secures your spot on the cruise ship, ensuring you don't miss out on the adventure you want.
There was a time when I waited until the day before departure to book a cruise, and they told me they were out of rooms. Don't make this mistake!
A fact about early booking nobody tells you is that it offers discounts and promotions for a better deal, and who doesn't love saving a bit of cash?
Planning also lets you choose from a wider array of cabin options. Want that sea-view room or a spot on a specific deck? Booking early increases your chances of snagging the perfect cabin that suits your vibe.
Booking In Advance Is Best
#4. It's Best To Choose Overnight Trips.
Do you want to wake up smack dab in the middle of those famous limestone rocks as the sun paints the sky with morning hues?
If yes, spend the night on a cruise! These Halong bay overnight cruises often come with comfy cabins, good food, and maybe even some entertainment.
As I said, cruising overnight will give you more time to hide caves, kayak through emerald waters, and partake in various onboard and onshore activities.
Come evening, you'll enjoy the bay's beauty at sunset, cruising through those towering rocks with the sky on fire.
And we're not done yet. Nights on the bay mean stargazing like you've never seen before; no city lights, just you, the water, and a sky full of stars turning your cruise into a celestial escape.
It's Best To Choose Overnight Trips
#5. But You Can Also Explore Halong Bay In One Day.
One day might sound quick, but trust me, it's like a power-packed adventure, perfect for those squeezing it into a tight schedule.
On a 1-day cruise, you'll still sail through iconic limestone thingies, visit cool spots like Thien Cung Cave, and enjoy the views. You can also kayak around, explore caves, and chow down on tasty grub on the boat (although it's a bit fast).
The best part is day trips save you a buck or two since you don't need to book a place to crash for the night. It's a bite-sized adventure that packs in all the beauty without a high cost.
#6. Always Review The Cruise Itinerary To Know The Planned Activities And Stops.
Cruises have fixed itineraries. When you book a cruise, you’ll follow that itinerary. So, carefully check the itinerary to see if it caters to your wishes.
This review will help you avoid going on a cruise that doesn't have the locations and activities you want. Besides, you’ll know the specific time for each destination and activity to match your schedule.
Cruising On Halong Bay
#7. You Can Choose Hanoi Or Ninh Binh As The Starting Place.
Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Halong Tour 5 Days
- Depart Time:Daily
- Tour type:Private Tours
- Travel Style:Heritage Tours, Family Tours, Culture & History
- Activities:Walking tours, Sightseeing Tours, Cultural, religious and historic sites tours
- Suitable for:Solo, Family, Group, Couple
- Age range:1 To 90 Years
- Operated in:English, French, Spanish, German, Italian
Ninh Binh and Hanoi are a mere 3.5-hour drive from Halong Bay. So, you can opt for a quick day trip from these locations.
During my month-long stint in Hanoi, I found it super convenient. Leaving my hefty luggage at the hotel, I tied a small backpack for overnight essentials.
Some travelers prefer to mix it up, traveling from Hanoi to Halong and then continuing to Ninh Binh. The beauty here is that you don't have to worry about hauling your suitcase around because the cruise staff's got our back, helping with the luggage lift onto the boat.
#8. Pack Clothes Suitable For All Weather For The Trip.
When packing for your Halong Bay trip, think of your suitcase as a mini wardrobe that's ready for anything Mother Nature throws your way.
Based on my experiences, Halong Bay's weather is as diverse as its landscapes. So, having clothes suitable for all conditions is the key to a comfortable and enjoyable journey.
Start with the basics! Lightweight, breathable clothing is your go-to, especially during the warmer months. T-shirts, shorts, and comfortable walking shoes are essentials for exploring the bay's mesmerizing sites.
Don't forget to throw in a light jacket or a sweater. Halong Bay is a bit chilly, especially during the evenings and early mornings.
If your adventure includes water activities, for example, swimming and kayaking, swimsuits and quick-dry clothing are must-haves.
Lastly, sun protection is crucial. Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen are your shields against the Vietnamese sun, especially when you're out on the deck of your cruise, soaking in the breathtaking scenery.
Pack Clothes Suitable
#9. Halong Tours Usually Do Not Include Travel Costs To The Bay.
Many tour agencies quote the cruise booking price with a little asterisk, a signal that the ground transportation costs are not bundled in.
This isn't a roadblock, though, as most agencies offer a solution in the form of shuttle buses. During a visit last year, I shelled out $20 for a round trip from Hanoi to Halong and back.
If you're jetting in from Hanoi, note that the shuttle will swing by if you stay outside the Old Quarter. In this case, you can book a motorbike taxi or a taxi on Grab, a convenient app for this service.
A Shuttle Bus
#10. Most Tours Do Not Include Drinks.
Don't expect drinks to be part of the cruise package, no matter how much you shell out for that stunning view. In my experience, the freebies were limited to a tiny water bottle in my cabin and some coffee and tea at breakfast.
Of course, you can buy drinks onboard. Though, brace yourself. Cocktails are hefty $6 a pop. You can also pay with your credit card. Just be ready for about a 3% fee.
#11. Higher Priced Cruises Have Better Amenities.
It's no secret that you often get what you pay for. I mean, higher-priced cruises typically come with a suite of better amenities, promising a more luxurious and comfortable experience.
The more upscale cruises often boast spacious and well-appointed cabins with stunning bay views. You can expect top-notch service from a well-trained and attentive crew.
These cruises frequently include additional perks, such as guided excursions, spa services, and even gourmet dining options that elevate your experience.
On the other hand, budget-friendly options typically offer a more basic package, focusing primarily on the essentials.
While you'll still enjoy the beauty of Halong Bay, the cabins and services may be more standard, catering to those looking for a more economical trip.
So, the price tag often reflects the comfort level, luxury, and additional amenities you can enjoy during your Halong Bay cruise.
On A Luxury Cruise
#12. Cruises Have Quite Similar Itineraries.
Here's the inside scoop: Whether you're sharing a cabin with a fellow budget traveler or luxuriating in a 5-star room, most itineraries look surprisingly similar.
Picture this: the boats anchor in the same areas overnight, ensuring that all guests, regardless of their accommodation choice, enjoy the same views.
Regarding activities, overnight cruises tend to roll out a pretty consistent menu of experiences. You can expect options like:
Hiking to a panoramic viewpoint
A refreshing beach swim
A stroll through a mystical cave
A cooking class to tantalize your taste buds
And even some nighttime squid fishing for the adventurous souls
Sure, it's a good idea to check out the specific activities. Still, the amenities on the cruise often play a more substantial role in swaying travelers than the itinerary itself.
#13. You’ll Pay Additional Fees If You Go Solo.
Most cruise packages are for pairs with two sets of feet in each cabin.
So, if you're rolling solo, you'll pay a solo traveler fee (a single supplement) for the unoccupied bed. This extra cost varies from cruise to cruise, so remember to check out the specific policies.
I know the added fees might not be the highlight of your solo adventure, but cruising through the stunning Halong Bay can make it all worthwhile.
#14. Cruises Accommodate Your Special Diets.
There's good news for food-conscious travelers: Halong Bay cruises are often more than happy to accommodate special diets.
Your culinary experience will be tailored to your dietary needs, whether you're rocking vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or any other needs.
Here's the hack: when booking your cruise, give them the lowdown on your dietary scene. Drop them a message about your veggie love or gluten aversion so they can set up your meals accordingly.
A Meal On A Cruise
#15. Wi-Fi On Cruise Ships Is Not As Strong As At Your Home.
While many cruise ships offer Wi-Fi services to keep you connected, the strength and reliability can vary.
On some cruises I've been on, I experienced slower speeds, occasional dropouts, and limited coverage, especially when the ship was sailing through remote areas.
So, it's essential to set your expectations accordingly. You might find the Wi-Fi less cooperative if you plan to stream HD movies or attend virtual meetings during your cruise. Yet, basic communication, social media updates, and checking emails still do the trick.
After all, the real star in Halong Bay isn't your Wi-Fi signal but the breathtaking limestone karsts, emerald waters, and the bay's tranquility.
#16. Tides Will Affect Your Water Activities.
When the tides are high, it's perfect for kayaking and swimming. You can paddle through mysterious caves, sneak into hidden coves, or take a chill dip in the waters.
When the tide is low, the water levels drop, and you'll see secret spots like caves and rock formations.
Knowing the schedule is like having the key to a treasure map if you plan to hop on a smaller boat. So, I recommend asking your cruise crew or guide about it. They'll give you the scoop on when the water's at it rises and goes down.
A Boat Trip When The Tides Are High
#17. You’ll Reach The Islands On A Dinghy.
You'll be on the dinghy whenever you need to hop from the port to the cruise or explore the islands scattered across the bay. Worry about safety? Rest assured! Lifejackets are a must when you're cruising on those dinghies.
And don't fret about the dinghy ride itself because it's sturdy. So, if you've got a case of the wobbly bat jitters, rest easy. The experienced rider will ensure you don't fall into the water.
#18. There Are No Big Waves In Halong Bay.
Unlike some open-sea spots where the waves can play a game of tug-of-war with your equilibrium, Halong Bay offers a much calmer nautical experience.
If you wonder why this happens, the unique geography of the bay plays a role in creating this setting. The bay has thousands of limestone karsts and islets for a natural barrier that shields the waters from strong winds and turbulent waves.
So, Halong Bay's calm waters provide a perfect haven for those prone to sickness or looking for a laid-back aquatic adventure.
Even though big waves are like rare guests, they might appear on windy days or during stormy weather. So, limit your cruise at these times if you don't like the waves.
Halong’s Calm Water
#19. Don't Miss The Sunrise.
Don't sleep through the sunrise because you'll admire the best view: The sky transforming into a canvas of oranges and pinks, the mist embracing the limestone giants, and the emerald waters below whispering good morning.
So, don't forget to set your alarm, brew some coffee, and get ready for a front-row seat to Mother Nature's daily masterpiece!
#20. Fog Will Obstruct Your Vision.
If you've heard someone say that Halong Bay on a foggy morning is beautiful, think again.
I whipped out a photo in the early morning with fog, trying to show off Halong Bay's beauty. I pointed the phone toward the limestone islands, but all I got was a wall of fog swallowing up the front of the ship. As a result, I didn't have any good photos that morning.
The time when Halong Bay is most foggy is January and February. If you are like me and don't like that gloom, avoid these two months when planning your trip.
Halong Bay In Fog
#21. Tips Are Recommended.
Tipping isn't essential in Vietnamese culture, but I recommend tipping in a hotspot like Halong Bay.
On my cruise, they had a tip box there in the restaurant. When it was time to leave, they laid out some envelopes during our final meal, with a message 'Tips.' It's a friendly reminder to spread love to the people who made our cruise smooth sailing.
The tip box is mainly for the cruise crew, not your guide. If your guide enhances your trip (which, let's be honest, they probably do), you should slide a separate tip.
As for how much to tip, that's the million-dollar question. My tour agency didn't drop any golden rules on percentages or flat amounts, so it's a tip-your-way deal.
#22. You May Not See Monkeys As Rumored.
Many people think that by coming to Halong Bay, they will meet monkeys on the islands. But the reality is that it'll be rare to meet them. Although many monkeys are on the islands, they tend not to like being bothered by humans.
During our visit last year, our group was lucky to encounter a few monkeys on the cliffs while exploring Cat Ba Island. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera to take pictures of them.
#23. Waiting Times At The Port May Be Longer Than You Think.
Because I often visit during peak season, I spent hours waiting for my turn to move from the port to the cruise.
Luckily, our enthusiastic tour guide, Banh, guided us around the port to relieve boredom and told us some stories about the bay while waiting.
There were a few cafes nearby, so we spent the remaining time there before departing. Although the waiting time was longer than I expected, it was still quite fun to interact with fellow travelers.
#24. You Should Choose Itineraries That Include Exploring Cat Ba.
Choose Itineraries Including Exploring Cat Ba
When plotting your Halong Bay adventure, go for the itineraries that throw in a rendezvous with Cat Ba. Why? This island has mangrove forests, beautiful beaches, and a dash of golden-headed langurs.
Here's my recommended plan: Hop on a one-hour boat ride to Cat Ba after your Halong Bay tour. There are usually three boat departures a day. So you've got some flexibility.
If you want moments of panoramic view of the beautiful island from above, the cable car will be the most suitable option. With a length of about 3,950m, the route will bring super interesting views before starting your journey to Cat Ba.
Travelers often kick back for at least two nights on the island. It's the perfect recipe for winding down after a jam-packed travel itinerary.
#25. You’ll Need Comfortable Shoes.
You’ll Need Comfortable Shoes
You’ll walk a lot on your cruise, for example, navigating the deck, walking at beaches, hiking on the island, and more. So, you need comfortable shoes, such as sneakers or light hiking shoes.
Sung Sot Cave, to be specific. It's a marvel, but the terrain inside can be tricky with uneven surfaces and steps. You don't want to be stumbling around in inadequate footwear.
Trust me; you need those comfy shoes to keep you steady and avoid embarrassing slips or worse injuries.
And when you're getting on and off those traditional boats, you want shoes that can handle the sometimes wobbly waters.
Comfortable and grippy shoes are your best bet to stay sure-footed and enjoy the ride without any unnecessary slips.
#26. Prepare Some Cash For Small Purchases And Tips.
Prepare Some Cash For Small Purchases And Tips
You'll want to stash cash for small buys and tips when you're out globetrotting. I know, I know, plastic is king, but having some bills in your pocket is a game-changer, especially in places bursting with local culture and markets.
Some vendors might not even have card machines, and if they do, they'll likely give you puppy eyes and ask for cash to dodge those pesky transaction fees.
Then there's the whole tipping deal. Most places prefer tips in cold, hard cash. Your guides, the friendly local helping you, or the driver who got you to your destination without a hitch. All deserve a little extra, and cash is the way to go.
#27. It Can Be Very Noisy At Night.
The peace you might expect from a serene cruise is often disrupted by the lively atmosphere that emerges after dark.
On smaller cruise ships, amenities like a bar and top-deck tables become hotspots for late-night entertainment. This festive atmosphere might be great for night owls but not ideal for those seeking a good night's sleep.
Moreover, multiple cruises in the same area mean you're not just dealing with your ship's party animals but also contending with the merry-making nearby.
So, if you're sensitive to noise or an early-to-be type, I recommend packing some earplugs to ensure a peaceful night's sleep amidst these festivities.
A Cruise At Night
#28. Be Eco-Friendly
Let's pledge allegiance to the 'leave no trace' message. Halong Bay's beauty deserves some respect, so no litterbugs are allowed.
Chuck your trash in the right spots and rally your fellow travelers to do the same. We ain't Halong Bay to stay jaw-dropping, not junk-filled.
Regarding marine manners, leave the coral alone and be a responsible water buddy when kayaking or swimming. Marine life will thank you for not causing a ruckus.
Also, choose your tour operator wisely. Go for the eco-friendly options, such as Asia Tour Advisor, who walks the talk with waste reduction, energy saving, and all-around green goodness.
Supporting these eco-heroes means you're part of the crew saving Halong Bay, one sustainable tour at a time.
Finally, ditch the single-use plastic drama. Bring a reusable water bottle and say no to plastic straws. Consider eco-friendly toiletries to keep things clean without messing up the bay.
Let's keep Halong Bay stunning, sustainable, and ready to wow generations of travelers!
Do I Need To Bring Cash On The Cruise? What Will I Spend Cash On?
Bringing cash on your cruise is not mandatory because many expenses like accommodation, meals, and onboard activities are in your package.
However, having cash comes in handy for tipping the crew, purchasing souvenirs, or enjoying optional activities at ports.
I Booked A 2D1N Cruise; Why Is It Less Than 24 Hours?
A 2D1N cruise typically includes two days and one night, but the exact hours vary. The count starts when you board, and disembarkation often occurs the next day before noon. It's designed to give you a full day of exploration and relaxation in Halong Bay.
What Will Happen To My Cruise In Bad Weather?
In bad weather, the cruise itineraries will be adjusted for safety. Some activities will be substituted, and routes could change.
For example, instead of the beach, they might take you on a captivating journey through a hidden cave or offer an impromptu cooking class on board.
In the worst-case scenario, they'll cancel your cruise and refund you.
Can I Smoke On The Cruise?
Smoking policies vary, but many cruises have designated smoking areas on open decks. However, smoking is often restricted in indoor and communal spaces to ensure a comfortable environment for all passengers.
Is there Wi-Fi on Board?
Yes. However, the connectivity might be limited, and internet speed can be slower than you're used to on land. So, be prepared for intermittent access and consider disconnecting to enjoy the natural beauty around you.
If I’m Pregnant, Can I Experience A Cruise?
Typically, you can experience a cruise before the 24th week of your pregnancy. However, always check with the cruise operator and consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a cruise while pregnant.
Remember to consider the stage of pregnancy, cruise duration, and medical conditions for your safety and well-being.
Does Cruise Make Me seasick?
Seasickness varies from person to person. Modern cruise ships have stabilizers to minimize motion, and many passengers don't experience seasickness.
If you're concerned, choose a midship cabin, where the movement is typically less noticeable. Also, consider medications or remedies recommended by your healthcare provider.
Asia Tour Advisor Is Always Ready To Accompany With You On Every Trip!
Asia Tour Advisor Is Always Ready To Accompany With You!
Planning your trip is exciting but also overwhelming. That's where Asia Tour Advisor steps in! We're your travel buddy committed to making your adventure smooth and unforgettable.
We offer tours in Southeast Asia countries, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand in various durations. We even combine these tours so you can explore multiple countries at once.
Check out our best Vietnam tour collections HERE!
Here's what we bring to your trip:
Personalized experiences just for you.
We specialize in creating custom travel plans based on what you love, whether diving into local cultures, exploring nature, or tasting delicious food. Our experienced team ensures that your journey aligns perfectly with your desires.
Locals showing you the real deal.
We believe in real experiences, not just touristy stuff. With Asia Tour Advisor, you get the insider's scoop from locals who know the most worth-visit spots. You'll discover hidden gems and cultural wonders you won't find in travel guides.
Stress-free planning made it easy.
Planning a trip can be a headache, but not with us. Asia Tour Advisor takes care of all the nitty-gritty details, from where you'll stay to how you'll get around. You focus on enjoying the adventure, and we handle the planning.
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Asia Tour Advisor is your partner in creating memories. With a passion for exploration, a commitment to excellence, and a focus on making your journey unique, we'll assist you on every step of your Southeast Asia adventure!
Above are some Halong Bay cruise tips I’ve learned along the way. While there are a couple of tweaks I'd make for my next visit, it easily tops my list of Vietnam adventures.
Hopefully, the tips I share in this article will be helpful for your upcoming trip. If you're gearing up for your own cruise and have burning questions, message me! I'll answer all the details.
And after you've set sail and soaked in those stunning views, share your Halong Bay tales with me. How was the trip? Any game-changing tips you'd throw into the mix?
Let's keep this Halong Bay cruise conversation going!