What Really Makes a Halong Bay Cruise Luxury
For over more than a decade now, Halong Bay’s luxury tourism industry has seen its fastest development and economic growth like nowhere else in the country. With the help of a few prestigious world titles, modern technology, social media, online blogging, and a bit of a Hollywood exposure, more and more people from all around the globe are eyeing on visiting the fantasy-like Vietnam destination. And with a wide variety of fancy cruises (both wooden and steel) available all year long for bookings, Halong Bay is definitely on top of every classy globetrotter’s travel bucket list that’s shouldn’t be missed.
But having options can only be good at a certain amount. With the success of Halong Bay over the last years setting itself as a frontrunner in luxury cruising in Southeast Asia, some few select people have taken complete advantage of the situation.
There are about an estimated 500 cruise companies that currently operate on the shores of Halong Bay daily, most of which claim themselves as luxury cruises. So for any first timers trying to select the best cruise in Halong, with that much options, it could turn out more of a daunting activity rather than an exciting one. Luckily for us, TripAdvisor is there to help us out on where to put our money in.
To help you better understand and visualize what a luxury Halong Bay cruise really is or should be, we’ve made a short list of points that you need to go through before hitting that ‘Book’ button.
First, let’s define the word luxury.
Please be reminded that the word luxury changes definition from one context to another. And for some reasons here in Vietnam, the word gets used a lot more by companies than anywhere else in the region. But generally speaking, most people would associate this word a lot with comfort and expensive, which again, can vary from one person’s relative perspective to another.
To make it simpler for everyone, a true Halong Bay definition of luxury has to do a lot with silence, privacy, and peace of mind. In all honesty, these three concepts are actually hard to come by especially now in this day and age. Only when you truly disconnect yourself from the outside noise can these three things be obtained. And what better way to distance yourself from all the distractions of technology than going on a luxury cruise in Halong Bay?
What’s included on a luxury cruise?
Typically, a luxury cruise in Halong Bay should feel more or less like a floating and drifting boutique hotel. The most popular cruise itinerary that travelers book is the 2Days 1Night Package. This package includes an overnight stay onboard, a cozy cabin with a balcony for private enjoyment of the views or even for private dining options, visits to the iconic sites, destination experts to guide your way through the islands, interactive onboard excursions like Tai Chi on the sundeck, traditional cooking classes, tea ceremonies, and squid fishing at night, a rare chance to see far-flung parts of the bay, an opportunity to see exotic animals (like the Cat Ba Langurs) and plants, and of course indulge in a plethora of fine dining options throughout the itinerary.
On the other hand, not everything is included in the package. The list starts from the transfer to and from Halong Bay, which you have to pay extra upon booking the cruise. Drinks onboard are not included. The list goes on with things like tips, personal tour guide (especially for those who are non-English speakers), and the spa services.
As for extra luxury, whether for individuals, couples, or a group of friends or family who want to push their budget a little bit further for extra comfort and extraordinary experiences, a private limousine, seaplane services, and helicopter services are also offered as transfers to and from Hanoi & Halong Bay. We’re guessing that seeing Halong Bay from a cruise would not be luxurious enough for some people, so two options from seeing it from the skies above are now available as well.
Other options for the ultimate luxury experience of Halong Bay is booking a charter cruise, which is the perfect option for those who want to have their own personal butlers onboard to guide them throughout the journey and for those want to customize their Halong Bay itinerary to their liking. This option will also include customization of the menu and the time spent on each site.
Talking price tags
What’s interesting about the major luxury cruises in Halong Bay is that it changes prices depending on the season, the duration of your stay, the level of service you want to experience, and most importantly the size and capacity of the boat. Most often than not, the smaller the boat is, the pricier it gets. This is mainly because of the privacy it gives you. Smaller boats also mean having to spend less time gathering people and leading them to excursions, making it much more efficient and effective for both the clients and the operators. So in general, the quality of the experiences also increases when the groups are smaller.
Luxury cruising prices in Halong Bay start at an average of US$250-US$300 per cabin (good for 2 people) per night and can go up to US$1500-US$2000 per cabin per night, depending on the availability, the cabin type, the boat category, and the level of service that the booker wants. From there, you’d have to pay extra for the transfers, whether you’d prefer to share with other tourists, a private car, a seaplane ride, or a helicopter service, to reach the bay from Hanoi and back. In addition, as pointed out earlier, drinks and tips are not included in the package prices.
In summary, yes, doing a true luxury cruise in Halong Bay comes with a price tag. So the next time you see someone offering you a luxury cruise in Halong Bay for less than US$250, better check again and make sure you gather as much information as possible.
Experience like no other
A two-time UNESCO World Heritage Site award holder and named as one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature, Halong Bay is definitely a destination like no other. From its stunning and memorable sunrises and sunsets, the awe-inspiring landscapes that make you forget all your problems, its thousand years-old history and culture that dates back to the royal dynasties, and the insurmountable number of fauna and flora that are readily available to be explored by both enthusiasts and experts, these are more than enough reasons to convince yourself on why you should take some time to book a cruise and pack your bags to see Halong Bay at least once.
In a way, traveling to a place like Halong Bay should never be considered twice by any existing human being on this planet. And while you’re planning on when to go yourself, might as well splurge on it and experience the bay on a luxury cruise. You’ll never know when you’ll get another chance to witness such beauty again in your lifetime.