Cruising Ha Long Bay, Vietnam is at the top of many travelers bucket lists with it’s stunning rock formations and floating villages but what if you could visit a less-crowded, more exclusive part of the bay and do it aboard a beautiful ship, with a luxury cabin and enjoy 10-course meals? There’s only one company who can provide you a true luxury cruise and has the 12 years of experience to prove it. Indochina Junk is Halong Bay’s leading provider of luxury overnight cruises aboard their best ship, The Dragon Legend, and provides guests with a truly memorable experience that submerses them in the culture of Vietnam and the natural beauty of the rock formations.
With over 6 ships of varying size and styles to choose from, they offer a wide range of cruise options from 1-day to 4-day/3-night cruises. While not all the boats are considered ‘luxury’, the services provided by the staff and the quality of any ship in their fleet makes visitors on any boat feel like royalty. Our particular experience was aboard their finest ship The Dragon Legend, and we were incredibly impressed by the quality of the cabin and all services provided.
Pickup for the 3-day/2-night cruise begins in Hanoi with an early (and on-time) pickup from your hotel. Indochina Junk states that their vans are luxury and we were surprised to see that indeed, the transportation was some of the best we’ve seen for the 3-4 hour drive out to Ha Long Bay. Vans seat no more than 7 people, with large leather chairs, cup-holders, complimentary water and best of all, wifi that is so strong I was able to stream my Spotify playlists and another guest told me she could stream Netflix. While ideally you should be looking out the window and observing the different areas during the drive, this might be a good time to check those emails and Facebook posts because there isn’t wifi on board the ships. Along the way, you stop at a craft shop for 30 minutes that sells artwork made by local disabled people and orphans, helping to provide them better opportunities. The art is quite impressive even if the stop is a bit longer than necessary but it’s a welcome bathroom break and chance to stretch your legs, so take advantage of it.
Upon arrival a the Harbor, staff takes your luggage and guests wait in a terminal for their particular cruise to be called to embark and can enjoy coffee or snacks for a small price. With bags already aboard, you’ll be called to depart by your guide who will be with you for the next several days. In our particular case, his name was Hoang (but prefers to be called ‘Smiley’) and he was a warm, funny, gregarious man who spoke great English and was truly happy to be with us. From the office, you walk to the pier to board a small boat out to the Dragon Legend and once aboard, prepare to be impressed by the accommodations. We’ve cruised quite a bit and are pretty used to walking into a room the size of a closet, even on luxury ships, so we were shocked at the size and luxuriousness of our cabin. The bed also happened to be the most comfortable bed we’ve been in since we began our 4month trip through Asia, it was amazing. Rich, dark wood is everywhere, the decorations are tasteful and the bathroom is also quite large, with a good portion of it taken up by my favorite thing in the world…A GIANT BATHTUB. I’m an obsessive bather and I think this was one of my favorite parts about the whole trip as the windows slide open and you can soak in a hot bath and watch the karsts go by. How amazing is that?
While unpacking, The Dragon Legend sets sail for Bai Tu Long Bay, a much less crowded part of Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay itself is packed with tons and tons of boats, ruining the illusion that you are alone on the waters in a time long ago, so this is one of the best features of the cruise with Indochina Junk. After you’re all settled in the cabin, it’s up to the main deck for a 10-course lunch that included soup, salad, shrimp, chicken and local beers and cocktails that are available for purchase (try the Ha Long beer!). Drink prices are higher than what you’ll pay at a mainland hotel or restaurant, so be sure to bring enough money for the cocktails you’ll want. Beers are around $3 and cocktails are closer to $7, which is a little high for Vietnam but this isn’t a booze cruise so it doesn’t end up being too bad.
Almost every meal you have is a 10-course affair, which is fun because you get to try many local dishes and if you don’t like one, you can just wait for the next course! Most of the meals are heavy on the seafood though so if you don’t like fish, you may want to speak with staff prior to the cruise to see if there are any other options available. After lunch the first day, you have the opportunity to go kayaking or to just relax on board before dinner. Dinners are served inside in the elegant dark wood dining room and all the guests eat at the same time with amazing staff members like our server, Thomas, to take care of your every need. After bed, you can relax on the top deck and look at the stars, try your hand at squid fishing off the back of the boat (hubby actually saw someone catch one!) or just go back to your cabin for a nice bath, movie or book. It’s a very laid back experience, which is great because you’ll be in bed early enough to be awake for morning tai chi on the sundeck at 7:30!
Both mornings, you can rise with the sun and get the day started with 20 minutes of tai chi, which is a bit like stretching before a workout combined with slow fighting-style movements. It’s a great and invigorating way to start the morning before heading to breakfast where you’ve got the choice of continental or Vietnamese Pho…don’t miss out on trying the Vietnamese coffee, it’s the best! From there on out, it’s a day of adventure where you’ll visit the floating village of Vung Vieng via a traditional rowboat, a pearl farm where they show you how they get oysters to grow the shiny orbs, and then a wonderful and enormous bbq lunch on a secluded island beach with a visit to a cave on the island afterward. You’re not done yet though because if you feel up to it, Hoang will take you on a kayaking tour to work off all those calories. It’s really quite a remarkable way to see the bay and was one of our more enjoyable experiences aboard.
Dinner that evening is preluded by a cooking demonstration where you learn how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and then are served another sumptuous feast of food. This is the ‘fancy’ evening on board where you’re treated to live music and performances and also introduced to all the staff, including the Chef and the Captain, all of whom are genuinely nice people who love what they do and are happy to be on board. When you’ve had your fill of food, it’s off to bed, the sky deck, or wherever else you want to enjoy your last night in the bay.
In the morning, breakfast is served again but save room for the brunch lunch you’ll enjoy shortly afterward as the Dragon Legend makes its way back to the harbor. All checked out of your cabin and well fed, it’s back to the pier where you’re settled back in to the vans for the journey back to Hanoi. There’s one surprise left, which is a stop at the small village of Yen Duc for some refreshments and a traditional water puppet show before you finish the drive back, arriving at your hotel around 5 pm.
Our experience with Indochina Junk lived up to the expectations and we highly recommend them if you are considering any length of cruise in Ha Long Bay. The staff were wonderful and in particular, the quality of food, service and accommodations aboard The Dragon Legend, far surpassed that of any other ship we’ve been on. If you want to feel lost in time and overcome by natural beauty, don’t hesitate to book a tour with Ha Long Bay’s leading provider. Click here to make a booking enquiry for The Dragon Legend or visit www.indochina-junk.com for more information.