When planning our trip to Vietnam, I was told the Ha Long Bay Cruise was the number one thing… the must do experience. After several Google searches Anna and I determined that a Party Cruise versus the traditional cruise (full of old people) was the best choice for our group. There are many websites for Vietnamese based tour companies, I actually found the best deals through booking.com. We selected Ha Long Party Cruise for $110 which was inclusive of all meals and transport between an Old Quarter hotel in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.
The shuttle van far exceeded the expectations for our group of 8 and contained charging outlets and a television /DVD player. The coach style seats reclined allowing for the most ideal sleeping position you can have in a motor vehicle. About half way to Ha Long Bay the shuttle van stops at a tourist center with restroom facilities, shopping and a snack bar. Of course we bought roadies for the continuation of our journey and ice cream flavored Oreos😍
Upon arrival at the pier we were ushered to a covered waiting area, before boarding our traditional style Chinese Junk Boat. All the cabins are air conditioned and have an en-suite bathroom, however mediocre in decor, but what do you expect with party boat. Presents of two beers per person and a bottle of water were laid out on the beds Santa Claus style. There was a large dining and social area with a bar and roof-top deck with lounge chairs. Upon arrival on the boat, lunch was served. Traditional Vietnamese style food was served family style. Each dish was spectacular and many left us scraping our plates. The cruise company can accommodate most dietary restrictions if notified in advance. Two of us elected to be vegetarian for our stay in Vietnam, as we heard cat and dog are common menu choices for dinner, terrifying!
Timing is everything and as much as Vietnam is part of Southeast Asia, Ha Long Bay actually sits further north on the latitude scale, making a boat cruise in January quite cold. As luck would have it we also chose the week it decided to rain, cutting out half the planned itinerary. Still bundled up and with beers for warmth we sailed towards the Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace cave). The Ha Long cave system is one of the largest in the world. The guide on-board the cruise leads you thru on a tour of this beautiful cave.
Back on the boat with kayaking, swimming and snorkeling being a bit too titanic-esque, the decision was made to open the bar and start the ‘party’ early. With rain pouring down our group crowded around a dining table to play drinking games. Beverage prices on-board were fair and the bar staff keeps a tally to settle at the conclusion of the cruise. We snuck a bottle of Absolut and mixers on board to save cash, however that quickly drowned amongst 8 friends.
Dinner was served in the same manner as lunch and was exceptionally filling and delicious. After dinner the lights were dimmed and be DJ began spinning hits as the party kicked into high gear. Dancing and drinking games dotted the room and at this point, typical Patty started buying trays of shots for the group. This is also where I stop, because what happens on the boat stays on the boat and we will leave it at that. Also I really just don’t remember! Turning in at 3:30 I could still hear the bass shattering thru my cabin.
Seven-thirty am comes awful early after a night of fun and the cruise does require a ridiculous check out of 8:30. After another filling and delicious breakfast with, thankfully, gallons of coffee the group is split between those with 1 and 2 night bookings. Due to our weather constraints we spent the morning watching the rain and chilling in the dining area before our cooking class. The boat staff gives an excellent demonstration on how to make spring rolls and after much practice we too are now well versed in the art of making this yummy snack.
Before departing the boat, lunch is served because hadn’t we already gained 5 pounds on this boat? Luckily we received our same fancy shuttle coach back to the Old Quarter of Hanoi and all taking a much needed nap! Our future plans to visit Vietnam defiantly include another Ha Long Bay boat cruise, likely the 2 night option, this time in a proper season to swim in the bay!
Way too Wanderlust Recommends
Ha Long Party Cruises booked via www.booking.com
Bai Chay Wharf, Ha Long, Vietnam
Do or die
•Always check the weather
•Always pack a deck of cards