Ha Long Bay has been on bucket-list since my first visit to Asia. When I final made it to Vietnam a few years ago, I couldn’t make it to Ha Long Bay due to my limited schedule. I promised myself I would make it back there someday. Since then I have been dreaming of those stunning waters and limestone cliffs for years. I finally made good on my promise when I returned to Vietnam. I was so excited and nervous after hearing conflicting things about Ha Long Bay. Now having visited I can honestly say go, it is totally worth the hype if you do it right.
Cruising Ha Long Bay
After making our way to the port with our included transfer we checked into Pelican Cruises for our 2 night 3 day trip. We then got our room assignments and went to check out our digs. I was totally impressed with our room. The bathroom was small but nicely done and the beds were super comfy. The whole room very tasteful decorated. The big wow factor had to be the sliding doors that could be opened out to the sea for floor to ceiling water views.
We then got a yummy buffet lunch as the crew went over some safety briefings.
Soon enough we were setting sailing and heading for our first location. We made it to a pearl farm where we learned about how pearls are made and harvested. Here we also had the option to kayak around the cove and explore a bit on our own. Of course we couldn’t wait to get out on the water and we opted to kayak the cove. The water was so calm and the brightest emerald green. We then made our way back to the boat and headed for Titop Island. Here there are a few different activities to choose from.
The most popular being lounging on the beach or climbing to the top of the island.
Can ya guess what ya girl did? Yep I hiked up those 400 steps with a big ole’ smile on my face while beads of sweat streamed down my back. Seriously it was so hot that it made this a very difficult climb. My motivation was the grannies that made it look like no big deal. I figured if they could do it so could I. When I made it to the top I seriously was already so out of breathe I almost got the wind knocked out of me when I looked down towards the bay. This was the perfect postcard view of Ha Long Bay with the ships at sunset.
The hike was 100% worth the pain.
Once back on the boat we were greeted with happy hour specials which I enjoyed while reading on the deck of the boat. There was also a spring roll demonstration before dinner. After our cooking class in Ho Chi Minh Ashley and I were pros and even impressed the chef with our skills. We then had a massive five course meal topped off with show stopping desert that was literally on fire.
We woke up on day two totally refreshed. Those of us who were on the three day option transferred to a small boat. While a bit smaller it was very luxurious. The inside was so beautifully decorated and the top deck was outfitted with couches in the shade and chairs for tanning. Our first stop of the day was to a fishing village. What makes this village special is that it was completely on the water and thus a floating village. We got to explore the village on our own in kayaks.
I loved getting a glimpse of what life would be like living in a floating village.
After the fishing village we went to Tien Ong Cave. Here we explored the cave and got to learn a little about the history of Ha Long Bay, its settlers and the nature. We then set sail to the most beautiful coves and bays. Here we were the only ones around. One of the major complaints I heard about Ha Long Bay was how over run with tourists it was. For this whole day we were the only boat for miles. We didn’t see any other boats until dinner time.
Pelican took great care to show us and take us to spots that had little to now tourists.
When we returned to our boat on day two we were greeted by another cooking demonstration and half price cocktails. I enjoyed reading my book on the deck while watching an epic sunset. We had another great five course meal and then off to our beautiful and comfy beds.
When I woke up on day three I was so sad to be saying good bye to Ha Long Bay. I decided to skip the mornings excursion and instead read my book on the top deck of the boat. I really wanted to soak in the last of the amazing views before we left. The others took a smaller boat to Hang Sung Sot Cave. Apparently I didn’t miss much as everyone told me this was the low point of the trip as there were a lot of tourists there. This is a popular day trip interest point so makes sense it would have a ton of tourists. Afterwards everyone hopped back on the boat and we headed for the harbor and said good bye to our amazing crew.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Ha Long Bay. Some good and some bad. While I can only truly speak to my experience I believe Ha Long Bay gives you what you put into it. If you are going to do it on a budget and only do a day trip, it is NOT worth it. Day trip boats all go to the same places. Therefore all these spots will be overcrowded and not a great experience. Also because you are limited on time, the boats simply cannot go out far enough for you to see the true Ha Long Bay.
This is one of the cases when you really should not skimp out. If you really want to see and have a great experience you have to do an overnight trip. This way you can go past the touristy areas and see the serene part of Ha Long Bay. I recommend doing the 2 night, 3 night options as this will ensure you get out far enough to be the only boat in the bay.
What boat and cruise company you choose matters. Do your research and make sure your cruise company is legit. I have heard horror stories about people who booked private rooms and ended up sharing rooms with strangers. Even worse not being able to board their boat because the company over sold spots. Make sure your company has photos and read reviews. I cannot recommend Pelican Cruises enough and I would choose them again in a heart bear. Everything was simply perfect and I got the trip to Ha Long Bay I always dreamed of.
*All opinions are my own. Pelican Cruises did not pay or sponsor me for my review. This is my 100% honest review of cruising Ha Long Bay with Pelican Cruises 🙂