With a wide range of biodiversity, and nearly 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald water of the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay, or the Bay of Descending Dragons, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its majestic landscape was amazingly filmed in the famous Indochine (1992), and the box-office blockbuster Kong: Skull Island (2017).
Numerous islands topped with rainforests and mysterious wave-eroded grottoes unsurprisingly make Halong Bay become number one tourism hub in Northern Vietnam. It cannot be denied that the best way to explore this myriad of exotic islets and hidden gems is by going on a cruise. However, with a large number of options and itineraries, how will you choose the one that suits your personal interests? For Vietnam vacations, here are the top 8 luxury cruises for your Halong Bay excursion, suggested by Exotic Voyages experts. They are all passionately committed to socially responsible travel.
For first-time visitors, we have essential tips for the most memorable experiences on the bay. The tips come with a map of all the attractions, harbors, and suggested activities.
As a member of Halong Bay’s largest fleet of cruise boats and ships, the luxury Ylang sails the far-flung corners of the tranquil Lan Ha Bay. Each of the 10 exquisite suites is designed elegantly with Indochinese touches and decorated with floral images, bringing a romantic and nostalgic feel. All suites come with a private balcony, a sofa lounge area, beds facing the stunning landscapes of the bay, and a bathtub with a built-in lava stone water filtration system to soothe your skin and soul.
Ylang cruise offers 2-night excursions taking its guests to venture through the limestone islets to go deeper into the natural beauty, kayak on the bay, relax by a secluded beach, discover a charming floating village, and cycle on the Cat Ba National Park while still enjoying holistic wellness experiences onboard, morning Tai Chi and spa treatments to name a few.
Make your stay more special with breakfast served on your private balcony or a candlelit romantic dinner. Ylang’s restaurant also caters menu to vegetarians and other dietaries (Photo: Ylang Cruise)
* Ylang offers one and two-night cruises on Lan Ha Bay.
Being the first daughter of the Heritage Line family, beautiful Ginger has the theme of Vietnamese heritage. Twelve luxury suites are designed delicately with elegant furnishing, local arts, and wood panels encrusted with graceful motifs. All have spacious balconies, bathtubs overlooking the bay, and beds facing sweeping views of the sea. Blue Phoenix and White Crane are the two most luxurious suites. Intricate floral paintings, gleaming gold leaf decor, and warm lighting add a romantic ambiance to the cabin.
Ginger pampers her guests with unique culinary experiences that come with an open kitchen for live cooking that allows guests to observe chefs presenting their creations while enjoying the culinary delights with panoramic views. Scrumptious a la carte menus offer a wide range selection from fresh local dishes to fine western food to satisfy all tastes. The open kitchen also welcomes curious guests to engage in its hands-on interactive cooking session where chefs are eager to share some of the classic Vietnamese recipes.
In her two-day-one-night voyage, Ginger will sail you into hidden worlds. Relax on the sundeck and soak in the tranquil environment while your cruise passes by the surreal seascapes. Go ashore for a leisure bike ride to an isolated village where you can see how villagers are self-sufficient in their life then feel a sense of freedom while paddling on the jade-green water through islets (Photo: Ginger Cruise)
* Ginger offers one and two-night cruises on Lan Ha Bay.
Inspired by the lavish style of Emperor Bao Dai, Emperor Cruise is an all-inclusive cruise in Halong Bay where you can explore the breathtaking natural scenery, and enjoy the utmost in luxury, and top-notch services while discovering Vietnamese history and culture.
The Panorama Restaurant, Lounge, and Bar guarantee beautiful views of ever-changing fairytale landscapes. Here you can freely sunbathe or have a cool drink at the bar while admiring the superb panorama, the stunning sunset, or even joining an interesting cooking class and wine tasting. The eatery is spacious enough to offer you relaxation options as well as an open-air cinema.
Taking the first rays of sunshine and attending a Vovinam session - traditional Vietnamese martial arts - seems to be an ideal way to start your new day. Likewise, you are introduced to the old Vietnamese art of drinking tea, savoring the finest Vietnamese coffee, and even trying your hand to make the iconic café filter or iced milk coffee for yourself. Not only tea and coffee, the cruise also serves complimentary wines, soft drinks, beers, spirits, and cocktails.
Emperor also offers an all-inclusive cruise experience that includes accommodations, meals, drinks, activities, and massages that make it possible to have a worry-free vacation (Photo: Emperor Cruise).
* Emperor Cruise offers two and three-night cruises on Ha Long Bay.
Halong Bay is truly exceptional and cruising the bay on the Orchid Premium, with only 5 spacious cabins, completes the experience. Ranged from 45 sqm to 96 sqm, all are beautiful with Indochine-style architecture, king-sized beds, a private balcony, a jacuzzi, and a bathtub overlooking the Gulf. The warm interior exudes nostalgia and romance that enhance your voyage into the charming world heritage.
Its spacious sundeck with a large jacuzzi, comfortable lounge area, and sunbeds are positioned to help you take in the impressive scenery of the emerald waters as well as dramatic limestone formations. Spa treatment with fully trained therapists helps restore your mind and body balance. Orchid Premium also provides outstanding 24/7 private butler service to make sure her guests enjoy the trip to the fullest.
Not only that, take your time to visit Trung Trang Cave in Cat Ba National Park. The cave is in the middle of Kim Giao Forest, popularly known for its million-year geological tectonics. Later, swim in the clean, clear water when Orchid Premium enters the pristine Tra Bau before savoring a delicious dinner in which the traditional flavors of the East perfectly with the exquisite cuisine of the West (Photo: Orchid Premium Cruise).
* Orchid Premium offers one-night cruises on Halong and Lan Ha Bay.
Belongs to the Indochina Sails family, there is no doubt that Indochina Premium is one of the top choices for you to explore the spectacular natural wonders.
23 cabins are beautifully designed in traditional Vietnamese style with tasteful interiors, luxurious linens, en suite bathrooms, and comfortable bedding looking over the world heritage site. All of them are wholly built of aged and aromatic wood - Huong timber which is good for your health as well as creates a rich and warm ambiance. There are choices of double beds or twins in superior and deluxe cabin categories.
If you fancy the idea of engaging in outdoor activities besides cruising the bay, the junk offers an excellent chance to explore hidden gems in Ha Long Bay. Island climbing for the best panoramic views, kayaking through spectacular caves, or evening squid fishing all are performed to be overwhelmed by the wealth and beauty of wildlife (Photo: Indochina Sails Premium).
* Indochina Sails Premium offers one and two-night cruises on Ha Long Bay.
Taking its name from the Binh Chuan Ship of Bach Thai Buoi, the King of Ship in Hai Phong Province more than 100 years ago, Heritage Binh Chuan offers unique and authentic experiences to explore the Gulf of Tonkin.
The cruise has 20 cabins, ranging from 33 sqm to 46 sqm, with high ceilings and window walls that allow guests to have a full panoramic ocean view. All are furnished with attention-to-detail furniture and paintings delivering an authentic charm of French Indochina and Vietnamese heritages. Private balconies with sunbeds and complimentary minibars (refilled daily) in every cabin, a swimming pool on the Panorama Deck, L’Art de l’Annam gallery, and White Lotus spa ensure your stay with comfort and relaxation. Le Tonkin and L’Indochine restaurants craft dining experience infused with the finest ingredients and creativities.
For guests to truly live the destination, Heritage Cruise offers one to four-day voyages on the Gulf of Tonkin. A wide range of activities is created to allow guests to explore the local life, nature, culture, and adventure. Those who book Captain and Regal suites have a complimentary private dinner (Photo: Heritage Binh Chuan Cruise).
* Heritage Binh Chuan offers one to four-day cruises on the Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay.
As the second of the three Orchid sisters operated by Pelican Vietnam, Orchid Classic is built in style with classic Indochine architecture. 14 cozy cabins with polished wooden furniture, private balconies, and private baths overlooking the gulf deliver a sense of tropical luxury.
Its glass-wall restaurant is something that you will never forget. Natural and fresh ingredients with exotic Vietnamese spices create a delightful dining experience. There are alternatives for people with dietary restrictions.
Orchid Classic offers one and two-night voyages on Halong and Lan Ha Bay. The cruises take you to the most beautiful place on the bay and are packed with activities, such as cave exploration, biking, swimming, kayaking, cooking classes, and morning Tai Chi. Orchid Classic’s staff provides super service with attention to detail and the warmth of smiles (Photo: Orchid Classic Cruise).
* Orchid Classic offers one and two-night cruises on Halong and Lan Ha Bay.
Sena cruise is less expensive than the other names on this list but it has a very good value compared to its price. All 16 cabins have an elegant style with carefully chosen furnishing and private balconies to provide comfort and privacy. Couples who are seeking intimacy can choose the cozy and comfy executive cabins while families with kids can opt for the 50 sqm executive connecting cabins to have a sense of home away from home.
Sena cruise offers well-researched itineraries that allow her guests to experience the natural wonders beyond a cruising journey. Her leisure trips send you to fabulous seascapes of Dark and Bright Cave, Three Peaches Islet, and Frog Pond which are famed for their natural beauty. Your excursion is complete with other enjoyable activities such as swimming, biking, kayaking, cooking, and fishing. Don’t forget to marvel at the sunset of the Gulf of Tonkin (Photo: Sena Cruise).
* Sena Cruise offers one and two-night cruises on Halong and Lan Ha Bay.