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I took a 2d1n trip on this tour with my fiancee from Hanoi. The bus journey to the port is about 3 hours. The ride is bumpy, and if u can’t stomach motion sickness, prepare some medication before hand.
Checking into the boat is a breeze from the port. The tour guide will help with the necessary documents. As we depart from the port on a smaller boat and into the open sea to embark the main cruise, I was quietly hoping that our cruise is one of the “newer” looking ones. Fortunately, it turned out that Alova Cruises had one of the better maintained cruise. The boats had a fresh coat of paint and is nicely done up.
Once on the cruise, we are treated to a welcome cocktail. The guide and bartender on the boat speaks relatively good english. Itinerary includes all meals on board, kayaking, trekking to the top of one of the islands in Halong Bay, cave exploration etc. The tours are alright since the main attraction is just to soak yourself in the amazing scenery of Halong Bay.
Not sure for other cruise, but Alova’s onboard meals are quite nice. There are efforts to decorate the dishes and make them appetising. The presentation and taste can be comparable to some restaurants in Hanoi city. But as most Viet cuisines, some dishes are repeated and it gets a bit boring eating the same thing from all the tours in Hanoi and Halong Bay.
The room on the cruise is nicely refurbished. I guess our boat was renovated not long ago. I paid for the higher price room which is at the lower deck. It has a attached toilet and is away from the busy kitchen and bar at the upper deck. There is no views from the lower deck though, but at least there is some privacy. The room has a double bed and a day bed next to the window. No TV, but there is an aircon. The toilet is clean and actually quite spacy despite it being a cruise.
As for the staff, they are friendly and caring. I was down with gastric and diarrhea on my 2nd day, and the staff was caring enough to bring me medicine. They also allow me to rest in the cabin, although it is time to checkout.
Lastly, do not save $ on the room. I think the rooms at the upper deck ain’t comfortable enough. Although there is nice window view towards the ocean, but there is no attached toilet. It is also next to the bar and kitchen. Kitchen smell, loud music, engine noise, foot steps can be a turn off whenever u stay in the room for a quick nap or rest.