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At first, I was hesitant to visit Halong Bay because from what I’ve read, travel will take four hours from Hanoi. But the lovely staff of Hanoi Paradise Hotel said a trip to Hanoi is not complete without visiting Hanoi Bay. So I took the 1 day Halong Bay Tour. And they are definitely right!
Though the travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay was about 3 to 4 hours, our tour guide Sunny made us feel comfortable throughout the trip and seemed like everyone was family. I also liked how he described Hanoi and Halong Bay. I usually sleep during long bus rides but the sights of Vietnam are just lovely to see so no time to sleep. Though weather was chilly and cold, Halong Bay was so magical, you couldn’t believe you were seeing the sights you usually see in TV shows, books and the internet. Food was okay since I’m Asian, the lunch was really nothing new to me. Our tour guide Sunny also made an effort for us in the tour group to know each other and talk and he was also so accommodating and funny as well. Enjoyed the bamboo boat as well though would have loved to kayak but changed my mind.
It was definitely lovely to spend a birthday (which I chose not to mention to everyone) at Halong Bay! Hope to get to visit again during summer.
As a part of our group tour in Vietnam I was lucky to have visited the Ha long Bay, in one of Alova Gold Cruise Boats. The group included 12 Sri Lankans and 4 German guests. The very friendly, very courteous, very soft spoken Dutch manager, Sidney, and very friendly and witty tour guide Kim met us at the bay and helped us into the transfer boat.
We reached the Alova Gold Cruise in 10 minutes or so. In the boat, we were received warmly by the crew and served with a refreshing welcome drink.
The cabins were small , clean, self-containing and air-conditioned. The bed and the pillows were comfortable, There large curtained window overlooked the stunning Ha-long scenery. The tiny wash room had all the basics inclusive of hot water. But the hot water flow and the temperature of water, as warned , was quite unpredictable. This was the only negative thing about the cabin and the entire cruise.
The food, Oh the food, was absolutely fantastic. There was plenty of variety, quantity and the presentation was superb. Sidney and Kim were there to eat with us and share their wisdom about the cuisine and the surroundings. All 3 meals we had in the cruise were super and delightful. There was a lot of fresh fruit to go around.
There was a lot of activities packed into the 24 hours we spent in the cruise. We stopped by and explored one of the tall Kursk’s , climbing a strenuous 425 steep steps. The view of the bay from the top was quite worth the climb. After that there was kayaking under Kim’s guidance. We could not swim because of the chilly February waters in the bay. Before dinner we took part in a cookery demo by the chef, how to make spring rolls, which was fun. The bar had a stock of stuff with a good variety of cocktails.
After dinner we watched the crew do squid fishing. In the night we sat on the deck chairs under the moonlight and sang our favorite Sri Lankan and German songs into the still, chilly Ha long bay. This was my favorite moment of the entire holiday.
Next morning we stopped by the “ Surprise cave “, and toured into an astonishing cave with various shaped stalactites and stalagmites. Before we left the boat, Kim obliged the ladies by showing how to make flowers with carrots, potato, cucumber and chilies. We were escorted to the harbor by a smaller boat, after goodbyes.
Well, what a wonderful 24 hours. Fun, Rest , Serenity, Good food and drinks, Adventure mixed with Warm Vietnamese hospitality and wonderful Vietnamese coffee. What a memorable combination.
So, this is a must to any traveler to Vietnam. Thanks a lot, Aloa Gold, Sydney, Kim and the entire crew for giving us this wonderful experience.
I’ve already posted this review but it has been deleted.
The reason given was that my review was concerning the overnight tour and not the day one. Even though you can find some good reviews concerning the overnight tour it appears that an average rating is not as well appreciated. Let’s give it another try…
My girlfriend and I went for 3 days 2 nights cruise.
The overall experience was pretty good but a few things could have definitely been better.
Plus side :
Our bedroom was nice and the bathroom was of a fairly decent size.
The room was pretty clean and had a some character.
The food was excelent. The fish we had on the boat during the second day trip was a killer!
The staff was really helpfull and friendly.
Down side :
We discovered that one of our window was covered by a vulgar plank of wood hiding the fact that the window was completely destroyed. Our guide told us that the window had been damaged during the previous trip and that they didn’t have the time to fix it!
It directly gave me a cheap feeling about the cruise. A room with a window missing shouldn’t be occupied until it is fixed. I would also have prefered to be told that something was wrong with the room prior the check in rather than discover it by myself. During the booking process, I had specifically asked for a room away from the machine room . The only solution I was given by the guide after everybody had checked in was to go in a room closer to the engine and generator.
When we checked in we had 2 small bottles of water in our room, it’s all we had during our trip! Don’t expect to have free water during your lunch or dinner. You’ll have to buy everything.
During our second day trip, the weather was pretty cold.
We went kayaking and once back on the boat there was no heating.
A complimentary hot drink would also have been much appreciated but once again we had to pay for the cup of coffee.
It doesn’t cost a lot to provide a complimentary mug of water and a complimentary hot drink during the day. It’s the kind of small attention that you expect from a 3 stars cruise.
We had a few soft drinks and cocktails during our meals.
The prices of the drinks on the menu are pretty expensive considering what you would usually pay in Vietnam. But considering you’re on a cruise, let’s say it’s fair enough! But be aware that the prices on the menu don’t include the 15% taxes and service surchage. At the end of the day it makes a noticeable difference.
On the way back to Hanoi, we were separated from the group we had travelled with.
2 persons who were not part of our cruise were put in the van with our friends and we had to join the van of another group. The driver we had on our way to Halong Bay was pretty cautious and was driving reasonably. The driver we had to go back to Hanoi was once again a speeding and overtaking maniac.
The last tiny downside was that our boat didn’t have sails! It’s not really important but when we think to junks on Halong Bay we think to boats with sails. We saw other Alova’s boat and they had sails but our didn’t. By the way the other boat we saw also looked more recent.
Overall the experience was far from being terrible but when we add all the small downside together, it was pretty average!
Visited February 2013
I visited Hanoi last year in July with my wife and we knew we had to visit Ha Long Bay. We took the 2 day cruise with Alova, because we read good things about it on trip advisor and it was without a doubt the highlight of our vacation. From the moment they picked us up from our hotel, to the moment they brought us back it was very well organized. The guide was very knowledgeable and cruise manager Mr Sydney was a great host! We had a nice diverse group of fellow travelers and Sydney made sure everybody had a good time.
When we checked in on the boat they showed us the room, which was pretty spacious for a boat and also the bathroom was nice and clean. On the first day you sail into Ha Long Bay where we went on a kayak trip, after that we visited Ti Top Island where you have a lookout point from where you can make some amazing shots of the whole bay. After that you go back to the boat to have dinner. The food was great, they offer typical Vietnamese dishes. You learn how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and then you can enjoy them during dinner. I do not like seafood, but that was not a problem, they made me some special non seafood dishes.
Because of the good atmosphere that was created between all the passengers we had a great evening at the bar and on the sundeck of the boat. The next morning after breakfast you visit the Sung Sot cave, which is a spectacular large cave and from where you again have some spectacular views of Ha Long Bay. For us the tour with Alova to Ha Long Bay was the highlight of our Hanoi trip. It is a great way to see the beautiful scenery, but also to make friends!
Visited July 2012
We were couple having a 2D1N trip to Halong Bay. Overall, we are satisfied during our stay with Alova Gold Cruise.
What we like:
- Well-organized trip
- Clean & well-maintained bed room
- 5-star Vietnamese food on board. The lunch and dinner were above our expectation.
- Fresh juice & mocktail are excellent
- Quite night on board
- No pressure to buy drink or giving the tip (we bought the drink and gave the tip by the way)
- No fishing time. We were expecting this
- The air-con wooden bracket was producing annoying sound
- Cooking class was just teaching how to roll a spring roll
- We can’t find the hammer in the room (we did not want to sweat the small stuff, so we did not complaint at that time)
We were greated at our hotel by our tour guide Sunny, he could not have been more knowledgeable and friendly. The boat was lovely and the trip to Halong Bay was epic and definately a must see. We were really satisfied with the quality of this trip. The food was amazing and really diverse, but what made it for us was Sunny. he seemed genuinely interested in our trip and helping us get the most out of Vietnam- so thank you for a great time!!
I signed my family (3 young adults and one teen) up for an overnight on Halong Bay. I had read that this was a “must do” when visiting Vietnam, but I really didn’t know what to expect. Lucky and the driver picked us up from our hotel pretty early and they let us sleep for a little bit before starting to talk and explain the trip. My children and I enjoyed the whole process. The boat (Alova Gold Cruises) and the rooms were comfortable and clean. The food was delicious and the activities were fun and explained very well by Lucky. We also liked Mr. Chinh, our bartender. All the staff aboard expressed concern that we were enjoying the experience. I felt we had a great mix of people (I know this is luck of the draw) and greatly enjoyed socializing with the Europeans and Australians that joined us (we are from the US). Traveling like this, you need to be open to new experiences. I wasn’t surprised by the beverage bill at the end as I was expecting it.
Only tiring period on this trip was probably the journey to and from Ha Long bay with Alova Gold Cruises, but the bus was comfortable enough. Our tour guide Hui ( Johnny ) was courteous, honest and genuinely interested to show was Vietnam has to offer. The Junk was average in size, reasonably clean, comfortable rooms. The highlight was Ha Long Bay, relaxing and enjoying the breeze on the upper deck of the junk. Meals were generous but not spectacular. The Junk looks tired externally, but the interior is more presentable and clean. Conclusion it was a good trip with, everything was thought of to ensure guest request were entertained. Had fun though….but could be better.