*** Updated December 2019 ***
Halong Bay is one of the most visited areas in Vietnam and for good reason. The UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gulf In Tonkin is truly spectacular. The best way to see the stunning seascapes, limestone cliffs and 1600 odd islands and islets is on a Halong Bay luxury cruise. The cruise you choose can truly make or break the experience. There are literally hundreds of boats to chose from and it can be a mine field navigating the options. I searched through all the best Halong Bay cruises to find one perfect for our needs before deciding on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay. Our luxury Halong Bay cruise was an absolute highlight of our Vietnam trip and I cannot speak highly enough of about every single aspect of the experience. This is by no means a budget cruise, but if ever there was a time to splurge a little, this is it. I loved our Orchid Cruise Halong Bay so much I returned in October 2019 with a group of 11 ladies and we all had an amazing time. Read on for all the details …
Why Choose Orchid Cruise Halong Bay?
I did a lot of research on the best Halong Bay cruises before deciding an Orchid Cruise was the one for us. I knew I wanted our time in Halong Bay to be special and I only looked at luxury cruises which whittled down the choices considerably. Our time in Vietnam was tight and most Halong Bay cruises require a 4 hour transfer from Hanoi to the departure point but Orchid Cruise Halong bay departs from Hai Phong which is only about 1½ hours away. It was the only option that would allow us to make our flight after the cruise. Departing from Hai Phong also gives Orchid Cruises the edge on the competition who jostle for space in the increasing crowded Halong Bay. We knew we made made the right decision when we checked into our hotel The Hanoi Glance and the reception staff were suitably impressed to note we were being picked up by Orchid Cruise Halong Bay.
Booking Our Halong Bay Luxury Cruise
All websites are not the same! With the advent of online booking agencies you can book the best Halong Bay cruises through many different sites including the mega players Expedia and Agoda. I looked at dozens and the prices varied dramatically. I trawled through them all before deciding to book our Halong Bay overnight cruise through Vietnam Travel Center. Not only did they have the cheapest price on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay at USD$324 (a saving of over USD$380 on the most expensive price I saw), but the service was exceptional. We also organised a private return transfer from Hanoi through Vietnam Travel Center for USD$110 and paid an extra USD$20 to be dropped off directly at Hanoi Airport to ensure we made our budget Vietjet flight to Danang. Group transfers are also available for less if you prefer. Immediately after booking my travel consultant Trang made contact by email and assisted me through the whole process. She even personally called me twice while we were in Vietnam to make sure everything was on track. I cannot recommend these guys highly enough and they will be my go-to place for any future Vietnam trips. If you don’t want to spring for a luxury cruise it is possible to do Halong Bay on a budget.
Getting To Our Halong Bay Cruise
Our driver picked us up right on time at 9.45am and we were on our way to our luxury Halong Bay cruise in minutes. The car was clean and spacious and our driver was efficient and courteous. Trang, our agent from Vietnam Travel Center, called enroute to make sure everything was proceeding to plan. We were dropped at the Orchid Cruise Halong Bay transit lounge which had a lovely covered courtyard to shade us from the heat while we sipped the complimentary ice tea. When all the guests were present a mini bus shuttled us to the dock where we boarded the tender that would ferry us to the big boat. It was a short journey and when we pulled around the corner it was a treat to see our home for the night in all her glory, complete with waving staff to great the new arrivals. Once on board we made our way upstairs (while being sprinkled with rose petals!) for a safety briefing and orientation before being assigned our cabins.
Halong Bay Overnight Cruise Cabins
Orchid Cruise Halong Bay offer a number of accommodation options; suites, family suites, premium suites and exclusive suites. We chose a bottom-of-the-range suite and were assigned cabin 102 on the lower deck. The premium suites are the same configuration but you pay an extra USD$40(ish) a night to be on level 2. On stepping inside I was blown away. I was expecting it to be good but this room exceeded all my expectations. I was like a little kid on Christmas morning running around checking everything out. The bathroom was beyond amazing and a soak in this tub with an ever changing vista going by is a must do! The balcony was compact but perfectly adequate and the views were nothing short of sensational.
Luxury Halong Bay Cruise Vessel
With just 14 cabins this is no mega liner but I loved the intimate nature of Orchid Cruise Halong Bay. Spread over three levels you have everything you need and nothing you don’t. A tasteful reception area greats guests boarding on the lower deck which houses a lovely little reading nook as well as the spa and a small gym. Head to the second level for the elegant restaurant with panoramic views and the top deck has an amazing sun deck complete with a fully stocked cocktail bar. Every element of the design has been carefully thought out and luxurious touches are everywhere, from the dark wooden floors to the fresh flowers throughout, every area shines. The scenery is the big draw card of any Halong Bay cruise and the vessel is designed to maximise the views. When the sails are up, this boat it is a sight to behold.
Food On Board Our Halong Bay Overnight Cruise
We were on board Halong Bay cruise for a shade under 24 hours and were offered four meals; lunch, dinner, breakfast and brunch. Lunch was served very soon after boarding and was buffet style. The food was piping hot and for an intimate boat, there was a great selection.
Dinner on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay
Dinner on our luxury Halong Bay cruise was a very special affair and a five course degustation menu was served to the delight of the guests. They even accommodated my no seafood rule. The lamb cutlets were sensational.
Brunch On Orchid Cruises
After sleeping like babies, we skipped the 7am breakfast on our Halong Bay overnight cruise and opted for the brunch. The Hubs loved the omelet station but eggs don’t love me so I stuck to the buffet.
Luxury Halong Bay Cruise Activities
We fit in quite a bit during our luxury Halong Bay cruise. Straight after lunch we boarded the tender for a kayaking trip. I noticed some garbage floating around marring the otherwise picture perfect location so I did what I could and collected the flotsam and jetsam in reach between strokes. The calm waters of Bai Tu Long Bay made for an easy paddle to a secluded beach. If you don’t want to kayak the crew are happy to drop you straight on the beach from the tender. The water was the perfect temperature for a dip and I was almost sorry when it came time to leave. Once back on board I washed the salt water off with a leisurely soak in the massive tub in our suite as we steamed ahead to our next destination. The ever changing view from the window was breath taking.
Happy Hour On Orchid Cruise Halong Bay
The best luxury Halong bay cruises have cocktails and the sun deck on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay is the perfect place to enjoy a tipple. Happy hour starts at 5.30pm so get in quick for buy one get one free. The top deck is also the place to view the spring roll cooking demonstration and catch a magnificent sunset before heading to dinner. Before retiring for the night we squeezed in a little squid fishing but unfortunately they weren’t biting.
Cat Ba Island Halong Bay
We woke up early the next morning for a trip to Cat Ba Island. The rock formations here are some of the most dramatic in the region and Cat Ba is one of the few inhabited islands in Halong Bay. We passed by the dark cave which used to be accessible but is now prohibited. The light cave is still dark enough!
Booking #2 Orchid Cruise Halong Bay
I travel to Asia often. In October 2019 my friend Robin from This I Do For Me and I escorted a group of nine ladies to Asia. We started with 4 days in Taipei before heading to Bangkok, Hoi An, Hanoi and of course Halong Bay. Orchid Cruise Halong Bay was always going to be our first choice for a Halong Bay luxury cruise. When booking for our group of eleven, my first stop was Vietnam Travel Centre who I booked through two years earlier, sadly they seem to be no longer operating so I checked all the other sites before settling on Happy Travel Group (HTG) who seem to have now merged with Inside Travel. Our consultant Luna was patient and ever helpful despite numerous emails from me with a million questions to ensure this cruise was perfect for the ladies. We paid a little more for our cruise this time around, USD$430 per cabin. For USD$150 extra we were picked up and dropped off in a 25 seater bus from our hotel the Hong Ngoc Dynastie in Hanoi. At Luna’s suggestion we added a private street food tour in Hanoi for just USD$10 per person. We also paid a surcharge of USD$40 to bring two very special bottles of Champagne on baord and it was worth every cent. Everything else was included in the cabin price.
Our 2nd Experience on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay
We were picked up right on time and transported to our cruise in a comfortable bus with a rest stop along the way. The boarding area at Hai Phong had certainly changed since the last time I was there two years earlier. It’s a hive of activity now with many different operators vying for space. The Orchid Cruise Halong Bay reception area was jammed! We were greeted personally and advised we would be boarding Orchid 3 shortly. The tender out was short and sweet and we were onboard within minutes. I was thrilled to see the staff still sprinkle rose petals on arrival, its just such a sweet touch. The cabins were exactly as I remembered them and Robin and I were assigned the very same cabin that The Hubs and I occupied two years earlier, converted to a twin of course. The Itinerary had changed slightly since our first cruise and the trip to Cat Ba island now allows cruisers to spend a little time on the island itself. Three of our group headed out on the trip, but the thought of stairs held many back. The cooking demonstration, happy hour, kayaking, swimming and squid fishing were all still offered for those who chose to partake. I chose to spend a lot of time relaxing on my balcony with my feet up admiring the amazing views that never get old. I noticed two major changes on this trip, the first was how many extra boats there were around and the second was that Orchid 3 now has a spa! How cool is that!
Wining & Dining on Orchid Cruise Take 2
A Halong Bay luxury cruise needs to have great food and the meals were just as good as I remembered. Let’s just say no one disembarked hungry. Our group had a great time at the cooking demonstration and the complementary rice wine shots were a winner. Robin and I love surprising our travellers and we organised a very special pre-dinner treat for our ladies; Dom Perignon in personalised champagne flutes at sunset. We lugged those heavy bottles of Dom and all eleven glasses all the way from Sydney and to every stop along the way on our trip. The first thing I did on boarding was ask the crew to put the champagne in the cooler given the bar fridge in our cabin was too small. I repeated myself multiple times to many crew members and attempted to convey how important this was, but clearly my instructions were lost in translation because when I came to collect the bottles later that evening it had been placed in a cupboard. A cupboard!!!! I could have done that myself in the cabin! I was fuming!!!! My frustration was pretty palpable and the crew apologetically rushed it down to the freezer for a quick chill to try and save the situation. When we did pop the corks half an hour later, it was nowhere near as chilled as it should have been and I was very disappointed, but the ladies still seemed to enjoy it. All was forgiven after a downed a few happy hour cocktails.
The Final Word
I loved both my trips on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay. The staff were sensational, the boat was magnificent and the scenery was out of this world. The only disappointment was the sketchy wi-fi and the champagne fiasco. I am truly convinced this is the bext Halong Bay luxury cruise on the market. Have I convinced you yet? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
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Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I paid for both my trips on Orchid Cruise Halong Bay trip in full and as always, all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links which will earn me a few cents to contribute to the running of this blog if you make a qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you.