Our main purpose in Hanoi is to cruise around Ha Long Bay. We looked for different tour operators and compared them based on what we’re getting. Our final choices were between a cruise on Bai Tu Long and a cruise on Ha Long. The Bai Tu Long cruise was cheaper but we went for the other, just to experience being actually at Ha Long Bay. Bai Tu Long is supposedly less polluted and less touristy. But, we want the actual UNESCO World Heritage site. So maybe next time we’d come back for you, BTL, right when you’ve become polluted and touristy.
The tour operator we chose was Rosa Boutique Cruise, the best 4 star Halong Bay cruise, according to their website. We paid around 300 USD (with Tết holidays surcharge) for the whole experience (except for drinks), no hidden charges whatsoever. Note that prices and packages vary depending on where you get them. You might get different prices from travel agencies, online booking, or directly from their email. We contacted them by email and we had a great customer service experience from them.
Our tour started with an early morning bus service from Hanoi Old Quarters to Tuan Chau Harbor. On the way to the harbor, we had a couple of stopovers, and one of them at a pearl museum. We arrived at the harbor by noon and we’re supposed to start the cruise immediately. But, they had a problem on the previous tour so we got delayed for about an hour. Good thing they compensated that by giving us free drinks on every meal onboard.
We started our cruise with some Vietnamese seafood and vegetarian lunch. Sadly it was not a buffet but the amount of serving was more than enough for us. We were tabled with a Chinese man who treated his parents with this cruise. They were very gracious to share the table with us.
After our lunch, we checked in to our rooms and got to explore a little bit around the boat. It was a 3-floor cruise ship with about 10-15 cabins. The top floor was a deck with lounge areas. The cruise then headed out to the Pearl Farm Village where we kayaked in the middle of limestone isles.
The sun was setting when we got back to the boat, just in time for the sunset deck party. There were drinks and fruits while we enjoy the pink sky above us.
After that was dinner with more seafood and some barbeques. Again, the food was great, loved every dish they served. There was a bar as well and they had Vietnamese cocktails which we tried later that night.
Some already had their rest after dinner, but other including us went to the lower end of the boat to try squid fishing. It was hard and I think only 2 people in our group were successful in catching a squid.
While others, especially the kids, still try to catch squid, we went to the bar to try some local cocktails. I forgot the names of the drinks (what kind of blogger forgets details), but we ordered one with a “Ha Long” on its name, one with “Hanoi”. I can’t tell differences between cocktails because I’m only a Jack-coke/Vodka-soda kind of guy, but they were sweet and strong! We only tried them just for fun, but we ordered one more, a piñacolada, because it’s free. Who wouldn’t say no to a free drink?? We had our rest after that because getting drunk on a boat in Northern Vietnam was not in our itinerary.
There was a Tai Chi session in the morning, but we were too sleepy for that. We woke up just before breakfast and went to the restaurant with our hair all messed up, serving Billie Joe Armstrong realness.
We freshened up then transferred to a smaller boat to have a tour of Sung Sot Cave. The cave was a walking tour but was not super exhausting. Our guide showed us to famous shapes around the cave like a penis pointing to a hole, or a giant turtle on the ground. At the exit of the cave, you get to see a nice panoramic view of nearby limestone isles.
Back at the boat, we packed our things up and everyone met at the restaurant for some cooking demonstration. We prepared vietnamese spring rolls which were then cooked and served with our lunch. That was our last activity and while we were having lunch, the boat cruises back to the harbor to drop us off.
Overall, Rosa Boutique managed to exceed our expectations. The food, accommodation, activities, was all great and well executed. I would totally recommend them. They made our Ha Long Bay experience extra special and I couldn’t be more satisfied.
Rosa Boutique Cruise