Ha Long 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 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, particularly as prices vary wildly. I’m pretty sure I looked at every single one of them before deciding on Orchid Cruises. Our night on Orchid Cruises Ha Long Bay was an absolutely 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. Read on for all the details …
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Booking Your Ha Long Bay Orchid Cruise
All websites are not the same! With the advent of online booking agencies you can book an Orchid Cruise 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 through Vietnam Travel Center. Not only were they the cheapest 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.
Why Choose Orchid Cruises Ha Long Bay?
I did a lot of research on the various cruises before deciding an Orchid Cruise was the one for us. I knew I wanted our time in Ha Long 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 cruises require a 4 hour transfer from Hanoi to the departure point. Orchid Cruises depart from Hai Phong which is only about 1½ hours away and was the only option that would allow us to make our Vietjet flight to Da Nang after the cruise. Departing from Hai Phong means that Orchid Cruises have the edge on the competition who jostle for space in the increasing crowded Ha Long 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 Cruises.
Getting To Our Cruise
Our driver picked us up right on time at 9.45am and we were on our way 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 Cruises transit lounge which had a lovely covered courtyard to shade us from the heat while we we sipped the complimentary ice tea while waiting to board. 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.
Our Orchid Cruise Cabin
Orchid Cruises Ha Long 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.
With just 14 cabins this is no mega liner but I loved the intimate nature of Orchid Cruises. 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 what draws visitors to Ha Long Bay and the vessel is designed to maximise the views. When the sails are up, this boat it is a sight to behold.
We were on board Orchid Cruises Ha Long Bay 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 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.
We skipped the 7am breakfast and opted for the brunch instead which was also served buffet style. The Hubs loved the omelet station but eggs don’t love me so I stuck to the bain maries.
We fit in quite a bit during our time with Orchid Cruises Ha Long Bay. 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.
No cruise is complete without a cocktail or two and the sun deck 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.
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 Ha Long Bay. We passed by the dark cave which used to be accessible but is now prohibited. The light cave is still dark enough!
The Final Word
We loved our stay on Orchid Cruises Ha Long Bay. It was truly the highlight of our Vietnam trip. There is a time to save the pennies and a time to splurge and while USD$324 might seem steep for a single night it was worth every penny. The staff were sensational, the boat was magnificent and the scenery was out of this world. The only disappointment was the sketchy wi-fi. While this was somewhat annoying on the cruise, it made settling the bill downright painful as the machines struggled to get a connection.
Can you see yourself enjoying the luxury of Orchid Cruises Ha Long Bay? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Until Next Time …
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I paid for my Orchid Cruises Ha Long 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.
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