I stayed on Carina Cruise by A-Class Cruises for 1 night. I booked this through my hotel in Hanoi – La Storia Ruby Hotel.
When I was enquiring about overnight cruises on Halong Bay, I was offered a variety of different cruises ranging from 3 star to 5 star junks. There’s so many to choose from, and they all offer pretty much the same itinerary. In the end, I went for the 3 star cruise as it had better reviews on TripAdvisor than the 4 star one I was looking at, and the 5 star boat was just too much money for one night. I was happy with my choice.
Carina Cruise is a smaller junk with just 9 en-suite cabins; meaning there will be only a maximum of 18 people on it – the perfect amount. 5 of those cabins are on the lower deck without balconies, and 4 of those cabins are on the middle deck with balconies.
I paid USD $160.00 each for a cabin with a balcony. This price included transportation round trip by mini-van from my hotel in Hanoi, all meals, entrance fees, kayaking and a Vietnamese cooking demonstration.
The junk and cabin were clean and comfortable, and the staff on-board were great company. The food is plentiful, although it is all seafood so if you’re not keen on seafood then advise your tour guide before departing so they can arrange meat/vegetarian dishes instead.
I was collected from my hotel in the Old Quarter in Hanoi at 8:20am in a mini-van, and made our way to Halong Bay with 1 stop en route. We arrived about 12pm, and checked into cabin 204.
Lunch was served in the restaurant and consisted of 9 courses! I definitely didn’t have to worry about going hungry on this cruise.
After lunch, we got on the tender and headed to Luon Cave (Hang Luồn) where we kayaked for 1 hour. I’d never done kayaking before, but it didn’t take me long to get the hang of it. We passed lots of Chinese tourists on the bamboo boats being rowed by locals and they loved us – they kept taking photos of us!
We then headed to Soi Sim Island where we had an hour to climb to the top for a fantastic view over Halong Bay, and swim in the sea. Be careful though – a girl in our group got stung by a jellyfish. Our tour guide took us to Soi Sim Island, instead of Ti Top Island as it was less busy.
We returned back to the junk for a free glass of wine and fresh fruit on the top deck whilst dinner was being prepared. This was a great opportunity to socialise with the other guests; some were staying for 2 nights.
Like lunch, dinner was also 9 courses! The seafood was fresh and tasty.
In the evening we were able to participate in squid fishing. There were English, South Africans and Australians all gathered round on the tender waiting in anticipation to catch a squid! We were quite unsuccessful, although I did manage to catch one – but I wasn’t very impressed with it squirting it’s black ink everywhere!
The next morning there was a 6:15am Tai Chi class on the upper deck, but I didn’t attend.
Breakfast was served at 6:45am and consisted of pho bo, bread & butter, bacon, omelette, fried or scrambled eggs, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Tea and coffee was included, but juice was additional.
We left the junk at 7:30am and visited ‘Surprise Cave’, also known as Sung Sot Cave. Located inside Bo Hon Island, Surprise Cave is considered the most magnificent cave in Halong Bay. We spent an hour exploring.
After the cave we returned back to the junk and chilled on the upper deck until 10am, when we had a cooking demonstration and learnt how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. I learnt how each ingredient represented something, for example carrot represented fire.
Once we’d finished making our own spring rolls, we were served an early lunch consisting of 8 courses! One of these courses were our homemade spring rolls.
We departed the junk at 11:45am, and sat in the terminal for an hour before heading back to Hanoi. We arrived back in Hanoi at around 4:30pm, and I checked-in to La Storia Ruby Hotel for another night before heading to Sapa.
Waking up on Halong Bay was an incredible experience, and I recommend putting this on your Vietnam itinerary.
Up next: 2 day / 1 night trip to Sapa