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travelfan20

If you had to choose? Hanoi or Halong Bay cruise?

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Hi 

 

Just trying to plan ahead for a future cruise with a stop in Hanoi/Hongai. 

From my research, the actual city of Hanoi is 2.5 hours away by car. 

We drive in port at 1pm and depart at 7pm the next day. 

 

Given the small window of time and distance from the port to Hanoi  think we have to choose either redoing the land excursion to Hanoi or do the Halong bay Junk cruise 

What would you folks do?

 

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

 

cheers 

 

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Junk cruise.

At least a four hour cruise, ideally six hours.

Overnite cruises used to be difficult because they go out at 11am and return at 10am, timed to suit folk based in Hanoi. But I think they've latched onto how that doesn't fit in with cruisers' schedules so hopefully better prospects nowadays

 

JB :classic_smile:

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Junk cruise. On the second day. We took it from 9AM until 4PM, it was excellent.

The first day we took a taxi to the local fish market and spent the afternoon there.

Others took the cable car to the amusement park.

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6 hours ago, dani negreanu said:

Junk cruise. On the second day. We took it from 9AM until 4PM, it was excellent.

The first day we took a taxi to the local fish market and spent the afternoon there.

Others took the cable car to the amusement park.

 

What tour group (cruiseline) did you use? We arrive by ship at Halong bay at 8am day one & stay overnight . A 1/2 day cruise the first day would be nice.

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45 minutes ago, dabear said:

 

What tour group (cruiseline) did you use? We arrive by ship at Halong bay at 8am day one & stay overnight . A 1/2 day cruise the first day would be nice.

We had a very active roll call. Cruised on Celebrity Millennium in December.

Following very good recommendations from other cruisers, we were 4 groups of 16 pax, in junks who could accommodate 40. The company we and others from different cruise lines used was

www.travelauthenticasia.com

our contact was a very efficient and professional lady named Ngoan.

As a matter of fact, we all used this company also for Saigon and Hue.

 

 

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thanks for your reply. We emailed the company and their email was down. We'll try again later. Did they pick you up at your dock or did you have to make separate transfer arrangements ?

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1 hour ago, dabear said:

thanks for your reply. We emailed the company and their email was down. We'll try again later. Did they pick you up at your dock or did you have to make separate transfer arrangements ?

 

Pls. try this email --

 

Ngoan -- ngoan.le@travelauthenticasia.com

 

or here're all the details I've "recovered" -- 

 

Ngoan & TAA team

 

We were picked up for every tour right at the dock. The tours included the direct pick up from ship (which costs money...). All the tours were with small vans, no more than 12 passengers.

For the Halong bay cruise, we were transferred to the "junk" terminal and brought back at the cruise's end.

 

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We just chose the overnight on Bhaya Premium.  Looks like a very unique experience in a beautiful setting on a very small junk while getting pampered.  Great way to start off a cruise.

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If you think you are unlikely to return, I suggest Hanoi.

We were in Halong Bay in December. If you cruise in or out in daylight you will see amazing scenery. Not as good as the overnight bay cruise, but a taste. I wish I had realized that before booking a 4 hour cruise - overnight on the bay could be cool, but Hanoi is fascinating.

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Even though we had an overnight, we chose a long cruise in Halong Bay.  Our Roll Call was very active and we had a whole junk to ourselves for just about 12 of us.   It also included an amazing seafood lunch.  We were there in January 2018 and it was really cold.  My avatar picture is of Halong Bay.  The photo attached below was of my husband & I for the few minutes we ventured to the rooftop.  I bet it would have been a much more wonderful day if it was warmer.

20180110_114107_HDR.jpg

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I also have to make the same decision between a cruise and Hanoi; but I am leaning towards Hanoi.  I have never been there and as a child I heard so much about it during the vietnam war I just feel I need to see it.  Can anyone recommend a tour from the port to Hanoi; I will be traveling solo so I probably need a group tour vs a private tour.  Thanks for your help.

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There is something else to consider that I really didn't think about when I answered the question here on this thread and that is that it depends on what time of year it is.  We are going to be in Halong Bay the third week of October and it is still late summer there on our cruise.  Our overnight consists of swimming, kayaking, outdoor events on deck, visits to a cave, and the fishing village.  Most visit this port in February or March when temperatures are in the 60s, but we are looking at high 70s to low 80s.  It's just a different experience by definition.  Also, consider what size ship you are coming in on as some smaller ships might cruise deeper into the bay.  

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HI 

we are travelling in March of 2020. Love idea of kayaking etc..but you are right might be chiller in March. I'm going to research temps

 

thanks Hubofhockey!

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5 hours ago, travelfan20 said:

Hey i found this link 

 

https://www.halonghub.com/blog/halong-bay-weather-in-march/

 

temps in low 20c...thats warm for us Canadians!

 

I think you hit the 70s as we say south of your border.   You Canadians are good to go for kayaking and maybe swimming and hopefully, sun.  November to February is probably a no go.

 

These SE Asia cruises have different weather almost by port.  We stop in Koh Samui late October when it rains about 50% of the time and we are even in possible flood season in Hoi An.  

 

I get why some want to only do day cruises, but they miss out on the kayaking, cave visits, fishing village, swimming, and activities on the boat.  We're doing a premium line with the dining element as well.

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Reporting in from HaLong Bay, just a few days ago -- our weather was very much like Betty's. It was drizzling rain in the morning and foggy in the afternoon. I agree with those who say that the mist makes the place even more magical.

 

What I was not expecting was that the junks all seem to go to the same very congested place. It was wall to wall junks, and I think we were the only cruise ship in town, and a small ship at that. If it is possible to pay more to see a different part of the bay, I think it would be well worth the extra cost.

 

Our 4-hour tour included the caves, which I only recommend if you have never seen massive caverns before. If you have, then the experience here may be disappointing: the lighting is too harsh and bright, and the fragile ecosystem has clearly been destroyed by tourism (quickly!) after 13,000 years in development. The tour was also wall-to-wall people with long, steep stairs. Anyone with mobility issues or possible claustrophobia should find another way to see the bay. 

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Thanks for your report.  We saw the caves in Montenegro and others before.   They are all formed the same way and the dripping stalagmite causes interesting formations, but we'll go just the same, unless it's an option.  As for the congestion. if they all leave from the same place and these boat tours are highly regulated, there is only so far you can go in two hours before turning around.  Far less do overnights and our hope is that getting further out eliminates that problem.  That is probably why the overnights can include kayaking and swimming.  We'll find out in about six months.

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Hubofhockey:  FYI, the 6 hour day cruise we're considering includes the cave stop and kayaking.

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6 hours ago, hubofhockey said:

Thanks for your report.  We saw the caves in Montenegro and others before.   They are all formed the same way and the dripping stalagmite causes interesting formations, but we'll go just the same, unless it's an option.  As for the congestion. if they all leave from the same place and these boat tours are highly regulated, there is only so far you can go in two hours before turning around.  Far less do overnights and our hope is that getting further out eliminates that problem.  That is probably why the overnights can include kayaking and swimming.  We'll find out in about six months.

 

 

A two-hour cruise, offered by cruiselines often as a package with Hanoi, is a waste. Much of that time is taken by crossing the open bay and it includes the cave (yes, I agree, a cave is a cave is a cave). So you don't get the eerie serenity of getting lost amongst the karsts.

That's why I posted earlier that it needs a bare minimum of four hours & preferably six (or longer).

We took a six-hour cruise and didn't waste time going to the cave - instead we headed in amongst the karsts and very quickly found ourselves alone.

Check out Halong Bay on GoogleImages - a real mix of photos, some crowded with junks and others with hardly a junk in sight.

 

BTW, cruiselines fill their junks to capacity, I guess 30 to 40 passengers. We arranged one for just ten of us. Not expensive and we all had the options of laying out on the roof or sitting inside.

 

Another BTW, the bay is often misty. 

You might think that would spoil a cruise - but far from it. As Unibok discovered it's "magical", it adds to the eerieness of the experience.

 

HofH, you won't be disappointed by your overnite, which sails for 8 hours - they moor-up somewhere isolated dusk til dawn.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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Thanks John Bull.  The Tien Ong cave is listed at a one hour event.  If this is, you've seen one cave, you've seen them all, then we'll stay on the boat.  We're doing a Bhaya Premium cruise, so there will only be six to fourteen passengers maximum.  Their price for their Premium line was only around $100 more per cabin than their Classic line.  I've noticed that prices for everything, including private tours and premium lines are very low in Vietnam and even much lower in Cambodia.

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We had the same question when we planned our March 2, 2019, Millennium cruise, and like you most people recommended Ha Long Bay. We had an overnight stop and did a half-day Ha Long Bay boat tour and full-day Hanoi shore excursion (Celebrity's Hanoi Past & Present). You can read my review of the cruise here: 

 and see some photos of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay here: 

We LOVED Hanoi--that and Hoi An are the two places we'd go back to if we could to spend more time. The Hanoi Old Quarter was absolutely fascinating. If you like to shop, shopping is excellent--I bought a lovely lacquered tray for US$17. But I would book a tour--Hanoi doesn't yet have a good transportation infrastructure, and the sights are spread out, so it would be hard to do on your own (though we saw Western tourists doing just that). There's a new highway from Ha Long to Hanoi that cuts the bus ride down to a bit over 2 hours each way, depending on traffic. With a pit stop halfway, the ride was closer to 2 1/2 hours each way...but it used to be much longer. Let me know if I can answer any questions.

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On 3/8/2019 at 11:47 AM, John Bull said:

 

 

A two-hour cruise, offered by cruiselines often as a package with Hanoi, is a waste. Much of that time is taken by crossing the open bay and it includes the cave (yes, I agree, a cave is a cave is a cave). So you don't get the eerie serenity of getting lost amongst the karsts.

That's why I posted earlier that it needs a bare minimum of four hours & preferably six (or longer).

We took a six-hour cruise and didn't waste time going to the cave - instead we headed in amongst the karsts and very quickly found ourselves alone.

Check out Halong Bay on GoogleImages - a real mix of photos, some crowded with junks and others with hardly a junk in sight.

 

BTW, cruiselines fill their junks to capacity, I guess 30 to 40 passengers. We arranged one for just ten of us. Not expensive and we all had the options of laying out on the roof or sitting inside.

 

Another BTW, the bay is often misty. 

You might think that would spoil a cruise - but far from it. As Unibok discovered it's "magical", it adds to the eerieness of the experience.

 

HofH, you won't be disappointed by your overnite, which sails for 8 hours - they moor-up somewhere isolated dusk til dawn.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Thanks for the excellent and very helpful info and advice. This is what CC used to be for me, before other threads became mere chat rooms. Much appreciated. 

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On 3/23/2019 at 3:37 PM, Suskies said:

We had the same question when we planned our March 2, 2019, Millennium cruise, and like you most people recommended Ha Long Bay. We had an overnight stop and did a half-day Ha Long Bay boat tour and full-day Hanoi shore excursion (Celebrity's Hanoi Past & Present). You can read my review of the cruise here: 

 and see some photos of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay here: 

We LOVED Hanoi--that and Hoi An are the two places we'd go back to if we could to spend more time. The Hanoi Old Quarter was absolutely fascinating. If you like to shop, shopping is excellent--I bought a lovely lacquered tray for US$17. But I would book a tour--Hanoi doesn't yet have a good transportation infrastructure, and the sights are spread out, so it would be hard to do on your own (though we saw Western tourists doing just that). There's a new highway from Ha Long to Hanoi that cuts the bus ride down to a bit over 2 hours each way, depending on traffic. With a pit stop halfway, the ride was closer to 2 1/2 hours each way...but it used to be much longer. Let me know if I can answer any questions.

Suskies --- 

I read and highlighted your extended explanation of your trip. The wealth of detail is often very helpful -- thanks!!! I wanted to clarify two things informing my tour choices at the moment, if you would, please....

 

1. When did you travel on Millie? I am assuming it was in the last few months?

2. In Hanoi, I think you said you took the "Hanoi Past and Present" ship tour, instead of the ship tour "Hanoi in a Day." I went back and forth trying to see differences between them. If I understood your report, you said the Hanoi Past and Present varied from the in a Day by using golf carts and a walk to see more of the Old Quarter (definitely an attraction for us!) and that your tour went to Hoa Lo Prison instead of Temple of Literature. Based on your discussion with fellow travelers, was that the major difference? I booked "in a Day" before I read your report (my mistake!!!) and think I will now change the reservation, but wanted to check with you...

 

3. You said you contacted a few private tour companies about the Halong Bay junk cruise but the timing didn't work... Looks like we have the opposite schedule, so I wanted to see if we could do it privately (currently have a ship tour for that, too....).

Can you share the name(s) and emails of the companies you contacted if you still have those? Just saves us some time.

 

This is indeed a difficult and time-consuming trip to plan -- we are doing a B2B2B so lots of ports -- and you should know that your report (printed out, highlighted and in my trip planning folder) is a tremendous help. As a long time CC member, this is what I love about my fellow travelers and I appreciate all the info you have shared (are sharing). Thanks!!!

 

Sandi

 

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1. We were on the March 2, 2019, Millie--its second post-Revolution cruise.

2. Yes, that was exactly the difference according to our conversation with a fellow passenger. We loved our tour (Hanoi Past & Present) and recommend it.

3. I'm afraid that I deleted the e-mails I sent to Halong Bay cruise operators. I found them by going to Trip Advisor, searching for Halong Bay boat tours, picking the ones that had high ratings AND large numbers of reviews, then checking their websites to see if they listed half-day tours as an option (most don't--they only do full-day and/or overnight tours).(Yes, that was a lot of work.) I e-mailed about six to see if they offered a half-day tour leaving at 1 PM or later (our ship docked at noon). About 3 replied that they didn't offer that; I never heard back from the others.

 

Thank you for your kind words! CC was an invaluable resource to us, so it was nice to have an opportunity to pay it forward. The report was also a nice journal for us to record our memories. We saw and did so much that, even with photos, we'd forget a lot of it otherwise. You'll have a fantastic trip.

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21 hours ago, bellasorella said:

3. You said you contacted a few private tour companies about the Halong Bay junk cruise but the timing didn't work... Looks like we have the opposite schedule, so I wanted to see if we could do it privately (currently have a ship tour for that, too....).

Can you share the name(s) and emails of the companies you contacted if you still have those? Just saves us some time.

Sandi

 

 

We were on Millie in Dec 2018, and had a very active roll call, which organized all the tours, not through the ship. The majority of us opted out of the long travel to Hanoi, since for us Halong Bay was the highlight of our cruise.

The minority took a 4 hour cruise to HB, and then an overnight in Hanoi. They were very satisfied with their trip (as well as us), using this company:

 

Pls. try this email -- from my experience with this and other companies, they don't answer timely....

 

Ngoan -- ngoan.le@travelauthenticasia.com

 

 

Ngoan & TAA team

 

We were picked up for every tour right at the dock. The tours included the direct pick up from ship (which costs money...). All the tours were with small vans, no more than 12 passengers.

 

 

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