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A Luxury Halong Bay Cruise

Halong Bay at SunsetHalong Bay showcases the dual nature of travel today: the absolute thrill of finding an icon (in this case, the hazy outline of those towering limestone peaks) and the dismay that everybody and his dog found it first and that the overwhelming tourist machinery will crush the magic spell.

The arrival on the departure pier threatened to do the latter and to do it with gusto.

Crowds swarmed, luggage disappeared, names shouted, disappeared, bobbed and reappeared while boat after boat crammed into the port and every language in the world could be heard except the songs of nature and of silence. Or even much Vietnamese.

Then, after check in and an uneasy fifteen minute wait, all of that melted away.

As we transferred to the ship and entered our room, it vanished completely.

The magic of Halong Bay returned.

A Luxury Halong Bay Cruise

The Au Co

Room 217 is a Long Quan Suite, so beautiful that frankly I could have spent the whole trip sat on the private deck or inside on the crisp white sheets had I had the nerve to get away with it, watching karst after beautiful karst parade past my window as a fleet of pink and charcoal sails.

However, some guests get bored, apparently, and so a programme of events filled in the hours. (Note – none of these are compulsory. It’s just the dull sense of conscience on behalf of your writer here that she thought she ought to test them all out rather than lay snoozing and drinking pina coladas all day, which is what I’m sure most of you think I do anyway…)

Room 217 Au Co Luxury Cruise Halong Bay

Room 217 Bed Au Co Halong Bay Luxury Cruise

First up was lunch, a buffet with a fresh blend of Vietnamese spring rolls, peanut, lime and chilli noodles with some western options available too.

Vietnamese spring rolls on Halong Bay

Then, a curious trip to the floating village of Vung Vieng where women row passengers around on individual rafts. The unease returned. I had no desire to become a pack of tourists gawping at the local zoo. Yet despite the incongruous procession of luminous jackets on the water,”the locals” seemed content to ignore us completely as they got on with their lives. Children splashed in the water, women chatted and smiled. I didn’t see much of the men.

Veng vieung village Halong Bay

I did wish I’d had an interpreter (or, in my dream world, learnt Vietnamese) to get a little more involved but the beauty of the coves left me speechless so perhaps it wouldn’t have made a difference ;-)

Veng Vieung village Halong Bay

After that, was a swim.

A cooking class on the terrace.

Halong Bay Luxury Cruise Cooking on the Terrace

A cocktail hour (see, you knew pina colada was in there somewhere!)

Cocktails on the Au Co Halong Bay Luxury Cruise

Dinner. Fishing. Star gazing.

And then sleep, which I sank into with all the weight of an ancient anchor falling to the seabed floor.

My alarm sounded for Tai Chi at sunrise…

Halong Bay Luxury Cruise Tai chi  at dawn

And then breakfast arrived and it was time to check out. There hadn’t even been time to “test” the spa (life can be cruel, right?) and, given my jet laggy state, the bed could have done with a more thorough inspection.

It was all over so quickly and as the scrum of the port hoved into view, I longed for more time on the water.

 Sun terrace Au Co Luxury Cruise

What I loved

Halong Bay Luxury Cruise017Fresh, handmade Vietnamese rolls served on the deck

Excellent service and attention to detail. Jump overboard for a swim and staff appear with towels at the ready for your return.

Excursions are included in the price. Once you’re on the boat, you can just relax and enjoy it.

The scenery. Just unbeatable and there’s a reason why it’s a World Heritage Site.

The beautiful soothing white of the room in the Vietnamese heat

The bathtub

Spectacular sight of sunrise during the dawn Tai Chi class

No hard sell with souvenirs on the excursions

Wifi at the port

The spontaneity of the staff – e.g. teaching carrot and tomato carving on the deck

 

What to know

You must pay for drinks (other than water.)

You must queue for the buffet – and some things do run out

Although billed as a two day cruise, you’re on the water for less than 24 hours. This seems standard for Halong Bay and if you use the transfers to and from Hanoi, you’ll need two free days in your schedule. But still, the description makes some feel short-changed.

Check out is early – and a while before you leave the boat

No wifi & no TV

Make your own soup

Specs

32 cabins, restaurant, sun deck, Jacuzzi, fishing & kayaking equipment available, spa room, babysitting services, doctor on call, bar & boutique library. Find all the facts and figures here.

Who was Au Co anyway? Find out here…

Disclosure

I travelled as a guest of Bhaya Cruises for review purposes. All pina coladas my own. Oh, and opinions too. That’s right, as usual, as always, as the breathlessly exciting disclosure policy suggests. This review also forms part of the Dragon Route. Read all about that over here. 

The Au Co Cruise is currently the only two night luxury cruise option in Halong Bay. The Bhaya Legend is a private charter so you can tailor your own itinerary and the Bhaya Classic offers both one and two night cruises on Halong Bay.

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4 Responses to A Luxury Halong Bay Cruise

  1. Beth July 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Wow! Those are some pretty chic rooms for a boat. Much nicer than anything I’ve ever stayed in during cruises in the Caribbean ;)

    • Abi King July 4, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

      Yes, the room was beautiful. You can see why I didn’t want to leave!

  2. Erin K July 6, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    We just booked this cruise last night and we’re heading there in a few weeks…thanks for sharing your pictures. I’m even more excited now that I’ve seen you had such a good experience there!

  3. anysroad September 23, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    I stayed on the Dragon’s Pearl and had the same feeling about my cabin – could have happily just stayed in there and I wasn’t too sad when we had a two hour downpour one morning so I could.
    I did a 3 day, 2 night and considering the travel time to and from Halong that was a good choice.

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