What to do and see when you arrive in Halong Bay by cruise ship ?

(Updated: 1/29/2018 1:00:46 AM)

Ha Long Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets. The region is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking, particularly in mountainous Cát Bà National Park.

Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, Halong Bay's scatter of islands, dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, is a vision of ethereal beauty and, unsurprisingly, northern Vietnam's number one tourism hub.

Sprawling Halong City (also known as Bai Chay) is the bay's main gateway but its high-rises are a disappointing doorstep to this site. Most visitors opt for cruise-tours that include sleeping on board within the bay, while a growing number are deciding to eschew the main bay completely, heading straight for Cat Ba Island from where trips to less-visited but equally alluring Lan Ha Bay are easily set up. All visitors must purchase entry tickets for the national park and there are also separate admission tickets for attractions in the bay, such as caves and fishing villages.

Cruising around the world is one of the biggest trends now. Just imagine that you will travel among the world’s iconic destinations on board some of the world’s most luxurious ships, I bet you already get excited. The world cruises usually stop at big cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Sai Gon, and Ho Chi Minh City; some among them do stop at Halong Bay port, and from there you can arrange a short break to visit the UNESCO Heritage site – Halong Bay. Here are some things you should know if you plan to arrive in Halong Bay by one of these cruise ships.
Lan Ha bay

Know where you anchor

Where your cruise anchor is different from where the local cruise sails off, so make sure you know where you are and your travel operator in Halong Bay can assist you to the right port.  The world cruises stay at Bai Chay deepwater port.  From Bai Chay, you can book a cab to go to Hon Gai, Tuan Chau or Ben Beo harbors to enjoy a Halong bay cruise trip to venture off the beaten tracks or book a tour with transfer to Hanoi capital city, Yen Tu pagoda complex and Phulong village or Catba island.

Tuan Chau Marina

Located on the same name island, which is influenced by European culture, and you can even witness the European architecture here.Tuan Chau Island becomes a major touristic destination in the last few years. Cruises that embark from Tuan Chau Pier: Paradise Luxury Cruise; Bhaya Cruise, and some more.

Ben Beo Pier

Ben Beo Pier in Catba island is much less crowded by cruises, and almost all the cruises which sail to Lan Ha bay and Halong bay start from here. Cruises that embark from Ben Beo Pier includes Indochine Junk, Sails of indochina, Lagoon Explorer, etc. From Halong Bay, if you want to visit Cat Ba area, you will take a cap to Tuan Chau Island and get on the ferry to Cat Ba Island.

Timing for cruise ship dock at Halong Bay Port

Depending on your cruise line, the cruise stop for 1 or 2 days, the most common is one day in Lan Ha Bay. Take all the transportation time into account; you have around 5 to 8 hour to visit nearby destination. For example, Circle North Pacific Voyage arrives at Halong at 8 A.M and continues its journey at 6 A.M the next day. Moreover, some ships that dock for more than one day, allowing you to stay in Hanoi one night or take an overnight cruise in Lan Ha bay.

Where you can go

There are many places you can go once you get off your cruise, such as Halong Bay, Hanoi capital city, Yen Tu pagoda complex, Phu Long village, or Catba island etc.

  • Halong Bay to Hanoi: 180 km ( 3.5 hours driving)
  • Halong Bay to Yen Tu Pagoda complex: 70km (1.5 hours driving)
  • Halong Bay to Catba island: 28 km ( 1 hour  minutes)

To visit Hanoi, it takes at least 3,5 hours driving each way, so if your cruise docks less than 12 hours we suggest you visit nearer destinations and leave Hanoi for your next visit.

The second common choice is discovering Halong Bay by joining “junk” boat. The junk boat is what local called a small wooden cruise boat; there are a few options: overnight cruise, full-day cruise, and half-day cruise.  You might want to stay overnight in a small junk boat to see how it’s different from your large cruise. Or you can book a half-day cruise to have a short look at the bay.

If you are interest in learning about the culture and the life of Vietnamese people, I suggest you go to Phu Long village. There are many activities to do in the village such as cycling around the village, catching fish, srimp in the Vietnamese way, kayaking, visiting caves and mangrove forests. The village is about 1 hour driving from Halong. Thus, you can have a delicious lunch in the village before you get back to the port.

Yen Tu Pagoda is Buddhist capital of Vietnam, which famous for its beautiful landscapes, historical relics, and ancient pagodas thus making it positioned in the hearts of the Vietnamese. It takes 1,5-hour driving from Halong to Yen Tu, and you should be prepared for hiking to the top of the mountain or taking ca cable car

What to do during day cruise in Halong Bay

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay

The best way to explore the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay. Paddle through islets; visit hidden caves, lagoons, unspoiled beaches and floating fishing villages…Kayaks go where other big boats cannot. Depending on trip length, visitors have different kayak route and time frame.

Visiting Dark and Bright Cave

The pathway to Dark and Birght Cave is set below the forest canopy and a stone cliff, so you have the feeling you are paddling toward heaven. Inside the cave, it is an ethereal wonderland with naturally carved images resembling a lotus, and a baby elephant. The ceiling of the cave is covered with a shiny ‘gem carpet,’ and numerous sparkling stalactites appear like ’hanging lamps.’ Stone statues of seals and flowers create an imaginary dream world.

Hang Vem fishing village

Located in the heart of Lan Ha Bay, 26 km from the mainland. You will not only be immersed in the quiet and peaceful location viewing the charming landscape and discovering the cultural life of the fishermen but also will be instructed in the fine arts of sailing and casting fishnets.

Enjoy your Vietnamese lunch

Vietnamese cuisine is world-renowned for its fresh ingredients, an abundance of herbs and vegetables and minimal use of oil for a healthy balance. From the North to the South, the cuisine is a cultural feature that you will remember as an important part of your trip to Vietnam, and we are delighted to contribute to your flavor experience.

There other cruise routes to Halong Bay with same activities but different sightseeing points (Thien Cung cave, Sung Sot cave, Cua Van fishing village, Titop Island, Tay Keo cave, Ba Trai Dao beaches…)

Some notes

  • Paying the port fee: once your cruise dock and you want to get to the land, you need to pay the Landing Pass fee which is about $15 to $20
  • No visa needed if you are tourists from cruises and you just make a day trip on the mainland & back to the ship for overnight. You will get a Landing Pass at each Pier as soon as you get off the Cruise. Remember to keep it very carefully, or you will get into trouble if it is lost.
  • Visa is required from the moment you get off the cruise. Citizens of most countries will be issued a visa on arrival, and this will be charged to their shipboard account (approx. $6-$50 USD/pax depending on the ship’s processing fee). This visa should be managed by the cruise ship operators with local representatives before you get off. It is best to confirm with your cruise line the latest visa policy.
  • The distance from Bai Chay Port to Hon Gai Port is 9km; it takes 20 minutes to move between them by taxi.
  • The day cruise offered by Sails of Indochina embanks at 8 A.M for the morning cruise and at 12:30 P.M for an afternoon There also an option for a full day cruise from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on a private wooden boat. Lunch is included
  • After the visit to Halong Bay, you can continue to do Halong city tour by electric car, operated by Sails of indochina and buy some souvenir to bring back home
  • There are some hotel choices that you might consider if you want to stay overnight at Halong bay harbor.


Sails of Indochina - Classic Sailing Cruises

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