Pelican Cruises – Halong Bay
Our last stop on our Vietnam trip was Halong Bay. After 2.5 weeks of chaos and tours, we were ready for some downtime! We booked a 3 day / 2 night cruise which came highly recommended, through Pelican Cruises. To get to Halong Bay, it was a 3 hour mini van trip from Hanoi with lots of nice scenery along the way.
Halong Bay in Vietnams Northeast is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for its emerald waters and towering limestone islands topped with thick jungle vegetation. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and history shows evidence of humans being in the area tens of thousands of years ago!
We boarded the boat around 1pm and after finding our staterooms, were treated to an incredible buffet lunch whilst learning about our upcoming itinerary. The buffet had everything from sushi, salads, spring rolls, to curries, seafood and vegetables. The kids really enjoyed the food, and the staff were great at letting Alysse know which food was safe from peanuts.
Our room was a family suite consisting of two adjoining rooms with bathrooms, a small sitting area and full glass sliding doors. It was great having the kids in their own room and plenty of space for us all!
After lunch the itinerary began - we boarded the lifeboat and headed into the Luon Cave by bamboo boat with local people. Stunning limestone mountains surrounded the jade green water, and inside the cave it was so quiet and peaceful! The next stop was Ti Top Beach for a swim and for those feeling energetic, a hike up to the lookout for some spectacular views over Halong Bay.
Afterwards we headed back to the boat for a shower, and change of clothes - then straight up onto the deck for cocktails at happy hour and a spring roll making class. This was a highlight for me - sitting up on the deck with the most incredible views of limestone mountains and the twinkling lights of the other junk boats whilst sipping on cocktails. Absolute magic !
Dinner started at 7.30pm (a little later than the kids are used to so make sure you take some snacks onto the cruise to tie them over for meal times!) and was an incredible three course bbq meal. After dinner there is the option of squid fishing off the back of the boat which is great fun for the kids or more drinks up on deck 😉
Breakfast starts at 6am - 8.30am and is a mixture of pastries, toast, fruit, and coffee and tea etc. And for those early risers tai chi starts on the deck at 6am. At 8.30 we were transferred to the Day boat while the Pelican took the guests doing the one night itinerary back to the harbour. The boat was beautiful with a dining room, sitting area inside and the deck out the back. Our first stop was Cua Van Village - a small community with around 700 residents living in the root of Ngoc Mountain. We went through the village in a traditional row boat with a local guide and took in the sheer beauty of the area. Floating houses complete with dog kennels for their pets and people lazing around in hammocks was a common sight, and even a floating school - which was no longer used as the children go off to boarding school. It really is hard to imagine the simplicity of the villagers lives. Imagine waking up to this view everyday!
Next we headed off to Bai Tu Long Bay where we anchored and spent time jumping off the boat and swimming in the warm waters. (I didn't actually let the kids jump in as I had been warned from others about the cleanliness of the waters and ear infections etc, but they bobbed around with their head above the water). Lunch was AMAZING. Again three courses of delicousness including soup, chicken and rice, beef satays, fruit - the best food I had eaten in a long time. It was a beautiful spot to relax, swim and chat with other guests from all over the world. On the way back we stopped at a floating pearl farm which was great for the kids to learn how pearls are farmed - and my daughter picked up a beautiful pair of little pearl earrings at an amazing price!
The rest of the day one we got back to our main boat was again relaxing, happy hour, dinner and more squid fishing. An absolutely incredible day for us all!
The day started again at 6am with tai chi on deck and then breakfast. We accidently slept in and it was a mad rush to get to breakfast before our tour to the Sung Sot Cave. It was raining quite heavily and very misty by the time we were going but we decided to pop on a raincoat, grab and umbrella and deal with it - and thank god we did !
Sung Sot Cave is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and the most famous cave in Halong Bay. (There are around 100 steps to reach the mouth of the cave, so proper footwear is recommended). The cave covers over 10,000m2, has two chambers and thousands of stalagmites and stalagtites throughout. Coloured spotlights in the cave enhance the beauty and add a great effect. It really is a beautiful formation and not to be missed if visiting Halong Bay!
After the tour it's back to the boat to pack up, settle the bill and enjoy a buffet brunch before docking back at the harbour and making the trip back.
I cannot recommend this tour and Pelican Cruises enough. They were absolutely fantastic with the kids (Jay still talks about missing his "best friend" which was one of the staff onboard) and the whole trip was kid friendly. The chef and staff made us feel completely at ease with Alysse's peanut allergy and always made sure there was another option for her should the meal on offer contain nuts.
Halong Bay is such an amazing piece of the world and I am so glad we got to experience it. If you are heading to Vietnam, make sure you book with Pelican Cruises, and if possible, the 2 night itinerary. You will charter into more isolated areas and see so much more!
Disclaimer- I received a discounted media rate in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.