Taking the best luxury overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam (you won’t believe the price!)

Mar 29, 2023

Ha Long Bay in Vietnam is best known for emerald waters and picturesque limestone seastack islands topped by rainforests.

It’s jaw dropping.

The best part? You can explore it by sea on a luxury boutique cruise for a fraction of what you’d expect to pay.

Where is Ha Long Bay and why is it so special?

Ha Long Bay is in the China Sea in northeast Vietnam. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay’s ~1,600 islands and islets are mostly uninhabited, pristine, and flowering with prehistoric beauty. Visiting Ha Long Bay is a hidden gem experience because, unlike the overrun and polluted beaches of the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand or Bali in Indonesia, Ha Long Bay’s islands, caves, and beaches are unspoiled and strangely undiscovered. 

What’s the best way to see Ha Long Bay?

Taking an overnight luxury cruise is the best way to see Ha Long Bay. Actually, with so much to explore, an overnight cruise is really the only way to see Ha Long Bay.

And I don’t mean cruise in the spring break/tacky buffet kind of way. I mean it in the “you and your hunny in a white fluffy robe on an opulent floating 10-cabin, 5-star dining” way.

I know what you’re thinking- “sounds expensive,” right? Nope! Vietnam is a really affordable country, but I’ve still never come close to this level of luxury for the price.

If you’re not already moving Ha Long Bay to the top of your bucket list, I’ve got all the details for you- pricing, dining, cabins, activities, the best time to visit, and whether a visit to Ha Long Bay is worth it below!

Pro tip: If you’re coming from the US, Vietnam is a long (and usually expensive) flight. Use my step by step quick guide to learn how to use Google Flights to find the cheapest flights! And don’t forget to make sure you’re ready for a comfy flight with these long flight essentials.

Best overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay for 1 night

After spending an extensive (re: paralysis by analysis) amount of time researching and comparing cruises online, I chose the Nostalgia.

And I don’t say this lightly— it was outstanding.

The Nostalgia set sail in early February 2023 and delivers a first-class cruising experience with top-notch service.

You cruise from Ha Long Bay to Lan Ha Bay — from a renowned heritage site to a “forgotten heaven” with magnificent mountains. Offering 2 day/1 night and 3 day/2 nights itineraries, you’ll visit the highlights of the bay, take part in some uniquely Vietnamese activities, and enjoy unparalleled relaxation.

 

The ship: Cabins and amenities

There are 10 luxury cabins on 2 decks. There 4 categories of rooms, and all of them are well-appointed with air conditioning, a mini bar, ocean-views, a luxury bathroom and amenities, and a balcony with a table and chairs.

I’m notoriously picky about beds, and this one was fantastic — indulgent and plush with down pillows and a fluffy, soft duvet.

We stayed in the Queen suite and it was larger and much more luxurious than almost any hotel that I’ve stayed at in Asia.

The sun deck (top deck) is the best place to kick back and watch sunrise and sunset while the ship cruises through thousands of limestone karst. This is also where the morning Tai-chi takes place!

With a bar, comfortable loungers, and a hot tub, this was my favorite spot to hang out— the serene atmosphere up here is second to none.

The food: Fresh, local fine dining

The ship has a spacious restaurant with floor to ceiling windows where you enjoy each meal (included in the cruise price). As you take your seat at a perfectly set table, your server places a napkin on your lap and brings a wine list.

I have to say— we booked our cruise last minute and didn’t fully understand what we were stepping into. In the fancy dining room, we felt out of place in our day clothes at first .

Featuring variety of unique dishes from Vietnam or Western nations, the meals were extravagant. Each one was several courses and had exceptionally fresh foods. It was also cool that our server told us a little about each dish and Vietnamese cuisine with each course.

Concerned about allergies or dietary restrictions? They asked us about any concerns as soon as we sat down. I don’t eat much seafood, and the chef was able to switch it up and deliver exceptional meals. If you have a specific concern, I recommend messaging them in advance to make sure that they can accommodate it.

Also, while most of the food is included in your cruise price, there are optional add-ons for an extra cost. Some items that I paid extra for were specialty Vietnamese drip coffee, smoothies, and alcohol.

The activities: Uniquely Vietnamese

This cruise offered a wealth of uniquely Vietnamese experiences. From tranquil Tai-chi practice at sunrise to squid fishing in the evening, we had a lot of fun trying new things, especially a Vietnamese spring roll making class.

There are also more adventurous activities, like kayaking in the narrow waterways between seastacks and exploring hidden island caves. If you’re interested in history, the cave excursion is a great one— after you climb about 100 stairs, you’re rewarded with a sick view of the bay and can go through one of the caves with a local guide. Fun fact: we learned that Vietnamese soldiers hid and lived in this exact cave for years during the Vietnam War.

Part of the beauty of the whole experience is that you don’t have to participate in a single activity if you don’t want to— relaxation is the name of the game on this cruise, and swimming in the ocean, enjoying the hot tub, lounging in the plush chairs on the sun deck, or sitting on your private balcony with a glass of wine is a perfect way to have a low key trip if that’s what you want!

How much does an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay cost?

We paid $130 per person for the cruise, which was all inclusive— accommodations, meals, activities, and amenities. Considering that the average price of a moderate hotel in the United States is $321.58/night (non inclusive) this was an absolute steal of a deal!

Is visiting Ha Long Bay worth it?

Only you can decide, but this was an incredibly unique experience all around— for example, a woman on a small fishing boat pulled up beside the ship selling Vietnamese wine while we were sitting on our balcony. We bought a bottle from her and she passed it up to us from the ocean to our balcony with a fishing pole (for $3).

One of the other things I loved most about this experience was that it felt like time was frozen out on the bay. Removed from the bustle of the mainland and floating quietly through still water between tropical seastacks, you feel like the last people on Earth. In this peculiar isolation, with the islands completely undeveloped, it could be any point in geological time (except when you want more champagne or to get in the hot tub- then it’s definitely evident that it’s modern day).

What’s the best time to visit Ha Long Bay, Vietnam?

For the best weather, you should visit Ha Long Bay from September-November or March-May. The dry climate and warmer temperatures make it a great time to be out on the water. May-September is monsoon season.

Are there day cruises in Ha Long Bay from Hanoi?

Many people visit Ha Long Bay as a day trip from Hanoi, which is about 2.5-3 hours away. In fact, so many visitors come to Ha Long Bay just for the day that cruise operators offer a same-day shuttle service from Hanoi directly to the port and back for an extra charge.

So yes— there are day cruises from Ha Long Bay. This is an okay option if you really only have 1 day in Ha Long Bay and absolutely can’t spend the night for a really compelling reason. But the more research I did (and from what I saw at the cruise port when we arrived for our overnight cruise) the more obvious it became that the day cruises are crowded, rushed, and overpriced. With the overnight cruise, you just can’t beat the value for money for the experience you get.

Looking for more? Don’t miss the best-of-the-best!

Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, & have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!

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