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I was a bit “pressured” to provide a review of the Ha Long Bay cruise that we took by one of the staff members aboard the La Regina Grand cruise that we took. Since I find those create a kind of biased view and also because it was difficult for us to find useful reviews when trying to make reservations, I took the time to write a lengthy and unbiased review that I posted later instead of succumbing to the pressure. I’m reposting that—with some additional edits—here.

Overall, we enjoyed the 2D/1N cruise with included transfers to/from Hanoi. Our room was comfortable for a family of three, which included two twins combined and a single twin for our child as well as a separate soaking tub and large walk-in shower. The floor to ceiling windows and balcony were also nice touches. Not knowing what to expect, we thought the food on the cruise was decent at all of the meals — not unlike eating in the main dining room of large cruise ships — selection though was more limited at buffets and main meals (although it looked the the cruise line did a good job of handling dietary needs). Likewise, the prices and quality for drinks were reasonable, especially as guests are a captive audience once aboard the ship. The staff were all friendly and competent.

To give you a sense of the day: 

We departed our hotel in Hanoi around 8:30am. We arrived at the port around 11:15am, with the journey including a 30 minute “comfort stop” at a pearl shop which was only a few moments from the cruise terminal. That’s a waste of time and also less than helpful for anyone on the 2 hour ride between Hanoi and Ha Long. 

Once at the terminal, check-in was efficient but a bit chaotic with departing passengers and arriving passengers transiting about the same time. After waiting about 30 minutes, we boarded another ship (larger than the ship’s own tender) to transfer to the actual cruise ship. The journey to the area where the cruising vessels are anchored took about 45 minutes and was reasonably scenic.  

Upon arrival (around 1:00pm), we were sent to the lunch buffet while the ship sailed to our first destination. After lunch, we were given access to our staterooms and time to prepare for the first outdoor activity involving either kayaking (2 people, row yourself) or taking a bamboo boat (6-8 people, local rows you) out through a cave and back. This was very enjoyable and took about an hour transiting from the ship to tender and then spending ~40 minutes doing the activity. After this, the ship moved again to its overnight anchorage spot where swimming off of the back of the vessel was made available as an option before happy hour (5:30-6:30pm), a cooking demo, and dinner (seating at 7:00pm). In the evening, there was a squid fishing activity that we skipped — otherwise, not a lot of post dinner entertainment options. Wifi on the boat wasn’t great either, but I didn’t get good mobile data service on LTE speed from our overnight anchorage. 

Morning could start early with the primary activity being a 7:15am departure from the boat to shore, followed by a 15-20 minute (each way) bus ride to a cave. Return to the ship by 9:00am for check-out followed by a brunch buffet at 9:30. Then it’s a repeat of the prior process with a transfer from the mooring location to another vessel for the journey back to the harbor. We arrived around 11:15 back on land and were immediately whisked to our waiting transfer van (great!) but then wasted about 45 minutes driving around Ha Long city to pick up another family at a different cruise terminal (less good). In the end, we returned to the hotel in Hanoi around 2:30pm. 

Our cruise had a rather diverse set of fellow travelers from Asia (including India), Europe, and North America in groups of various sizes (couple to large family gatherings). This obviously varies by sailing; just know that the cultural differences might be pronounced (one large group on this particular sailing was rather boisterous). 

If you have the time (we did not), I’d recommend taking a 3 day / 2 night cruise instead of the single overnight — there’s just a lot of time spent on travel logistics vs. actual cruising on the single overnight voyage. I’d also try to get away from the armada of cruise ships to more secluded experiences. We were clearly on the “tourist trail” not “off the beaten path” (or whatever the nautical equivalent of those are). That said, we’re pleased to have both done the trip to Ha Long Bay and sailed aboard Le Regina cruise lines. I wouldn’t call it a “luxury” experience as described, but it was perfectly serviceable and met our expectations.

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