Halong Bay is one of the major stops for travelers, where wondrous towering limestone “islands” dot the bay across 1500km the world heritage and its idyllic and alluring beauty makes us think to step into starlight. If you wonder the meaning of “Halong Bay” is, I have asked the tour guide and he explained that “Ha Long means the bay of descending dragons presumably because of the rolling look of the karst mountains undulating out of the sea”. Amongst the myriad of breathtaking locations in Vietnam, Halong Bay should definitely be on your bucket list when traveling here.
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Trip of a lifetime with Stellar Of The Seas Cruise
If you search about Halong Bay, you will realize that the limestones karsts and islands go beyond the actual “Halong Bay Park”. Going a bit further South, you find Lan Ha Bay, while Northeast is Bai Tu Long Bay. They all have full of terrific sceneries and emerald green water which offer you a great opportunity to capture some outstanding photos. Whilst Halong Bay is getting overcrowded each year, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay are the smart alternatives to Halong Bay. As Bai Tu Long Bay is the most faraway and more untouched one, it costs more money and time to visit. So apparently the smartest option is Lan Ha Bay which is less touristy, less inhabited, and just as beautiful as Halong Bay itself and the best way to enjoy the stunning islands of Halong Bay as well as Lan Ha Bay is on a cruise.
Totally different from other Halong Bay Cruises that you would feel touristy, rush and disconnected from the local culture, the Stellar of the Seas offers the less-traveled route in Lan Ha Bay which took us into places we would have never seen on our own. Our group has opted for the 2 days 1 night itinerary on this cruise and it was a memorable trip we would never forget.
The first day
At the start of our adventure, we were picked up from our hotel in the Hanoi Old Quarter by a luxury van at 9:00 AM as scheduled. The driver helped us with all pieces of luggage. Our first impression of the trip was very good. The bus was clean offered 08 comfortable seats.
We transferred by the new highway from Hanoi - Halong Bay. It took us 2.5 hours transfer instead of 4 hours we have heard that many other cruises offer. We had 10 minutes short break in Hai Duong city which was well-known for the traditional green bean cake (Please prepare some cash with you if you would like to taste the regional cake). The bus took us over to Tuan Chau Marina and we arrived at the harbor at nearly 12:00 noon.
After drinking some welcome tea at the waiting lounge, we were transferred to a white speedboat. After the manager helped us understand that we would start at Tuan Chau Marina and visit off the beaten track - Lan Ha Bay and it took 20 minutes transfer by speedboat to Lan Ha Bay where the Stellar Of the Seas Cruise anchored, he and the tour guide came over to everyone, introduced their names as well as gave a short overview of Lan Ha Bay. From the speedboat, we saw the main cruise standing side by side the limestones, one girl in my group was so surprised by the gorgeous cruise and she didn’t forget to capture this beautiful moment when we boarded on the cruise, we went directly to the pretty restaurant located on the third deck. We had a few minutes to see around before the lunch was served. The beauty of the wonderful four-season swimming pool was still not recognized until we stood in front of it, it definitely looks like a diamond emerges in the wonderful land.
The Cruise Manager and crew team sent the warmest welcome to us meanwhile the lunch was served, the tour guide informed us a brief itinerary of the cruise. Our first meal on the cruise was a set menu with a combination of local food and western food. All our meals were inclusive and we only need to pay for drinks. About 120,000 Dong for a fresh fruit juice (US$5) and about 150,000 for a local beer (Sai Gon, Hanoi beer) or a glass of wine, they came at a better price compared with some other countries in Southeast Asia.
We finished lunch quite late, we got the key and checked in to our lovely room. It was the Senior room which was located on the second floor and provided a better view, the room offers the sorts of high-end amenities from the bathroom to the bed. It features floor to ceiling windows and a private balcony. If money really isn't a concern, I recommend you book the higher level cabin with a private terrace and panoramic view from the room.
In the afternoon, we were informed to join in swimming activities at the Ao Ech area. However, we opted to enjoy at the four-season swimming pool on the cruise and immersed in the splendid panoramas surrounding. That has to be an unforgettable experience all on its own. We have heard that it is the first cruise that has the pool and mini-golf so we felt so lucky.
We got back to our room in the late afternoon to take a shower and I had a nap before heading to sundeck at 6:30 pm. Before dinner, the crew brought ingredients up to the poolside bar to show us how to make rice paper spring rolls and we learned how to roll them before they were deep-fried and passed around for nibbles. The BBQ dinner was set up next to the pool with the beautiful rainbow color of the pool and the magnificent scenic of Halong Bay. It was a buffet BBQ with plenty of food. They tried to cover up all client’s tastes with shrimps, oysters, squid and also prepared some lamb chop, beef as well as some vegetables. We super like the tree décored on the table, which was made by carrot, white radish and tomatoes and we treated ourselves with some glasses of red wine while indulged in the peaceful beauty of Halong Bay on the rooftop.
The second day
The next day, after a great night's sleep, I woke up early before the sun did and watched it reaching up over the cliffs and joined in the Tai Chi class on the rooftop. Then we had a delicious breakfast to boost energy for an active day. The tender boat took us over a small floating village, we had the choice of two-person kayaks for the hour-long paddle or a small group in a bamboo boat being slowly paddled by little Vietnamese women who live on the water in the village. We did kayaking which was the funniest activity you must join in Halong Bay. We followed the tour guide to visit the cave. You could visit both Dark and Bright Cave before but because of some reasons and the changing in the water sea level, tourists are no longer allowed to visit the Dark Cave. We did kayak through the bright cave and sometimes we stopped to enjoy the spectacular view created by thousand limestones under the sunlight. We felt so lucky one more time as the weather on our trip was fabulous with yellow sunlight and clear blue sky but you should be careful with the jellyfish, they could burn if you badly touch them.
After an hour of the kayak, we walked around the village meanwhile waiting for the bamboo boat back to the starting point. We were surprised as they fed the fish in a net and they were all very big. Back to the ship after one and a half hours of activities, we had 30 minutes to change clothes and packed the luggage before check out cabin. We went to the restaurant after putting all the luggage outside the room and gave the key to the receptionist. Here, we were served brunch with totally Vietnamese food: ‘Banh Xeo’ and ‘Goi Ca nuong’. My partner very liked this meal. The cruise team said goodbye to us after we finish our meal. We rapidly checked all the carry on then went to the speedboat heading back to the Marina to drive to Hanoi.
Thank you Stellar of the Sea Cruise for offering us a wonderful and memorable trip to Halong Bay. For those who are looking for a relaxing trip in the non-touristic area with a spacious room, big private balcony, and high-end facilities,
THIS CRUISE IS THE BEST CHOICE YOU SHOULDN’T MISS OUT!!!
THIS CRUISE IS THE BEST CHOICE YOU SHOULDN’T MISS OUT!!!