Halong bay on cristina diamond cruise

It’s kind of impossible to go to Vietnam and not hear about Halong Bay. Located in the north, 4 hours drive from Hanoi, Halong Bay consists of almost 2000 limestone islands and it’s pretty incredible. It'll probably be the priciest expense on your trip to Vietnam (it definitely was on mine) but it is worth paying for!

You can go for one, two or three days trip but it's a long drive there and back so overnight is recommended. With so many different boats, choosing one online was turning into a bit of a nightmare; they all looked exactly the same but the prices were completely different so in the end, I emailed the hostel that I had booked for Hanoi and asked for their help. They sent me some options at different prices and I picked the 2 night, 3 day Cristina Diamond Cruise which they went ahead and booked for me. Shout out to Nexy!

Our three day cruise cost $255 each which admittedly, was quite a lot (I opted for the luxury boat, come on - lady of luxury at heart remember? plus it was the only one with (terrible) wifi) although that included everything from the three hour transfer there and back, two nights on the boat, all meals and all entrance fees; we only had to pay extra for drinks which were actually very expensive for Vietnam; were talking $1 bottles of water (which really isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things.) 
Halong Bay Cruise
Cristina Diamond Halong
Day 1
We locked our bags away in the luggage room at the hostel and waited in reception to be picked up with just our overnight bags and all of the extra Pringles and Oreos that I'd bought as a precaution. A minibus came to get us at 7.45am and along with about 15 other people we began our journey to Halong. After a tourist trap toilet stop, we were checking into our rooms on the boat by 11.30. Our twin room was a little bit old but it was clean and it was comfortable - I would have been upset if they were any nicer because we hardly spent any time in there at all. We had a big window, a rusty balcony and a very modern bathroom complete with products. 

After dumping our bags down, the first order of the day was a buffet lunch in the restaurant as the cruise got going. The food wasn't incredible but it wasn't bad and there was more than enough of it. I didn’t touch my snacks!
Halong Bay Food
The first stop was to visit a pearl farm. I had read that this was a big waste of time and another tourist trap but actually, we took a 45 minute ride on a bamboo row boat to get there. We then spent 10 minutes watching how they make the pearls (this was actually really interesting) and spent less than 5 minutes walking through the shop to get back on the tender and then went straight to a beach so not a waste of time at all.
We were welcomed back on board with a ‘sunset party‘ on the top deck which involved some (free) wine and juice, some fresh fruit and some mini matcha cupcakes which I ate far too many of. It was all very romantic and on the first night there were a lot of couples which made me start to actually miss Andrew 12 days into my trip (sorry Andrew) but it varies because the next night was full of groups of friends.
Dinner was at 6.45pm back in the dining room and afterwards we spend the rest of the evening chatting to Tugen, the bar man who was the same age as us. I always find it fascinating talking to locals about their life in the country; he was super smiley and sounded like he loved working on a boat. After a little bit of unsuccessful squid fishing we headed to bed and were gently rocked to sleep. I always sleep so peacefully on water.

Day 2
The mornings start with 6.45am Tai Chi on the top deck so I left Nathan asleep in the room and went up to have a go. After 15 minutes of waving our arms around in the air; trying to follow the Tai Chi master, I went back down to the restaurant to meet Nathan for breakfast - I had a couple of scrambled eggs whilst he went a little bit more adventurous and had a pho.
 Then it was time to split from the two day cruisers. They went off to see a cave (what we would be doing on our third day) whilst we waited on the main boat for our day boat to come and pick us up.  There was only one other couple who had booked the three day trip like we had so we near enough had a private tour which was absolutely incredible. This second day we got a proper experience of Halong Bay so I would completely recommend booking the three day trip.
The day started with an hour of sailing in the sunshine. There wasn’t another tourist boat in sight all day, it really did feel like we were the only ones there and it was so peaceful. We lost all track of time and had started drinking beer before anyone realised that it was actually only 9am.

In between sailing, we stopped off to explore a deserted cave and go out fishing with a couple of local fishermen - they took us out in a tiny wooden boat that they had somehow put a motor in and were controlling it with a hook on a piece of string and a branch, it was quite the experience!
That was actually a replacement activity since the government banned both kayaking and swimming just a few days earlier. No one could tell us why but luckily we were more than happy to relax on the boat instead. With an on board BBQ for lunch and a nap on the sun deck, we returned back to the main boat at around about 5pm feeling totally refreshed and just in time for the sunset party again.
Whilst we were away, they had offloaded the two day cruisers that we originally got on with and loaded up with another group. Then we started again with the sunset party up on the deck followed by dinner. This time they prepared a different meal for the four of us so we ended up spending all day and all night with our new friends! Luckily we got on pretty well and ended up spending the rest of the night at the dinner table drinking cocktails.
Day 3
Again, my morning started with Tai Chi on the deck followed by breakfast and now it was our turn to visit the first cave from yesterday. I actually decided to stay on the beach instead as it was super crowded and it was making me feel a bit ill. Still, they came out 20 minutes later and it was time to get back on the boat and check out of our rooms. We had a spring roll making lesson (yeah it really is as easy as it looks) before our last lunch on board and the long drive back to Ha Noi.


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