Halong Bay vs. Bai Tu Long Bay Cruise

Aug 14th, 2019, 04:08 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 442
Halong Bay vs. Bai Tu Long Bay Cruise

Greetings Fodorites,

We will spend about a week in Hanoi in early November and want to take a cruise in Halong Bay. While I know the scenery is spectacular, but the more I read about it the more I wonder how polluted it is and whether that would significantly negatively affect the experience.Thank you, crellston, for mentioning Bai Tu Long Bay. It looks much less travelled and just as beautiful, but I'm not having a lot of luck finding cruises; only one or two so far. We want a two day/one night cruise. I know they all offer kayaking, hiking, caves, etc. which we're not too interested in, so that won't enter into our decision.

So I guess my question is, will it make a huge difference which area of the bay we choose? This is our one and only chance to experience it and we want to choose the right one for us! I don't want to wait until we get to Hanoi for fear the one we ultimately choose might be sold out.

Would also love any cruise company recommendations you might have!

ellen75005 is offline  
Aug 14th, 2019, 05:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Have you looked at Indochina Junk? It has a fleet of small boats that goes to Bai Tu Long Bay. It has been a few years, but we went on a two-day/one-night trip on the Red Dragon and really enjoyed it. It had just five rooms. It was highly rated then and appears to still be.
ms_go is online now  
Aug 14th, 2019, 04:47 PM
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 104
BTLB *is* HLB, and you'll see the same stunning scenery. BTLB is essentially a route within HLB that's more exclusive and less crowded. We really enjoyed Swan Cruises and their 2N/1D BTLB cruise. More here: Trip Notes: 12 Days in Vietnam & Laos

Last edited by LAX_Esq; Aug 14th, 2019 at 04:50 PM.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Aug 14th, 2019, 07:52 PM
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I went on an overnight cruise in Halong Bay a year ago and thought everything was very nice. Are you saying the water is polluted? I don't know how to test the water for pollution but it all looked very clean and no trash was seen anywhere. The boat we were on was very clean, the food was excellent and we enjoyed the excursions from the boat.
sundowner is online now  
Aug 15th, 2019, 12:06 AM
Join Date: Sep 2017
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In my opinion, it is worth doing Halong Bay/ Lan Ha Bay in 2 days or Bai Tu Long Bay in 3 days so it depends on how much time you plan to spend for the cruise.
DinHo is offline  
Aug 15th, 2019, 02:59 AM
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Thanks - this is just what I was looking for. Neither Swan nor Indochina Junk had appeared in my searches. Sundowner, my impression of "polluted" as I have been reading various articles about Halong Bay was trash; good to know you didn't see any. I do like the idea of a less crowded experience in Bai Tu Long Bay. I've read that they limit the number of boats or cruise companies in Bai Tu Long.

ellen75005 is offline  
Aug 15th, 2019, 10:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 104
Originally Posted by DinHo View Post
In my opinion, it is worth doing Halong Bay/ Lan Ha Bay in 2 days or Bai Tu Long Bay in 3 days so it depends on how much time you plan to spend for the cruise.
The scenery is generally the same as you sail along the Bay, and what you'll see with an additional 24 hours on a cruise after having already spent 24 hours there is getting into diminishing returns territory. Not really clear by what measure you feel it's "worth" 3D/2N rather than 2D/1N, but I'd presume that it's more relaxing to have that second day if you have the time and money. Of course, it depends what your values/priorities are. The cruises are rather expensive and nobody should feel like they're missing anything by doing 2D/1N.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Aug 15th, 2019, 10:49 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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There is significant pollution in parts of Halong Bay, some visible, some invisible. A few years ago the authorities imposed a ban on swimming in the bay mainly because of health concerns. Most of the boats did not have waste treatment facilities and were dumping untreated waste into the bay. Plastic detritus, the most visible pollution, we saw in many places, this was mainly blamed on the local settlement around the bay using the water as a rubbish tip. This sadly, is a common problem in Vietnam. Plastic waste is everywhere.

If you are going to go to Halong then whilst I see the point Lax is making, I do agree with Din Ho that 3D/2n would be better than one night, but a lot depends on the operator and the route they take and how adept they are at dodging the inevitable crowds, which is easier over three rather than two days. At some of the more popular spots such as the cave the queues and crowds and queues were horrendous.

Would love to be able to recommend and operator to you Ellen, but sadly I confess that I made the wrong choice and ended up having to get a partial refund via the hotel that booked it for us.

To an extent, you do get what you pay for with Halong cruises, so if cost is not a huge concern, I think it could be better to go more upmarket there. I would also look at not just a cruise but maybe a cruise combined with a night on one of the islands in the bay. Having said that, I did that a VERY long time ago so things have doubtless changed.
crellston is offline  
Aug 16th, 2019, 03:26 AM
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Thanks, all.

I've booked the one night/two day cruise on the Dragon Legend which seems to fit our needs. We do feel that one night is enough for us; we mainly want to see the bay and I think we'll be ready to return to Hanoi after one night. I can't wait to see the bay!

Again, Fodors came through - so much appreciated!

ellen75005 is offline  
Aug 16th, 2019, 10:38 PM
Join Date: Jun 2019
Posts: 14
Definitely LMan ha Bay, less dirty than Halong Bay because the channels are too shallow for big cruise boats ; Lan Ha Bay cruise boats leave from Cat Ba Isalnd. For 3 days, you may consider Bai tu Long Bya, which is less touristy. /

The BIG decision is private junk versus collective one ; the first ones are the top, but not cheap. You might want to consider the excellent private one Oriental Sun, owned by Oriental Bridge Travel ; the agency website also proposes several junks from each category from deluxe private (Indochina Junks) to Budget Standard. In collective Superior , the Ocean 7 is perfect because it has only 7 cabins, thus closer to a private one, and the Swan junks are also excellent
Larsay is offline  
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