Why Kids Will Love This Luxury Cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay in northern Vietnam is a UNESCO heritage area, with over 1,600 islands, inlets and towering limestone formations that rise out of the sea. Our family of four (two kids aged 4 and 5) recently experienced a three-day, two-night Halong Bay Cruise aboard the Bhaya Classic II boat, operated by Bhaya Cruises.

Halong Bay Cruise
Bhaya Classic boat moored in Halong Bay. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

Halong Bay Cruise: Day One

It’s a three-hour drive from the Vietnamese city of Hanoi to the quay at Halong Bay. We boarded the Bhaya Classic II boat at midday and our 5-year-old daughter was in heaven as all the crew were on the top deck waving to us and showering us with rose petals as we came aboard. We got shown to our lovely cabins complete with a comfortable bed, window looking out at the sea and compact but perfectly functional bathroom. Given we were a family of four, we had booked two cabins adjacent to each other.

halong bay cruise
Our cabin aboard the Bhaya Classic. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

As our luggage was transferred on board by porters, we went upstairs from the cabin deck to the restaurant where we were served a lovely buffet style lunch as we left the port. The scenery was immediately stunning as we came across the first of the many islands we were going to see. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the sun and scenery from the top deck of the boat as we cruised towards “Dark and Bright” lagoon.

Halong Bay Cruise
Banana flower salad on board the Bhaya Classic. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

Once docked, we transferred onto a small tender boat and headed towards a platform further in a cove where some kayaks were moored. We had the option to take a sampan (small boat rowed by a local fisherman) or take 2 kayaks which we opted for as you can go further into the lagoon. Lifejackets were issued and with the kids in the front and adults paddling from behind off we went.

Halong Bay Cruise
Kayaking in the lagoon. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

We loved kayaking around the cove, the water was perfectly still and with the steep limestone hills rising up all around us it was an amazing sight. We headed towards an arching cavern and admired some of the rock formations hanging from the ceiling before paddling through.

We traveled further up the lagoon and then through a pitch black rock tunnel which was fun and a real test of ability to maneuver a kayak through a very small channel!

Halong Bay Cruise
Kayaking in bright and dark lagoon. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

By now it was late afternoon so we paddled back to the platform and onto the tender boat in time for a quick shower and happy hour aboard the boat.

Halong Bay Cruise
Sunset cooking class with a view. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

We headed back up to the top deck where a cooking class was commencing to the backdrop of a gorgeous sunset. The boat’s crew showed us how to make traditional Vietnamese spring rolls, which was fun for kids and adults alike.

Halong Bay Cruise
Learning to make Vietnamese spring rolls. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

Then it was time for a delicious five-course dinner before an early night to get ready for an action packed next day.

Halong Bay Cruise: Day Two

After a comfortable night’s sleep, the alarm went off at 6 a.m. and we rose to watch the beautiful sunrise while taking part in a Tai Chi class. It’s actually much harder than it looks! But a very tranquil way to start the day.

Halong Bay Cruise
Doing Tai Chi at sunrise. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

A delicious breakfast was served and we were then transferred to another smaller boat which took us even further into Halong Bay and down to Cat Ba island. One of the advantages of doing a two-night cruise with Bhaya Cruises is that they take this route, as not many of the standard tourist boats go so far into the bay. So we got to enjoy the beautiful views with hardly any other “traffic” around.

Halong Bay Cruise
A local fisherman we saw on our way to Cat Ba island. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

Once we got to Cat Ba island we had the option to do a bike ride or go in an electric buggy. We opted to take the kids on the buggy as the path was a bit rough to take the kids on the back of the bike. The island was very beautiful, covered with forest and with lovely views.

Halong Bay Cruise
Viet Hai village. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

We visited Viet Hai village and got to see how some of the locals live including visiting a local school, and one of the villager’s houses. An elderly lady showed us how she makes rice wine and they even produce snake wine!

After an interesting visit to the village it was time to go back to the boat for yet more food, another 5 course lunch while we cruised back to Bai Tu Long Bay and the main boat. On the way we stopped off at a pearl farm to see how pearls are cultivated.

Halong Bay Cruise
Learning how pearls are made. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

We were given a guided tour of the farm and our daughter got to choose an oyster for opening. Luckily the one she chose had a pearl in it (only about 30% of them do after the cultivation process). Sadly she wasn’t allowed to keep it though as it was worth about $60USD!

Halong Bay Cruise
Finding a pearl in the oyster shell. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

Late afternoon we climbed into a sampan and visited a traditional fishing village, where the people live on the water and make their livelihood from the sea. It was interesting, but probably the most touristy thing we did on the cruise.

Halong Bay Cruise
Our overseas adventures family on a sampan. Photo: Kylie Gibbons

Around 4 p.m. the boat upped anchor again and a few of us headed off in the tender boat to find a gorgeous little sandy cove in the middle of nowhere so we could have a swim. While the weather was sunny it still wasn’t that warm, and the water was freezing! But it was an unforgettable experience swimming in a deserted cove in the middle of the South China Sea.

Halong Bay Cruise
Swimming cove. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

We returned back to the boat again for another happy hour and sunset, followed by another delicious five-course dinner. It happened to be our son’s 4th birthday and as dessert was served, the staff dimmed all the lights and the entire crew came out singing “Happy Birthday” and delivered him a lovely cake and carved watermelon. He was thrilled and it was a lovely touch.

The final activity of the day was squid fishing off the back of the boat. Unfortunately we didn’t catch anything but it was fun trying!

Halong Bay Cruise: Day 3

After breakfast we all jumped back into the tender boat for a short journey to shore and to walk up 700 steps to the entrance of “Surprise Cave.” The cave was really beautiful and a huge complex of different caverns filled with amazing stalactites, stalagmites and rocks that looked like objects such as broccoli, Buddha and Santa Claus.

Halong Bay Cruise
Inside Surprise Cave. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

Then it was back onto the boat for a final huge brunch as we cruised back to the quay and sadly said our goodbyes around midday.

Halong Bay Cruise
Halong Bay sunrise. Photo: Kylie Gibbon

We would highly recommend Bhaya Cruises if you’re ever looking to visit Halong Bay, they were extremely professional, the staff were so lovely and the boat was very comfortable. The Halong Bay Cruise was definitely one of the best things we’ve ever done in our travels. We have some amazing memories and it’s a very special place!

About Kylie Gibbon

Kylie Gibbon and her family from New Zealand love traveling the globe along with their 4- and 6-year-old children. So far they've visited 12 countries and taken 19 flights through Asia and Europe. You can follow their travels on their blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

Click here to read Kylie's articles

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