Ha Long Bay is a popular excursion from Hanoi full of breathtaking vistas and calm, serene waters.

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Our accommodations for the evening: the Dragon Legends 2 cruise ship.

Looking forward to getting back to nature and away from human beings in general, we opted for a two day and one night cruise with Indochina Junk in Bai Tu Long Bay. The price range for tickets was somewhere between the mid-to-high range compared with other cruises and our luxury rooms were actually among the best (if not the best) accommodations we’ve experienced so far on our trip. Our complimentary minivan arrived in the morning at our hotel in Hanoi to whisk us away to Ha Long in under four hours, including a 30-minute restroom and snack/souvenir stop along the way.

Ladies Who Lunch

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The first main course of the all-inclusive lunch menu.

One of the many enjoyable aspects of the cruise was the food. It was some of the best we’ve had so far and the lunch served upon first boarding included a few appetizers of spicy and sour seafood soup and chef’s green salad with lime dressing, followed by the main courses of  “Hué” royal steamed sea bass with spring onion and steamed prawns with lemongrass and garlic. Enjoying a delicious meal with a glass of wine was a great way to ease into our voyage.

Mikey Row the Boat Ashore, Hallelujah!

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Row row row your kayak, gently down the bay.

I’m not usually a big fan of cruises or tour group shenanigans for a number of reasons. Firstly, I find the very regimented schedules not very conducive to the maximum amount of nothing I want to do while I travel. Secondly, the group of tourists you are stuck with can be hit or miss, especially in such close quarters. Fortunately, one is able to opt out of any and all activities included along with the cruise. Also, the group of forty or so other passengers on the ship weren’t as insufferable as I initially imagined them to be. Win-win!

I Love It When We’re Cruisin’ Together

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A beautiful sunset over Bai Tu Long Bay.

Bai Tu Long Bay is Ha Long Bay’s northeastern neighbor and is both a less touristy and less polluted option than Ha Long Bay itself. Because of this, the area is currently experiencing some rapid development as seen in the various construction along its shores. Still, the cruise was much quieter and relaxing than all of the photos and articles I’ve seen of the cruises launching from the more crowded ports of Bãi Cháy and Tuần Châu. This becomes even more apparent at sunset and docking at nightfall, where only a handful of other local boats and cruise ships can be seen at any given time.

Good Morning Ha Long Bay

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Couldn’t have asked for a more majestic view the following morning.

Waking up to floating mountains eerily passing through the morning mist of the bay was a magical experience and afforded sincere moments of quiet contemplation. Shortly after breakfast, we unwisely chose to visit one of the more unimpressive caves of the region. Honestly, the activity felt tacked on if only to include another bulleted line item on the website. Aside from that one nitpick, the overnight cruise was an enjoyable experience from start to finish, with great food, hospitable staff and gorgeous views to write home about.