but the thing is, there are so many cruise operators doing the same trip, so you may be prevaricating over which one to choose, for fear of making an expensive mistake. Which is why we would heartily recommend taking either of the Red Dragon junks from Indochina tours, as they follow a different route which only THEY are permitted to use, yet they still manage to take in all the major sites. So you get the best of all worlds... hurrah! We opted for the slightly bigger boat (RD2) for the 2day/1night cruise, but as there were only two other couples aboard, we were severely outnumbered by the crew and felt like we had the vessel to ourselves. Prices are better if you book through the hotel once you're in Hanoi (don't book through the travel operators on the street!) and rest assured that the travel experience, the attention to detail and the standard of catering and service will be second to none. Even the bus journey to and from Halong Bay was a treat!
Fantastic! I was skeptical going into this Halong Bay cruise based on all the reviews of Halong bay tours in general but boy, was I blown away by how fantastic this cruise was, We booked thru our hotel with the Indochina Junk the Red Dragon II. It is a little more than some of the other cruises but trust me, it is SO worth every penny. First, the trip was mostly thru Bai Tu Long Bay, which is less crowded and cleaner. There are only 5 cabins (10 persons total) so you don't feel crowded out. There are sunning lounge chairs on the deck where you can relax and enjoy the view, as well as option for both indoor and outdoor dining on top of the boat. Think about that, meals with the bay cruising by you. Second, the crew and our guide were very friendly, helpful and just all around great people. Our guide Hoang Nguyen was always there to provide information (very informative which was a plus), guidance and help when you needed it but not around so much that it was annoying, most of the time you just felt comfortable and taken care of and not bothered at all. He had the perfect balance for a 2 day 1 night trip. Third, can we say delicious food! The food was so so so amazing! (that's three "so"'s folks). It was the ultimate never-ending delicious meal. Finally, we felt so pampered. The itinerary, crew, guide, the rooms (each room had panoramic windows and the bathroom had a window that opened) the food, the views...everything was so "Zen," peaceful and great. Look at this review, I clearly cannot say enough about the Red Dragon Cruise. I don't rate things often but this experience was just perfect.
The office staff I had contact with in Hanoi were very helpful, and the tour guides that they arranged for us were extremely helpful. I was very pleased with the assistance provide during the tours, as I had no experience traveling in these countries before hand. From the moment we arrived in Hanoi, we were given help with everything from transfering between different cities and places, to booking flights to continue our travels.
There is no need to worry about getting around the cities, as the guides will pick you up from the airports, drop you off at the hotels, and limit the confusion you face as a traveler in a foreign city which doesn't necessarily speak the same language as you. A good example is at the train stations. Everytime we had to take a train, a guide would go with us to the train station and get our tickets, lead us to the train car, and physically show us which seat/room we were in.
The tour guides we had were very knowledgeable, and were willing to answer all the questions we had about the area, people's day-to-day lives, and also the country's history. They also had some flexibility in the iternerary, so that we could ask to see specific things which weren't necessarily part of the tour. My dad and I enjoyed learning about the history of the countries, so we asked to go to some extra museums and historical sites, and the guides took us there.
I would highly recommend booking your tours with First Choice Travel. A good bit of advice is to start planning your trip well in advance of your departure date, as it is sometimes difficult to communicate through e-mails, especially across time zones. I started planning my tours a month and a half before arriving in Vietnam, and that was sufficient time to get all of the details sorted out.
Sylvia, Just a brief note to let you know that we successfully enjoyed the Jayavaram cruise you booked for us. The cruise surpassed our expectations, a great mix of luxury and experience of the Mekong and its vibrant life. The trip could not have been better. Regards graeme
Anyone who is thinking about travelling to Halong Bay, I would recommend the Red Dragon to everyone. And if you are thinking about just going for the day – don’t!! An over night trip is a must!!! The Red Dragon is pretty new, so in great condition. The rooms are incredible – and the best shower we had while in Vietnam!! The cabins are perfect size, and air conditioned. I honestly don’t know where to start with my review…. The staff were fantastic, the food was the best I have ever eaten and the views are stunning. The whole time you are onboard you feel like you are in total luxury and I promise you, you will never feel hungry!! I don’t have a bad thing to say about this trip, only that I wish that it was two nights instead of just one – none of us wanted to get off the boat!!!
The great thing about this trip, it that it is limited to 10, so very intimate trip, and you get to know everyone really well, so if you have a good group of people (as we did) you will enjoy it even more. Also you travel in the opposite direction to all the other boats so you feel like no one else is at sea.
We have jut returned from the cruise with my husband, self and 4 year old son. This boat is wonderful. The rooms are lovely and the bathroom very elegant. Our tour guide was wonderful and the food is too die for. Some of the best we have had. The boat goes to a different group of islands so you don't have a large group of people around. We visited a fishing village and a pearl farm. We only went into one cave which I feel was the only downfall of the cruise. The seond day we kayaked and then swam back to the boat. The swim was lovely and I could have floated in halong bay for hours. It is so amazing to be in the water with the huge limestone mountains towering above you. It was quite a magial experience. The boat only has 5 rooms and we had a family room which was huge. There were only 7 passengers on the boat and we all had a wonderful experiene, I am sorry we didn't stay on for 2 nights.
My wife and I travelled fairly extensively during our working lives, and are continuing to do so in retirement. First Choice Travel is among the very best of all the travel companies we have dealt with to date. It was a pleasure Ms Chi Nguyen: thank you for a great trip and we will continue to recommend your company to any of our friends and acquaintances who are considering travelling to your part of the world. Dr. Alan Law Yates Road , Kelowna , BC V1V 1P8, Canada.
We have been most impressed with the professional way you and your organization has handled our 1 month holiday in Vietnam - from planning to booking to delivery - everything happed in a no hassle and smooth fashion. We will certainly let our friends from Australia , who are considering a holiday in Vietnam , know about your company and our experiences with it. We wish your company well and am sure you will through providing such effective and professional service - always the best form of advertising. Best wishes and thanks again. Ron and Heather Brown, Perth, Australia.