Differences among Budget, Mid-Range and Luxury Cruises in Halong Bay

As Halong Bay grows and grows in popularity, potential passengers find themselves with a frankly ridiculous number of options with which to access it. The hundreds of companies that ply the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin in the northeast of Vietnam offer three classes, but the differences between budget, mid-range and luxury cruises in Halong Bay is far from clear for the millions of tourists who visit the bay each year.


Endless hours of sifting through brochures, staring at computer screens and speaking with travel agents are not unusual for tourists to Hanoi, who understandably want to be perfectly clear on the service they are receiving. For those people, the Incredible Asia Journeys blog is here to help clarify the key differences between Halong Bay’s budget, mid-range and luxury cruises.

1. What is a Halong Bay Budget Cruise?

Tourism in Halong Bay has done very well in offering every type of traveler a chance to see the world's wonders. For those on a tight budget, the dream of cruising around one of the most magical seascapes on earth might seem unrealistic, but several companies cater specifically to showing such tourists the wonders of Halong Bay from as little as $40 USD. Budget cruises offer the most basic service, but crucially give passengers a chance to cruise around the twice-recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site for a price that is next to nothing.

V'Spirit Cruise

1.1. Halong Bay Budget Cruise Itinerary

One of the main differences between cruises in Halong Bay is the route in which they sail. Budget cruises tend to have a bit of a cut-and-paste itinerary, showing their passengers the main sites of the bay in a pretty regimented fashion. This is especially the case with day tours, which have about 4 hours of cruising time and therefore have to hit each spot with military precision.

Usually, budget cruises in Halong Bay will visit Titop Island, Sung Sot Cave, Vung Vieng fishing village and offer a kayaking excursion around a small area. The beauty of these places is the same, regardless of the cruise that you are sailing on, but the strict time allowances and touristic nature of the stops means that budget cruises can feel a little forced, with not much time for relaxing.

1.2. Halong Bay Budget Cruise Ship

You can extend your beauty of the bay by opting for an overnight trip, be it a 1-night or 2-night tour, where much more of the bay’s beauty will open up to you. While stops will likely be ones with high volumes of tourists, you will have much more time to relax on the sundeck or in the bedroom of your budget ship. Usually, these are comprised of small but functional cabins with en suites, with a few of the fancier ships offering private balconies; all along with a practical dining room, sparsely decorated but useful sundeck and a bar with local beer, wine and a few spirits. The price difference among budget, mid-range and luxury cruises in Halong Bay is largely down to facilities on board the boat, so if the budget option sounds a little too much on the basic side, then you may want to look at the next option…

Some suggestions of Budget Cruises in Halong Bay:
- Mila Cruise
- Cozy Bay Cruise
- La Pandora Cruise
- Garden Bay Legend Cruise.

4. What is a Halong Bay Deluxe (Mid-Range) Cruise?

One of the many frustrations for tourists looking to book Halong Bay cruises is the vague terminology used by travel companies in categorising their cruises and cabins. ‘Deluxe’ in the Vietnamese tourism industry means ‘mid-range’, while inexplicably, cabins listed as ‘superior’ can actually be the most basic offerings on a ship. Amid all the confusion, mid-range cruises offer a decent 4-star service, aimed at tourists with a bit more cash to splash, but not so much that they want the most pristine service available.

2.1. Halong Bay Mid-Range Cruise Itinerary

The route that mid-range cruises use is possibly the biggest difference between budget and deluxe cruises in Halong Bay. As Halong Bay becomes increasingly congested with more and more identical cruise companies wanting a slice of the action, more tourists are finding a quieter and equally breathtaking alternative in Lan Ha Bay, located just to the south. There are currently no budget cruises in Lan Ha bay unless leaving from Cat Ba Island, located about 140km from where most people book their cruises, Hanoi.

Like budget cruises, mid-range cruises in Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay can still visit Titop Island, Sung Sot Cave and the fishing village of Vung Vieng, but have a world of other attractions available as well. The Dark and Bright Caves, Ba Trai Dao Beach, Trong Cave and Dong Tien Lake are all popular stops for such tours who, if sailing through Lan Ha Bay, can also benefit from having the entire of Cat Ba Island available for exploration on the second day of a 3-day cruise.

Sung Sot Cave

2.2. Halong Bay Mid-Range Cruise Ship

You will generally have more space to roam and better facilities when making a comparison between mid-range and budget Halong Bay cruises. These ships are well-equipped to carry their passengers through Halong or Lan Ha bays, starting with a more spacious cabin, more modern en-suite and a potential balcony. You’ll find a more elegant restaurant and bar area, with a wider sundeck on the top facilitating amazing views of the passage of limestone mountains outside. Crucially, mid-range cruises usually contain a more vivid character than budget cruises through Vietnamese decoration, better quality food and various types of boats that offer different services for different people. If you want a private cruise, that’s totally possible, as is a cruise that caters to families or honeymoon couples, all offering a mid-range price tag for an individualized service.

Some suggestions of Deluxe Cruises in Halong Bay:
- V'Spirit Cruise
- La Casta Regal Cruise
- Athena Cruise
- Mila Lux Cruise
- Erina Cruise

3. What is a Halong Bay Luxury Cruise?

Luckily, there is no ambiguity in the name for Halong Bay luxury cruises. Luxury means luxury, and that is exactly what you will get on these 5-star cruises, differing from mid-range and budget cruises not really by the places to which they sail, but by the services that they provide on board the ship. Obviously, such cruises are catered to people with a higher budget, or without a budget at all, providing a stylised and opulent trip for passengers to see the bay in a sophisticated setting.

3.1. Halong Bay Luxury Cruise Itinerary

There isn’t much of a difference between Halong Bay’s mid-range and luxury cruise itineraries; both visit the same areas and see much of the same wonders of Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay. However, some luxury cruises do in fact have special access to some parts of the bay.

Though luxury cruises mostly go to the same attractions, many of their passengers are more in the market for relaxation than activity, meaning cruises usually feature some fantastic alternatives if staying on the ship. Afternoon tea, fruit-carving demonstrations and cooking classes are some of these, while the 6-star ultra-luxury cruises may contain a gym, swimming pool, spa and even a mini-golf course in order to keep their top dollar-paying passengers happy.

Perla Dawn Sails

3.2. Halong Bay Luxury Cruise Ship

Luxury cruises mostly present their opulence in the form of the ship with which you cruise. Aside from some of those features mentioned above, luxury cruises in Halong Bay, compared to mid-range and budget cruises, contain high-end amenities and a character born of classy, stylish, and traditional design. Cabins are very spacious, usually containing a balcony and a very modern and well-equipped en-suite. Luxury cruises are where you’ll find the floating suites of Halong Bay, complete with sofas, bookcases, hot tubs and many other features that breed an air of exclusivity. The service is also in a world of its own on these cruises. Staff will do more than facilitate your sailing, they will actively try to enhance it by offering companionship or extra, personalized services. The crew are trained to the highest levels and have a consistently friendly demeanor along with fluent English abilities; higher-end luxury cruises even have personal butlers who will tend personally to your every whim.

Some suggestions of Luxury Cruises in Halong Bay:
- Catherine cruise
- Elite of the Seas
- Capella Cruise
- Indochine Premium Cruise
- Scarlet Pearl Cruise

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