As one of the most anticipated aspects of our trip, we didn’t even know what to expect upon arrival to Halong Bay. Once we hit the coast, we were immediately speechless as the islands started to pop up out of the mystical fog. Once out of the van, our first real exposure to the bay was the lined up boats, waiting for passengers; the Paradise Cruise Ships. As our bags were brought on board, we waited in the on land lounge, sipping our complimentary coffee. We couldn’t wait to see what the boat would look like. Once ready, we were lead to the Paradise Luxury 4. Upon entering the ship, rose pedals were dropped above us, as we were handed warm glasses of tea. Hard to beat such a welcome wagon. After the initial greeting, we were then directed towards our room. We were taken back by how big and beautiful the accommodations were.
A comfortable queen size bed, scattered with rose pedals, was accompanied by the beautiful wood backboard. A table and chairs sat below the many windows with sweeping views of the water. The bathroom was equally as impressive with a large Jacuzzi and showerhead, and soothing decoration. We definitely wouldn’t have trouble getting a good night sleep!
Once we had settled, we went to the main deck for an overview of the trip. A lunch buffet was set up and waiting for us, with welcome drinks. The flavorful aromas made us realize how hungry we were! After a great introduction to the crew and our itinerary from the manager, Svanhild, we dove into the food. Delectable Vietnamese dishes, illustrating the brilliance of Chef Khoung and Chef Ming, made us ready for the busy day ahead.
After some rest and relaxation on the top deck, our first excursion was to the Surprise Grotto, one of the most famous caves in Halong Bay. We jumped on the transfer boat with our private guide, Jimmy. His enthusiasm and knowledge made it so much fun to explore through the dark paths, and glistening rock. After popping back into the sunlight, we skidded back to the ship to start heading to our next destination.
We made a stop at Tip Top Mountain.This great destination provided many options, including swimming at the silky smooth beach, kayaking through the blue waters, or hiking to the top of the island. Choosing the hike, we made our way up the crooked, yet fun stone steps. We couldn’t believe the view at the top. Gazing down at the ships, sprinkled between the limestone monolithic islands; it was magical. It was difficult to make ourselves make the trip back down to the coast.
After making our way back to the ship, it was time to try our hand at Vietnamese cooking. The crew performed a cooking class, teaching us how to make traditional Spring Rolls. Both Chef Ming and Svanhild demonstrated how to put together the filling concoction, and then how to roll it up on rice paper. It was then our turn to try the roll. My traveling companion, Ryan, was nominated for the first try. Perfect execution! After a handful of passengers gave it a go, they fried the spring rolls up for the tasting. They were delicious. At this point, Happy Hour had started, so our friendly waitresses, Waitress Thangh and Huong, started taking our orders, and bringing us delicious cocktails. Both talented bartenders, Mr. Ti and Mr. Dung, had me try my first Singapore Sling; which quickly made its way to the top of my favorite drinks! With this, we made our way to the top deck to take in the crisp night air, and see the speckling lights of neighboring ships sparkle in the night.
By this point, the busy day had built up an appetite, and we couldn’t wait to try what we could smell cooking below. We were served a 5 course meal, all Vietnamese specialties, and all incredible dishes. Accompanied by the local beer, there couldn’t have been a better way to relax after the excitement from each excursion.
After the meal, many of the passengers headed to the spa, for an incredible massage from Spa therapist Dom, but we headed down to the back deck to learn how to go squid fishing with Jimmy! With a simpler contraption than we had anticipated, I slowly lowered the fishing pole into the water, bobbing up and down, and waiting for a bite. After about 15 minutes, I accepted defeat, and passed the pole along to Ryan. Naturally, with his 3rd dunk into the water, we saw a burst of water, and then a squid pop up with the bait, squirting ink to all sides! It was exciting to see, and we were told it would contribute to the following morning’s breakfast (which was fun, even if it was a joke!). We then decided that would be a perfect way to end the day, and headed back to our cabin.
The next morning, we woke up from an amazing night’s sleep, thanks to the genius of our captain, Captain mr. Toc. We were told that after sailing for over 30 years in the bay, he is the safest (and most charming) captain in the fleet. Waking up for the sunrise, we headed to the top deck to see the Tai Chi being headed by the crew. Several of our passengers were following suit, but we went for the coffee and baked goods readily available. Before breakfast, we went on our last excursion to one of the nearby lagoons. Getting transferred to a floating dock, we each jumped onto a traditional fishing boat. We were paddled through a shallow cave, into the calmest lagoon I had ever seen. With towering rocks, we were told many monkey families had settled in the patched of greenery. Unfortunately we are unable to see the silly creatures, but we could hear them playing in the trees. From here, we headed back to the ship to start our trek back to shore.
The Paradise Luxury 4 Cruise was by far one of the highlights in our tour through Vietnam. The amazing crew and accommodations let us explore and enjoy the beauties of Halong Bay with ease!