Kayaking among the limestone kaarsts of Halong Bay (Bai tu Long Bay) was the thing my husband and I were MOST excited about doing with our children in Vietnam. We even bought our kids a little kayak for Christmas to help build their confidence and skills ahead of time.
You can imagine our deep disappointment when we received an email, the day before our cruise, informing us that the Vietnamese Government had banned ALL kayaking in the Halong Bay area two weeks prior. I confess we were pretty cross that our cruise company only informed us the day before the cruise when we had no option but to continue as planned.
The cruise we booked included a hotel pick up in Hanoi in a ‘luxury van’. It was comfortable and had air-conditioning. Be warned you will be dropped off for a toilet break somewhere with a bunch of strange marble statues carving and a large hall full of things to buy.
It was around 4 hours travel time from Hanoi to the wharf at Hon Gai Harbour. We played a lot of I-spy!
WHO WE CRUISED WITH
We booked our cruise with Indochina Junk and opted for the 3day/2night cruise that would take us to Bai tu Long Bay. Bai tu Long Bay is further away and much less congested than Halong Bay.
Our boat was ‘Dragons Pearl’ which only had 10 cabins ensuring a really intimate experience and the opportunity to really get to know everyone on board.
It turned out to be really tranquil and we did not ever feel like other boats in the area were intrusive. Highly recommend making the effort to go to this area.
BEING ON A CRUISE WITH KIDS
It was surprisingly lovely being on the cruise with the kids. There was one other girl, aged 12, on the boat who was really excited to find other children on board. The four girls spent a lot of time together playing. Her parents were really lovely and we all felt we gained new friendships.
Other passengers on board were very welcoming of our children and didn’t seem to mind at all that our girls would chatter away to them up on the deck while they were perhaps trying to relax.
Any time we left the boat for an excursion other passengers happily spent time with them. In fact “playing tag on the beach with Liz and Aaron” was written up as a highlight by my 6 year old when she went back to school.
I confess I never expected our children to be so included, welcomed and cared for by other passengers.
Meals: Dinner time on the cruise was around 7pm which is too late for my girls. The crew happily made them some rice and vegetable sticks to eat at around 5.30pm which kept them happy. To be honest they didn’t like the adult food anyway so this worked out well.
The adult food was really delicious though and you could never go hungry!
My girls took part in a cooking lesson on board one day and helped make Spring Rolls for dinner that night.
Sleeping: We had cabins next door to each other that had either a double or queen bed. I slept in one cabin with my four year old and my husband slept in the other cabin, sharing the bed with our six and eight year old.
• Note: children under the age of 5 travel free on the cruise
Sitting up on deck watching the beautiful scenery
Making new friends
The row-boat ride through the fishing village
Note: you actually get no connection with the village or the people which was disappointing but the experience of being in the row boat and the visual perspective was beautiful
Our cruise on Bai tu Long Bay is something we will remember for a long time. I don’t think we ever let go of our disappointment about the kayaking but there were many other wonderful memories created.