Halong Bay Sunset

Cruising Halong Bay

In Cruises, Vietnam by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Cruising Halong Bay is the perfect way to relax after spending time in Hanoi, Vietnam’s frenetic capital city. Find out what it’s like to take a two-day cruise on the Emeraude – Halong Bay’s only luxury paddle steamer.

Cruising Halong Bay Vietnam

We were tired after eating our way through hectic Hanoi over a three-week period.

Let’s face it, it takes a lot of energy to navigate Vietnam’s capital city, much less make videos and do all the other work that happens behind the scenes at 2foodtrippers. So, we decided to go to take a break from food travel to cruise Halong Bay for two days.

Halong Bay Photo Opportunities - Cruising Halong Bay

The views don’t stop on Halong Bay. Every angle is a photo opportunity.

Less than a four-hour drive from Hanoi, Halong Bay is a beautiful oasis in Northeast Vietnam with thousands of grassy limestone islands jutting out of miles of turquoise-colored water. For travelers spending three weeks in Vietnam, a visit to Halong Bay is an absolute must for those interested in cruising Vietnam.

A UNESCO site since 1994, Halong Bay is far from a hidden gem. Dozens of junk boats tour the bay at any given time, creating a traffic jam and detracting from the natural beauty of the bay with its seemingly endless karst formations. That’s why we chose the luxurious Emeraude Classic Cruises for our Halong Bay excursion.

The Emeraude - Cruising Halong Bay Vietnam

The Emeraude, a replica of an early 20th-century paddle steamer, offers the height of luxury for passengers cruising Halong Bay.

Cruising Halong Bay on the Emeraude

For us, the Emeraude was the perfect way to experience Halong Bay. Chief Purser Anne Hadang puts a high value on customer service, and the entire experience is first class from the welcome drinks to the disembarkment less than 24 hours later. Unlike most guests, we opted for two days on the Emeraude, which we highly recommend. One day seems a bit rushed to relax and also enjoy the boat’s activities.

With two days, we were able to chill for solid blocks of time and also do some fun activities like visiting the Sung Sot Grotto (also known as the Surprise Cave), eat French pancakes from the crepe station, learn how to make Vietnamese spring rolls and watch the movie Indochine. It sounds like we did a lot, but we actually skipped some activities since we were having so much fun doing next to nothing.

Halong Bay Sunset

The sunset on our first night may be the best sunset we’ve ever seen. It was pure magic.

For us, the main draw of cruising Halong Bay was the beauty of the mythical area that translates to Descending Dragon Bay. However, we were pleased with the experience we had on the historic boat, which was designed to replicate an early 20th-century paddle steamer originally operated by Paul Roque, a second-generation Frenchman in Indochina.

While cruising Halong Bay, we slept in the comfortable, aptly named, Paul Roque Suite. With five windows offering endlessly stunning views and a private deck area, it’s no wonder that U.S. Senator John McCain and Anthony Bourdain also chose to sleep in the same suite.

Paul Roque Suite View on the Emeraude in Halong Bay Vietnam

We loved so much about the Paul Roque Suite, like the bed and the hair products. However, the view was the real show stopper.

Halong Bay Cruise Food

We didn’t have high expectations for the food during our two-day sojourn. To our pleasant surprise, the food on the Emeraude was not only plentiful but also good. With a mixture of Vietnamese classics (like pho) and Western favorites (like spaghetti bolognese), we ate well – perhaps a little too well, as can happen with buffets. We especially enjoyed the large Halong Bay steamed prawns and the variety of tropical fruit.

Fresh seafood on the Emeraude in Halong Bay Vietnam

Fresh seafood is a highlight of the dinner buffet on the Emeraude.

Pro Tip: Drinks cost extra on the Emeraude. Be sure to take advantage of the two-for-one happy hour if you plan to drink during the cruise.

Cruising Halong Bay Video

Watch our YouTube video to see what it’s like to cruise Halong Bay on the Emeraude.


Ready for another cruise? Check out our cruise on the Rhine River.


Get Your Vietnam Visa

Don’t get stuck at the border when you travel to Vietnam. Click here to secure a hassle-free Vietnam visa.

Book a Halong Bay Cruise

We loved our Halong Bay cruise on the Emeraude but you may want a different experience. Click here to find an awesome Halong Bay cruise.

We thank Buffalo Tours for their assistance with our trip. We also thank the crew at Emeraude Classic Cruises for their hospitality while we were cruising Halong Bay.

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About the Author

Saveur Magazine's BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

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