Choosing a cruise in Halong Bay can be tough; especially when you're on a budget. After doing quite a bit of research, I think dropping a pretty penny for this once in a lifetime experience is the way to go. A two-day, one-night trip seemed really rushed, and by staying two nights and three days, you truly get an opportunity to explore, and appreciate this amazing place.
I ended up going with Jasmine via Heritage Cruise Lines. This isn't your typical backpacker party boat, so if that's what your looking for, I definitely wouldn't go with this company. Yes, it is a little bit pricier, but you get some great food, premium accommodations, top notch service, and the day boat (for those who are staying for two nights), which was absolutely amazing. You go biking, kayaking, and you often are only with 6-10 other people for the whole second day. Definitely worth it!
The first night that we were on the boat it was a bit drizzly and a little eerie floating through the bay. I almost felt like we were in a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. Before the sun set, we managed to go and see a traditional fishing village, which was really interesting. Apparently, only in the past couple of years, the locals have been required to actually build houses on floating rafts. Before that, they just lived out of their fishing boats. Aside from their catches of the day, the only other way the generate income is from tour groups, like ours. Make sure to carry some small money with you if you do go on a floating village tour (which you likely will), so you can tip your row boat guide.; 20,000 Dong, less than a dollar U.S., is plenty.
The next day, me and seven others took off on our day boat, while the main boat took back the passengers who were just staying one night. It was great to see the sights with a smaller group of people. Our first stop was at a larger island where we biked about half an hour inland to a relatively large village in the bay. We saw a school, local hospital and a family living (with the most adorable little boy) in a very traditional home. Everyone was super friendly and we were very well received by all of the locals.
The rest of the day was filled with loads of other fun activities, and I have the pictures to match. But, instead of having a massively long post on my entire cruise, keep your eyes peeled for 'part two' on Halong Bay coming soon!