Many years ago pirates plagued the waters surrounding Halong Bay, so the people of Vietnam prayed to one of the gods, king of the heaven to protect them. Their prays were answered and the king of the heaven sent a family of dragons to protect them. The dragons released jewels and pearls which rooted into the waters and turned into islands, which protected the people of Vietnam by creating a perilous route for the pirates.
Today of course we know that the magnificent islands surrounding Halong Bay are the result of erosion over millions of years causing weaker rocks to slowly wear away, leaving only the stronger limestone. However, the legend of the descending dragons certainly makes venturing around the waters surrounding Halong Bay a more mystical and magical experience, especially when doing so on a luxury cruise.
Our first destination in Vietnam was Hanoi and the only reason we stopped here was to cruise around the iconic waters surrounding Halong Bay. The boats that cruise around Halong Bay aren’t necessarily known for their impeccable safety record, so I did a lot of research before we set off on our trip and found a couple of different companies that were recommended by other travelling families.
After a lot more research and a bit of questioning whether to skip past northern Vietnam altogether and head straight for the central region, we went ahead and booked a 1 night, two day cruise on Dragon Legend 2 with Indochina Junk, which included hotel pick up. The Dragon Legend cruises don’t actually sail around Halong Bay itself, but instead route through Bai Tu Long Bay, which is just as scenic and beautiful, but a lot further off of the tourist track, meaning it isn’t as busy.
Travel days can be a little stressful, so we were a little apprehensive about a four hour bus ride from Hanoi to Hon Gai harbour. However, Indochina Junk made the whole experience much less stressful and provided us with our very own car to get to the harbour, taking the pressure off us to ensure a perfect travel run to avoid causing any annoyance to our fellow cruisers.
On arrival at the harbour, we were chaperoned into a waiting area where the boys could watch the boats coming in an out of the harbour through a window while we waited to board our ship.
After a bit of a wait the passengers of Dragon Legend 2 were escorted to a small, runner boat that was to take us across the water to our ship. The only issue I had with this was that we weren’t told about this runner, so I had assumed we would board straight onto our ship. While on the runner boats, passengers are required to wear a life jacket. We have brought life jackets for the boys with us on our travels, because they can be a bit unsettled when presented with new things and so we had got them used to wearing their own ‘special ones’ before we left England. As we didn’t know about the runner boat, we hadn’t packed them in our carry on pack and the boys were given ones by Indochina Junk, which caused an almighty meltdown. Thankfully the runner trip takes mere minutes and once we were on board Dragon Legend 2 and the life jackets were handed back in, they both calmed down soon enough.
Once on board we were given a lemon tea, a run through of what facilities were on board Dragon Legend 2 and the itinerary for the next few days. The ship was just stunning, with the perfect blend of traditional decor and modern furnishings.
The rooms were wonderful, especially after the basic accommodation we had grown accustomed to in Hanoi. The bathroom had both a shower and bath, with the bath having the a tap for sea water and tap for fresh water.
Our bedroom window was situated next to a seat and coffee table, meaning we could enjoy our breakfast while looking out at the beautiful scenery we were sailing through, enjoying good food and tea in our own space as we did so. It also meant we could enjoy a couple of drinks in the evening, while the boys played before bed.
As well as luxurious interiors, there was also a spa, swimming pool and sun deck on board.
There were also a number of optional excursions available while on board Dragon Legend 2, including kayaking, caving and Tai Chi.
I was feeling a bit run down while on our cruise, so I stayed on board with the boys while Mr. C went kayaking. The crew members had placed a number of different board games and building blocks in the main reception area of the ship, which we played while Mr. C went kayaking. It was so lovely being able to just sit and play games with the boys for an hour in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. I think it is important to take the time to do ordinary things while travelling, as it creates a sense of familiarity for the boys.
All of our meals were included while on board, although most drinks had to be paid for separately. As well as a brunch buffet, we also had two tasting menus while on board, which gave us plenty to eat and meant the boys could try local cuisine without committing to one large meal. The crew members also provided more western style food for them, including spaghetti bolognese and chips. The food was just incredible, but was very seafood orientated, so it is worth letting Indochina Junk know of any dietary requirements a few days before a cruise if this is an issue.
The cruise itself was an incredible experience, the crew members went above and beyond to make sure it was a great experience for all of the passengers. At the end of our cruise, we were down to our last nappy (really bad planning on our behalf) and as we had a four hour drive to get back to Hanoi, with a stop at a water puppet show on the way, we were starting to worry. We asked one of the crew members if there was a shop nearby, but instead of just giving us directions, he went out and bought a pack of nappies for us. We couldn’t have been more thankful!
We were then directed to a luxury minibus, with a dutch couple Mr. C had been speaking to on the kayaking excursion and set off to watch the water puppet show. While watching the show we were able to help ourselves to tea, coffee, cake and fruit, which the boys were more than happy about. The water puppet show was accompanied by live music and was an interesting insight into the classic stories of Vietnam. Shortly after the water puppet show, we boarded back into the minibus and made our way back to Hanoi.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time on board Dragons Legend 2 and had the most wonderful time on our cruise, but there are a few things to consider if travelling with young children.
- During the day, we walked past a number of doors that were left open to air the ship and found they lead to open water, with no barrier. Although a relatively safe ship overall, things like this mean that it is important to be vigilant while on board.
- Travelling to and from the harbour can be quite strenuous, so prepare for the long travel periods as much as possible.
- It was quite cold at points while on board and found we weren’t the only ones who were ill prepared for cooler weather. Some of the excursions required sturdy footwear, so definitely pack some warmer clothes and some good walking shoes, especially if you are looking at going on any of the excursions.
- In our personal experience, the 1 night, 2 day cruise was a little short to allow younger children to adjust enough to embrace the experience fully. If we were to do this cruise again, we would look at doing the 2 night, 3 day cruise to allow some adjustment time between travelling days.
Our time on board Dragons Legend 2 with Indochina Junk has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. Waking up and having a morning cup of tea sat next to a window, looking out at such an amazing view is really something and the little ones loved the attention they got from the crew members. Our Bai Tu Long Bay cruise was quite the experience and one we will all treasure for a lifetime.