By reading the reviews of the various Halong Bay cruise operators you know that there are a lot of dodgy reviews and a fair amount of self promotion in the tripadvisor forums.
We ended up selecting the Alova Gold for a 2 day one night cruise - run by Go Asia Travel. Once we got on board the boat we were very happy to know we had made a good choice.
We were picked up from our hotel at the scheduled time and then spent the next hour doing the rounds of the other hotels around Hanoi. As you can guess 6 minutes later we drove past our hotel again on the way out of town. When going on these tours please everyone, just take an overnight bag and keep luggage to a minimum. We just packed day packs.
It is a good 4 hour drive to Halong Bay with the inevitable stop at the overpriced souvenir shop along the way. But the toilets were very clean here.
On arrival at Halong there was a little wait while the tender was brought in. Alova Gold doesn't birth at a jetty but we had to catch the tender out to the mooring. All part of the adventure.
On board, the ship is new. Launched in mid 211. The rooms are tidy. The meals were certainly very good. Food quality was good. The all-male on board staff were polite.
The actual tours were as advertised. The kayaking was an exceptional experience.
In general, the tour operators are trying hard to make this work. We felt our tour guide was inexperienced and they could do better to have someone with a sense of humour and more engaged with us. He was probably the last person to know what was going on.
we had a wonderful Halong experience and would be very happy to recommend our friends.
Reviewed by Yinyang66 - tripadvisor' member on 31 Jan.212
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The Alova Gold cruises came highly recommended by Ms Anna of my Hotel in hanoi, where we'd stayed. Based on her recommendation, we decided to take a chance and go for the 3d/2n cruise and boy, it was the right decision! Any anxieties we had at the start (due to all the negative reviews of Halong bay cruises in general) were soon dispelled.
The entire journey (bus and boat) was handled professionally, and it was also good to know that the Dutch manager, Sidney, was onboard to supervise the cruise operations. That the boat was brand new also boosted our confidence in having chosen the right cruise. We were certainly well looked after by the friendly and polite boat staff, and Sidney ensured that everything worked smoothly. When I felt unwell, he even offered me a complimentary cup of ginger tea! As for the food, OMG, dish after dish just kept on coming. The meat dishes were tastier than their veggie dishes (average but they were fresh), but what stood out were the cocktails created specially for the cruise, inluding the passionfruit cocktail and beer cocktail (can't remember the names but you can't miss them on the menu as they're the speciality drinks)! Absolutely must-try. Did I also mention there's happy hour where you get 2 drinks for the price of 1??
As for our cabin, it was small but clean and cozy, with a comfy double bed and most importantly, a big window. Unfortunately our view was obscured by the Vietnamese flag just outside, but we ended up spending more time on the deck or the bar and restaurant, so it was fine. The only problem I really had was with the hot shower on our second day, which was barely lukewarm (not what you want during winter in Halong bay). But for the rest of the time, it worked well, so it's probably just an isolated incident. Certainly, the highlight of the cruise was not just the boat itself but also the stunning scenery surrounding us.
It's true that too many junks/boats were moored in the same area at night, and we found it incredibly crowded where we were, with junks and kayaks all over the place. That's also why we're glad we took the 3day cruise; on the second day, we boarded a smaller boat which sailed to the more remote areas of Halong bay, where we could finally soak in the amazing scenery and relax in the tranquil atmosphere. However, if I could choose the climate, I'd wish it was summer so we could enjoy swimming and kayakking too (it was simply too cold!).
Visited December 211
Thanks to Alova Gold, we had a fantastic trip - Reviewed by Sayang11 on Tripadvisor.com
We 14 person from Malaysia had a very happy and enjoy trip in Hanoi, especially in Sapa and Halong Bay. Alova Gold Cruise ia very clean, luxury and comfortable ship. The food is delicious and the staffs here are very friendly and helpful. I highly recommend Go Asia Travel and Alova Gold Cruise to everybody who want to visit Hanoi and Halong Bay. They really give us the best service and arrangement.
Visited December 211, reviewed by Jason_Tiong-11 on tripadvisor
The road to Halong Bay by bus was a bit rough. I think everyone would have lower reclining seats. The stop halfway is good for refreshment.
Overall, good experiences with Alova Cruise. I would recommend it for everyone, especially in warmer weather.
Date of tour: 9th December,212
I had an excellent experience in Halong Bay. Food and drinks were delicious. Everyone was very friendly. Alova Gold was very clean and beautiful. Thank for the great time ! Keep going on.
Date on Alova Halong Cruise tour: 2th December,212
More games on boat…
You should prepare some more games on boat like chess play cards…etc. Passengers can play when they are drinking or fishing on your boat at night. Anyway, there was a very good experience in Alova Gold Cruise and Halong Bay. Thank you everyone, tourguide, boat crews, staffs, manager… We had pleasant time with all off you. High recommend for everyone.
Tiong Kong Hock
From Malaysia, Date on Alova: 7th December,211
taking alova gold cruise in halong bay on 2 December, 211, We found the cabin behind of the cruise a bit noisy, but otherwise good. Pillow a bit high and a little cold at night (Winter in Vietnam a bit cold for us). The good was unbelievably, very, very good and excellent. Nice music to compliment the journey and area surrounds.
Thank you too for accommodating our change of plans from 3 days to 2 days at such short notice.
One again, the food was spectacular. The drinks were great and the service was outstanding.
Keep the good work and thank you for great trip around Halong Bay.
Ian & Cassie Weekes
From Australia, taking alova gold cruise in halong bay on 2 December, 211