Discover the Best Cruise for Authentic Experiences in Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam: Tips and Tricks

Vietnam is full of breathtaking scenery and vibrant culture, making it a popular destination for travelers seeking an authentic experience. One of the best places to visit is Lan Ha Bay, with emerald waters, towering limestone cliffs, and peaceful fishing villages. A cruise through Lan Ha Bay is an excellent alternative to the famous Ha Long Bay, and for photographers, it's a paradise.


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If you're planning a trip to Lan Ha Bay and looking for the best cruise, you might have found out that it’s actually quite challenging to find clear information about the cruise operators and their offers. Here are some tips to help you find the best cruise for your needs:

View from cruise boat in Vietnam
Stunning views from the deck of Doris Cruise

Consider your budget

Of course, price is an important consideration when choosing a cruise. However, keep in mind that the cheapest option may not always be the best. Some cheaper cruises may cut corners on safety, sustainability, or quality of service. Booking a cruise in Vietnam will definitely not be the cheapest part of your trip. There are a few factors that impact the price:

  1. Duration of the cruise
  2. Level of luxury/amenities
  3. Included activities
Traditional boat Vietnam
Locals selling food and drinks by boat

Depending on the duration, luxury and included activities prices for a Lan Ha Bay cruise can range anywhere from 100 to 1000+ euros per person.

Tip: In general all your food is included in the cruises, but drinks are definitely not. Drink prices are highly inflated compared to bars on mainland Vietnam. You will find many locals on small boats that sell cheap drinks, so keep an eye out for them! 

Tip: My girlfriend and I booked a last minute trip with Doris Cruises, which offered great value for money. Check out  my full review here. 

Lan Ha Bay fishing village
One of the many fishing villages you will find in Lan Ha Bay

Consider the Itinerary

Next, look at the itinerary for each cruise. Some cruises only visit the more popular areas of Lan Ha Bay, such as Cat Ba Island, Dark and Light Cave, and Ba Trai Dao Beach, while others take you to more secluded and off-the-beaten-path destinations.

If you're looking for an authentic experience, you'll want to choose a cruise that takes you to the lesser-known parts of the bay. This will give you a chance to see the real Lan Ha Bay, away from the crowds of tourists. 

Tip: If you want to visit lesser known authentic parts of Lan Ha Bay take at least a 2 nights 3 days cruise, as the day cruises and 1 night 2 days cruises often do not visit those places.

You should also consider the activities included in the itinerary. Do you want to go kayaking, swimming, or snorkeling? Do you want to visit fishing villages or see local wildlife? Choose a cruise that offers the activities that interest you the most.

Looking for an example itinerary for a  2 nights 3 Days Lan Ha Bay cruise, check out my post here. 

A cruise boat in Lan Ha Bay Vietnam
A cruise boat and day boat anchored in Lan Ha Bay

Size matters

A factor to consider is the size of the ship. If you prefer a more intimate experience, look for a smaller cruise ship that accommodates fewer passengers. These ships often offer more personalized service, and you may be able to access areas that larger ships cannot. However, if you prefer more amenities and activities, a larger cruise ship may be a better option. The bigger ships often also have a “day boat”, a smaller boat that takes you to your activities and local points of interest.

Tip: if you can always try to get a room that’s not on the ground floor. As it can be quite noisy and privacy is limited.

Read Reviews

Finally, before booking your Lan Ha Bay cruise, be sure to read reviews from previous customers. Look for reviews that mention the authenticity of the experience, the quality of the guides, and the overall value for money.

Reading reviews can give you a good idea of what to expect from the cruise, and can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises. Worth mentioning is to check for reviews about food. If you have any dietary wishes you might find that it’s hard to get them granted as in my experience the boats offer limited flexibility for vegetarian/vegan travelers or people with allergies.

Sunset views on Cat Ba Island Vietnam
Cat Ba Island has stunning views

Double check the start and end destination

While looking for Lan Ha Bay cruises I had a hard time figuring out where exactly the cruises start and end. Personally I was on Cat Ba Island while trying to book a cruise. In the end I was able to get a private taxi arranged by the cruise company, which took us to the north of the island where small boats take you to the cruise ships. Normally you would get picked up from Ha Long Bay harbor, where they take you to the cruise ship by boat. (takes +/- 30 min.)


If you're looking for an authentic Vietnamese experience, a cruise through Lan Ha Bay is a great choice. By following these tips and doing your research, you can find the best cruise for your needs and enjoy all that this stunning destination has to offer. So, start planning your Lan Ha Bay adventure today!