Bhaya Cruise with Tonkin Travel. Hotel staff told us Tonkin is good and Bhaya is one of the Best :)
Initially arragement was weird. A lady came to the hotel in the morning to collect payment for the cruise and then she left. Then we waited for the driver who arrived 45min late. My family of 4 boarded a mini van and as the driver didn't speak English, we were not sure how long the journey is going to be or if there'll be be others joining us in the van. In the end, it turned out that we had the whole mini van to ourselves for the whole journey. The driver drove really slowly in the beginning and had to rush at the end cos we were like half an hour late according to schedule. He got lost too, kept having to stop to ask for direction. We later found out that the Bhaya is not at the normal jetty but further away and most drivers are not familar.
The GM of the Bhaya was waiting for us at the jetty when we arrived...unfashionably late. Bhaya is beautiful and tho' I haven't been on the other junks but Bhaya definitely seems more luxurious. The weather is very very bad for photo-taking. Such a pity cos the bay must be so beautiful on good weather. It's very misty and the islands looked grayish. After lunch, we visited the Surprise cave.. or rather grotto. We were told that caves have 1 opening whereas Grotto have 2 openings. After this was a trip to an island with a tiny beach. Too cold for swimming so we trekked up a hill. The 'peak' could only accomodate max 6 of us.. haha really small hill but the view was great :)
When we got back to the Bhaya, some of us went canoeing. There were only 6 canoes and cos we didn't reserve one earlier, we were 'stranded' onboard. Which was fine too, there was cooking class where we learned to make fried spring rolls... nothing new to us (asians) but it's still fun to eat the spring rolls after the demostration :P
Anyway, it was pretty cold and I thought canoeing might not be such a good idea.. (still sore about not being able to go canoeing.. haha)
Dinner spread was good. Beer was at USD3 for 2 during happy hours. Wine was also not expensive at USD6 for a glass or USD30 for a bottle. After dinner we watched a french movie filmed in Halong Bay while drinking coffee.
Rooms are also very clean and comfortable. There's hot shower but shower area is kinda small. Early next morning, there was Tai chi lesson on the sun deck, then another buffet spread for breakfast. Then it was a slow slow cruise back to the jetty.
Driver was waiting for us when we reached and once again drove us (very slowly) back to Hanoi.
Overall, we really enjoyed the Bhaya cruise, Thanks to Maz in this forum who so highly recommended it to me. It was most enjoyable. If only the driver didn't drive so slowly and got lost, and if only the weather was better, this trip would have been perfect! Then again... of my whole trip to HCMC and Hanoi, these 2 days on the Bhaya was the best part of the trip.