Just got back from Vietnam with a 3 day, 2 night trip to Halong Bay on a junk. Prior to going, it was impossible to find good information on the companies, the junks and the logistics. Here was what we did and saw and our perspective:
1. Junks Considered
Ginger / Jasmine Junk
Indochina / Valentine Junk
Ginger and Jasmine Junks are both run by the company: www.cruisehalong.com
Indochina/Valentine junks are run by www.indochinasails.com
We booked on the Ginger, but were moved to the Jasmine on the day of because the Ginger had a leak they said. The Jasmine was beautiful, like a floating hotel.
Two major complaints are: 1. The food was bad, we were on Halong Bay surrounded by incredible seafood being fed steaks and mashed potatoes. 2. The drink prices are insane. The free water is never served when you asked for water, and each drink is about $7 - $10 USD apiece.
Would recommend the Jasmine for anyone looking for a luxury cruise. The Indochina 1/2/3 boats were identical and looked equally nice. The Valentine (from the water) looked run down and I'm glad we didn't choose that one.
Friends recommended staying 2 nights/3 days and they were right. Absolutely right on that advice. We were taken off the boat to a small 'day junk' that was pretty run down, but we had a crew of 5 for the two of us. They took us to a very quiet part of the Bay where we sat on a beach and went kayaking.
All junks do a circuit and no matter the company, they all simply do the rounds, first hitting an overlook, then a fishing village, then a few other things. We were happy to get off the circuit on the second day and escape the tons of boats and constant pressure to spend money on stuff we didn't want from the touts on the boats. They were selling Oreo Cookies and Ritz Crackers - an odd combination I must admin.
Overall, if you are looking for a very lovely experience, choose cruisehalong.com or indochinasails.com either Indochina 1/2/3 or the Ginger or Jasmine.