Trying to arrange your Halong Bay cruise is a bit of a mine field. There seems to be a lot of poor business ethics in that industry.
Anyways, I arranged my 2-day/1-night Halong Cruise through Vietnam OpenTour. I paid $130 per person for the Luxury Imperial Cruise. Upon boarding the cruise and mingling with other tourists, I found that others on board paid anywhere from $80 to $135 (per person) for the exact same thing.
Before booking your cruise with any company, ask them what will happen if the cruise gets rained out (e.g., contingency plans, partial refund). And if they make nice promises, get it in writing and bring it with you.
Our cruise was rained out. We did not get to do and see most of the activities and sights listed on our itinerary. We paid luxury prices, and instead of staying on the luxury ship, we stayed in a very crappy hotel in Halong (Blue Sky Hotel) in a small town with little to do. We all asked about just leaving early for Hanoi so that we could be in our nice hotels. They said this was not possible, and had us sign a hotel register. We asked about partial refunds, and they indicated this would be possible by speaking with our tour operator upon returning to Hanoi. These were all lies.
Upon returning, we had a meeting with Le Thi Phuong, a Tour Operator with Vietnam OpenTour. It was quite clear she had no intention of giving us a partial refund. She told us that we chose to stay in the crappy hotel and stay the night, and signing the register was proof of that.
I argued that we paid for all of these activities that did not happen, and for a luxury room we did not get. And we were denied going home early to our hotel in Hanoi, which she did not believe.
After painful negotiations, I got the price down to $80 per person, which is what some other people paid anyways for the same experience. I think the only reason she gave in was because we had not paid for the excursion yet (since it was part of our hotel bill).
Unless you want to go through this headache and be ripped off, I suggest you do not use this tour operator:
17 Hang Thung, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Ph#: +84 (0) 4 3926 2328