Hope this helps people shopping around for ha long bay cruises
I just got back from the Pelican Cruise in Dec 2013. After shopping around via email, Asia Trip Advisor (accessed from http://halongluxurytravel.com/) offered me the best pricing… even better and unmatched from the official Pelican office. Linh Chi and Thuy Trinh from Asia Trip Advisor were a pleasure to deal with via email. Very professional and prompt to answer my many questions. They also had a promotion for a free Vietnam visa letter, which saved me another $10. I would recommend booking with them. It's odd that they have different websites (eg. http://halongluxurytravel.com/ vs.http://www.asiatouradvisor.com/ but I guess they just want more search engine hits.
The Pelican was beautiful as advertised. I saw other cruises, V’Spirit, Alova, Glory, Paloma and their ships didn’t look as nice from the outside. I was very happy with my choice for the Pelican.
Yes, you can get an extra bed for a third person (triple room). It is just a mattress on the floor but comfortable. It can get a little tight but we had no issues.
The service was excellent. Most of the staff were very young but they were always smiling, helpful and professional. They did anything they could to help and were very friendly and well trained.
Beautiful boat inside and out with large windows
Beautiful day vessel for the second day.
Great amenities (warm blankets, nice free toothbrush/colgate toothpaste, fluffy towels etc.)
AMAZING friendly polite staff that spoke decent English (did have some communication issues tho)
Excellent driver who picked us up on time. Comfortable 16 seat van... it was just us five when went and on the way back one family of 3 joined us.
Allows for an extra bed for a triple room
Hot water runs out after about 10 minutes of constant running (maybe I just take really hot showers…)
Minor service details missed (eg. 2 free bottles of water in the room when there are three people staying)
Mediocre food (edible but not delicious) – However, we were always stuffed
Drinks and massages were overprice or/ on par with north america. (eg. $3 for bottle of water, $40 for 60 min massage)
Careless cleaning staff... Our toothbrush and face towel went missing... The cruise manager gave us a new one but clearly... that was our stuff and doesn't match the toothbrush/face towel provided. Our room was clean though.
I would give the overall cruise 4/5 stars and would recommend it.
2D1N vs. 3D2N
I did regret doing 3D2N tour instead of 2D1N like most guests. This might have just been the fact that the weather was gloomy, rainy and cold on the second day and there wasn’t much to do. After the first day, I felt like we had done and see it all. Although beautiful, the view was very much the same after a while. The way the cruise operated was that the 3D2N guests would board a day vessel on day 2 while the 2D1N guests would return back to port and then also pick up new guests. There would be some duplicate activities for 3D2N guests including the spring rolls cooking demo/bat cave trip.
-- DAY 1
The first day, after boarding around 1:00pm, guests had lunch. After lunch, we did the Soi Sim island climb to have a panoramic view of the bay. We also boarded a small local boat for a bat cave. Both of these activities were great. There was a cooking show (how to make spring rolls) in the evening, followed by happy hour half price drinks, dinner and squid fishing.
-- DAY 2
The second day, we stopped by the surprise cave for the 2D1N guests. We didn’t go because we were to go on our last day. We just enjoyed breakfast and then boarded another day vessel. The day vessel was very nice and comfortable. There was a nice sofa and seating area upstairs.
We board a smaller speedboard for a quick transfer to a pearl farm to see how pearls are cultivated. We boarded back the day vessel and move on towards a local fishing village. We once again, boarded a smaller speed boat onto a little port and then on another local rowing boat. Lots of boat transfers but I didn’t mind I think all cruises are like this since the larger cruises cannot move that close to land. However, this is NOT friendly if you have major mobility issues. We had lunch on the day vessel and then was suppose to kayak but it was too cold, windy and wet so we just cruised and enjoyed the view.
Around 3pm, we boarded back on the larger overnight cruise and had free time until dinner around 7:30pm. The boat also stopped at the bat cave again… if you wanted to go again or try kayaking it. However, it was still rainy and cold. They had the same cooking show on how to make spring rolls which they should have switched it up.
This extra day didn’t really justify the additional cost and time –especially in the winter when it is too cold to swim or kayak. It was about 10 degrees with very strong wind and rain. The day before was about 17 so it would have been better. The extra day did get a little boring due to the weather and lack of activities...
However, the staff was really trying to do everything they could with the rain. I think we were suppose to be dropped off on an island for some hiking, biking and outdoor activities but they knew it would be too cold and wet.
We had a light breakfast with coffee, tea and pastries. Around 9am, we went took a smaller boat to surprise cave which was beautiful. We finally saw sunshine which was a change from the past two days. We wouldn't have been able to see Ha Long Bay in sunshine had we went with the 2D1N tour.
We had a buffet lunch after the cave and then checked out. We left our luggage outside our rooms and also paid any remaining balances (cruise or drinks) to the cruise at this time. We were back on shore around 11:30am where our driver picked us up around 12:00 and took us back to Hanoi.