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Vietnam forum

Halong Bay:Oriental Sail/Tropical Sails or Columbus Travel?

Posted by noakess on 10/6/2010 at 00:20

Hi, I'm looking for 2 day/1 night tour of Halong Bay.
don't mind paying a little extra - for nice food/cabin/guide…
have contacted these 3 (after reading travelfish/tripadvisor forums)- all replied within 24 hours and all offer similar tours.

1. Oriental Sails/Calypso Cruiser
2 Tropical Sails (Dragon's Pearl or Lagoon Explorer
3. Columbus Travel - Pinta cruiser (Pint Gold has retired)

Can anyone recommend one of th e3?
plan to go around Nov 2oth 2010.
We are a 30 year old couple.


#1 noakess has been a member since 14/2/2010. Posts: 32
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Posted by amlifysio on 15/6/2010 at 20:02

We are a family of 5 going on the Calypso Cruiser next week (26th-27th of June). So if you are patient a few weeks more, I can definetely give you a rewiev of our trip.

#2 amlifysio has been a member since 2/5/2010. Posts: 5

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Posted by catherine25 on 15/6/2010 at 23:15


Myself and my boyfriend are also going in a few weeks around the 14th of July. We are the same, we contacted those you named, as well as Emerude and Vega Travel. All tours are roughly the same (we are going for 3days and 2nights) although I think Tropical Sails is more expensive? We dont want to pay out a fortune as are travelling for 8weeks, but wouldnt like to go on one which is going to rip us off!!

If anyone has any advice on which to book, it would be great!!

P.S will look out for your reply amlifysio to see if it was any good!!

#3 catherine25 has been a member since 25/5/2010. Posts: 34
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Posted by noakess on 15/6/2010 at 23:34

Hi - as I'm not going till November - I'll wait to hear comments on this are soem prices/sizes etc of the cruises i had in mind....

Pinta Cruiser is cheaper than the rest - but not really sure why - would love to hear recent reviews on any of the tours below,

Pinta cruiser (Columbus adventures), 8 cabins $85

Dragon' s Pearl junk (Tropical Sails), 11 cabins, $125

Luxury Calypso Cruiser (Oriental Sails ) , 12 cabins, $130

Lagoon Explorer Junk (Tropical Sails), 4 cabins, $135


#4 noakess has been a member since 14/2/2010. Posts: 32
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Posted by catherine25 on 15/6/2010 at 23:47


I am waiting to hear too, as might book when we get to Hanoi as in some other posts people have said this is cheaper, but we shall see.

Although, I just wanted to check with you - we got ridiculous prices from tropical sails quoting around $1000 for their tours both in 3day/2nights and 2day/1night bookings!!

Do you think what they have sent me is right? Did they sent you an email with different tours attached?


#5 catherine25 has been a member since 25/5/2010. Posts: 34
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Posted by noakess on 15/6/2010 at 23:56

Here's the email from tropical Sails (I copy-pasted) - hope it helps...

"2 day 1 night trip:

* Red Dragon Junk with 5 cabins, max for 11 person, be available on 21st, 22nd, 23rd Nov at the rate of 350 US$ for 2 person in a deluxe cabin,

* Dragon' s Pearl junk with 11 cabins, max for 22 person, be available on 21 st, 22nd st at the rate of 250 US$ for 2 person in a deluxe cabin.

* Lagoon Explorer Junk with 4 cabins, max for 8 person at the rate of 270 US$ for 2 person in a deluxe cabin.

3 day 2 night trip:

* Prince Junk with 4 cabins, max for 8 person, be available on 22nd Nov at the rate of 510 US$ for 2 person in a deluxe cabin."

#6 noakess has been a member since 14/2/2010. Posts: 32
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Posted by catherine25 on 16/6/2010 at 00:32

Thanks very much, I will email them and double check, as we simply crossed them off our list as they were so expensive!! They didnt give any pricing in their email simply attached loads of documents at the top!!

#7 catherine25 has been a member since 25/5/2010. Posts: 34
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Posted by Nokka on 16/6/2010 at 18:04

My wife & I did a 2 night trip last January with Handspan. The price was a little more than some, but in Vietnam we found that you get what you pay for. Plus, for what we got it was incredibly cheap. Ours was quite a small boat, 3 cabins so only 6 of us. We got on really well with the other passengers and had a great time. I believe they have bigger boats too, but we enjoyed getting to know well the others on our boat.

2 nights is recommended as you get away from where the majority of the boats go. We hardly saw any other boats throughout the trip. When we stopped for the night, we could see no other boats at all. The food on the boat was fantastic. Many courses each meal, including one on a proper table set up on a private beach. There were 7 crew on the boat, so service was impeccable. The crew slept in the lounge area outside our cabins.

In January the weather was dull and we weren't able to eat on deck. However, it was warm enough to kayak, which we did several times and a couple of us even swam - the water was not too cold.

We were very impressed with Handspan and also did a trip to Sapa with them straight after Halong. Everything worked well. We normally do everything independently, but actually found that we got both tours cheaper than if we tried to put them together ourselves.

We went to Vietnam thinking we would probably go on one of the Pinta boats. We travelled in the region for 4 months and decided to wait till quite close to departure before booking. We found, though, that Handspan returned emails much faster and seemed more efficient; the Pinta people less so, plus we saw some less than good reviews at that time.

Halong was quite extraordinary. In a trip of many highlights, it was truly a highlight amongst highlights.

#8 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259
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Posted by alanrobert on 22/6/2010 at 12:33

Posted from within Vietnam.

We thinhk Heritage Cruise is also a good choice. The packages are not expensive but the services are exellent.

We were recommended this by our hotel, and following a check on Tripadvisor we book it. We are so glad we did. Its not the cheapest tour out there - i think we paid $175 a head for 3days/2 nights on board with kayaking, but it was worth every penny.
We were collected at our hotel and hopped on a decent air-conditioned bus for the trip out to ha long from hanoi, stopping briefly on the way for break. The boat was lovely. The rooms are small, but they are clean, and after 7pm ice cold thanks to the the air con (which you will need). We had a great time on board. You will not go hungry - there is loads of very fresh, very tasty food. the kayaking was nice on the first day, but the second day was amazing. We were literally on our own for kayaking the second day, but it was simply magical.
After dinner in the evenings, the crew break out the old kareoke machine. A lot of people shyed away from but its great fun, and the staff love it when the guests join in. Also we were squid fishing off the back of the boat. you need a bit of patience and luck, but we caught a couple of biggish ones between us.
A special thank-you to our guide Bang. He was very funny, and very informative and even cooked us lunch on the mini boat after our kayaking. It was my first time trying crab and it was delish!
Another must do is swimming at sunset off the boat. Amazing.
Easily the highlight of our trip so far!

#9 alanrobert has been a member since 21/6/2010. Posts: 2

Posted by Remedy on 22/6/2010 at 13:25


I went on a 2 day tour with Colombus last November on the Pinta Cruiser. For me there are no complaints. The boat was decent, fantastic meals and relatively laid back (although you sometimes get the feel that you're shuttled around to sights, but I guess that goes for every operator).

That being said, some of the people I traveled with was less than pleased. They had booked a trip on the Pinta Gold, but that boat never sailed so they had to wait an extra day in Halong to board the Pinta the next day. From what I heard they had to wait for a long time outside at the harbour without food or water. Some couldn't take that and went back to Hanoi , but those who waited (and it was a looong wait) was eventually placed in a great hotel ( 5 star ) courtesy of Colombus. Colombus blamed the police for holding the boat back due to inspections (?) but this seemed strange. Even more so when I now hear the the Pinta Gold has retired.

When the trip was over those who were to travel on the Pinta Gold went to Colombus HQ i Hanoi to complain, and last I heard they were given a 60 % refund.

So to sum it up: seems to me that Colombus is fairly professional, fairly reliable but not very efficient. Oh... and did I mention that the people at their HQ were brilliant.

PS! If you decide to go on the Pinta, ask for a room other than the one next door to the motor room :).


#10 Remedy has been a member since 25/7/2009. Posts: 31

Posted by amlifysio on 30/6/2010 at 17:57

Posted from within Vietnam.

Back again... We returned from our trip with the Calypso Cruiser (Oriental Sails) 4 days ago.And we were very satisfied! Being 5 persons in our group (3 daughters, my husband and I) we had cabins with connecting doors in the front of the boat. Worked out very well. The staff and especially our guide, Trang, were lovely. The boat was quite new - from late 2009 - and everything was shining. The food was wonderful, but I guess that goes for all the boats in this price segment. We payed 560 USD through But our guide said that if you book through her, you can get a better price. I don't know if that is true. But here is her e-mail in case you want to try: Her full name is Doan Thu Trang. Just to tell how helpful and truly wonderful she was I will tell you what happened to us: On the bus returning to Hanoi my daughter forgot her quite expensive digital camera. We didn't find out until 1 hour before our train for Hue was leaving. Not knowing what to do we called Trang. She called the driver, and they had found the camera. She showed up at the railway station and told us that they couldn't get us the camera in time before the train left, but she would arrange to have it sent after us. She gave us an address in Hue where we could pick it up 2 days after. And the camera did turn up!!! We didn't have to pay anything and she refused any kind of payment. Luckily we had already tipped her before leaving the boat. You should be happy if you get her as your guide. Only complaint about the Calypso Cruiser is that the drinking water is way too expensive. Given the heat we experienced (about 37 C)I think 1 USD for a small bottle of water is almost robbery. I don't mind paying for beer and soft drinks, wine etc but water is a basic need. And they told us we couldn't bring our own. But perhaps you should smuggle water with you?? More questions? I will be happy to answer them.

#11 amlifysio has been a member since 2/5/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by noakess on 30/6/2010 at 18:17

Thank you so much for the review! I will email her today.
one question - did you do 1 or 2 nights? what activities did it include?
did you sleep on the boat - where there lots of boats around you or lots of people whilst kayaking etc?

#12 noakess has been a member since 14/2/2010. Posts: 32
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Posted by amlifysio on 2/7/2010 at 22:27

Posted from within Vietnam.

Hello noakess,
We had a 2 days/1 night package which we thought was quite enough. We slept on the boat and included was the kayaking - about 1 hour,a guided trip to the Amazing Cave, a short cooking class (half an hour - springrolls) in the evening, fishing squid from the boat at night after dinner (we didn't catch any, but good fun for the kids) all the food etc. as mentioned in the itenary.

At night we anchored next to the other boat from Oriental Sails, but apart from that I didn't see others. A beautiful fullmoon was included in our package, but of course I can't guarantee that :-)

The kayaking was not crowded but there is a LOT of other boats out there and i think that you should be very lucky if you don't meet other people or boats out there. But nevertheless it is still worth going - even if you are not completely on your own.

#13 amlifysio has been a member since 2/5/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by Itchy_Feet2012 on 22/7/2011 at 15:15

I am organising for 8 people to stay 3 nights in Hanoi and cruise Halong Bay for NY this year. Having contacted many of the top reviewed mid-range hotels in Hanoi - I have managed to get the following deal:

$273 pp for 3day/2night cruise on Oriental Sails with 3 nights Junior Room at Hanoi Luxor - some of my friends are upgrading to the Luxor Suite and rockclimbing on the cruise and all in that comes to $342 pp.

This is a good deal, isn't it? Any input would be appreciated...

#14 Itchy_Feet2012 has been a member since 22/7/2011. Posts: 1

Posted by Kama on 23/7/2011 at 05:09

I am new to this website and would liketo ask noakes a question about his junk trip. I am not sure if you can send private messages over here.

Have you booked your junk trip with Doan Thu Trang? Would you recommend her service? How was Calypso - did it meet your expectations?


#15 Kama has been a member since 23/7/2011. Posts: 1

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