Just got back from our Halong bay cruise on the Cristina with the tour company AST. We booked our tour at one of the Sinh cafes in Hanoi a few days prior to the cruise. We opt'd for the 3 day, 2 night option, but we added an extra day on Cat Ba island to do some traveling of our own around the island. After doing some extensive research on Travel Fish and other websites, we decided a midrange cruise would be the best option. The Sinh cafe was selling the 3 day option for $115, but because we are in low season, we ended up paying $90 per person, plus an extra $20 for the extra night on Cat Ba (the tour company arranged that with our hotel on Cat Ba).
We were picked up at our hotel on time and took the long 3.5 hr bus ride to Halong Harbor in a smaller bus with other travelers aboard. Some of them were doing 3 days, some only 2. When we got to the harbor, we took a small boat to the Cristina. Definitely not as big as hoped but the interior was nice. Our cabin was tiny, the bathroom had little water pressure. The food was decent. Seafood, chicken, and pork spring rolls at every meal accompanied by veggies and rice. We were taken to amazing cave, which was quite amazing. We kayaked and also were taken to a small island with a dirty beach, but it also had a small hike up to an observation tower with breath taking views.
The next day we went to cat ba island. The bus from the harbor stopped at the national forest where they gave us two hours to go hiking. Not the best idea in the middle of summer, but once again the views were amazing. The decent was treacherous. Definitely worked up a healthy appetite for lunch. After hiking, the bus brought us to our hotel, the sunflower one. We had a solid room with air con and good water pressure in the shower. Then we were taken to monkey island where we saw no monkeys at all, despite the warnings they gave us about monkeys stealing your belongings. Maybe they were talking about the local children?? The food on cat ba was not that good. We were put in a large dining hall at the Neptune restaurant and served family style. Many bad dishes, only some were good, but not served enough to make you feel full.
Our extra day on cat ba was spent renting motor bikes and buzzing around the island. Best idea ever. Great views and complete freedom. Roads were dead, no dodging other cars. Ate lunch at the nobleman, which was a terrible idea. Terrible food and terrible service. Avoid at all costs.
Overall I'd give our tour 3.5/5 stars. Our guide was very helpful and we had a great group of people to chat with. But the food was lacking despite paying the extra money for the midrange option. Still, I'd recommend AST and Cristina again.
#1 Guydj56 has been a member since 1/6/2012. Posts: 4
I decided to stay on the boat for the 2 nights when I was there rather than a night on Cat Ba. If I had thought about the option to stay on Cat Ba for an extra few days, I just might have done it differently.
Thanks for sharing - a great review!