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Handspan or Ocean Tours for 2 day tour of Ha Long bay?

Posted by enk on 5/5/2009 at 22:37

Am trying to decide between 2 tours (2 days/1 night): One offered by Handspan -and one by Ocean Tours.

The Handspan tour is called Lagoon Explorer

The Ocean Tours tour is called Deluxe Cruise Away.

Wondering what people think of these two companies -Handspan and Ocean Tours - and who would you recommend??

#1 enk has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 9

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Posted by chrispyrolls on 6/5/2009 at 01:09

Hi Enk...

The Lagoon Explorer is the smallest junk Handspan have, and for an intimate experience you can't go wrong with that... Handpsan themselves are a professional outfit, and you do get whay you pay for. Good guides, meals etc ... Have never used Ocean Tours, so I guess my vote is for Handspan

#2 chrispyrolls has been a member since 2/11/2006. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 197
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Posted by brucemoon on 6/5/2009 at 06:21


2 days, 1 night means:

Day 1 - pick up between 8 + 9 am, driven to Ha Long city (wharves) to arrive about midday. You'll be packed onto a boat, and motored to a cave complex (with literally dozens of other boats, and hundreds of other people), then by about 3pm, the boat will go moor somewhere. If you choose well the boat will go find a quiet place without other boats. Otherwise, you'll be moored in a bay with dozens of other boats, with passengers yahooing, etc, till the wee hours of the am. Then, sometime around 9am, you boat will head back to the Halong City wharf. You'll have been to Halong Bay, but most likely not seen the attributes for which it is famous.

The alternative, is to do a 3 day, 2 night, wherein you are most likely to get to see Halong Bay in all its glory.

Have you looked at the lengthy 'feature' on Halong Bay on Travelfish, if not, go to:

There is also a Forum discussion at:

- - - -

Before you make up your mind, I also suggest you also take a look at:

- - - - -

Halong is great, don't waste the potentially wonderful experience by choosing a package that isn't for you.


#3 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by smkuchta on 6/5/2009 at 07:00

We did a 3d/2n halong bay trip through Tropical Sails. I believe they own the Lagoon Explorer boat and are partnered/affiliated with Indochina Sails which owns many of the more popular boats (like the Red Dragon).

Our boat was the Prince II which was a brand new junk and we were the maiden voyage. If you can afford the time and money i would highly recommend a 3 day tour. In the 2 day tour all boats go to the same general area and you spend a lot of time transiting back and forth.

We had 1 full day to kayak and picnic on the beach and except for a couple of the Indochina/Tropical Sails/Handspan boats we were by ourselves the whole time. 3 day trip was about ~$500 for 2 people but was the highlight of our trip so far.

#4 smkuchta has been a member since 10/8/2007. Posts: 72

Posted by enk on 6/5/2009 at 07:49

I have actually been to Ha Long bay about 4 times already (as live in VN) and have been with ODC and also gone independently. I am well aware of Handspans great reputation. I have a couple of good friends coming from home (they can only do a 2 day trip) and seeing as its been about 2 years since I did a tour wanted to get some up to date info on the companies.

We are leaning to Handspan, but..the kayaking seems minimal (or costs extra) and whilst the Lagoon Explorer boat looks beautiful (can actually sail) wondering if room on deck for lounging around and enjoying the scenery or not?

Also has anyone been with both Ocean Tours and Handspan and could give me their opinion on the pros and cons?

#5 enk has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 9

Posted by lexkssnbrg on 6/5/2009 at 11:22


Looking at the Lagoon Explorer, personally I must say that it is very very small indeed, the top deck is not very large. Besides, I've just seen a very bad topic about the one called Ocean Travel (as Moon mentioned above). Just wondering if Ocean Tours and Ocean Travel are different or of the same holding company?

#6 lexkssnbrg has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 53

Posted by enk on 6/5/2009 at 11:33

Yep the Lagoon Explorer looks like a small boat -positives and negatives with that. Just concerned whether there is enough room for sunning ourselves or not?

I read the review about Ocean Travel, I am not sure whether or not they are the same company as the one I met with -Ocean Tours.

Even if they are, living in VN I am pretty accepting of the situation in VN with the service industry, particularly tourism and am accepting of the fact that things don't always go to plan. As we would be doing their standard tour (so assume their most cost effective) I imagine the risk of encountering a similar problem is reduced.

Having said that no matter what precautions you take or what operator you go with there will always be cases where people don't have a good time -there is always going to be someone who has a bad experience for whatever reason. I have also read some bad things about Handspan despite its generally good reputation.

So still unsure what to do! Too much choice!

#7 enk has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 9

Posted by brucemoon on 6/5/2009 at 11:48


Go look at:

then go talk to them, they're at:

36 Hang Bac Str., Hoan Kiem Dist, Hanoi

Either their Pinta, or Columbus options may be right for you.

At least if you go talk to them, you'll be talking to the company, not their agent.

ps. I have a vested interest - I found the Pinta cruise to be a fantastic experience.


#8 brucemoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by enk on 6/5/2009 at 13:16

Thanks for the link, had a look at the sight and looks quite luxury - can't seem to get any prices or itineraries from the website either. Will try to go see them.

Seems like no operator gets 100% positive reviews. Makes it hard to choose. If it was just me I'd just pick one go, make the most of it etc, but having friends visit I want to make sure they have a good time!

#9 enk has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 9

Posted by enk on 7/5/2009 at 09:54

Thanks all. Have made a decision and am booking. No need to respond anymore. Thanks for your assistance.

#10 enk has been a member since 5/5/2009. Posts: 9

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