2 Night Cruise on Halong Bay Vietnam With Emeraude Cruises

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

A 2-night cruise on Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam has been a long-time dream of ours.   For many years we have seen so many exotic photographs and videos showing the dramatic landscape of Halong Bay and the traditional boats that sailed through her 3000 limestone islands and islets. Around every bay or craggy rocky outcrop, there is another surprise – a deserted golden beach, a hidden cave through the forested areas of a small island, monkeys clinging to sheer cliffs, and dramatic 360-degree views from the top of small mountains. Halong Bay is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. Have you visited?

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Enjoy your 2-night cruise of Halong Bay onboard Emeraude

During our 2 night /3 day cruise, we were fascinated by the breathtaking scenery but we were also fascinated by the many legends that abound in this area:

  1. The legends on the formation of Ha Long Bay – which one will you believe?
  2. One man’s dream to revive the glamour and romance of a bygone era
  3. A legend of our time who sailed on her (but you will have to read right to the end of the article to find out who this legend was)

We will share with you how you too can experience and relive a memorable journey of distinction, but first, we hope you enjoy the legends as much as we do.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our  disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (if applicable).

Check out our YouTube Video of our 2 Night/3 Day Cruise onboard Emeraude.

 

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

The Legends Of Halong Bay

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

3000 limestone islands and islets

Halong Bay in Vietnamese means ‘descending dragon’. Ha means ‘descending’ and Long means ‘dragon’. The dragon is important to the Vietnamese people.  It represents the universe, life, growth and power. According to an ancient legend, the Vietnamese people descended from a dragon and a fairy.

When researching Halong Bay in Wikipedia we came across the legend about the formation of Halong Bay.

“When Vietnam had just started to develop into a country, they had to fight against invaders. To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. Under magics, numerous rock mountains abruptly appeared on the sea, ahead of invaders’ ships; the forward ships struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons were interested in peaceful sightseeing of the Earth and then decided to live in this bay. The place where the mother dragon descended was named Ha Long, the place where the dragon’s children attended upon their mother was called Bai Tu Long island (Bai: attend upon, Tu: children, Long: dragon), and the place where the dragon’s children wriggled their tails violently was called Bach Long Vy island (Bach: white-color of the foam made when Dragon’s children wriggled, Long: dragon, Vy: tail), present day Tra Co peninsula, Mong Cai.”

A later legend mentions that in 1898 a French Sub Lieutenant by the name of Lagredin had seen a huge sea snake on Halong Bay that could be described as a dragon.  The French had arrived in Halong Bay at this time and the headline “Dragon appears on Halong Bay” appeared in the Hai Phong News describing what he saw.

When the opportunity arose for us to visit Halong Bay with another legend – the classic Paddle Steamer Emeraude which sails under the Victoria Voyages flag we jumped at the chance. Victoria Voyages sponsored us on our 2-night cruise around Halong Bay. Our opinions are as always our own.

The Legend of Sung Sot Cave

Arriving at Sung Sot Cave Halong Bay 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Arriving at Sung Sot Cave

As part of our 2 night cruise on Halong Bay with Emeraude, we were able to visit 3 caves over the 3 days. The first one, Sung Sot Cave, comes with its own fascinating legend. This is the legend of Thanh Giong (which means Saint in English).  When you enter the cave you will notice a stalactite that resembles a sword and a horse. What is so special about this stalactite and what is the legend here?

The legend of Thanh Giong dates back to the 6th King Hung Dynasty around 1220-1225 BC.  His parents were desperate to have a child.  One day his mother was walking through the field and came upon a large footprint.  Instantly she fell pregnant and gave birth 9 months later to Giong.  Up to the age of 3 Giong could not speak, smile or walk. At this time the King was at war with the invading An tribe. The King sent messengers out in the country to call for support to join the battle.  Giong miraculously started to talk and asked his Mother to speak to one of the messengers where he asked to join the battle and for the King to give him arms to assist in the war. The villagers on hearing this assisted the family by feeding Giong.  Giong grew into a strong healthy man and the King asked his blacksmiths to build a set of iron armour for him, an iron sword and an iron horse. Giong set forth with the King’s instructions and defeated the An army. After this battle, he ascended to Heaven.

The sword and the horse in Sung Sot Cave was left behind by Giong to protect Halong Bay from evil demons.

The Legend of Emeraude

Classic paddle steamer Emeraude on 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Emeraude on Halong Bay

The story begins in France in December 1999 when Eric Merlin was visiting the St Ouen flea market on the outskirts of Paris.  In a box of postcards marked ‘Indochine’ he came across two postcards that dated back to the era 1916-1919 of two paddle steamers in Halong Bay.  He took out his magnifying glass and was able to read the names of the two paddle steamers – one being Emeraude and the other Perle.  Eric Merlin lived and worked in Vietnam and when he returned from Paris he took the postcards with him.  He dreamed of one day finding one of these two paddle steamers.  Not content with waiting for his dream to become real he went about designing a replica of Emeraude to offer cruises on Halong Bay.  He was already running a successful travel company – Exotissimo – since 1993 in Ho Chi Minh City.  Using the postcard as the design he commissioned a boat builder and in January 2003 construction on Emeraude began.

Eric was still intrigued by the whereabouts of the original Emeraude and never gave up on his search for her or more information about her. After various attempts for more information at the Maritime Museum in Paris and Britain, he learnt that there was a central archive in Aix en Provence that had documents relating to the previous French colonies including Indochina.   He found that the boat had belonged to a barge and a towing company called SACRUC which was owned by a Frenchman by the name of Paul Roque.  In July 2003 he went to Paris to meet the 76-year-old son of Paul Roque – Xavier Roque.

A very interesting history of Paul Roque and his colonial adventures during the 19th century can be read in the book written by Eric Merlin – The Jewels of Halong Bay which can be purchased on board Emeraude.  It is an interesting read and one that we would recommend if you are interested in the history of Indochina during this period.  But our story is about Emeraude, let’s continue.

The city of Hai Phong was founded in 1888 as an important port city in the North of Vietnam 120km east of Hanoi. Paul Roque arrived in Hai Phong two decades after the end of the war with China. This is where he took delivery of four new custom-built paddle steamers, the Saphir, Rubis, Perle and The Emeraude. They were 80-ton single-wheeled paddle steamers that provided a regular service around Halong Bay and the Red River delta for 20 passengers and freight. For the passengers, it was a luxury experience, the boats equipped with the latest in electric lighting, fans, bathrooms, refrigerators and even a darkroom for photographers.

On the 16th March 1937 the Emeraude on its return from one of it’s many journeys collided with a submerged rock just 7km from Cam Pha port. A large hole appeared in the side of Emeraude and she sunk.  Fortunately, there was no loss of life. Emeraude remained at the bottom of the sea.  In December 2003 the new Emeraude sailed on its maiden voyage and to this very day remains faithful to its 20th-century roots.

Our 2-night cruise on Halong Bay Experience 

As part of our Victoria Voyages experience on the Emeraude, our journey began in Hanoi where we were collected by a private luxury minibus for the 3 – 4-hour journey from Hanoi to  Halong Bay. On arrival we settled into the Victoria Voyages lounge, whilst our luggage was collected and transported to our room.

Captain's Suite on the Emeraude 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

The Captain’s Suite

We were fortunate to be able to enjoy our two nights in the Captain’s Suite on the top deck.  Emeraude has been fitted out replicating the elegance of the 20th century, dark wooden floorboards and dark wood panelling adorn the large bedroom.  Luxurious linens that included a gold and cream throw, comfortable pillows and a king-size bed gave us two perfect nights of sleep whilst Emeraude gently rocked from side to side. The Captain’s Suite included an oversized white tiled bathroom and shower with luxury toiletries, fluffy towels and robes.

The Restaurant on Emeraude 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

The Restaurant on Emeraude

All meals were served in the elegant and stylish Restaurant on the bottom deck.

After boarding, we enjoyed a welcome drink before a buffet lunch was served. This was a time to chat and get to know our other companions on board.

A guided shore excursion to Sung Sot Cave (also known as Surprise Cave) was our first activity.  We have mentioned the legend above about Sung Sot Cave and the meaning of the sword and horse stalactite.

On our return, deliciously light French mini crepes were served on the Sun Deck where we relaxed for a short while as Emeraude sails to the next activity – a visit to the Pearl Farm or where you can kayak around the gentle scenic bay instead.

What better way to relax at the end of a long day than to enjoy a cocktail or beer at Happy Hour on the Sun Deck as the sun goes down. The weather was perfect at this time of the day with just a soft cool breeze blowing after the heat of the day.

During Happy Hour, if you are interested in cooking, Chef shows you how to make the delicate Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  They make it look easy, but it is not. The knack is in the rolling of the rice paper roll (without all the ingredients seeping out of the sides).

A buffet dinner was served in the Restaurant between 1900 hours and 2100 hours.  After dinner, we adjourned to the Sun Deck for a nightcap and to enjoy the peacefulness of Halong Bay.

Tai Chi at sunrise on Emeraude 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Tai Chi at Sunrise

We recommend that you set the alarm for 0600 hours and head to the Sun Deck for morning coffee, tea and pastries and watch the sunrise.  If you have not tried Tai Chi before this is your opportunity to learn the art, Tai Chi is beneficial for the health of your mind and body. The main purpose of Tai Chi is to cultivate the chi within us to flow smoothly and powerfully through your body.  A second class is held on the 3rd morning at the same time.

An early breakfast was served soon after so that we could depart for our full-day tour at 0800.

Arrival at Fairy Lake Cave 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

The arrival at Fairy Lake Cave

The first activity was a visit to the Ho Dong Tien Cave also known as Fairy Lake Cave. There are two chambers inside and they are separated by a narrow tunnel. The first chamber has unusually shaped stalagmites that reach from the ceiling to the floor.  The second chamber leads to a crystal clear lake surrounded by steep limestone mountains.

Legend states that the lake inside the cave is where fairies descend to swim hence the name Fairy Lake Cave.  (BTW, this is not the 3rd legend and you still need to read on.)

After visiting the magical scenery of Ho Dong Tien Cave we sailed through the east side of Halong Bay passing Trong Cave, Trinh Nu Cave to a small islet where we enjoyed kayaking around the bay to a small beach that is perfect for swimming.  You have the option to relax onboard instead of kayaking.

A very substantial lunch is provided onboard the Day Cruise Boat. We lost count on the number of dishes that came out.  There were also vegetarian options available.  Drinks are at an extra cost on this day excursion.

Scenic views over Halong Bay 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Breathtaking views over Halong Bay

There is time available after lunch to relax and enjoy the scenery before sailing off to the next activity.  There are two options available, a visit to the Pearl Farm or a visit to Me Cung (Maze) Cave on Lom Bo Island.  There is an opportunity to visit the cave, a small waterway or to hike to the top for scenic views over Halong Bay.

After the day excursion finished we arrived back on Emeraude to enjoy freshly made banana French Crepes with chocolate sauce.  A well-deserved treat before Happy Hour commenced.

After dinner movies are shown on the Sun Deck for all to enjoy or you can enjoy a nightcap before retiring for the evening.

We enjoyed our early morning Tai Chi class on Day 3 before an early visit to Titov Island.

Titov Island 2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Titov Island

Not to be outdone on the other legends of Halong Bay, Titov Island has its own story, and a quite unique story it is. Titov Island was originally called  Cat Nang Island.  So where did the Russian sounding name of Titov come from? Russian Cosmonaut Gherman Titov became the 2nd man to orbit the earth in 1961 onboard the spaceship Vostok 2. In 1962 Vostok toured the Island with none other than Ho Chi Minh.  Ho Chi Minh consulted with the locals about the visit and in a friendly gesture with Russia, he named the island after the Cosmonaut.

The Island also goes by the name of Cemetery Island. In 1905 a French Cargo Ship during bad weather floundered on the rocks and all on board lost their lives. They are buried on the island.

If you climb the 427 steps to the top you are rewarded with breathtaking views over Halong Bay.

At around 0900 hours we returned back to Emeraude for Brunch before checking out of our cabin and sailing back to Halong Bay.

Who Was The Legend Who Sailed on Emeraude?

Season 8 Episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown was filmed in Halong Bay on board the Emeraude. Most of the Western World will know who Anthony Bourdain was but for those who do not recognise the name, he was a famous American Chef who took his own life in 2018 when he was 62 years of age filming more of the series in France.  Apart from being a famous chef he travelled the world filming his food travel adventures for his series A Cooks Tour, No Reservations and Parts Unknown.  The world lost a special person in 2018 and one who is remembered fondly.

You can watch part of it here.

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

Paul Roque Suite

Apparently, Bourdain walked the docks of Halong Bay looking for the right boat for his adventure.  He spied Emeraude and hired the Emeraude for himself and his friends. During his time onboard he stayed in the Paul Roque Suite.  You too can book the same suite.

During the episode, he visited one of the local fishing villages on the bay and chatted with the occupants.  The villagers have since been relocated back to land as per the Government’s request. It is an interesting episode and as in typical Bourdain’s style it is from the heart.

How To Book Your 2 night Cruise of Halong Bay on Board Emeraude

Have we whetted your appetite for cruising Halong Bay?

Reservations can be made through Emeraude Cruises – click here for more information.

Victoria Voyages also have 1-night cruises available on Emeraude and it’s sister ship L’Azalee.

During our 3 months in Vietnam we also visited:

Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa

Travelled by Victoria Express to Sapa and Trekked the Rice Fields

Where To Stay in Hanoi 

During our time in Hanoi we stayed in three properties:

The two Trang Trang properties are located in the Old Quarter and the Pullman Hanoi is closer to the Temple of Literature.  All 3 properties we can highly recommend.  When we visit a city for a longer period of time we like to mix the accommodation up and review for our readers.

Travelling Around Asia

For the latest fares and schedules on buses, trains and ferries throughout Asia:

Powered by 12Go Asia system

 

Our Thanks

Our thanks to Ana and the team onboard Emeraude who made our 2-night adventure memorable.

Extra Reading On Halong Bay


Check if you need a Visa for Vietnam:

You may require a visa for travel to Vietnam read our article for more information.

widget

 

Pinterest

Are you on Pinterest? We at To Travel Too have many travel-related boards check us out at Pinterest.  If you enjoyed our article on our 2 night cruise on Halong Bay why not pin it to your board.

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

 

 

 

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

 

 

2 night cruise on Halong Bay

 

Travel Insurance

We recommend that you purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your flights or pay deposits on cruises, tours, accommodation etc.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand click here for the latest quotes on travel insurance.

If you live outside of Australia and New Zealand click here for the latest quotes on travel insurance.

For the latest travel gear, luggage and accessories check out our To Travel Too Shop.

 

 

 

16 Comments

  • Elizabeth says:

    I have heard about the Halong Bay cruises, but have never done one. The morning Tai Chi most have been really peaceful. I would enjoy it if I am able to get myself out of bed that early! I would really like the kayaking around the bay. Emeraude Cruises seem like a good choice, all the food aboard sounded great!

    • Hi Elizabeth
      Thanks for your comments. You will be able to get out of bed at that time of the morning, it really is so peaceful and the light incredible. LOL.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • Leah says:

    Halong Bay looks very beautiful! I am hoping to get to Vietnam soon. This 2 night cruise sounds like a great way to relax and enjoy this part of the country. The hike on Titov Island sounds beautiful!

  • Yukti Agrawal says:

    Wow you had a beautiful time along the Halong bay and that too on a cruise while sailing acroos beautiful islands and islets. I was not knowing about the legends behind Halong Bay. All are very interesting but my favorite one is of Thanh Giong. and how a sword and the horse in Sung Sot Cave was left behind by Giong to protect Halong Bay from evil demons. Also the concept of Vietnamese people ascended from dragons and fairies also sounds funny. Thanks for sharing this cruise trip details.

    • Hi Yukti
      Thanks for your comments. The legends are incredible. We are collecting a lot of them when we travel, we love legends.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • Vietnam is developing quite good and I would not feel surprise to see such a tourist offer. The legend story is interesting. The boat is rustic and looks quite comfortable. I have not been to the country yet but am sure one day I will visit it. I like to cruise around and this would be my choice.

    • Hi Mijia
      Thanks for your comments.Vietnam is definitely a hot destination to visit at the moment. Hope you can make it one day.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • I love the legends associated with the name of Halong Bay and it seems like a great idea to spend overnight on the cruise. Many people just do day trips and that was what I was planning to do as well when I go next year but it seems that an overnight cruise might be a better idea. Emeraude cruises look good!

    • Hi Medha
      Thanks for your comments. We can highly recommend spending two nights in Halong Bay – it gives you the opportunity to relax and enjoy it more.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • I have never been on a cruise. But stories make for a good trip and this boat has a lovely dreamy story behind it. I certainly would like to do Tai Chi on board and climb up the 427 steps to see those views.

  • Annick Lenoir-Peek says:

    How fun! Halong Bay has been on my radar precisely since watching that episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show! Very cool that you were on the same boat. The itinerary is fabulous too, including all these terrific stops. And while I’m not a morning person, I would be there for the Tai Chi class!

    • Hi Annick
      Thanks for your comments. It was certainly a fun adventure and I can highly recommend getting up early for Tai Chi. Such a peaceful time of the day in Halong Bay.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • amar singh says:

    Vietnam in general tops my list of places to visit and having traveled Thailand extensively wants me to experience it as fast as possible. The cruise itself doesn’t look very fancy but has all the amenities and requirements to make it comfy and enjoyable. I was not aware that Halong Bay is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World so definitely worth a visit and some good learning here so thanks.To keep fit whilst you enjoy all that great food a good way would be to try Tai Chi on board. Thanks for sharing a great experience.

    • Hi Amar
      Thanks for your comments. We are really enjoying our travels through Vietnam – there is so much to see and do and the people are lovely.
      Hope you get to visit Vietnam sooner than later.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.