We had 1.5 days in Halong Bay. We had to tender to land. We took a ship-provided shore excursion to Hanoi the first full day. Although it's only 115 miles away, due to road conditions, it takes 4 hours each way. The bus stops at a ... Read More
We had 1.5 days in Halong Bay. We had to tender to land. We took a ship-provided shore excursion to Hanoi the first full day. Although it's only 115 miles away, due to road conditions, it takes 4 hours each way. The bus stops at a hospitality center on the way there and back with decent bathrooms and a large handicraft and convenience store. Our excursion included a walking tour of the old quarter, which we found most interesting. Hanoi is a large city--8 million people, 4 million motorbikes--and felt frenetic. We had lunch at a nice hotel with a variety of dishes served family style. Afterward, we went to a temple for Confucius and the Ho Chi Minh complex to see the exterior of the mausoleum, a couple of his houses, and the one-pillar pagada. Then back on the bus for another 4 hours. We arrived after the tenders were supposed to have stopped for the night, but they continued until all the buses were back. We met up for our tour at 7:30am, got on the bus at 8am, to Hanoi by 12pm, tour for 5.5 hrs, 4 hours back to Halong Bay, tender back to ship after 10pm. A LONG Day.
The ship left port at 1pm on the second day in port. We did a ship-arranged 1/2-day boat tour of Halong Bay as we didn't feel we would make it back in time if we booked it on our own. However, if doing it on a full day, it would be very easy to tender ashore and book separately, and probably less expensively. The tour we did book was good. The junk boat pulled right up to the ship and then took us to a couple of caves. We toured one as a group and the second cave was optional. Then the boat piloted through part of the bay, between and around different rock "islands", and back to the boat.
Both days in Hanoi and Halong Bay were cooler than normal for this time of year so we had to wear three light layers of clothing. Read Less