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Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam and taking a Halong Bay cruise is definitely an experience for the bucket list! But is it family-friendly? We share our experience of taking a toddler on a Halong Bay cruise and our best tips for experiencing Halong Bay with kids!
Halong Bay is known for the breathtaking scenery of limestone rocks and islands, rainforests, and emerald green waters. Located in north-eastern Vietnam, a Halong Bay boat cruise is a cruise experience on most travellers bucket list and a must-see when travelling to Vietnam.
However, few would consider it a possibility when travelling with a baby or toddler. We decided to try a cruise with a toddler since we didn’t to miss the chance to do a Halong Bay cruise during our Vietnam family holiday.
Planning Your Halong Bay Cruise With Kids
When planning your Halong Bay cruise with kids, it is important to consider a few things. This guide will help you plan your visit to Halong Bay and choose the right cruise for your family.
Where Is Halong Bay?
Halong Bay is located in northeastern Vietnam, about 3 hours from Hanoi. The bay itself is actually made up of over 1,600 islands, islets and limestone cliffs.
How To Get To Halong Bay?
There are a few ways to get to Halong Bay depending on where you are coming from. If you are coming from Hanoi, the most common way to get to Halong Bay is by bus or minivan.
The journey takes about 3-4 hours. It’s a long and sometimes bumpy ride with kids so make sure you have plenty of snacks and activities to keep them busy.
Tips For Choosing The Right Halong Bay Cruise For Your Family
There are now many different types of cruises available in Halong Bay to suit all budgets and preferences. Some of these won’t be as suited to your kids, especially if you are taking a cruise with a toddler or a baby.
When choosing a family cruise in Halong Bay, there are a few things to consider:
- Choose a family-friendly cruise: There are now many cruises that cater specifically to families, with activities and amenities designed for kids
- Check the age limits: Some cruises have minimum age limits for kids. If you are travelling with a younger child, make sure to check the age limit before booking
- Consider the activities: What activities and excursions are available on the cruise?
- The size of the boat: If you have young children or babies, you might want to choose a larger boat so that they have plenty of space to move around.
Halong Bay is a popular cruise destination, with numerous cruise companies operating in the area. Many of these are run on traditional style junk boats, to give that authentic Halong Bay cruise experience.
These are both overnight and day trip cruises, with the amenities on the junk cruises being somewhat more basic due to the size and age of the boats.
These might be a fun experience to do Halong Bay with kids who are older.
Initially, the idea of a junk cruise sounded like fun, but on second thoughts, cruising Halong Bay with toddler changed my mind.
Sure there are horror stories of these boats sinking quickly and unexpectedly due to being made of wood, but there are horror stories for most travel experiences if you ask Google.
For us, it was more about having the space and amenities to suit our family travel, so instead, we chose a more luxurious cruise company.
It just so happened we found an awesome deal online for a heavily discounted rate – bonus.
RELATED: Cruising with children: 10 Essential tips for your first family cruise
Our 2 Night Halong Bay Cruise With A Toddler
Our Halong Bay cruise was with Au Co, which happens to have the tagline of being ‘THE BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES’, having launched only in 2012.
And from our experience, they very well could be the best Halong Bay cruise for family travel.
They are more of a cruise liner than a ‘boat’ like many of the other cruises, and offer the first 3-day cruise option in the area.
The cruise takes in the sights of three different bays in the Gulf of Tonkin, including the spectacular Cat Ba Island.
Our first afternoon included a visit to the Sung Sot caves, which meant walking up and down a lot of stairs.
We popped our then 14-month-old toddler into our baby carrier and away we went. She slept half the time and enjoyed the parts she was awake for.
There was plenty to see, including this downright stunning view from up high in the cave. Wow.
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Onboard with Au Co Cruises
The food on the cruise was impressive! We love food and there was so much of it. Multiple courses, buffets, omelette bar, exotic fruit and the most fantastic presentation. It was like art on our plates.
This also kept our toddler happy… at 14 months she was full of adventure. She was happy to eat whatever was put in front of her.
There was everything from tropical fruits, seafood, meats, salads, soup, desserts and so much more.
It was all pretty amazing at the time, with what they managed to plate up onboard a boat and everything was ready to serve at once for all guests.
That was great until our toddler got sick on our first night and made quite a mess of our cabin. Ick! That was the first time she had ever been sick at all… so of course, we were extremely worried parents, on a boat, in a foreign country.
By far our worst travel experience yet!
Thankfully she woke up her happy and healthy self, so it may have just been the excess of food and the impact of being on a cruise that caused it, rather than the dreaded international travel bug you always hear about.
We regretfully skipped the first excursion the following morning, which was a visit to a traditional floating village.
Disappointing but we wanted to make sure Lily was well.
Meanwhile, the amazing staff replaced our room sheets over breakfast. Phew! Then by the time everyone returned from the morning outing, we were ready to join the next optional activity of kayaking.
Yes… we took a toddler kayaking.
It was so much fun and she thought it was pretty amazing.
At first, she was a little nervous, but it didn’t take long before she was loving the kayaking adventure around the limestone rock formations.
The sights were amazing. I wish now that we had the media equipment we do now, as it would have been pretty special to capture the views on film. We were far too scared to risk our camera back then.
There are so many adventurous things to do in Vietnam, which allow you to enjoy the natural beauty of the country.
Check out some more ideas and add some extra thrills into your Vietnam holiday!
Following lunch, we visited Cat Ba Island. There was quite a walk ahead of us since the option of riding bikes was out with a toddler in tow, but again with the baby carrier strapped on, away we went.
Our toddler enjoyed the ‘walk’ and actually did get out a few times to stretch her legs along the way for short distances, as well as at the final destination, where we met some villagers. She loved all the chooks and dogs everywhere.
Back on deck, we went for a jacuzzi, which was a bonus due to staying in an executive cabin.
This was exciting for Lily for a short while, as exciting as a giant bath with no bath toys can be, before she got bored, so we headed back to the room to shower and dress for dinner.
That night was an incredible feast on the top deck of the boat. We kept Lily’s food fairly basic, despite her wanting to try everything.
A little cautious after our previous night. She was delighted to be up the top deck at night though, with the staff providing some entertainment as we dined.
Read next: The BEST Vietnam attractions for families
The next morning we were headed back to land and farewelling our Halong Bay cruise.
Thankfully, aside from the one hiccup with the upset stomach, the cruise was a success and all 3 of us enjoyed our time. We would highly recommend Au Co for a Halong Bay with kids.
The cabin views were great for downtime on the balcony and we managed without a cot, as while there is the option, there really isn’t much room in the cabins so it would have been pretty squishy with a cot.
Luckily we co-sleep normally anyway with our little miss.
There was enough to keep Lily occupied otherwise, with a couple of toys we brought along for quiet time, her afternoon nap and of course plenty of outings and activities to wear her out.
The cruise staff were fantastic with Lily and many of them went out of their way to spend time with her for a couple of minutes here and there. But the Vietnamese love kids!
TIPS FOR VISITING HALONG BAY WITH KIDS
If you are planning a Halong Bay cruise with a toddler, baby or older children, here are some tips to make the most of your trip!
- Choose the cruise company carefully, with safety considered
- Common sense, but never let kids out of your sight while cruising
- Take some small toys and activities on board for quiet playtime
- Be mindful of the impact of lots of new foods
- Consider taking some familiar foods and snacks just in case
- A baby carrier is perfect for excursions with babies or toddlers
Would we do another Ha Long Bay cruise with a toddler or baby? Yes, aside from the stomach upset, it was a great experience for all of us.
We are so glad we fit this into our Vietnam itinerary and would highly recommend making it happen.
The drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay isn’t great, but when you get on your cruise boat, you will forget those bumpy roads and bad traffic in moments and feel like you are in another world!
AU CO HALONG BAY CRUISE WITH KIDS
Au Co Cruises – Au Co offers the only 3-day, 2-night Halong Bay cruise option, with private balconies and quality facilities. They have regular Halong Bay cruise deals for discount rates, so be sure to check their website.
In saying this, you may not have as much time, so there are other cruise companies that offer Halong Bay 2-day cruise options as well, with just a single overnight stay.
For us travelling with a toddler, Au Co Cruises was the best Halong Bay cruise company to suit our needs.
They did have the option of a cot, however, even in the executive suite, there was very little room for suitcases so we are glad we opted out of this and ended up co-sleeping with our daughter. This might not be ideal for you though!
Booking A Halong Bay Cruise For Your Family
Since our cruise, there are so many more luxury cruise companies operating in Halong Bay that are perfect for cruising the Bay with kids!
Many of these kid-friendly cruises have larger rooms, on-deck activities, such as spas and other activities kids will enjoy plus family-friendly excursions your kids will love.
They also have a range of activities such as cooking classes, tai chi, kayaking, and more that passengers of all ages will love.
FIND THE BEST HALONG BAY CRUISES HERE
You can also do single day cruises to see Halong Bay if you only have one day spare, and while you will not see a great deal compared to an overnight cruise, this is a great sampler option and might suit you more than an overnight option if you have a baby or toddler.
GETTING TO HALONG BAY FROM HANOI
The worst part is the transit from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The expected 3 hour drive is much longer than 3 hours and over the bumpiest and most horrendous roads ever!
This is the part that is hardest for entertaining a toddler or child so be sure to pack plenty of snacks, and activities and hopefully encourage some nap time.
There was only one rest stop in the middle of our transit, which was part of our cruise and accommodation package.
Alternatively, you can book a private car or bus transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Make sure you leave enough time to arrive before your cruise departs.
Book your Hanoi to Halong Bay transfers online
Our pre-cruise accommodation was at the Hilton Hanoi, and was inclusive of our cruise package, along with transport to and from Halong Bay from Hanoi.
The hotel provided quality accommodation and facilities. It was also within walking distance to food and attractions.
You can also book hotels in the Halong Bay area, which is ideal if you have an early morning cruise departure time, so you do not have to worry about transit and shuttle times.
Book your Halong Bay area accommodation here
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