a responsible luxury Ha Long Bay visit with La Regina Cruise and YESD Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is not only one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve been, and I’m obviously not the only one who feels that way, since approximately 7 million tourists visit per year. Adding to the destinations appeal, it’s been named one of the New 7 World Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve wanted to visit Ha Long Bay with its limestone karsts and teal waters for since my first visit to Asia.

Luckily for me, YESD Vietnam invited me on a Ha Long Bay cruise to make my dream come true and mark another item off my ever-growing bucket list; something I will never forget having the opportunity to do before I leave Asia.


READ ON FOR THE FULL DETAILS OF MY HA LONG BAY CRUISE


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THREATS TO Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Vietnam. It’s estimated that 7 million people visit the New World Wonder every year, making it terribly overrun during the peak tourist season. The natural landscape is facing the uphill battle of water pollution and environmental impact. While I didn’t see major plastic dumping in the bay, I did see the odd plastic bottle now and then floating in the water, which made me overwhelmingly aware of the effects of over-tourism.

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Responsible Tourism

While my cruise was hosted on La Regina Cruise lines, I was invited as a guest of YESD Vietnam, a responsible tour agency. YESD {Youth Employment and Society Development} is a social enterprise that was founded by Tuoi, Trang, and Tuyet; three friends who feel passionately about authentic tourism experiences. Each tour booked through YESD contributes to community development programs and 10% of all the profits from each tour sold by them goes straight into their “community fund.” Since 2014, YESD has been providing education and career opportunities for locals throughout Vietnam. As a tour agency, they are committed to working with companies who employ locals. In a place like Ha Long Bay that is often overrun by tourists and negative faces environmental issues due to those tourists, it felt especially important to book a tour with a company that focuses on responsible tourism.

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ON BOARD AMENITIES

The 2-day/ 1-night La Regina cruise is hosted on a beautiful ship filled with plenty of amenities. A full night’s sleep came easily thanks to a massive queen bed and a memory foam mattress. While I was awake and in my room, I enjoyed a lengthy soak in the jacuzzi bath tub with views of the limestone karsts. The room was home to an abundance of outlets for device charging, fresh linens and towels, a kettle, fresh water, teas and coffees.

An on board spa allows guest to grab a massage or facial by a spa therapist after the day’s excursions. A full service bar, spacious sundeck, glamorous dining room are all found on the cruise ship. If the amenities and facilities aren’t enough, the staff’s friendly and attentive demeanor added to the level of luxury and comfort on board.

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la regina royal Cruise Itinerary

Never having done an overnight cruise before, I didn’t know what to expect. From the moment I checked-in, I was busy taking advantage of optional activities included in the cruise itinerary. the itinerary ran like clockwork, and the staff came around to each room to make sure those who wanted to participate were kept on schedule. There were only 10 people {including me} on the cruise. The small group size made these activities feel more intimate and making friends extra easy.

DAY 1

12:30 - WELCOME DRINK, SAFETY BRIEFING + LUNCH

As I checked-in and stepped on board, I was greeted with a Watermelon welcome drink. Sipping away, we were given a safety briefing and a rundown of the itinerary. As soon as the briefing was finished, we were served a beautiful lunch off a set menu. The vegetarian options were plentiful and I lapped up all five courses {that’s right, five} like I hadn’t ever seen food before.

3:00 - KAYAKING + BAMBOO BOATING through VUNG VIENG FISHING VILLAGE

After lunch and a little bit of down time, we were taken to Vung Vieng fishing village, the second largest fishing village in the area. Once the boat arrived to Vung Vieng, we were given the choice to go kayaking or get taken around the bay in a bamboo boat.

5:30-6:30 - HAPPY HOUR

During happy hour, drinks on the menu at the bar are discounted by 30%. For those on a budget, this is the perfect opportunity to have a cheaper cocktail or mocktail. As a bonus, the discounted drinks include coffees and juices.

6:00 - TRADITIONAL COOKING DEMONSTRATION

The Chef on board offers a cooking demonstration. On my cruise, the chef taught us how to prepare and cook fried spring rolls. A small group of us learned how to soften rice paper, mix the inside ingredients, properly wrap and fry the rolls.

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7:30 - DINNER

Dinner was served in the main dining room after 10 of us finished eating all the fried springs rolls we had just made. Another five courses of vegetarian plate after plate, all delicious, were devoured.

9:00 - SQUID FISHING ON THE MAIN DECK OR KARAOKE ON THE SUNDECK

After dessert has been cleared, guests are offered the opportunity to go squid fishing on the main deck or participate in karaoke on the upper sundeck. I went ahead and watched the squid fishing, which made swimming a bit off-putting. I went to bed instead of participating in the karaoke party because in the morning I had an early wake up for…

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DAY 2

6:15 - TAI CHI ON THE SUNDECK

Tai Chi is timed perfectly after sunrise, making the early wake up doubly worth it. You can grab snaps of the sunrise and stay on the sundeck for a beginner’s Tai Chi class that focuses on meditation and breathing exercises. As a total rookie, I was more than willing to rise on time and participate in the first activity of the day.

6:45 - LIGHT BREAKFAST

Light breakfast consisted of coffee, tea, fresh fruit juices, Pho, and pastries galore.

7:30 - EXPLORE THIEN CANH SON CAVES

The Thien Canh Son caves sit at the top of a mountain, which we hiked up. The steps to the top are a bit uneven, but the hike itself isn’t strenuous and doesn’t require activewear. Definitely bring your camera!

9:30 - CHECK-OUT, FINALIZE BILL, + BRUNCH

During this time, us passengers packed up our bags and placed them outside of our respective rooms so that staff could move them. It’s also during this time that people square away any bar tabs you have on board. A major brunch buffet awaits you in the main dining area once you’ve sorted the rest of it. Pastries, made-to-order omelettes, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, juices, soups, donuts, papaya salad…the feast is endless.

12:00 - DISEMBARKATION

All good things must come to an end, and my cruise was no exception. Once you disembark from the La Regina Royal, you will either be taken back to Hanoi via the free shuttle van or be taken to your accommodation.

My time in Ha Long Bay with La Regina Cruises felt fun, albeit fast-paced. I made friends with others on board and got a well-rounded experience in the bay. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I would only hope for more time. the 2-day/ 1-night option feels a bit short given all the activities! Still, I felt extra lucky just to be a guest on board. This is what all the cruises on Ha Long Bay {La Regina or other cruise lines} are said to be like— filled with activities and fleeting too quickly. My advice is to extend your stay with the 3-day/ 2-night option, unless you enjoy a more full itinerary and are stretched for time.

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booking

You can book your La Regina Cruise with YESD Vietnam here. Remember that every booking made with YESD gives back to the local community and helps promote responsible tourism in Vietnam.


Disclaimer: I was a guest of La Regina Cruises courtesy of YESD Vietnam. All my opinions are my own and my experience is expressed authentically. 


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My full review of the La Regina Ha Long Bay Cruise
the full review of my time on the La Regina Cruise around Ha Long Bay