We booked the Marguerite Garden Halong Bay boat cruise for the 3 day 2 night itinerary, online with BestPriceVietnam.com, about 6 weeks before we left England. We had to pay a deposit to secure the booking - paid via OnePay as requested by Best Price Vietnam. We thought the communication before the day of departure was very good, with a few emails being sent to and from, all in good English and them understanding all our questions. On the day of departure, we were met in our hotel reception in Hanoi by a Best Price Vietnam staff member to pay the remainder of the balance, as agreed in previous correspondence. I remember being impressed with the professionalism of the lady who met us. She stayed with us and kept a look out for the coach until the Tonkin Cruise tour guide arrived. The coach journey to the wharf in Halong City went well, with a 30 minute rest stop about halfway. The small coach was very clean and comfortable, and a bottle of water each was given out just after we boarded. Total time took nearly 4 hours. From the outside, the Marguerite Garden boat looks weathered and a bit old, but once on board I was pleasantly surprised. I would recommend booking an Ocean View cabin on level 2, as you will have windows both sides, and no one making noises above you. Our cabin was clean and presented nicely. The actual itinerary of the cruise did not fully match the one on the website. We went with the flow but at least 2 other couples on the boat were not happy with this. Kayaking was fun, but the activities on day 2 finished by 16:15, with the intention of relaxing until dinner served at 19:00. Problem is we all would have liked to have carried on exploring and kayaking, but we were not allowed. Due to the weather being overcast and misty, we ended up just sitting inside with not much to do - and with the boat being moored up for the night, there wasn't even any new scenery to admire. If the sun had been shining, we would've been up on the top deck sun bathing, and probably wouldn't have noticed the down time. All the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, plenty of tasty food at every meal, clean boat, shower pressure good in cabin, and the wifi only was only accessible in the restaurant area (and very slow, but it was a bonus to have any at all considering the location). During the day, they take you out on one or two smaller boats so you can transfer between the various islands. Towels and snorkelling equipment was provided for free, and the lunch we had on board the smaller boat was just as good as on the sleeper boat. When we were all out kayaking, we felt confident our bags and belongings were safe, and also when leaving our big bags in the cabin - the tour guide emphasised the Maguerite Garden was equipped with CCTV. Only small bottles of water were provided, one each, on a daily basis when our cabins were cleaned. We recommended in our feedback that there should be free water and tea/coffee available, as all drinks are fairly pricey on board. On reflection, we do not think this particular cruise is worth the money (we paid 484USD for 2 people in the ocean view cabin), as we felt the time spent in Halong Bay was not utilised to its maximum, and too much attention was spent on the meal times, and not on the activities/sightseeing.
We booked at first onj another boat, we agreed to move to this boat and they offered us complimenary massage. Later on it came up that the massage was only for one of us. Hmm, stingy.
The trip by bus was nearly 4 hours and for older people not recommended, as it is exhausting.
The boat was clean and a little bit old.
The food was o.k., it was a lot but nothing special, all the same u can get in every average restaurant.
The drinks are not included and quite pricy.
The so called activities are below our expectations. The cave was totally overcrowded and the the cave itself is heavily damaged by tourist. Not worth to go there. the so called beach is 5 m wide and the water is dirty.
And this is the main problem: All the hundreds of boats dump their garbage and the toilets in the bay. therefore the water is smelly and a lot of rubbish is swimming on the bay.
I m quite experienced traveller but this was the worst i ever seen.
Rooms are small, average standard. Wifi is quite slow.
Staff wasn´t to friendly and not much caring.
Conclusion: I would not choose this boat again.
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We did the 2 day 1 night cruise on Marguerite booked through Tonkin Cruises. The minibus on the way there was a bit small and uncomfortable but on the way back we had a luxurious bus with leather reclining seats. Our guides were Que and Tien, however we broke off into two different groups and Tien was our main tour guide. He was very knowledgeable and friendly. The rooms on the boat were lovely, the food was great (so much of it), the drinks were a little pricey though especially on top of what you have already paid for the junk cruise, plus an extra $22 per person for entry into the bay as we booked through Booking.com. Halong bay is a little poluted both in the water and the air but it is a busy tourist destination so I guess that is to be expected.
We booked the 2 nights 3 days option on Marguerite Junk. They picked us up from our hotel in Hanoi (Old Quarter) on time (they even called the reception the day before to reconfirm our pick up time) and we got on a comfortable minibus. The driver was very careful and we felt safe the entire journey. The guide Tien was very informative.
On the cruiser the room was great, very clean, not too small and they even prepared flowers and rose petals on the bed for our special occasion (honeymoon). We recommend you pay a bit more for a room on the upper deck as we did, as fellow travellers booked on the lower deck told us there was a really bad sewage smell in the mornings.
The food on board was exceptional, very varied, large quantities and simply delicious. My husband does not eat fish nor seafood so they prepared separate food for him. However, I must say the drinks on board are really overpriced! No wonder people buy drinks from the small boats, it’s less than half price.
We really recommend the 2 nights 3 days option as on the second day you really get to experience more of Ha Long, go kayaking in the beautiful area of the Caves of Light and Darkness and visit the Pearl Farm. The guide we had for this day however (I can’t remember his name unfortunately, but it is a local guide, not from the cruise) was quite terrible. He spoke very bad English, we struggled to understand him and tried all the time to talk us out of doing the activities we were supposed to do… For example he tried to convince us not to kayak because of the cold weather and pay extra for going on a rowing boat. Fortunately we insisted on kayaking and it was definitely worth it (with the rowing boat you don’t get to see the smaller caves). Also, while we were on the kayak the guide was always way ahead and not concerned at all about the rest of the people, we felt totally unsupervised and it was our first kayak experience… Then he said we could not go to a beach further South because of the wind… we still don’t know if it was true or he made it up. Anyway, the kayaking was great and it is worth the extra day in Ha Long.
On the last day you do a bit more kayaking around the floating village and they teach you how to make the delicious spring rolls which is good fun and you get the recipe, too. After that you get to see fruit and vegetable carving, which I first thought was just something they do to fill in the spare time, but I must say it was very interesting. It is amazing what that chef can do with a tomato or a carrot…
The cruise itself was very good. Guide, boat, food and crew were perfect.
Sadly all this good feelings were destroyed at the end of the tour. We booked it on booking.com for around 207 Dollar. When we wanted to pay this, the guide told us, we have to pay 44 Dollar more as fee for the Bay. We we're quit surprised and spook to the office at the guides phone. They always said they sended us a mail after the booking and informed us over this price. As I said, that's it's not okay to give this informations after a booking, she wanted to send us the mail again. We looked again on booking.com and even in the field "included/excluded" we couldn't find informations about these fees. Than we looked on "more" information and there, at the end of the whole text, they wrote about the fee. So we said: okay, judicial they are right and we'll pay it. But: be honest, how looks at more informations when he's booking at booking.com? This are hidden costs and the reason why they have such a cheap offer (in other cruise-prices the fee is included). We told the guide, we'll pay the money, but that I would like to speak to someone one the office, just to tell them, that it would perhaps be helpful for clients in future to write about this fee in the discription, so nobody will be confused like we were. After we had to fill a feedback already on the boat, I thought, they will be really thankful for this advice. The guide gave me the phone, but the lady on the other side was extremely unfriendly, didn't really listen to me and didn't let me finish my sentence. She always said: But it's written there! And I just said: "Yes it is, but it would be much more clear if it would be mentioned in the discription." She ended the conversation. After this I should the guide on my App, what I spoke about, and he understood and thanked for the advice.