Have miles, will travel.

Hera Cruises Halong Bay

One of the most anticipated parts of this trip to Vietnam, would be our visit to Halong bay where we would be spending a night on a cruise ship. I’ve heard really magical things about the beauty of this area, and couldn’t wait to experience it for myself. After the long 4 hour drive from the city centre of Hanoi, we finally arrived at the Hera Cruises office, right opposite the docks, where we were greeted graciously by the staff, and had our luggage handled for us as they started shoving cold towels into our hands. After being seated, we were given our itinerary for the next 2 days. Seems like a full 2 days worth of activities, can’t wait !

Our ship for the next 2 days.

After doing a bit of research as we waited to board our vessel, I found out that our room would be a generous 540 square feet large, and that the Hera cruise ship only had a max capacity of 26 people for all 13 rooms. This is going to be a real treat, it’s already starting to feel like a very private journey into the bay. Soon we were ushered to board the Hera, and off we went to find our rooms. We would be staying in the Upper deck, in the Hera Land suite, and my parents would be in the Hera Sunshine suite next door. My jaw literally was on the floor the moment we were shown to our rooms, it was just luxuriously breathtaking.

Twin beds with the fluffiest pillows ever, plus our very own private outdoor patio.
Best sleep I’ve ever had on a ship.
Day bed by the windows.
This is the life !
Our gorgeous bathroom with a bathtub looking out the window.
Can’t wait to take a soak !
Private outdoor deck.

I still couldn’t believe we were on a ship, I’ve been in hotel rooms that were smaller than this, and we had a full 540 square feet for ourselves! Can’t wait to check out the rest of ship! After freshening up, the crew started to call for all guests to proceed to the dining hall for lunch, where they also started introducing themselves. After that quick ice breaker session, it was time for our 5 course lunch. Fine dining, on a cruise ship? Don’t ever let me leave, please.

Sailing deeper into the bay.
Lounge area for coffee.
Our beautifully set up dining table.
Table set for 24 guests.
There’s even a grand piano in the dining area.
Fabulous team which made our stay so enjoyable.

Anna launched into an introduction to Halong bay and its history, menus were distributed and everything sounded delicious ! Lunch took about an hour and a half, with the plates licked clean after each course, I doubt there’s room for improvement, the chef did a phenomenal job crafting our food and making sure everything was well cooked and seasoned. The crew kept us entertained throughout the meal and they were such a delight.

You know it’s a fancy meal when your linen napkins are embroidered.
To start, I had the Vietnamese rice rolls with mushrooms.
Shrimp and pomelo salad.
Seafood broth.
Grilled duck breast with mashed potatoes.
Fresh sliced mango with custard.

After an absolutely divine meal, it was time to take our my drone for a flight ! I’ve been dying to do this ever since researching on picturesque places to fly my Mavic Pro in Vietnam. After stepping on to the private patio outside our room, with a quick set up, Wanda went flying.

Our very beautiful Hera cruise ship from above.
Chasing the ship next to us.
Scrambling to get the best spot.
One of the few islands amongst the 1600 nestled in the bay.
As far as Wanda can see.
It soon started to rain, and it was time to take Wanda down.

After that very short-lived flight due to the rain, I took it upon myself to explore the ship and see what else does the Hera offer. Initially I assumed that behind every single door was probably a room, but I was mistaken, the ship also came with a fully stocked gym, a mini library, and also a treatment room for body massages and various therapies. Colour me impressed.

Little library on the upper deck.
Gym with a great view.
Treatment room.
Massage room.

A bath was in order next ! Gotta freshen up a little before heading back upstairs to the dining hall for a sumptuous 5 course dinner. I just couldn’t wait to try out the bathtub that had a crazy view of the world outside the ship. Well, just don’t stand up and flash the other ships, or if you’re feeling a little shy, there are blinds that you are adjustable which you can lower.

I could lay here all day, sailing through the bay.

Felt a little crazy to think that I was still on a ship, it just felt so over the top to have a full size bathroom with a tub in my own room that came with floor to ceiling windows. I probably took one of the longest baths ever just lazing away till they started announcing that it was time for dinner. This is how travelling on a ship should always be, I’ve been spoiled.

I started salivating so badly after being handed the menu in the dining hall, I couldn’t wait to dig on already, while waiting for the food Anna went into a story telling mode about the legends of Halong Bay, I was listening intensely till the first course arrived, I remembered something about dragons swooping in from the heavens and protected the bay, before my own appetiser swooped in right in front of me and I went deaf after. It looked so good !

Rice paper rolls with beef & rice noodles to start with.
Grilled salmon salad with passion fruit dressing.
Halong crab mushroom soup with garlic toast.
Australian tenderloin steak with foie gras & mashed potatoes.
Grilled tiger prawns in Hong Dao wine with steamed rice.
Chocolate mousse with strawberry sauce & almonds.

After the awesome 5 course dinner meal ended, the Hera team started to inform us about tomorrows activities where we would be venturing into the Hang Sung Sot caves where a private boat will be ferrying us there to give us a guided tour of the caves, which would happen right before breakfast. So it was going to be an early start for all of us. The crew also announced that there would be night activities on board the ship where we could participate in squid fishing at the back of ship if anyone was interested. I initially told myself to go check it out, but after laying down on my plush bed back in the room, it was safe to say that was where I would be for the rest of the night.

Turndown service in the room while we were out having dinner.
The view outside the deck, goodnight Halong bay, see you tomorrow.

At 8am we were all ready and waiting at the back of the ship for our mini excursion to Hang Sung Sot caves. The guide for the day insisted that we all wear proper shoes with grip as the caves might be slippery when wet. Off our little boat went from the back of the Hera zipping towards an island about 10 minutes away. In my mind I had pictured it to be a quite small group of just 20 people or more maybe, but I was wrong, I think the entire population of Hanoi came along on this day trip and it was hectic. The climb to the top of the cave entrance was jam-packed with people. I was glad we were proper shoes though, those rocks were slippery as hell.

Hello island caves!

After a steep ascend of about 100+ steps, we were greeted at the humble entrance of the caves. It was pretty hard to move around because of the tiny entrance and the hordes of the people trying to squeeze in at the same time. Thankfully the cave opened up to a massive area a little afterwards where everyone could fit comfortably, plus the cool climate inside was such a relief to the hot weather outside.

Looks like an apple event.
Caves were really beautiful, and were gorgeously lit with artificial neon lights. Just take note not to walk into any stalagmites.
Exiting the caves.
View from the top of the caves.

After an hour of exploring the caves, with some history being taught to us, it was back down the caves, and onto our ship where we were ferried back to the Hera where a generous brunch spread awaited us.

Hello Hera !

After freshening up and packing, it was finally time to eat. Have never felt so famished before, a 2 hour caving adventure on an empty stomach will do that to  you. Anna our absolutely wonderful host had promised us a great breakfast and boy did she deliver. The spread was just magical, considering that there were just 24 guests on board.

The bar.
Everyone getting settled in for breakfast.
The lily restaurant.
Our awesome chef, taking care of the egg station.
So much condiments.
Pho corner.
My favourite dish of all time, bun cha.
Anna scooping up portions for everyone.
Vietnamese dishes and also some western options. Probably should have taken the lid off for photos.
Fruit corner.
Juice, yogurt and dessert.

After stuffing ourselves silly the only thing left to do was to enjoy the beautiful ride back to the port of Halong where we would end our journey. After filling up a mug of coffee, I planted myself outside by the balcony where I could enjoy and take in the view before it comes to and end.

Sail away, sail away, sail away.
Captains view.
Almost back to land.
As magical as the Hera was, it was thanks to Anna who made it such an awesome experience!

There are no proper words to describe the 2 day trip on board the Hera. Everything was just flawless, there is really nothing to improve on as far as I’m concerned. They advertised themselves as a 6 star cruise ship through Halong bay, and I absolutely agree with their claims. Food was just exquisite, the chef did the Hera proud with the 5 course lunch and dinner menus, the service from the crew was commendable, atmosphere was pleasant, and the rooms were just captivating, with a slight hint of grandeur mixed with modern conveniences. I wouldn’t hesitate to get myself onboard the Hera again the next time in the future if I could get the chance to, or if my wallet permits. I am certain it would be one of the most memorable cruises of your life, as this experience is going to be a tough one to beat.

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