Ha Long Bay Cruise with Kids
In June 2014, my sister and I did a 2 day/1 night Ha Long Bay Cruise with a baby and a 3-year-old. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to truly enjoy this experience with the kids, but it was amazing and my 3-year-old loved it too.
Family-Friendly Cruise Lines in Ha Long Bay
I decided to book in the luxury range as there have been safety concerns about some of the cheapie boats operating in Ha Long Bay. Also, since I knew I’d just be hanging out on the boat with the kids the whole time, I wanted a larger room with a nice view. I narrowed it down to these four different options and ultimately decided on the Paloma with a Family Suite as my cousin had cruised with Paloma and recommended them.
Paradise Luxury – $420 – 23m terrace suite with private terrace
Indochina Sails – $372 – 13m Superior room with two twin beds
Paloma – Superior – $238 – 15m room with two twin beds
Paloma – Family Suite – $350, private terrace 25m
These rates were before the taxes. The $350 Family Suite on Paloma became $404 after taxes on Agoda. The rate includes activities and all meals on board. Rates on the websites of the companies were much higher. There are cheaper ones, and even VERY cheap ones, but with the little ones I wanted something comfortable, safe, and not crowded.
Note: Paloma has another boat called “Paloma Family” which is a smaller boat that can be rented out by groups. This would be perfect for 2 or 3 families with older kids, but it is much smaller and I didn’t think it would be the best option with little ones.
Kids on the Boat
My son was 3.5 years old when we did the cruise. We have a floatie for him (a Puddle Jumper) that fit better than the life jackets on board. We also brought an infant life jacket from the US for the baby. I would not have booked this cruise when my son was between 1 year and 3 years old. He was too difficult to control and didn’t understand that jumping off a boat would be dangerous.
Even at age 3.5, he kept saying he was going to “jump off the boat…and the shark eat me!” For him this was not a scary thing, but an EXCITING thing.
The staff on the Paloma were very attentive which made having kids along much easier. They seated us separately in the dining area, so if one of the kids was fussing it was easy to get up and go take a walk around the deck or head over to the lounge area to breastfeed in a more comfortable chair.
Tour Activities with Kids
I ended up staying on the boat with both kids during the tours. The first tour included kayaking for a few hours to a floating village. There was an option to go in a bamboo boat, but it was pouring rain, so we decided to keep Gabriel on the boat. My sister said that with only one adult with him in a very small, tippy boat, it would have been difficult for that to be an enjoyable experience. Maybe with two adults per one young child, a well-fitted floatie, and nice weather.
The second activity was climbing up over 100 stairs to visit a cave and go to a nice view point. It had been raining again (in June), and things were slippery. The thought of dragging either child up all of those stairs was not appealing to me, so I hung out with the kids on our private terrace. Gabriel counted the boats and made up more stories about our entire boat being eaten by a whale.
Some itineraries go to a beach. This would have been a more relaxing option with the little ones. However, the 1-night cruise was very enjoyable even without getting off the boat. I brought the iPad, books, and a few puzzles and games for Gabriel to play. Paloma provided a full-size for the baby, so it was easy to let her play in the crib while I was playing with Gabriel.
I would definitely do this trip again with a baby (not yet crawling) and a 3-year-old or older children. The small room and the activities would be tough with a more active baby or a toddler.
Paloma was awesome and well worth the price tag. The food was spectacular. My son tried all sorts of new things like deep-friend oysters, and because all meals had multiple courses there was always something he liked.
I booked the family suite which is actually only one bedroom (with a large bed and a small bed), spacious bathroom (for a boat), and a large private terrace at the front of the boat. The boat only has two rooms like this. If I had booked another room without the terrace, I think I would have felt claustrophobic staying in with the children.
If you have two adults, you can switch off who goes on what activity. With a good supply of toys and games, the 3-day/2-night tour would also be enjoyable. Especially if the itinerary includes a beach for the little ones.
The best season to go is when it’s not rainy season and the weather is cooler: November through March.
Have you been to Ha Long Bay with kids? Share your thoughts!
Feature photo by Jan Smith
Thanks to my amazing sister, Jen Walts, for the other photos that accompany this post.