Viola Cruise is one of the 4* junks of Halong Bay, being in the slighty higher end price wise and quality wise – and even though it is not a brand new boat it is still in very good condition.
It has around 16 cabins – 10 on the lower deck and 6 on the upper deck. The cabins on the upper deck have their own little balcony.
My cabin was at the front of the boat, and the cabin contains a double bed, a safe, mini fridge and storage space. There was enough space to have my large backpack stored during the cruise. The wooden boards on the wall gives the room a nice feel to it – it certainly didn’t look cheap. And the large windows are a big bonus. Waking up to a clear view of Halong Bay while lying in bed is just great. The en-suite bathroom is very nice as well, especially as it has a shower cubicle – so no wet feet after a shower.
On the upper deck is the dining area with plenty of tables and a little bar – and here most meals are served (only exception is lunch during a 3 day cruise). It is used for the evening entertainment as well.
On the top deck is a large area with sun loungers, another little bar and one covered area where the cooking class takes place. It is a nice area to sit down and enjoying the view. It is the best place on board to watch the sun rise and sun set. At the end of the day prior to dinner drinks will be served here when all passengers get together.
Overall the standard of the boat is nice and it is very spacious. So the quality of the boat is very good.
Food and drinks
The 4* of the cruise is not just based on the standard of the ship – but of the quality of the food as well. I found the food absolute fantastic.
Breakfast is served buffet style, with a variety of items like eggs, bacon, soup, rice, toast and jam served. It is a nice start of the day.
Lunch on arrival and departure day is served as well – with a mix of buffet items and served food. The mix of spring rolls, sop, seafood, fish and noodles was just delicious.
If you do the three-day cruise you will get lunch on day two on the day boat. It is a bit more simple, with seafood, fish, vegetables and meat, but nonetheless very good and very tasty.
The highlight though is dinner. It can only be described as amazing, superb, awesome and delicious. It was a seven course meal, with the theme being how the food was served at the royal court – using only food from the sea, including fish, prawns, crab, squid and other sea food – served in a very imaginative way. If you do not like seafood or fish, a combination of pork & chicken dishes as well as vegetables can be served. If you stay for two nights, this will be your second dinner. It is tasty, but cannot compare to the royal meal served during night 1.
Except of tea and coffee drinks are not included in the price. You can order at the bar, and pay at the end of the cruise. The prices are not as cheap as in Hanoi, but not too expensive either. I paid around $15 for three days. If you drink wine it will be more expensive. Though if you buy a bottle they will store it for you if you do not finish it.
Most cruises will have similar itineraries for a 2 day trip – but it varies a lot for 3 day cruises. Some will include more activities like rock climbing, while others focus on exploring the Bay. The Viola cruise does the latter, which I prefered.
The itinerary looked like that:
Day 1: Hanoi – Halong Bay – Cua Van Floating Village – Soi Sim Beach
Day 2: Viola Cruise – Day & Night Grotto – Ho Dong Tien Cave
Day 3: Viola Cruise – Sung Sot Cave – Halong Bay – Hanoi
The combination of caves and seeing the bay as well as some kayaking was perfect for me. It gives you a great impression of Halong Bay.
On day 2 you won’t be on the Viola boat, but on a smaller day boat. If you are with a small group it is actually ok, with some comfortable loungers on the top deck, and seats and tables on the lower deck. I didn’t mind being on that little boat – as long I got my comfortable loungers to watch the scenery.
During the evening you might either be able trying to catch some squid (while havig a beer), or they will put on the karaoke machine. I must say I was impressed that they ensure that no one gets disturbed, so the machine was switched off after 10pm. But it can be very entertaining.
On the way back to the port they will also organise a cooking class to learn how to prepare spring rolls. One warning though – the ones prepared will be served during lunch.or you can take the opportunity to dress up as king or queen for a photo shoot. It is actually very entertaining and should be done….
The staff on board is excellent. THey are very friendly, always smiling and polite, and always happy to help. I cannot say a bad word about them.
Unfortunately I cannot say the same about the management and guides. During my cruise I met three tour guides, and none stayed with our group during the full three-day. On day two we didn’t even had an English-speaking guide. Only the crew of the day boat who didn’t speak any English. Not having one guide for the three days, and some of their behaviour (not willing to help) was the only downside of the cruise.
Overall Viola cruise is very nice, great itinerary, nice boat, clean cabins, great staff and amazing food – doing the three-day cruise might be a bit more expensive, but it is really worth it. Just try avoiding dealing with the management as much as possible.