If you’re heading to Vietnam, or you’re already there, then you must spend a night on Halong Bay. The famous archipelago of over 2,000 towering limestone cliff islands is around 3 hours by car/van from Hanoi. Upon arriving in Vietnam’s capital city, you’ll be inundated with options to explore the stunning UNESCO world heritage site for day trips, overnight ventures and even two-night retreats. However, if you’re vegan list us, the first thing you’ll be wondering is: how will I make sure I get vegan food on my cruise?
Earlier this month, we embarked on the popular 2-day-1-night trip to Halong Bay one the Rosa Boutique Cruise. With just 12 cabins, the Rosa Boutique offers an intimate and relaxed environment from which to explore the bay of the “descending dragon”. For around $120 each, we were expecting a pretty premium level of service on our cruise – this was the most expensive night of our Southeast Asia adventure by far!
What the cruise included
The cruise included lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch again on the final day, as well as a few small bottles of water. However, drinks were excluded – and they were not cheap. At around $2 a beer and $3 an iced tea (typical Vietnam, where beer is the cheapest bevvie!) you’ll be wanting to keep an eye on your drinks bill as the trip goes on, as you pay at the end as opposed on as you drink.
We informed the Rosa Boutique Cruise upon booking that we would require vegan fare, as we noticed the Halong cruise ship menus tended to be heavily focused on seafood and BBQ meats. The team confirmed via email that they would be happy to accommodate our dietary requirements, but we were still a bit nervous about what to expect on our Halong boat cruise.
We brought 6 litres of water with us on the boat, as we expected the bar prices to be high. There was an on-board service charge for any outside drinks, but we just hid the water in our room and filled our canteens every few hours and no one questioned us. Between us, this is probably on the low end of our drinking quantity, especially in the intense heat of the bay but we were glad to have packed our own fluids, otherwise we would have had to cough up for the little 300ml bottles sold on the boat. Not only were they tiny, but also a waste of plastic!
The journey from Hanoi
The bus picked us up from our hotel in the old quarter of the city at 8am. I understand many people choose to pay for their hotel for the night and leave their bags in the room, but we checked out and checked back in the following day as we didn’t see the point in spending money on a hotel room when we’d also coughed up for the boat. We brought out bags along with us and there was plenty space in the cabin and the lads working on-board were happy to help carry them for us from the passenger boat to the cruise ship.
There was a minor wobble on the bus when the tour guide informed us he had no knowledge of our dietary requirements, but a quick phone call to the office proved this was merely poor communication and the boat were fully prepared to feed us fully plant-based for the next 24 hours.
The meals on the Rosa Boutique Cruise far exceeded our expectations. As our meat-eating counterparts were delivered to plates of grilled pork and fresh seafood, we were given an impressive alternative. From fresh spring rolls to grilled tofu in tomato sauce, amazing noodles and delicious veggie soups, the two lunches and one evening meal we had on board were amazing!
At one point I ordered a mango juice and managed to catch the bar tender the second before she poured UHT milk into the blender – this is something we noticed all over Vietnam, if there’s a tiny chance they’ll put milk in something then you bet they will!
Where we stopped
As for the trips, the Rosa Boutique was pretty good but could have done better. The first stop was a pearl farm, for which we stayed on the boat as not only is this not very vegan but the weather was stunning and we couldn’t pass up a chance to lie on the top deck in the bay completely alone. Later in the day we went kayaking, which I have always been pretty nervous of as I am not particularly confident on water, but we did it and it was amazing! What an incredible way to spend the afternoon as the sun dropped behind the limestone cliffs.
As the sun set, we were given the chance to swim in the bay. Unfortunately the way wasn’t particularly clean and there were jellyfish, so Craig stuck to jumping off and remaining pretty close to the boat. Later, when putting together the laundry bag from our trip, we discovered just how dirty the water in Halong Bay was (ew!).
All in all, the trip to Halong Bay with Rosa Boutique was pretty epic and the vegan fare far exceeded expectations. For around £100 each, this was by far the most expensive adventure of our trip thusfar but worth every single penny!
To watch the highlights of our trip to Halong Bay, check out our video below and subscribe to our channel for more vegan travel vids!