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Capella Cruise Halong Bay

Like many of you, a Halong Bay cruise was high on my bucket list. When we booked our trip to Vietnam, we knew one of the absolute must-do’s was 2 nights floating amongst the giant karsts and beautiful calm waters of Halong bay. Capella is one of Vietnam’s premier cruise operators and we were thrilled to have the chance to spend 2 nights with them. Read on to find out what to expect when booking with Capella.

Arrival & Boarding Capella Cruise

Most of the high end cruise operators have similar programs and boarding experiences. Guests arrive at the cruise terminal either on their own if they are already in Halong City or via a luxury van from Hanoi. We were picked up at 8:30am in a fantastic shuttle complete with luxury recliners, water and air conditioning. We picked up a few other groups in Old Town along the way and then we were off on the 2 hours drive to Halong bay. There is one pit stop along the way about 5 minutes from the cruise port for a bathroom break and pearl shopping. We stayed here for about 30 minutes before making the final few minutes to the cruise. Most of our van wasn’t interested in the shopping so many of us just hung out in the van until we left. It seemed like an unnecessary stop but did kill some time.

Once you arrive at the cruise port, you get checked in and wait for a few hours to board the tender to paradise.

While many of the ships do dock at the port, the luxury ships that head towards the famous Lan Ha Bay (closer to Cat Ba Island) board out amongst the karst formations about 30 minutes off shore. You are taken via enclosed tender out to the ship and the ship’s cruise director explains everything you need to know for the 1 and 2 night cruises. After a short trip, you’re greeted by the staff and provided a welcome beverage. Unlike the other cruise we did, we were given immediate access to our rooms, which was fantastic prior to lunch.

Rooms & Suites on Capella Cruise

Capella is one of the most famous cruise ships in the area thanks to the classically elegant style and high end amenities. Much to our surprise, we were upgraded to the spectacular Owner’s Suite that makes up the entire 3rd floor bow.

The Owner’s Suite on Capella Cruise is truly the epitome of luxury. It offers unparalleled views of the stunning bay from its 280-degree windows and spacious balcony. The suite is tastefully decorated, exuding elegance and comfort. It features a large, comfortable king bed facing the breathtaking view, a spacious living area, and a large bathroom equipped with a jacuzzi tub for a truly indulgent experience. Staying in the Owner’s Suite provides an exclusive, luxurious experience that really is the creme de la creme on Halong bay.

We absolutely fell in love with watching the world go by from our room with a glass of champagne. We never even turned on the television because we were so enamored with the views.

If the Owner’s Suite is not for you, there are a number of other room types we’d highly recommend if booking Capella. Oasis, Harmony and Sky are all essentially the same room but ranging from the 1st to the 3rd floor. Personally, I loved the vantage point from the 3rd floor but the balconies on all these room types were fantastic. One amazing feature of these rooms is that they have covered balconies and you are protected from the wind, which is a huge benefit in the misty weather.

The Sky Terrace Suite is a step up from the Sky Suite in that it features slightly larger terrace with Chaise Lounges. Since these rooms are on the back of the ship, you are protected from the wind and in great weather, this provides the perfect space to relax outside with a book.

La Suite De Capella is a fantastic mini-suite option for travelers looking for a bit more space with the aft balcony. These rooms are on the second floor providing a good vantage point and a comfortable room.

There are two family room types on the ship as well which is ideal for families with young children.

Dining & Beverage Program on Capella Cruise

Capella Cruise includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for all guests. Drinks are not included (with the exception of water anytime and coffee at breakfast only). There is a full bar both in the restaurant and the bar for a charge. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, while dinner is served a la carte style.

Overall, the quality of the food was good and the buffets were quite varied in options, though dinner service was quite rushed. We tend to eat slowly and enjoy our meal times but the food was served whether or not we were done with our different courses. Everything on the ship was run down the minute and it was clear that we were running on their schedule versus the staff catering to the guests as you typically experience at a luxury hotel. This is typical of all the cruise experiences we had in Halong bay regardless of price point, so it’s just something to be aware of when booking. It’s a well-oiled machine so you can trust that it will be a well organized meal, but on their time.

They serve the same food every day so if you book the 2 night cruise, you are served separately from the 1 night travelers. While the lunch buffet is available to you on day 2, you also receive a Bun Cha dish served by the staff so that you do not have to eat the same food as the day before.

The bar located on the 4th floor is one of our favorite areas on the ship, particularly with the weather experienced. The bar is a beautiful space with comfortable seating and lounge areas throughout. This is the main event area as well where they do the spring roll demonstration and tea ceremony. We loved grabbing a happy hour (buy 1 get 1 free) cocktail in the evenings and admiring the view. The prices were reasonable for a luxury experience and the happy hour made it very doable.

One fun thing to keep in mind is that you can purchase alcohol from local sellers that pull up to the ship’s stops in small row boats. They sell wine, beer, snacks and more from their small boats and you can negotiate for the prices. Many people purchased alcohol through the boaters to enjoy in their rooms as you do end up saving about 50% compared to the ship’s cost. Of course, this can only be consumed in your suite, but it is worth keeping in mind.

On Ship Experiences aboard Capella Cruise

Whether you go on excursions or stay on the boat, there’s always something going on. They do offer a variety of on-ship experiences on Day 1 and Day 2 depending on your booking. We took part in a spring roll making demonstration on the 1st night and the tea ceremony, which was a nice way to experience some local culture.

One of the coolest parts about cruising with Capella is the water slide. The first stop on the cruise is to a swimming area where you can take out kayaks, use the water slide and enjoy the ship. It was a blast and it’s a great feature of the ship.

Off-ship Experiences aboard Capella Cruise

There are really two ways to do a Halong Bay cruise. You can choose to enjoy, relax and never leave the ship or you can indulge in the complimentary excursions. The first day of the cruise, you spend the afternoon on the ship and at the swimming spot.

The next day, if you book 1 night you can go in the morning to the light and dark cave but if you book the 2 nighter like we did, you can go on a full day excursion to see a fishing village and bike around Cat Ba island with a guide. The boat ride takes about 1 hour and it’s a very tight itinerary but is a great way to see the local area. Since it was pouring rain and I had recently had the flu, we decided to spend the day on the ship and we had it all to ourselves. We spent the day in the jacuzzi and enjoying our Owner’s Suite but other guests who went on the excursion enjoyed it and felt it was very well organized.

The next morning, 2 nighters go to the dark and light cave. The weather had cleared up so we did go on this early morning excursion. They take you via the tender to a small floating dock and you board row boats with a guide who takes you around the lagoon through a beautiful cave system. The excursion was very fun and we give full credit to Capella for being one of the earliest arrivals. While we had a relatively quiet start to the excursion, by the time we were boating back to the dock, there were hundreds of people trying to get on the small row boats.

While every cruise does essentially the same exact itinerary, the key differentiator between the different boating companies is the time they go on the excursions. Capella did a great job planning ahead and being ahead of the other boats when it comes to the excursion times.

Should you book 1 night or 2 nights?

This is a question we got constantly over instagram during our trip. The short answer is: what do you want to get out of the cruise? Personally, if I were to do it again, I would do what we did the first time: book a 2 night cruise, spend the first night and following day relaxing on the ship and enjoying the boat. The second morning, go on the excursion and head back to Halong or Hanoi.

It’s important to know that the boat is more like a floating hotel that moves from Point A to Point B and back. It does not explore the depths of Lan Ha Bay or go very far. The key difference between a 1 night cruise and a 2 night cruise is simply the excursions you go on. On the 2 night cruise, you have the added excursion to Cat Ba Island and that’s really the only difference. You return to the same sleeping area and the same swimming hole as you did the first day. We took the cruise as an opportunity to relax and do absolutely nothing, which was amazing for us. However, you can accomplish seeing Lan Ha Bay on a 1 night cruise.

Is Capella Cruise worth it?

In sum, Capella Cruise is a stunning vessel with excellent service and amazing amenities like the water slide. We loved the elegance of the design and the Owner’s Suite was absolutely stunning. If you are looking at this price point, Capella is a fantastic choice with only 30 suites and ample space to enjoy and admire the impeccable views. We loved our experience on Capella and wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.

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