BAI TU LONG BAY ON THE DRAGON LEGEND

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While it’s true that our three-day, two-night cruise on the Dragon Legend was the most extravagant part of our South-east Asia trip, it’s also true that that yesterday, after hours of trying to find the cheapest places, I booked a 2 night stay in an extremely basic New York hotel for almost the exact same price. No breakfast, and about half a square foot of floor space. The experience on the Dragon legend was a little more elaborate…

Imagine admiring the jagged, looming limestone karsts you’ve seen in Thailand all from the comfort of a floating, luxury hotel room. Add to that some once-in-a-lifetime outings and a few seven-course lunches and dinners and you have yourself the Dragon Legend cruise.

While we liked the look of the ship when we were shown pictures at the agency in Hanoi, they really didn’t do any justice to how breathtaking it is in reality. All the interiors, including the cabins, are covered entirely in dark wood panelling, and embellished with 1930’s Saigon-style flourishes and luxury touches. Hand-made local art is dotted around the cabins and decks, reminding you constantly that here you are not on any typical, commercial cruise ship.

I could have spent the entire time in our cabin. While the boat dwarfs in comparison to the cruise ships ones you get in the Med or the Caribbean, the cabins themselves are enormous and beautiful. The huge, dark-wood beds with their fluffy, white duvets and pillows coupled with the rhythmic rocking of the water made for one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, and waking up in the morning to precipitous karsts slowly drifting past the window was indescribable. My routine was to make the in-room coffee, put on the wonderfully cosy robes they provide, and switch to the window seat to watch the scenery some more.

Then there’s the bathroom. I’ve seen the pictures of beautiful bathtubs all over social media – stunning hotel bathtubs, outdoor bathtubs, bathtubs strewn with petals and flowers… But sinking into a warm jacuzzi tub while floating past misty, rocky drop-offs with a chilled glass of wine? That was definitely a new one for me.

THINGS TO DO:

After a welcome drink and amazing outdoor lunch, the first day’s activity is kayaking around the karsts in Bai Tu Long bay, where you can meander through and see the beautiful rocky formations up close. It was typically drizzly and moodily grey for our trip, and since it can actually get quite cold that far North it was a nice touch for the staff to greet us with hot Vietnamese tea on our return to the ship.

Back on board, you can swim in the outdoor or indoor mineral seawater pool, use the fitness room or enjoy the spa and massage services provided. Later in the evening you can either hang out and socialise on the deck or watch TV in bed. They also offer night-time squid fishing as an activity.

The next day there’s the option to start your morning with Tai Chi and hot tea and coffee on the deck (we slept in but it sounded cool). After breakfast it’s a trip to Vung Vieng fishing village and Pearl farm. A traditional Vietnamese row-boat takes you to the village, where a tiny fishing community used to live right on the water in little floating homes. There’s even a mini floating classroom where schoolkids would take their lessons. At the Pearl Farm you’ll learn the process of pearl-farming and local Vietnamese culture.

After that it’s an amazing barbecue lunch on the beach. The tables are set up just as they are in the restaurant, but on a beautiful white sand beach with the limestone cliffs as a backdrop. The food is grilled right there and then, mostly fresh fish and lots of seafood.

While they set up the tables there’s the option to follow a tour guide up the beach path to Thienh Canh Son cave. While I’m not the worlds biggest cave fan, this one was enormous and didn’t feel claustrophobic at all, in fact they set up candlelit dinners in here when the weather’s bad! Still, perhaps the best part is exiting, where you get a high-up view of the surrounding bay and the Dragon Legend ship in the distance. It was an afternoon I won’t quickly forget.

On the way back to Hanoi the next day you’ll be taken to Yen Duc agricultural village to watch a traditional puppet show on the water. I didn’t really know what to expect from it but it was actually a lot of fun.

WHAT TO EAT:

One of the highlights of the Dragon Legend cruise is the sheer quality of the food they provide. On the 3-day, 2 night you’ll be getting three lunches and two breakfasts and dinners. Lunch is usually outside depending on the weather, so of course you’ll float past the incredible views as you enjoy your meal. Menus on the table will tell you what you’re eating that day, and of course they can cater to any food requirements. Usually it’s a seven-course fare of deliciously fresh food with a focus on local seafood. Indochina Junks traditional mackerel on sizzler plate and San Diu ethnic minority grilled pork were just a couple of the amazing dishes we got to sample on our cruise.

 

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