HANOI - With Vietnam's Halong Bay growing increasingly popular, and crowded, luxury cruise companies are venturing south into Lan Ha Bay.
Paradise Vietnam, which operates hotels and cruise ships, this month sailed its inaugural cruise in the bay with the first of two Paradise Grand vessels. The second will launch in April, the company said.
Paradise joins Heritage Lines in extending its reach into the less crowded bay, which is a geological extension of Halong Bay with 300-odd towering limestone karsts, emerald waters and white-sand beaches.
Heritage currently has two ships sailing in the bay. The Ginger is a 12-suite boat that offers one-night culinary-themed sailings. Its second ship, the Ylang, has 10 suites and offers two-night sailings.
The Ylang also has an expansive spa and wellness area offering tai chi, meditation and other health-oriented programmes. Its shore excursions include cycling and hiking through Cat Ba Island's national park and a free afternoon for swimming and kayaking on a secluded island beach.
The Paradise Grand vessels feature 39 cabins over five decks, all offering private balconies, walk-in closets and butler service. Amenities include a fine dining menu crafted by Michelin-starred British chef John Burton-Rac, a spa, an outdoor movie theatre and a vast sun deck.
Paradise offers one-night and two-night itineraries with excursions that include kayaking in Lan Ha Bay and trekking and cycling in Cat Ba National Park on Cat Ba Island as well as a cooking class, Vietnamese wine tasting and sunrise tai chi and yoga onboard.
"Lan Ha Bay is breathtakingly beautiful, and Paradise Grand makes for an exciting new horizon for us," said Nguyen Cao Son, COO at Paradise Cruises.
"We are drawing on the best of everything we have learned since launching our first boat more than a decade ago and introducing new experiences such as Lan Ha Bay's first 'floating movie theatre' with a large, state-of-the-art projector and capacity for up to 60 movie-lovers to watch classics and new movies under the stars."