Emeraude Cruises – Halong Bay

My husband and I have just returned from a two-day cruise in Halong Bay aboard the Emeraude.

One of the great natural wonders of Asia, Halong Bay’s outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest. Nearly 2000 islands rise from the 1553-square-kilometer bay, about a third of which – including the route of our looping cruise – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over tens of millions of years, the tides have eroded away the bases of these limestone karsts, so that many seem to bob on the water’s surface.

The Emeraude is a luxurious replica of the 1910 paddle steamer of the same name which was offering unforgettable cruises for visitors to what was then French Indochina. Meticulously designed to evoke the nostalgic charm of colonial era, all 38 full-view cabins feature vintage photographs, freshly painted wainscoting and reed mats on the walls.

Our two-day cruise on the reborn Emeraude began at noon, when we pulled away from the wharf at Bai Chay and headed South at nine knots toward the heart of Halong Bay. Compared with accommodation on a junk, our cabin was equipped with queen-sized bed, private bathroom with hot water and mobile-phone reception.

We visited Sung Sot cave – “the cave of marvels” – one of the most imposing grottos of the Bay. The cave is a series of three chambers, each exponentially larger than the last, that sprawls over more than 2.5 acres. Stalactites hang from the ceiling like the roots of molars. The path through the third, most immense chamber loops past graffiti scrawled by tourists over the years, including one inscription left by a Frenchman in 1907.

From the sun deck, we enjoyed a fresh beer and a Cosmopolitan and gazed at the rock formations reflected in the crystal clear water of the bay. We were literally transported back to the old times, charm and luxury of Indochina’s cruises, with all the comforts and personal service one could possibly wish for.

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~ by Jolis Prénoms on December 9, 2009.

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