When we’d cruised into Ha Long Bay earlier in the day it had been under a blanket of clouds and a fair amount of rain. It had still been a spectacular sight but we were looking forward to our departure from the Vietnamese port as the improved weather and low sun of the evening would give us a second chance to see those thousands of islands in a better light. That was the hope, anyway.
The time for us to leave came and went and still we didn’t move. And then came those dreaded announcements asking if certain passengers were aboard and if so could they make themselves known. You hope in those situations that it’s simply a computer foul-up failing to record the passengers returning to the ship but after repeated requests for this we then had an announcement that there would be a delay departing; we really did have some people who were still someone on the mainland.
The Elite Lounge was open by this time so we headed up for a drink while we waited. One drink turned into two and the light started to fade from the sky.
We resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t get to see those spectacular islets as we left Ha Long Bay after all and returned to our room briefly. With darkness now fully descended we then discovered that the big wheel and cable car towers that made up the Dragon Park theme park as well as the Bãi Cháy bridge were all lit up at night in rotating patterns of colours. The near-silence of our surroundings and the probing, pulsing light show combined to totally relax us (not that we really needed it).
We headed down to Deck 7 to see what was going on in any of the lounges and to grab another pre-dinner drink. While we were there we heard an announcement that the last tender boat was finally on its way back with the late passengers. Whether they ran into traffic problems in Vietnam or got their times confused or just figured the ship would wait for them we don’t know but we do know that this wasn’t the only time we were late leaving a port on this cruise because of late passengers and we also know the ones who were late this time were the same ones who were late at another port because on the second occasion there were loud groans from everyone who recognised the names being called out.
We headed out onto the promenade deck to watch the last boat arrive. There were some jeers from some passengers but we did the British thing and merely tutted quietly to one another.
In the video below you will be able to see some of the peaceful light show shot from our balcony as well as the tender boat being raised into position after letting the final passengers aboard. If you look in the background during the boat-raising you’ll be able to see an illuminated cable car gliding over the channel between East and West Ha Long.
And so Diamond Princess eventually got away and cruised through Ha Long Bay in the dark leaving us with no final view of those limestone islands.
We’d booked specialty dining for that night. We usually always dine once at the Crown Grill on Princess ships but Diamond didn’t have one of those, instead having the very similar (in fact, so similar you wonder why it has a different name at all) Sterling Steakhouse experience. The food was very good but the venue wasn’t. Rather than a special location the Sterling Steakhouse is instead simply a set-aside area of the buffet. I understand the logistical reasoning behind that but it suffered from a lack of atmosphere created mainly by having no dimmed lights. The specialness of the specialty dining was disappointingly reduced but, again, the food was very good.
This concludes our stops at Vietnam on this cruise. The next day would be spent at sea as the ship made its way towards Hong Kong.