How you’ll spend your time and reward your curiosity
Traveling along the coast, experience the enchanting landscapes, significant temples, and pulsating cities of multifaceted Vietnam. Extraordinary sights from ornate pagodas to languid archipelagos will unfold in the context of the country’s history and culture, from ancient civilizations to the modern day. With free time to follow your interests, choose to experience nature walks, city shopping, or museum visits and more. Explore under the sure guidance of our expedition leader and team, and gain an insider's perspective with help from our knowledgeable local guides. At the day’s end, relax aboard National Geographic Orion, enjoy outstanding cuisine that mirrors the flavors of the region, and congenial conversation as the sun sets on waterside villages.
One bay is more stunning than the next, with crystal clear blue-green water, fine white sand beaches, and islands jutting into the azure sky. Explore the coves and grottoes of the most famous, Ha Long Bay, in a traditional junk boat. Van Phong Bay seems like a secret, with secluded beaches and a deep coral reef surrounded by forested mountains. With an archipelago of 16 mostly uninhabited islands, Con Dao National Park is extremely biodiverse; look for sea turtles and manatee-like dugongs in its waters.
Vietnam’s more recent events are front of mind, but with expert guides and historians we obtain a fuller picture of the country’s long history. On an optional excursion to My Son, walk among tower temples that date to the 4th century. Modeled on Beijing’s Forbidden City, Hue’s 19th-century Imperial City is an impressive walled compound complete with palaces, temples, and courtyards. Chinese, French, and American interactions are interpreted in museums and at sights like Con San prison, the Vinh Moc tunnels, and the DMZ.
Vietnam’s beautiful bays invite up-close exploration—birding in mangroves, strolling on quiet beaches, hiking sand dunes, or hopping in a Zodiac or kayak to photograph the many species of animals and plants living along the protected coastline. With time at leisure in lively cities, roam freely to follow your interests and discover exquisitely handcrafted goods, authentic cuisine, and tailors ready to create the clothes or décor of your choosing.
If you prefer to stay aboard to read in the stillness of the library, indulge in a massage at the spa, or soak in the hot tub, these pursuits are equally encouraged. There’s no one-size-fits-all scheduling ever: You choose your activities, exertion levels, and staff members to join daily.
Each evening at cocktail hour the entire expedition community gathers in the lounge for a ritual we call Recap. As you enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, your naturalist or historian may give a talk, the undersea specialist may show video, and your expedition leader will outline the following day’s schedule.
When you're back aboard, read, write, organize photos on your laptop, or socialize over drinks or dinner. Orion’s panoramic windows and decks bring the ever-present scenery of ocean, shoreline, and village life inside. Utilize the fitness room or the sauna, soak in the whirlpool hot tub, or simply take in the passing scenery.
When the ship is underway, you can stand on the bow with a naturalist, National Geographic photographer or photo instructor. You are always welcome to visit the bridge to watch the calm, serious business of navigation.
You're sure to find the company of the like-minded others on board interesting, whether fellow guests, members of the expedition team, a National Geographic photographer, or a guest speaker. And the on-board talks, slideshows, and presentations will provide in-depth background to more fully understand and appreciate the country’s intriguing history, culture, and flora and fauna.
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