The keel-laying ceremony for the very first ship in the Heritage Cruises’ Halong Bay fleet ( took place on 19 October at Vietnam’s Nam Phat shipyard in Quang Ninh Province. The ceremony is for the twin boutique cruise ships, the Heritage Dragon and Heritage Phoenix, which will be operating in the Halong Bay region.

Laying down the keel is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction, as well as the opportunity to bring good fortune to its manufacture and maritime life. In the western world, this is demonstrated by placing a coin on the keel block, but in Vietnam it is achieved through generous offerings and blessings from monks.

Construction will take three months and the first, 20 all-suite cabin Heritage Dragon cruise will set sail in May 2019 providing authentic and unique experiences to around 40 guests.

“We will build a fleet of 10 boutique cruise ships in Vietnam,” said Pham Ha, CEO of Heritage Cruises. He continued, “Our first Heritage Dragon and Heritage Phoenix Cruises will operate from Got Harbor in Haiphong for day cruises, with scheduled one or two-night programs such as Heritage Discover and Heritage Explorer.”

In addition, three to four-night Heritage Expeditions to the former trading seaport of Van Don, and private charters for leisure and professionals, will also be available upon request.

The vessels, designed by Viet Han Ship Design, will be 75m long and 13.10m wide,  with 20 cabins spread over three decks, two restaurants, indoor and outdoor lounges, gym, game room, gallery, bars, spa, and the first on-board swimming pool in the Halong Bay region.

Heritage Cruises derives inspiration for its boutique concept and design from the heritage ships of the patriotic entrepreneur Bach Thai Buoi, who transformed transportation on the waterways of Tonkin in the north of Vietnam in the early 20th century.

The first two cruise ships have been named after the Phi Long and Phi Phuong, the very first cruise ships among 30 owned by Bach Thai Buoi, who was referred to as the King of Ocean and River Cruises in Vietnam in the bygone century.

Pham Ha said, “Travel is all about places, experiences, and memories. We will first sail this brand through the karst seascape of the Cat Ba Archipelago, linking to Van Don, then we will cruise upstream and downstream from the highlands to the capital, Hanoi, and the Gulf of Tonkin over eight days, following the old river trading waterway, Hanoi-Pho Hien-Van Don.”

“My goal is to gradually build maritime connections from north to south, staying two or three nights in each destination, as part of a 10-14-day expedition.”