Let this be a lesson learned (or re-learned): Money is not always an indicator of quality. Unfortunately, Cat Ba isn't exactly an island like you might think. While the bay is pretty, the island town is not. It could be, but for now it seems more forgotten than a place that receives a ton of tourists a year. I remember trying to find downtown only to be told I was in downtown. Anyhow, I wasn't too surprised, then, by how unimpressed I was by Sea Pearl Hotel. It wasn't bad, but it is definitely last place in my Vietnam hotel experiences, and that's a distant last place.
If I could sum up my experience it was just bleh. Right? Not horrible, no cockroaches popping up or plumbing problems, but it was a far cry from luxurious or even nice. It just was. For $40/night (which was actually a deal) compared to the $10-$20 a night I spent elsewhere, that's just not going to cut it. I will say for the hotel and island, I was there in February, which is their off season, but I can't imagine it improving much with more people. It'd just be more crowded. Save your money and stay elsewhere (I really wanted to try the Cat Ba Sandy Beach Resort, so if you get to try that, let me know!) especially in the off season. Otherwise you'll get a dead hotel (the lights seemed off half the time) without nearly any of the services normally offered, and lackluster hosts.
The beds were okay. In our room we had a double bed and a single bed. The single bed was actually sunken in whenever you sat up the wrong way. They were comfortable enough, and the sheets were clean enough. They just seemed kind of old. Like no matter how many times they were washed, they weren't going to feel fresh ever again.
The bathroom was also okay. It's a shower stall, a toilet, and a sink area. Be careful with the door; we struggled opening and closing it. Michelle was stuck in there for a second if I remember correctly. Also the shower gets cold really quickly, so prepare to be cold for a bit while it heats back up. I heard this was generally an issue in Vietnam, so I wouldn't blame it on the hotel. However, I will say not a single shower I took there was relaxing... And since it was February, it was actually quite cold out.
There is an AC/Heating Unit in the room, and we had to get a guy to come change it to heating for us. There was a TV, towels, toiletries, snacks for purchase, and WI-FI, though even that was spotty. They did have a really nice breakfast area. We went up to the breakfast floor and had a menu to order from. My last day or two they actually brought out a buffet.
What host? No seriously. I don't know who the main host was because sometimes no one was even at the desk. Furthermore, no one actually helped us with anything. Michelle talked to a woman in Vietnamese who was helpful. However most of our interactions were with male hosts who seemed bored, were off chatting with friends, and generally, WHOLLY unhelpful. I had to call twice to figure out how to get more toilet paper. There's a giant sign outside of Sea Pearl Hotel with Halong Bay tours and the likes, and when I asked the guy about it, he just shrugged... If you've read any of my other reviews, the host usually makes or breaks it for me, and this definitely did nothing to repair my opinion of the whole hotel.
Its location was perfect. It was right where HoangLongAsia dropped us off, a few steps away from a tour office, and the view of the harbor was lovely. I will say this, though. If your hotel is empty enough that you're not serving the buffet breakfast, but rather breakfast to order, you really couldn't put us in one of the many rooms that faced the harbor? Instead we were staring at some buildings....
$40/night (I believe it's much higher normally, though).
WHERE TO BOOK SEA PEARL HOTEL
How to Book a Hostel the Right WaySea Pearl Hotel
Words and Photographs by Samantha