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Cancun, Ibiza, Myrtle Beach… They all have something in common. When you visit those places, you can do absolutely nothing but relax and party and no one will judge you for a second because that’s what you went there to do. But when you go to a place like Vietnam, you are kind of saddled with the obligation to have a total identity crisis (as an American, anyway), view endless temples and pagodas, and post at least 7 status updates on Facebook about how amazing pho noodles purchased from a street corner stall are.

Not on the Nha Trang party boat.

Nha Trang Party Boat

The Nha Trang boat trip is an infamous 4-island visiting booze cruise patronized by backpackers, Vietnamese families, and other Asian tourists. It’s a day of guilt-free day-time drinking, silly fun, and frat boy antics. Rare is the Lonely Planet-toting traveler who makes it through Nha Trang without rising at dawn to spend the day sailing the seas and downing the drinks.

Nha Trang Party Boat

Starting a party boat trip/ booze cruise at 8:30am just seems really counter-intuitive though. I mean, the kind of people that would entertain the idea of heavy drinking before noon are not really the type to wake up before 9am, right? Apparently I was alone in this line of thought because each of the numerous boats pulling out of the harbor on the same trip left in tandem.

Nha Trang Party Boat

Our first stop was at the pirate-boat-shaped  Tri Nguyen Aquarium on Hon Mieu Island. The entrance fees weren’t included in the tour price (which was a paltry 130,000 Vietnamese Dong, or $6.50 USD) so most passengers chose to stay on the boat rather than fork over the $2. In their defense, that is like, at least three Tiger beers.

Nha Trang Party Boat

But obviously Mark and I don’t turn down any possible opportunity to look at marine life, especially when they come in the form of giant lionfish statues.

Nha Trang Party Boat

The aquarium itself was bizarre. Whoever built this thing seemed to have lost interest part way through. The exterior and interior were weird and intricate and amazing- but I can’t say the same for what was inside the tanks.

Nha Trang Party Boat

There were no rare or interesting species, and the fish and other sea life that was there seemed to be in fairly poor conditions.  The actual tanks were the kind of big glass rectangles you would buy at a pet store, with photos of coral taped up behind. It would be pretty hilarious if I didn’t feel bad for the animals.

Okay, it was still kind of a little funny.

Nha Trang Party Boat

But we all know what the real point of aquariums is, right? It’s putting giant statues outside the building of things that would never survive under the conditions within.

Nha Trang Party Boat

Nha Trang Party Boat

The other redeeming factor was the view from the top of the aquarium/pirate boat sail. Definitely worth the $2, though I will warn you that it involves fairly unpleasant physical exertion to climb the stairs.

Nha Trang Party Boat

Nha Trang Party Boat

Our second stop was to snorkel on a crowded reef that appeared to be mostly dead, though Mark was able to spot a few pipefish. Those that weren’t up for snorkeling floated in inner tubes and jumped off the top deck.

Nha Trang Party Boat

Next up was a delicious and bountiful buffet lunch, followed by one of the most hilarious and bizarre performances I have ever had the good fortune to see.

Nha Trang Party Boat

The boat staff played a show with makeshift instruments and then invited dragged people up to sing songs from their home countries. An Aussie went up and sang “Land Down Under,” a Brit went up and sang “Wonderwall…”

Nha Trang Party Boat

You’re going to have to see it to believe it. Note: Several alcoholic drinks were harmed in the making of this video.

What happened next was absolutely amazing. Two Kiwis were on the boat celebrating a birthday, and somehow they ended up on stage performing , a traditional Maori war dance. Somehow, probably relating to the fact that I avoid watching sports like I avoid elective surgery, I had never seen this dance most famously performed by the New Zeland rugby team. It sent chills up my spine to see and left me with wondering when I could start planning a trip to the Pacific…

After all that “island” nonsense, it was time to get down to business. Booze cruise business.

Nha Trang Party Boat

The weather had turned on us but we didn’t let overcast skies and the frigid South China Sea stop us from enjoying the highlight of the day: the floating bar.

Nha Trang Party Boat
Everyone grabbed an innertube and a plastic cup filled with toxic-tasting Vietnamese “cocktail,” and jumped in. This is where things started to get a bit messy. What happens on the Nha Trang party boat stays on the Nha Trang party boat, but lets just say it involved water guns full of whiskey.

Nha Trang Party Boat

The boat’s final stop for the day was a mediocre beach with a $1.50 entrance fee. Rather than paying to lie on the sand I took a snooze on the top deck. It’s funny- we went to a mediocre aquarium, a crappy snorkel stop, a freezing floating bar, and an ugly beach. And we had the time of our lives. How? Well, frankly, there a was a lot of alcohol. But also, the people- both guests and staff- were just so much fun.

Nha Trang Party Boat

And the party didn’t stop when the boat rolled in- we spent the whole night out on the town with our new friends. We had things to celebrate, after all. Like not waking up the next morning at 7am.

Nha Trang Party Boat

Are you heading to Nha Trang sometime soon? Read these tips:

1. Make sure you get on the right boat! Some tours in Nha Trang are actual snorkeling-geared trips, while others are full on booze cruises. There was one girl on our trip who clearly thought she was going to be on the former and spent the day looking miserable.

2. If you plan to do any snorkeling, bring your own mask and snorkel. The ones the boat provided were unusable and everyone ended up passing around the ones Mark and I brought.

3. Bring small change to buy drinks, get into the aquarium or beach if you wish, and tip the staff. Those guys must do this same trip nearly every day but they made us feel like they were having as much fun as we were.

Have you ever been on a party boat like this? Or spent a travel day indulging in something silly and fun? Confess, booze cruisers!

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25 Comments...
  • Steve McKee
    January 9 2012

    An almost-sport-reference in “Meihoukai-in-Wanderland! Yes! Yes! Yes!
    The Maori War Chant is indeed VERY well known to those who follow international sport.
    An American audience might be best familiar with it from the movie “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, about the new president of South Africa imploring his new country (and its new-majority black population) to rally round the Springboks, the nation’s Rugby team (and huge symbol to the new-minority white population), which beat New Zealand in the 1994 World Championships in a giant upset.
    In the movie, the Kiwis perform the War Chant before the championship game.
    The Maori News made a point of noting that the director Clitn Eastwood was very respectful of the Chant.
    Maori News:
    Movie trailer (alas, no chant!):

    • Meihoukai
      January 9 2012

      I’ve actually been meaning to download Invictus since I saw this day! Good reminder. So what do you think, did these guys do a good job? They told us it’s something that Kiwi kids lean from elementary school!

  • Zoe
    January 11 2012

    what is up with these photos? different camera?? weather/Picture-perfect lighting scenario?? I love the photos from in the water—something amazing about them!!

    • Meihoukai
      January 12 2012

      All were taken with the underwater cam you’ve seen hundreds of photos from! I guess it must be the moody overcast sky… And a tad bit of genius editing skills 🙂

  • wes
    January 20 2012

    I went traveling with my ‘best female friend’ in 1997. Then we went on a Nha trang party boat, and that 13 year relationship has Mama Hanh – the original party boat lady – to thank. I sold my car to go to Vietnam, and cycled to uni for the next 2 and a bit years. Totally worth it.

    • Meihoukai
      January 20 2012

      Wes, you might have some of the best stories of anyone I’ve met in my travels. Write me a guest post!

  • Fanny
    February 18 2013

    I have already do the same trip on the boat and it was a grat moment. Thx to remember me this time
    Fanny recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 19 2013

      Definitely one of the most fun party destinations on my travels 🙂

  • Sam Lemusu
    August 12 2014

    Hey Meihoukai ..this is a blast from the past ..my mates tagged me on fbook…what an awesome review of the party boat..I’m glad you enjoyed the haka..well hope all is good with you ..take care

    • Meihoukai
      August 12 2014

      Hey Sam, blast from the past indeed! How fun that your friends stumbled on my blog! Good times 🙂

  • Miles of Happiness
    December 20 2014

    It looks incredible!!

    • Meihoukai
      December 22 2014

      It was a good fun day out, for sure!

  • jill ams
    March 6 2015

    Where did you book for the party boat? 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      March 6 2015

      Hey Jill, we just booked at our guesthouse! You can do it at any lodging or travel agent in town.

  • Paul
    August 13 2015

    Hey Meihoukai,
    Any suggestions on a good place to stay in Nha trang? Low budget

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Sorry Paul, I haven’t been in years and can’t recall where I stayed way back when. I wasn’t as diligent of a blogger back in 2011 🙂

  • Nadia
    August 25 2015

    Oh my god Meihoukai, I’ve read many many blogs about Nha trang, but yours is one of the most interesting things i read. NHA TRANG PARTY BOAT-we’ll definitely do it for next time visiting there. Really fun 🙂

  • Hazel Owens
    April 28 2016

    From your experience, it seems like a party boat is a fun way to tour an area while still, well, partying. I personally probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much, but I know a lot of people who would love to hop on a boat and party the day away. I’ll have to recommend something like this to my friends who are more outgoing than I am. Thanks for sharing!

  • Morgan
    March 4 2018

    Great post!! We are heading out next month. Do you remember the name of the company you went with, as we won’t be there long and don’t want to miss the early morning departure? Thank you so much and keep rocking it around the world!

    • Meihoukai
      March 4 2018

      Hey Morgan! Sorry to say I don’t, my memory bank is way too full and 2011 was a long time ago, ha. I promise I’m a better blogger these days 🙂

  • Morgan
    March 6 2018

    No worries at all! I found one called Funky Monkey that looks similar to what you were talking about in your post, and I’m hoping I can find that one once I get there! We will only be there for a short 36 hours, so I just want to make sure we can hop on one pretty seamlessly once we get there and I know they start early! Keep living life to the fullest love!