We were looking tremendously forward to this excursion (Hong by Starlight) based on the reviews on this site and the recommendation from a friend. Sadly, however, we were disappointed by the experience - it was fine but not great. My critique is centred around the service that John Gray Sea Canoe delivered, since the view itself was created by nature (and is certainly beautiful).
You do get two meals: the first meal, lunch, is two aluminium trays of food (I think one was noodles and the other veggies), and with the 30-40 people on the boat, people were scraping the bottom of those containers. (Note: eat lunch beforehand). The second meal is larger, with several dishes to choose from, but (perhaps due to the fact that lunch was so light), every little speck had been removed from all the trays - and bear in mind, people could only have one serving. For the price (~$140), they could afford to be more generous with food which is so cheap in Thailand.
A paddler accompanies you on the kayak. We mistakenly thought that we would be able to paddle ourselves (which we would have preferred), because sitting on the kayaks for hours got a little monotonous - I think this excursion could be shortened by 2 hours without any decrease in enjoyment. Our paddler spoke almost no English, so he would try to point some things out but we had a hard time understanding what he was trying to say. He was also nearly emaciated and had a hole in his shirt, which made us feel sorry for him and give him a more generous tip - which brings me to my next point.
I find it remarkable that in a country as inexpensive as Thailand, where food and labour costs are so low, a hefty $140 price tag for an 8-hour excursion still does not provide the employees with a sufficient salary that they are required to solicit tips? There seems to be something wrong with this equation. And this was not a one-off incident, since the leader of the excursion made an announcement regarding "tip time".
Finally, the logistics were poorly managed: we nearly missed our excursion because at the time of booking, the website noted a 12:30 pm pick-up from our hotel. We stepped out for the morning and happened to return at 11:45 am, and the driver had already been waiting for us for an hour. Apparently, 5 days a month, there is a much earlier departure time, but we were not informed at the time of booking/payment, or prior to the date, even though we provided our hotel, our email address, and our phone number.
In summary: the views are lovely, but this excursion doesn't feel like great value for money. In comparison, the half-day boat ride we took the following day (kayaking and visiting Maya Beach) for $14 was even more enjoyable...at 10% of the cost!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.