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Coral Expeditions resumed cruises for Australian passengers in October 2020. Be sure to check the line’s website for up-to-date news.
Coral Expeditions, based in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, got its start in 1984 as Coral Princess Cruises by refitting a WWII submarine chaser into a small passenger-carrying ship for Great Barrier Reef cruises. With this initial success, Coral Princess, a catamaran was added in 1988; Coral Princess II a second catamaran, in 1996; Oceanic Discoverer, a small oceangoing ship in 2005; and the expedition ship Coral Adventurer in 2019. Another expedition ship, Coral Geographer, will debut in 2021.
Each new member of the fleet allowed itineraries to reach beyond the Australian coast to Indonesia, the South Pacific Islands, Tasmania, New Zealand and the Indian Ocean. In 2015, the line renamed itself Coral Expeditions and Coral Princess and Coral Princess II became Coral Expeditions I and Coral Expeditions II, while Oceanic Discoverer was renamed Coral Discoverer.
The barrier reef cruises mainly frequent what are known as the ribbon reefs where the bleaching we hear about has had little impact. The line’s website has an information section composed by the line’s marine biologist about what is happening to the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change. While there is considerable damage, some sections have experienced recent recovery.
Coral Expedition I (built 1988 & 46 passengers) — Coral Sea (Great Barrier Reef)
Coral Expeditions II (b. 1985 & 42 p) — Coral Sea (Great Barrier Reef)
Coral Discoverer (b. 2005 & 72 p) — Indian Ocean (The Kimberley, Australian north coast & Tasmania) & Coral Sea (Great Barrier Reef)
Coral Adventure (b. 2019 & 120 p) — Indian Ocean & Coral Sea (The Kimberley, Australia circumnavigation & Indonesian islands)
Coral Geographer (b. 2021 & 120 p) — Indian Ocean (Australia, Southeast Asia, South Asia & Eastern Africa) & South Pacific Ocean (Polynesia, French Polynesia & New Zealand)
The line draws locally from Australia and New Zealand, also Britain, Europe, Canada and the U.S.
$$ to $$$ — Expensive/Very pricey.
- All presentations & briefings
- Snorkeling & introductory scuba lesson
- All meals
- Select beer, wine, juices & soft drinks
- 24-hour coffee & tea
- Post-cruise transfer
- All fees & gratuities
With the addition of Coral Geographer, Coral Expeditions will add sailings across the Indian Ocean to ports in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Eastern Africa to its docket of mainly Australian and South Pacific destinations.
Great Barrier Reef cruises, roundtrip from Cairns, can last for 7 or 10 nights. Tazmania trips include 10-night coastal cruises, including an Australian Geographic voyage, and a 16-night Tazmania circumnavigation cruise.
Australian coastal cruises include 10- to 19-night itineraries in The Kimberley and the northern coast and a 59-night Australian circumnavigation journey.
South Pacific cruises from 5 to 20 nights visit Pitcairn Islands, French Polynesia, Cook Islands and New Zealand.
Venturing into spice trade routes, there’s a 29-night cruise from Freemantle to Singapore, a 25-night cruise from Singapore to Seychelles,15-night cruisefrom Seychelles to Mauritius, 13-night cruise exploring Madagascar and the Seychelles, 12-night cruise from Seychelles to Zanzibar and a 20-night itinerary from Zanzibar to Durban.
“Much of the Kimberley coast is inaccessible except on foot or by boat. On my Kimberley cruise, I hooked an 80-pound shark, wrestling with it for over an hour before it broke the line. Darwin is worth a stopover for its WWII and devastating cyclone history, plus a natural history museum showcasing scary and truly weird Australian wildlife. Broome, a former pearl-diving center, has developed into a popular international resort town.” — Ted Scull
The 10-night Coastal Wilds of Tazmania cruise begins at Hobart, sailing for Woodbridge and the Huon River, Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour, Bruny Islands and Adventure Bay, Maria Islands National Park, Freycinet National Park and Schouten Islands and finally Port Arthur Historic Site before returning to Hobart.
Along the eastern coast of Africa, the Seychelles to Zanzibar cruise visits ports and sights in four countries, departing from Mahé in the Seychelles and sailing to Seychelle’s Desroches and S. Joseph Atoll, Alphonse Island and the Farquhar Group; Madagascar’s Antisirinana (Diego Suarez), Nosy Be, Hell-ville and Mahajanga; Mozambique’s Mozambique Island and Ibo Island; and Tanzania’s Kilwa Kisiwani; and finally Zanzibar.
Australia’s 1,400-mile Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1,500 fish species and 30 different mammals, while much of the remote coastal Outback is virtually devoid of human habitation and full of the freaks of nature. Exploring by small ship is the only practical way to access the region.
South Pacific island-hopping takes you to culturally distinct people and pristine atolls where nature abounds in the sea, air and on land. Most of New Zealand’s wildlife and man-made attractions are on or very near the coast.
New itineraries explore Eastern Africa, visiting areas not typically visited via cruise. Coral Expeditions’ three small ships carry only 44 to 72 passengers providing truly intimate shared experiences.
When to Go?
The height of the tourist season along the Great Barrier Reef is June to August after which the humidity begins to build and then the rains arrive in the peak of the summer between December and March. However, the heat is less uncomfortable when at sea and enjoying activities on and in the water. The other expeditions are geared to the best weather seasons.
Accredited by Eco-Tourism Australia, Coral Expeditions has been found to meet the highest international standards on sustainability. The company works with a number of organizations involved in wildlife and environmental conservation, and is dedicated to teaching passengers about their work.
They have removed all polycarbonate plastics, reduced food packaging and offer a selection of eco-friendly, organic and fair-trade beverages. They also provide marine friendly sunscreen to all passengers.
Activities & Entertainment
As a policy, Coral Expeditions doesn’t book onboard entertainment, instead opting for nightly presentations that could include talks, films or documentaries on related themes.
All ships have an open bridge policy and Coral Adventurer conducts engine room tours.
Meals are always casual, with no formal nights or assigned seating. The company also doesn’t provide minibars, with the goal to have passengers socialize at one of the many conducive public spaces around the ship.
None of the ships have pools, but passengers who want to swim can do so from the ship’s marine launch. There’s also kayaking and snorkel gear available.
The Xplorer tender vessels (Discoverer has one while Adventurer/Geographer have two) seat all passengers and is hydraulically lifted and lowered for easy access to the main deck.
Onboard Zodiacs provide close-up encounters with nature. As nature and wildlife feature prominently in shore excursions, it’s not usual to make stops at conservation organizations to observe and learn more about their work.
“Be sure to read the report on the current condition of the Great Barrier Reef written by Coral Expeditions’ marine biologist.” — Ted Scull
Coral Expedition I
This 46-passenger twin-hulled catamaran was built for coastal Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Four decks house a dining room with open seating, forward lounge with a reference library and plasma screens, sun deck with shaded area and outdoor bar, two cocktail bars, gift shops and an open bridge. Cabins have en suite and Wi-Fi. Upper deck cabins measure from 151 sq. ft. to 185 sq. ft. with picture windows, while those on the lower deck are 108 sq. ft. with twin circle portholes.
Coral Expedition II
A catamaran with three decks, Coral Expedition II accommodates 42 passengers.
A 72-passenger expedition ship, Coral Discoverer has four decks, accessed via stairwell only, with over 1,000sq. m. of open deck space including a wrap-around promenade deck.
A dining room serves up three meals; the cuisine on all Coral Expeditions cruises is simple and generous — Australian-influenced recipes with regional variations using local fresh and sustainable ingredients. Lunches feature soups and salads using local seafood and fruits. The first dinner onboard is a seafood-sharing feast, while other nights there’s a three-course table d’hôte menu accompanied by a selection of wines, beers and ciders from Australia and New Zealand.
Coral Discoverer has three fully-stocked bars, indoor and outdoor and on different decks, plus a large forward lounge for multi-media presentations with a reference library. The Sun Deck as plenty of seating and a shaded lounge. The ship also has a gift shop. Discoverer has two Zodiacs, plus kayaks and scuba equipment onboard. Wi-Fi is only available in public areas.
Cabins on the lowest deck measure 195 sq. ft. and have just two portholes for views, while on the higher decks, cabins measure between 160 to 195 sq. ft. and have picture windows. A balcony category is 215 sq. ft.
In cabin: en suite, phone.
- Coral Adventurer
- Coral Geographer (2021)
An exploration ship made for the tropics, the 120-passenger Coral Adventurer has four decks accessed by elevator, with over 1,000sq. m. of open deck space including a wrap-around promenade deck.
A dining room serves up three meals; the cuisine on all Coral Expeditions cruises is simple and generous — Australian-influenced recipes with regional variations using local fresh and sustainable ingredients. Lunches feature soups and salads using local seafood and fruits.
The first dinner onboard is a seafood-sharing feast, while other nights there’s a three-course table d’hôte menu accompanied by a selection of wines, beers and ciders from Australia and New Zealand. The galley has a viewing window.
There are three fully-stocked indoor and outdoor bars on various decks. There’s a large forward lounge for multi-media presentations with a reference library, a Navigator lounge where passengers can observe ship operations and the Barralong Room for hosting scientific research and exhibitions. The Sun Deck as plenty of seating and a shaded lounge. The ship also has a gym and gift shop. Dicoverer has six Zodiacs. Wi-Fi is available in public areas.
Most cabins have balconies, measuring 230 sq. ft. Smaller cabins, measuring 182 sq. ft., have porthole windows. Suite category cabins are 600 sq. ft. with balconies.
In cabin: en suite, phone, Wi-Fi.
Special Note: Be sure to read the report on the current condition of the Great Barrier Reef written by Coral Expeditions’ marine biologist.
Along the Same Lines
No other line offers such a comprehensive coverage of Australia, including Tasmania and Papua New Guinea.
Coral Expeditions; Cairns, Qld, Australia
In Australia — 1-800 079 545; Outside Australia — +61 7 4040 9999
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