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Sail Date: November 2015
I had the opportunity to travel to the Great Barrier Reef with my partner for 3 nights in November 2015. This is only my 2nd time on a cruise ship (the other being a large ship experience) but am comfortable in saying that the small ship ... Read More
I had the opportunity to travel to the Great Barrier Reef with my partner for 3 nights in November 2015. This is only my 2nd time on a cruise ship (the other being a large ship experience) but am comfortable in saying that the small ship experience definitely surpasses that of the larger. The smaller guest numbers meant that I got to meet and share the experiences of the trip with almost all of the other travellers. So by the end of the trip it felt like I had really connected with everyone and made some good friends. The staff were brilliant, with special thanks to Roberto in the kitchen, who continually amazed with the variety and flavour he was able to deliver. The fresh scones and cake were great after the snorkelling / diving (if you hadn't guessed I loved the food, still the most important part of any trip in my opinion). Yasmin and Bec were both excellent in their knowledge, helpfulness and professional attitude. They were still friendly very late one night when my partner and I couldn't work out how to change the air conditioner settings and needed to wake them up. Kristy was very patient with us when she took us diving and I will forever be greatful with the effort she went too to show us the various corals and coloured fish. Overall very happy with the experience and will definitely be adding it to my yearly plan. Coral Expeditions, 5 thumbs up. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
What a trip, unless you actually see it yourself you wouldn't believe it. Every day started off beautifully weather wise, company, staff and guides. Our cabins were very comfortable with plenty of room for both of us. Dinning room and ... Read More
What a trip, unless you actually see it yourself you wouldn't believe it. Every day started off beautifully weather wise, company, staff and guides. Our cabins were very comfortable with plenty of room for both of us. Dinning room and lounges around our ship were comfortable and documentaries, screenings, videos, charades, hat making and talks were a treat and must say a little nap time for some after another wonderful day. Christoph, what a wonderful and pleasant chef, always with a smile on his face and what meals he provided us, and must say my steak was perfect. Now what a beautiful country we have, we had no idea just how beautiful an area we were sailing into, every single day was an eye opener and we were blessed with perfect weather. Going out in the explorer every day was an absolute treat, and having beautiful waterfall showers, and fresh water swim wow. Exploring everthing on a whole was more than we imagined possible and seeing is believing. One very exciting treat was going fishing in the explorer with Josh out of the 12 persons who fished almost all caught fish and quite a bit of excitement was had especially by me. Finishing our trip was sad as our trip was over but how bitter sweet it was to have all the crew there for our final farewell, and hugs as well. Home again and we have let our agent and everyone who has asked that telling them about our trip is never enough, and they should do the trip and see for themselves. Thankyou so very very much. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
The service, the food, the crew, the accommodations, the Great Barrier Reef Queensland, AU, it doesn't get any better than this for an active fit adult experience. We did the 7 day which is the 3 and 4 day combined of north and ... Read More
The service, the food, the crew, the accommodations, the Great Barrier Reef Queensland, AU, it doesn't get any better than this for an active fit adult experience. We did the 7 day which is the 3 and 4 day combined of north and south cruises out of Cairns, pronounced Cans, and loved it. There is a bit of a shakeup when you lose shipmates and pick up new crew and passengers after 3 nights, but the new were just as friendly as the ones who left. We happened to pick the shoulder season so with a crew of 11-12 and 11 passengers on each of the passages the service was fantastic. But pictures of crystal clear water with depths of 100-120 feet wasn't what we saw. Our only disappointment was our first stop for snorkeling at Fitzroy Island. When we got back on board from snorkeling, we looked at each other and said what a waste of money if this is what we came to see. Yes, it was overcast, but the coral was brown and there were very few fish. Surely there is a better introduction to the GBR than this stop. And perhaps everything else wouldn't have been as good if we hadn't been so disappointed in Fitzroy Island. Pre dinner cocktails every evening in the top lounge with a preview of tomorrow's activities and then to exquisite dinners in the dining room. Tonight it was a seafood buffet with bugs (AU lobsters), oysters, smoked salmon, heads on prawns, a fish similar to whole red snapper assorted salads and sides. Saturday we arrived at Nuggin Reef for scuba and snorkeling. I was the only certified diver which was awesome. Ricci, the dive master, and I had an incredible dive. Lots of fish and soft coral. The afternoon we anchored at Nathan Reef which was just as beautiful as the prior one. the engines started at 7 am and breakfast at Saturday we rose to a beautiful sunrise anchored in the Hinchinbrook Channel. We took a glass bottom boat tour through the mangroves looking for croks, dolphins, turtles, birds and other wildlife. Although there were none of the above, it was a beautiful tour and a nice diversion. I jut realized how much I've done and only touch on the trip. Needless to say, it was amazing and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. There are beach bar bqs, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, great presentations on the reef and history, amazing people, fantastic food, unbelievable fish and soft corals snorkeling and diving. I couldn't have spent my 60th birthday in any better place with any better people. Thanks to my wonderful husband, Richard, and our new friends. But it is NOT for people with limited mobility. There are steep stairs that cannot be avoided. The activities do not require Olympians, but they do require good knees, hips and feet. Meals are about as good as they get on any large or small cruise line. The accommodations although smaller than large cruise ships are more than adequate with good storage. You only need a few bathing suits and shorts and casual shirts. A carry on is more than enough clothes. Suntan lotion of SPF 50 and insect repellent are provided. When you go to the beach, the crew sets up chairs and shade and brings water and drinks. Access to the water is unbelievably easy with the hydraulic lift for boat rides and snorkeling access. I would add this cruise to your bucket list. I crossed it off mine and couldn't be happier. The crew is outstanding. Eliza, purser, Evie, marine biologist, are the best - I miss you guys. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
This cruise was fantastic! It took my wife and I back to how travel used to be, and is meant to be! The things that make this trip exceptional are the staff, destination, and fellow cruisers. To give you an idea of a typical day on the ... Read More
This cruise was fantastic! It took my wife and I back to how travel used to be, and is meant to be! The things that make this trip exceptional are the staff, destination, and fellow cruisers. To give you an idea of a typical day on the boat, breakfast for us was at 0700. My wife and I were generally 10 minutes late, but the bounty from the kitchen would still be there when we got down and there were always seats at a table with other guests ready to talk about anything but work. After breakfast we generally snorkeled on the reef for an hour or two. Not as many people did this as I was expecting, I think because the crowd trended older. That said, the seniors who snorkeled with us loved it and would gush about it at meals! The others generally rode the glass bottom boat with the top notch marine biologist. Her enthusiasm was more than enough to get anyone genuinely curious. Now it was time for morning tea. Being Americans, we don't do this. However, being on vacation got us ready for new experiences, this being a welcome one. Like a Hobbit from the Shire, we settled right in to our "Second Breakfast". By the end of the trip, we were sitting with the rest of our cruise companions companions for brunch talking about what we saw and where the best place to find ______ fish was while sipping coffee and munching on pastries. Post morning tea we would hop back into the water or take a nap in our room, then get ready for lunch! Lunch was top notch, and extremely welcome after the time we spent in the water. Some days the biologist put a program on after lunch, and some days we snorkeled or scuba dived. I should add, the SCUBA diving on this boat was top notch! James, the good hearted, but technically savvy instructor generally only had 2-3 pupils at a time, and had plenty of time to make us comfortable with the situation. While I was a little bit more than slightly apprehensive about the whole thing, every time I would show him my air gauge or point at something to make me nervous he would put his hands together and strike a pose like a genie floating in water as if to say "namaste". In diving we also got a chance to see even more sea life than we did snorkeling...On our trip in August we saw giant (GIANT!!!) clams, octopus, cuttle fish, an eel, and more beautiful fish than you can shake a fist at! Now it is time for a nap before pre-dinner drinks. Some days we would motor to our next anchorage in this window, and the captain would call out whale sitings. Some days we would gently bob on the very slight swell. Finally we get to the best part of the day! Predinner drinks with our traveling companions and dinner itself! The timing worked out in august that we would head up to the top deck for drinks and watch the sun set before heading back down to the dining room for our meal. To be clear, the meals were incredible, with us usually leaving slightly uncomfortably full in the best possible way. Like breakfast, at dinner we would sit with fellow travelers at the table and make new friends while enjoying great food. Everyone we sat with commented on how flat out incredible the food the chef and his staff put out, and that it was even more amazing that they put it out with only 3 people in the kitchen! If you decide to go on this cruise, first and foremost you will have a completely unique once in a lifetime experience. You will also make friends with your fellow travelers such that you'll end up with a rolodex of email addresses of people to visit when you go to _____ country. You will also want to do it again, as soon as possible. It is how I imagine travel from the golden age of travel. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
My wife and I have not been on many cruise ships, preferring independent travel and small venues over the crowded, packaged ships we see so often in port at home (San Francisco USA). The sailing on the Coral Ex II for 4 nights on the ... Read More
My wife and I have not been on many cruise ships, preferring independent travel and small venues over the crowded, packaged ships we see so often in port at home (San Francisco USA). The sailing on the Coral Ex II for 4 nights on the Great Barrier Reef appealed to us due to the itinerary, size of the vessel and, of course, the chance to snorkel and dive on the Great Barrier Reef. My rating of Excellent stems from a nearly flawless experience by the ship's crew and the fact that all our expectations were met or exceeded on this cruise. We only booked the 4 night sailing, which has an extension to a more southern itinerary for 3 additional nights, and regret not booking the extension! To be specific, embarkation was done in Cairns, Australia, which is one of the largest towns in Queensland and we spent a few days enjoying the tropical atmosphere (Botanical Gardens were wonderful), and seafood. The Esplanade was an area for strolling and relaxing prior to our cruise. Formalities for boarding were handled efficiently and in that friendly Aussie way, with outstanding cookies and excellent coffee and tea ready while we mingled with the other guests. It was a small group, around 40 people, and a nice mix of singles, couples, and families. Since it was just before the Christmas holidays, we felt we just missed the crowds of holiday travelers. The bookshelves had donated novels, marine life guidebooks, and games for guest use. Cabin was larger than I expected, and once our luggage and personal items were stowed, the area was fine for the two of us. Nice wood paneling and the bathroom was actually larger than I expected with complimentary toiletries and fresh, fluffy towels every day. I was a bit disappointed that there was no card to acknowledge that we would be celebrating our 25th anniversary during this cruise, but more on that later... The itinerary would take us on the first day from Cairns north to Cooktown, the largest town in the Cape York area, and I had an interest in visiting their botanic garden. We stopped on the reef for a dive/snorkel and although bleaching was evident near the tops of the reef, at depth all seemed fine as the water was a bit cooler. I want to say that the staff at the Coral Ex office responded to my questions regarding reef condition promptly and were accurate in their description. Sadly, the Cooktown botanic garden was closed for Christmas holidays, but not after we had hiked uphill in tropical heat for half an hour. Our plan to catch a taxi was laughably overestimating the facilities in this small but charming town. Fortunately there were pubs serving cold beer and the Cooktown museum, with good AC and fascinating: well worth the visit. Our next day was spent at Lizard Island, one of the reasons we booked this particular cruise. I had always wanted to see it, the fringing reefs, though suffering from bleaching, still had wonderful life (giant clams, an octopus, rays, and lots of fish), plus the historic ruins of a homestead in addition to the uber-expensive resort. Upon returning to our room, we found a bucket of sparkling wine and the staff's best wishes for our anniversary. So I am an idiot for thinking they forgot. We shared the bottle at dinner that night, graciously hosted by the captain (Charlie). The next several days were out on the open water at the Ribbon Reefs, another destination I was interested to see. Diving was good, and weather/sea conditions perfect. Now for the stars of the cruise: the staff. Forgive me if I forget the names (pro tip: remember that names of the staff!) but every staff member from the captain, purser, chefs, room attendants, dive staff, and marine biologist were hardworking, gracious and devoted to anything and everything you might need. Seasick? Cut finger? Lost dive gear? On a special diet? More towels? I personally witnessed an attentive and caring staff for four days that made this holiday special. It can be confusing at times: some of the staff did more than one job from food service to driving the Zodiac boats, although to my knowledge only Captain Charlie piloted the ship. And the food. Upon disembarkation, I actually told the Captain that they should market the cruise as a foodie expedition first and reef cruise secondly. The quality of every meal, especially dinners, coming out of the ship's kitchen was extraordinary, considering we were in the middle of the ocean on a small ship. Extraordinary not just for taste, but the presentation of each course. Even in buffet style, it was all pleasing and professional. I personally appreciated having two different salads with my dinner, and the seafood was a treat, especially on the first night. Lots of choice, as well. I am an experienced scuba diver and although I wouldn't characterize this cruise as a 'dive boat', the diving staff were knowledgable and equipment was in fine shape. As I said, there is some bleaching of coral, but divers could still see good sections of reef and I enjoyed my diving. No need to bring your own gear. All in all we enjoyed this small ship experience so much that we are looking at their other offerings for future trips. Well done, you guys, and see you in the Kimberley someday! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
For many, a cruise means a huge ship, large crowd and the related stuffs therein. Then there is the other type of cruise: a small boat with a small number of guests, friendly staff and meticulous personal attention. The Coral Discoverer ... Read More
For many, a cruise means a huge ship, large crowd and the related stuffs therein. Then there is the other type of cruise: a small boat with a small number of guests, friendly staff and meticulous personal attention. The Coral Discoverer turned out to be such a boutique. My wife and I joined the South China Sea run from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, covering the long stretch of Vietnamese seashore, 22 January through 3 March 2017. The meticulous planning and attention to detail were obvious from the moment we gathered at the Saigon Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City. We handed over our baggage and boarded the coach to the ship docked near the city centre. The small crowd facilitated quick clearance of immigration formalities. We attended the Captain’s welcome reception that evening in the Explorer Bar. At the top deck, with drink in hand, and the spectacular panoramic view of the nighttime Ho Chi Minh City all around, the experience was enchanting. Then we moved to the spacious dining hall at the lower level. The majority of the gusts seemed to know each other. It turned out that they had shared past cruises in the Coral Discoverer itself or in one of the two other ships of the Coral Expeditions. The number of returning guests was impressive and was a testimony to the quality of the cruises. The sumptuous dinner was informal, enlivened with friendly discussions, and lingered on about three hours into the night. This set the pattern for every subsequent evening: drinks at one of the bars, then a leisurely buffet with affable banter. Food and wine were excellent and plentiful. In the bar, the selection of spirits was superb; the cocktails were tasty. We enjoyed a beautifully appointed Bridge Deck Balcony Stateroom. The toilet is necessarily small, but properly planned, exquisitely appointed and well stocked with toiletries. Lazing on the balcony, casually taking the view, when the boat sailed, anchored or docked was an exhilarating experience. The ship is spotlessly clean, both public areas and private quarters. For a ship of this size, the facilities are remarkably lavish: three bars, a lounge cum presentation room, an exercise area, a sun deck and even a small library. Moving around was not difficult even for the elderly. Vietnam has a rich and troubled history. The cruise arrangement did justice to that heritage. Every day we docked or anchored near an interesting seaside town or village. The day started with a lavish Continental and hot breakfast in the ship. The Discoverer has a unique boat for transporting guests to the seashore, when anchored away from the coast. The Xplorer is securely docked to the ship at the back. The guests could just walk into this boat from the main deck. Then it goes down smoothly as an elevator cab to the water and glides to the shore. The boat rides were unique opportunities to enjoy scenic beauty and to see the seaside life. On land, we travelled in comfortable coaches, savouring scenic beauty and wowing at the rich historic legacy. Prominent among them were the cable-car ride up the Lin-son Truong Pagoda and the climb on foot to the huge Reclining Buddha statue. A visit to Vinh Moc Tunnel and the Benh Vien Hospital Cave of the Viet Cong rekindles the poignant history of the nineteen sixties. The Hue Citadel, Ha Long Bay, Sung Sot cave, Titop Beach and the steep climb to the top of the hill, Lan Ha Bay and the Cat Ba National Park were among the attractions we visited. When the plans demanded lunch or dinner on shore, impeccable arrangements waited for us. The tour team meticulously arranged every detail and took care of the entry fee for the attractions, eliminating any delay. An expert tour guide was travelling with us. Also included in the team was an expert on Vietnam. He made audiovisual presentations on history, social issues and life in general in Vietnam. Rough weather disturbed the cruise arrangement one day. Nevertheless, an equally interesting fallback plan was in place seamlessly. Another unique feature was the open bridge policy. The bridge of a ship, as the cockpit of a commercial aircraft, is a sensitive area. However, Coral Expeditions has an open-bridge policy in their ships. We enjoyed the experience of watching the captain navigating the ship, sitting on a nearby comfortable sofa. The dedicated team, at every level, is probably the greatest asset of this ship. Informal, pleasant and friendly, they were at the spot, at the time when a guest needed help. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
On the strength of a seven day cruise on this small ship (70 passengers max) around the southern coast of New Zealand, we booked for the seven day voyage around the east, south and west coast of Tasmania. It was flawless. the captain, Gary ... Read More
On the strength of a seven day cruise on this small ship (70 passengers max) around the southern coast of New Zealand, we booked for the seven day voyage around the east, south and west coast of Tasmania. It was flawless. the captain, Gary Wilson, and his amazing crew provided us with an extremely comfortable and luxurious haven from which to experience the extraordinary Tasmanian coastline. We had wonderful weather that allowed us a near-perfect sail around to the exquisite Port Davey in Tassie's South West National Park for two nights in this World Heritage wilderness; a pristine and sheltered environment that hopefully will still be here for generations to come. Congratulations to all of those environmentalists over the years who have resisted government and industry attempts to debase such magical places with unnecessary development. Access is strictly controlled and it became clear when we climbed several local hills for panoramic views of the labyrinthine waterways, extending out to the Arthur Range on the blue horizon. For me, this was a highlight of the trip because of the difficulty in even reaching Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour in bad weather. A serene sail across a mirror-smooth Southern Ocean took us up the east coast to Freycinet where regardless of some light rain, we again were able to walk up to another lookout over Wineglass Bay. Then it was onto Maria Island for a dramatic (weatherwise) stroll to the fossil cliffs before an unforgettable sail down the east coast past the highest dolerite cliffs in the world on Cape Pillar -- 300 metres! It was right there that the finale arrived in the form of a 40 knot gale, making scenes of those foreboding cliffs even more dramatic. Another highlight for all of and extremely well handled by our ship, the Coral Discoverer, which again proved her stability in rough seas. We had previously been in nine metre seas on the south coast of New Zealand in this ship and knew of her capabilities. An alternative tour of Port Arthur with an amazing guide who, we suspect, is a Shakespearean actor (or should be) before our departure in Hobart on a fine, clear morning. Overall, a wonderful trip to an unforgettable and unique destination. Highly recommended! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We spent 4 nights sailing around the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the excursions are snorkelling the reef which was absolutely amazing.The ship was very comfortable with good size cabins and nice common areas. The food was very good, well ... Read More
We spent 4 nights sailing around the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the excursions are snorkelling the reef which was absolutely amazing.The ship was very comfortable with good size cabins and nice common areas. The food was very good, well presented and more then enough to eat. The staff were wonderful, very friendly and went out of their way to help. My mother is a weak swimmer and the trip director pull her around with life ring every time we went snorkelling. The staff was very careful to keep an eye on everyone in the water and ready to help you with your equipment. There was glass bottom boat rides as well as snorkelling at each reef. Getting on and off the boat was very easy. This has been my favourite thing we have done on our trip to Australia. I would come back just to do this cruise again. Everything went very smoothly. Highly recommend. Read Less
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