Barbara Kolmegies has been working in the travel industry sharing her passion for 20 years. Her travels have also taken her to New Zealand, French Polynesia (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, and Tikehau), Fiji, the Cook Islands, Bali, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan.
What is the Coral Expeditions Cruise?
The Coral Expeditions Great Barrier Reef Cruises is a small, boutique style cruise which operates 3, 4, & 7 night cruises to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding reef islands in Australia. It is an expedition cruise with a Marine Biologist and a crew that is passionate and knowledgeable about the Barrier Reef and the islands visited, so it is a wonderful learning experience.
Where did the cruise go?
I did the 4 night Northern route which goes from Cairns to the Ribbon Reefs and Escape Reef before returning. We visited the historic coastal town of Cooktown, and Lizard Island as well, along with many different barrier reef systems and locations. It was fantastic!
What did you see and do on your trip?
On the first day of the 4 Day Northern Reef itinerary, passengers board by 4pm, get settled in, meet the crew and other passengers and enjoy sunset pre-dinner drinks and a delicious seafood dinner.
The next day, passengers will explore the historic coastal township of Cooktown, named after Captain James Cook. His ship was beached here after sustaining serious damage back in 1770, offering his crew a safe harbour for repairs. Passengers are able to learn about the history of this picturesque town. They can then visit the Botanic Gardens, or choose to visit the James Cook Museum (a small entrance fee applies). After lunch, they sail to the beautiful Lizard Island for that first experience of the Barrier Reef at Turtle Beach. The white sand beach is in a sheltered bay ideal for water activities. Snorkelling gear is provided and there’s lots of coral viewing, along with a huge variety of fish and other marine life to enjoy in the shallow waters. We even saw the resident octopus that likes to hang out in this area! Later, snacks and drinks are provided on the beach while passengers enjoy the evening sunset.
The following morning, early rising passengers can take the opportunity of a sunrise hike up to Cook’s Lookout and follow in the footsteps of Captain James Cook, who hiked up to this same summit in 1770 to navigate a safe passage out of the reef. Other passengers are taken over to Watson’s Bay on Lizard Island in the morning to enjoy snorkelling, kayaking, beach walks, and other activities including scuba diving for the divers onboard. In the afternoon, the ship heads out to Ribbon No 9, an exclusive reef site rarely visited due to its remote location. There’s lots of time to explore this reef system either by glass bottom boat rides with the marine biologists, snorkelling, or scuba diving.
On Day 4, there’s a full day to discover two other pristine Outer Reef sites with some of the best snorkelling, diving, and glass bottom boat viewing. Each of the Barrier Reef locations have opportunities for a glass bottom boat tour with the marine biologist, snorkelling with all the gear, and scuba diving with a qualified SCUBA master. Alternatively, passengers can just relax on the sun deck or in the lounge onboard if they do not want to participate in the water activities at any given time.
A wide variety of different fish, marine life, and corals populates each site and no two sites are exactly alike.
Why do a Coral Expedition cruise?
This is such a wonderful and relaxing way to experience all the Great Barrier Reef has to offer, plus so much more! You are able to visit the more remote and pristine reef locations and enjoy a lot more time on the reef, which is one of the main reason travellers visit Northern Queensland. Plus, you are able to visit some incredible islands and areas which are not easy to get to otherwise. With a knowledgeable marine biologist onboard, passengers can learn and appreciate so much about this spectacular reef system, one of the world’s great natural wonders!
The cruise has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The ship only takes 44 passengers, so we were easily able to get to know everyone and the crew. It was great for a wide variety of ages – we had passengers on board ranging from 9 to 77 years of age. Passengers are welcome to do as much or as little as they like at each site. It was a mix of snorkellers, scuba divers and some passenger that never even got in the water, they just enjoyed the reef from the boat and the glass bottom boat trips and loved it.
What was the accommodation and service like on the cruise?
The cabins are very clean and comfortable. The cruise offers various types including a regular cabin, Stateroom, Upper Deck, and Deluxe Stateroom. The difference between the cabin types is mainly their location on the ship, however the Staterooms are slightly bigger.
They offer single cabins and have cabins that can accommodate families well.
The service onboard is wonderful from all staff and crew. They go out of their way to ensure everyone is comfortable and have everything they need through the cruise.
What is Included in the cruise?
Accommodation on board, all meals, soda fountain drinks, and specialty teas & coffee, presentations by a marine biologist, all snorkelling equipment, glass bottom boat rides, an introductory scuba experience for first time divers along with scuba gear and access to islands, marine and national parks, fully guided sightseeing in each location, onboard reference libraries and board games.
*Scuba Diving is optional and there is an extra fee for diving which can be purchased onboard once passengers have passed the required medical exam.
What surprised you and/or exceed your expectations?
The staff were amazing and made the trip such a special experience. They are very enthusiastic and engaging with everyone, really going beyond expectations to ensure all guest are comfortable and enjoying themselves. They also all pitch in together to ensure tasks are taken care of. You are able to sit up with the Captain in the Bridge throughout the cruise and learn about the ship, the crew, places you are going, and other cruises Coral Expeditions offers.
The food incredible and the chefs were more than happy to cater to any special dietary needs for passengers onboard.
What are some selling tips for agents selling this cruise?
For people who wish to do more than just the typical day trip to the Barrier Reef, I would highly recommend doing one of these cruises. You get to see and experience so much more than a day trip can ever offer. It is a great combination of history, marine life, island nature walks, etc, to really discover this region of Australia.
This cruise is great for singles, families, and couples of almost all age. You have a floating hotel with no packing or unpacking for the duration of the cruise. You also are not wasting any time getting from place to place, as you have full access to your cabin and there are lots of things to do on the cruise including a lounge with board games, books, and DVDs.
It is a great idea for solo travelers as they have single cabins with no single supplement, and the small, friendly atmosphere makes it easy for meeting and mingling with other travellers. It would appeal to a wide variety of clientele looking for a spectacular and relaxing cruise experience.