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Reviewing Coral Expeditions’ Cruise Ship the Coral Discoverer


“This may be a stupid question, but there don’t seem to be any TVs in the cabins?”.  Our guide (the assistant Purser and a fellow Kiwi called Willow) gives us an insight into a guest’s time onboard the Coral Discoverer – “Oh, there’s no time for watching TV”. 

For a small ship expedition cruise line like Coral Expeditions, where the focus is an in-depth destination voyage, high quality crew and experts, remote ports and hidden coves, an onboard walk around of the Coral Discoverer when she was in Auckland is a difficult avenue for a comprehensive review.  However, when the manifest from Auckland boasts a 98% repeat client rate, they are clearly doing something very well and an onboard walk around was warranted.

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About Coral Expeditions

Coral Expeditions is unlikely to be well known name to many Fine Travel clients looking for a cruise holiday. It is an Australian small ship expedition cruise line which, when it comes to the Coral Discoverer that we inspected, takes very seriously the expedition cruise ethos that an expedition cruise is about the time off the ship, not on it.

The primary focus of the Coral Discoverer’s itineraries is Australia – with Tasmania, and Northern Australia around to Darwin and the Kimberleys the main attractions.  Voyages also incorporate logical extensions like New Zealand and the Pacific.  Built in 2005 and refurbished in 2016 she welcomes a maximum of 72 guests in 36 cabins.

Onboard The Coral Discoverer

For travellers who have joined similarly priced itineraries with premium and luxury cruise lines, or not been onboard such a small cruise ship before, stepping aboard the Coral Discoverer for the first time will require an expectation adjustment and it is very important to be sure that this is the right style of expedition cruise ship for you.


The Coral Discoverer has the essentials you would expect in the common areas of a small ship that wasn’t designed for onboard entertainment or “soft expedition” cruising.  It is not an Australian version of the French cruise line Ponant which also offers soft expedition itineraries in our waters at around the same price point.  The common areas include:

  • An open bridge policy where guests can interact with the Captain at their leisure.
  • An intimate lecture theatre where experts speak about the upcoming days adventures and recap at the end of the day.  Movies can also be played here.
  • A very small library (similar to a collection you might have seen in a boutique hotel).
  • A cafe style restaurant and bar (pictured above), where all meals are eaten (buffet for lunch and a la carte for dinner).  There is no room service onboard.
  • An open deck area at the top of ship
  • There are no lifts between the floors.

The cabins reflect an expectation that you will return there (probably exhausted) to sleep.  The cabins are all approximately the same size, with little variation (the upstairs cabins enjoying a narrow balcony).


The bathrooms are relatively small, with a shower just out of shot below.


Overall Impressions

A Fine Travel client’s attraction to a close to home cruise onboard the Coral Discoverer will be determined by a desire for an active, enriching educational experience on their chosen itinerary rather than a “flop and drop” onboard a floating amusement park.

Describing the Coral Discoverer without the benefit of the full onboard experience has been somewhat challenging – the risk being that I give an unfair impression of the Coral Discoverer by comparing her to other ships that she isn’t trying to be.  The Coral Discoverer is simply furnished – not tired, or run down – the crew take great pride in the ship – as if it was their own.

I can’t help escape the thought that client expectations at this price point may have moved on – an insight that Coral Expeditions may also share given the design of its newest ship, the Coral Geographer and that from 2021 the Coral Discoverer is being relocated to shorter itineraries at the Great Barrier Reef.  Boasting suites with a bath for stargazing, an elevator and a gym, the Coral Geographer’s itineraries will be highly sought after.