Here at Kimberley Cruise Specialists our team gets asked one question more than any other. Which ship is best?
There's no easy answer to that question as the ship we recommend you will be determined by your own preferred travel style, and that's where our specialists come in to work through all the available options.
However, we can say that Coral Discoverer is one expedition ship that we often recommend to potential Kimberley cruisers as a great 'all rounder'.
Coral Discoverer was the grand vision of Vicki and Tony Briggs (yes, our Founder and Chairman) during their 33 years owning and operating Australia's pioneering cruise line Coral Princess Cruises (now renamed Coral Expeditions). Coral Discoverer was purpose built by Vicki and Tony, using their many years of experience operating Kimberley cruises to design the ultimate small ship for cruising in this part of the world. Originally launched in 2005 as Oceanic Princess, Coral Discoverer was built to full international SOLAS accreditation; the first Australian passenger ship to attain that certification in more than 50 years.
At just 63 metres in length, and accommodating no more than 72 guests, Coral Discoverer offers a happy medium between some of the larger expedition ships - with all their wide-ranging onboard facilities - and smaller vessels offering a more personalised experience and access to some of the region's more hard to reach areas.
There's also the professional - yet uniquely Australian - service from an all-Aussie crew and an expedition team who are considered by many as the 'best in the business'. With over 21 years experience operating Kimberley cruises, Coral Expeditions has long-term contracts with many of the most experienced and knowledgeable expedition leaders and guest lecturers, ensuring that guests have access to the very best information and knowledge about the region.
While Coral Discoverer is still one of the newer vessels cruising the Kimberley Coast, that doesn't mean she isn't being regularly updated. In fact, in late 2016 the ship went into dry dock in Singapore for a multi-million dollar upgrade. Highlights included the installation of private balconies on Bridge Deck Staterooms (see photograph below), completely remodelled dining and lounge rooms, the installation of a gorgeous sun deck bar, new furnishings throughout and even the addition of exercise equipment. This refurbishment has truly lifted Coral Discoverer to another level, and created a real 'wow' factor when guests first walk the gangway.
Dining aboard Coral Discoverer is modern-Australian, and you will be amazed by the gastronomic delights produced in the galley. Most meals are served in the stylish surrounds of the dining room, where there's no need to reserve a table and you can choose to dine with new or old friends on each occasion. There's also the option to dine upstairs under the stars on the sun deck, which is always a highlight.
For breakfast you can opt for a full buffet, or indulge in made to order omelettes, pancakes and other tasty treats. Lunch is served buffet style, while dinner (three course) is ordered from a small menu of the day. For those who are wondering, wine and beer is served (complimentary) with lunch and dinner. Throw in some freshly-baked morning and afternoon teas and you will never go hungry aboard Coral Discoverer. In fact we recommend that it might be a good idea to line up to make use of the ship's newly installed exercise equipment!
One of Coral Discoverer's main selling points is the flexibility in the excursion tenders she offers. Not only does she carry three Mark V zodiacs (the industry standard) she also makes use of the unique 'Xplorer' excursion tender. Xplorer was the brainchild of Tony Briggs and is a signature of his ship builds. This tender accommodates all 72 of Coral Discoverer's guests in individual padded seating, has a roof for sun protection and even an onboard toilet. And, boarding is easy - you simply step aboard onto a raised platform on the rear deck before the hydraulic platform is lowered into the water. There's no need to even get your feet wet.
This flexibility to use differing styles of excursion craft is second to none and the key to a great Kimberley cruise itinerary. When you're travelling on Coral Discoverer you will be able to board the zodiacs for thrilling adventures at Horizontal Falls and Montgomery Reef, while taking advantage of Xplorer's comforts on longer excursions. Indeed, Xplorer means you can even access areas normally only accessible by much smaller vessels. An example of this is iconic King Cascades. Located 27 kilometres up the very tidal Prince Regent River, a journey by zodiacs only would be long, tiring and hot. That's why many of the larger vessels (100+ passengers) don't include this special location in their itineraries. But, aboard Coral Discoverer's Xplorer tender access is a breeze and you will zoom along the mighty Prince Regent in record time (and comfort!) right to the base of King Cascades.
Coral Discoverer operates a comprehensive ten night itinerary between Broome and Darwin (and vice versa) between April and September each season. The itinerary, originally developed by Tony Briggs back in 1995, remains the benchmark by which all Kimberley cruises are judged, and includes all of the must see icons of the coast.
Highlights of the itinerary include:
A typical day onboard Coral Discoverer generally offers two off ship excursions. After a hearty breakfast, most mornings you will be off the ship by 9:00 AM, travelling ashore to explore. Returning to the ship by noon for lunch and a rest, you will head out again around 2:00 PM for more discovery ashore. Then it's back onboard before 5:00 PM, just in time for a sundowner. After a convivial dinner there might be an expert lecture in the lounge, stargazing or a chat with fellow travellers by the bar.
It's easy to see why Coral Discoverer is such a great option for cruising the Kimberley coast. We think she ticks just about all the boxes, and comes in at a very competitive price as well. If you would like to start planning your Coral Discoverer Kimberley cruise give our experts a call on 1800 90 20 80 or send us an email.
Did you know?
That during the Kimberley wet season Coral Discoverer operates expedition cruises in West Papua, PNG and even Tasmania? Ask us for more details about these outstanding expeditions.