We boarded Coral Princess Lines` `Ocean Discoverer`at Cairns for a 25 day voyage around the remote part of Melanesia - Papua New Guinea, Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands before returning to Darwin. It was a fascinating and action-packed adventure.
I believe the ship is unique in having a landing craft at the stern (the Xplorer), which you board from the deck and is then hydraulically lowered into the water. This allowed all the 50 passengers and the two lecturers to travel together as required. In addition there was a glass bottomed boat, two inflatables and six canoes! There was an `open bridge` policy so that at any time one could visit and discuss location or meteorological issues with the Captain or First Mate.
The company, Coral Princess, only does this particular trip once a year. It is really the only way to properly see Papua New Guinea and because of it`s shallow draft allows the Ocean Discoverer to visit places that are out of reach of normal cruise ships. On our first night we were advised that it was not a cruise but an expedition! We visited different villages every day where the inhabitants ran to meet us and arranged `sing`sing` dances with all kinds of body paint and head dresses (each one different over the 25 day voyage) before taking us around their village, often by the hand. People would come by dug-out canoes for up to 50 miles for this one chance to sell things they had made and we came back with quite a number of beautiful local `artefacts`. Perhaps best demonstrating the different style of life were a dug out canoe, like so many others we saw, that emerged from the mangroves on the Sepic River where the boatman waved, plunged a spear into the water and held aloft a large fish and seeing the staple diet of sago being made.
Although you pay more for A deck, it tends to be noisier than B deck. Choosing the centre of B deck mitigates both the sound of the engines and the anchor!