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.
The room is not huge, but not tiny or cluttered either. The junior-king bed is firm and comfortable. The size of the wardrobe is adequate. A writing table, a sofa and chairs complete the room. The lighting is excellent. The wide plate-glass door to the balcony and the windows offer beautiful view. Probably the most enjoyable feature is the balcony. The en suite bathroom has a shower cubicle, running hot water, commode, washbasin, and generous supply of toiletries. The fixtures and fittings are first rate. The room is cleaned, bed made, every day. It is possible to arrange the time of cleaning. Laundry service is included, but no ironing. An iron and board may be borrowed. WiFi is available for purchase.