Activities like snorkelling and walking build a hearty appetite and passengers are well catered for from the small galley, where the smell of freshly baked biscuits and cakes waft through the adjacent Dining Room. Meals are modern Australian and include fresh local produce.
Located on the lower deck, the single Dining Room has an old-world nautical feel with teak panelling and pillars. The seating includes both booths and tables and chairs set with white cloths. (Pillars behind a couple of chairs make these seats awkward to access though.) Passengers are free to sit where they like, which fosters mingling, conversation and camaraderie.
Breakfast is served at 7 a.m. and includes a continental buffet with fruits, yoghurts, cereals and breads for toast. There are three selections from the kitchen; Healthy and Light options range from warm vanilla porridge with banana and blossom honey to coconut chia seed pudding with toasted macadamias; Savoury and Substantial are hearty combinations of bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, chipolatas and eggs, including eggs benedict; for Sweet and Indulgent think spiced poached pear with mascarpone cheese, pancake stacks and French toast.
Lunch is noon or 12:30 p.m. depending on the day's activities and consists of a buffet with two or three hot options and three salads. Hot dishes include curries with rice, noodles, pasta, and meatballs. There is always a garden salad with other choices like Waldorf, Greek, Caesar and Mediterranean. Freshly baked small bread rolls are available, but it would be good to see some flat bread for those who would like to make a salad wrap. Fresh tropical fruit platters include sweet melons, juicy pineapple and bananas.
Dinner is served at 7 p.m. and consists of a three-course meal with a set entree and dessert and a choice of two mains served with vegetables. Entrees vary from soup to antipasto platters, salt and pepper calamari to pumpkin and feta arancini balls. Mains include the likes of crispy skin Atlantic salmon, beef eye fillet, roast marinated lamb and slow-braised pork belly. A sumptuous seafood buffet is served one evening on both the three-night and four-night cruise (so those doing the seven-night cruise will enjoy this twice). Enormous platters hold fresh tiger prawns, South Australian oysters, Tasmanian smoked salmon, Morten Bay Bugs (a type of lobster), and whole backed fish. Dessert can be panna cotta, cheesecake, pavlova or a selection of Australian cheeses.
Once during each cruise there is an Aussie barbecue meal, either on the beach or onboard (on the top Sun Deck if weather permits). The captain cooks up beef steaks, kangaroo steaks, Spanish mackerel, pork sausages and sliced onions, which are served with potato salad, green salad and coleslaw. Invitations to dine with the captain (once per cruise) are extended to loyalty club members, those celebrating a special occasion and sometimes those on the seven-night cruise, and wine ordered by the captain is complimentary.
The modest wine list showcases Australian and New Zealand labels with a couple of French champagnes. Bottles start at AU$32 and range up to AU$75 for a Heytesbury chardonnay from West Australia's Margaret River. Passengers can have bottles of wine stored for them if they do not finish them in one sitting. Some wines can be ordered by the glass at AU$8. Beers are AU$7 to AU$8 and cocktails AU$12. There's a range of spirits and liqueurs, too.
Help-yourself tea, coffee and plain biscuits are available all day both in the dining room and the lounge. The coffee machines are Swiss-made Franke models and freshly baked goodies seem to appear just when you need them -- such as Anzac biscuits on arrival, chocolate cake on the beach, and warm friands after snorkelling. Service is quick and friendly and nothing is too much trouble. Special dietary requirements can be catered for if the galley receives as least two weeks' notice. There is no room service, but if a passenger is feeling unwell and needs to remain in their cabin, a meal can be sent to their cabin.
Coral Expeditions II Ship Stats
- Crew: 12
- Launched: 1985
- Decks: 3
- Passengers: 44
- Registry: Australia