The destination is the primary entertainment on a Coral Discoverer cruise. Being an expedition ship, very little time is spent onboard during the day. Instead, passengers head out twice a day to explore remote and exotic locations. Back onboard the ship are interpretive lectures and documentary screenings as well as a handful of themed activities. On the Cape York and Arnhem Land 'bush tucker' cruise there was a trivia afternoon, indigenous cooking demonstration and bush-tukka pavlova decorating competition. On some cruises, there may be games or talent evenings and even sing-alongs. Evening entertainment consists of pre-dinner drinks and dinner followed by a documentary screening.
The captain hosts welcome aboard drinks on the first night of the cruise in the Bridge Deck Bar. The evening is a chance for passengers to meet and greet over a free glass of bubbles, wine or beer. Canapes are also served. Farewell drinks are held on the final night of the cruise where passengers can view a slideshow of cruise photos played on a loop in the Bridge Deck Lounge.
Coral Discoverer operates in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the South Pacific: destinations that are stunning, remote and exotic. Shore excursions are filled with breathtaking scenery and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Activities might include bushwalking, snorkelling and kayaking, diving shipwrecks, and visits to historic sites, art galleries and local communities. These are included in the cruise fare and cater to all levels of fitness. Less mobile passengers can remain onboard the Xplorer, however crew are on hand to support less agile passengers. There is no need to book ahead for shore excursions. The Xplorer easily accommodates all passengers. The ship carries a fleet of one or two-person kayaks on cruises to the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea and Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands. Inflatable Zodiacs are also onboard.
Crew accompany passengers on shore excursions. The team includes an expedition leader and at least two other crew to carry first aid kits and radio equipment. Guest lecturers with specific local knowledge also join passengers on these outings, and it's this combination of lecturers and crew that make for an enriching and memorable shore excursion. Coral Discoverer sometimes engages local guides at no cost to passengers.
There are typically two shore excursions per day -- a morning outing that departs after breakfast and another one that sets off after lunch. Passengers who choose to stay onboard Coral Discoverer will have the ship largely to themselves. There are no onboard activities for passengers who opt out of shore excursions.
There is no shortage of wildlife encounters on a Coral Discoverer cruise. Journeys to the Top End and the Kimberley are a chance to spot humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs and crocodiles. On the cruise of Cape York and Darwin, we saw sooty oystercatchers, osprey and white-breasted sea eagles, a feeding pod of snubfin dolphins, giant turtles and a large eagle stingray that leapt out of the water right in front of the boat. Passengers cruising the Spice Islands, Raja Ampat or Indonesia can dive or snorkel in coral reefs brimming with tropical fish and other marine life. Birdwatchers won't be disappointed either, with plenty of chances for sightings of rare and endemic species. Pack a Go Pro or waterproof camera for underwater adventures. A pair of binoculars is another handy item. When the ship is at sea, the open Bridge is an excellent spot to sight dolphins, whales and birds.
Coral Expeditions has built a reputation for enriching cruises where passengers can learn about the destinations visited on the cruise itinerary. Onboard are passenger lecturers -- park rangers, botanists, marine biologists and historians -- and the daily lectures serve to deepen the knowledge gained on shore excursions. On our Cape York and Arnhem Land cruise, a marine biologist spoke about the Great Barrier Reef while another lecturer informed us about bush tucker foods. We heard about the Macassan pearlers in Arnhem Land and the important line of defence played by the Torres Strait in World War 2. Overall though, the lectures were dull and lacking in energy. Other passengers also expressed disappointment pointing out that this was not the norm for a Coral Expeditions cruise. At other times, there are documentary screenings on subjects relevant to the cruise itinerary. Themed cruises feature fun activities such as cooking and art classes. These are held in the dining room on the main deck. There is no cost for these activities and no advance registration is required.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Days on Coral Discoverer are mostly spent off the ship on shore excursions. In between outings, passengers can attend lectures and documentary screenings. These take place in the Bridge Deck Lounge, a modern theatrette with cushioned seating, picture windows, a large video screen and two plasma screens. Lectures take place twice a day, typically after each shore excursion. A documentary is screened after dinner each evening. Other than this, there is little to no entertainment organised of an evening.
On themed cruises, passengers can expect a couple of light-hearted activities. The bush tucker cruise of Cape York and Arnhem Land featured an indigenous cooking demonstration and 'bush tukka' pavlova decorating session. On some cruises, there may be games or talent evenings and even singalongs. Toward the end of the cruise there is a trivia afternoon or evening.
The captain hosts welcome and farewell drinks on the first and last night of the cruise in the Bridge Deck Bar. French Champagne, wine and beer are served along with canapes. This is a more formal event where the dress code is smart casual. The Captain will give a speech at both events.
The ship has three fully stocked small bars: one on the top Sun Deck, another on the Bridge Deck, and a third in the dining room on the main deck. Only the dining room bar is manned during the day and evening. The newly installed Explorers Bar on the Sun Deck is open each night for pre-dinner drinks. The bar at the rear of the Bridge Deck is used solely for Captain's drinks.
Dining Room Bar (Main Deck): The small bar at the rear of the dining room is the only bar staffed in the day and at night during dinner service. The wine list consists of a selection of Australian wines (five whites, a rose, nine reds and two dessert wines). Several are sold by the glass, with prices at AU$8 or AU$9 per glass. Passengers can buy a bottle and store it in the fridge to drink at their leisure. The bar also stocks beer, cider, spirits, liqueurs and cocktails. Beers are reasonably priced at AU$7 or AU$8 a glass.
Bridge Deck Bar: The small bar at the rear of the Bridge Deck is only staffed for Captain's welcome and farewell drinks. At other times it is unstaffed. It's a breezy and shaded spot furnished with white circular wicker tables and cushioned armchairs.
Explorer Bar (Sun Deck): The Explorer Bar replaces the hot tub on the top Sun Deck. The circular marble-topped bar seats 10 people on bar stools. A section of the deck is shaded and furnished with cane tables and chairs. The bar is fully stocked and staffed each evening for sunset drinks. As well as a full bar, there is a daily cocktail. Priced at AU$14, specials could include a margarita, cosmopolitan or espresso martini.
Coral Discoverer has no swimming pool or hot tub. The hot tub formerly on the Sun Deck was replaced in 2016 with the 10-seater Explorers Bar. A partial sunshade was added along with modern cane furniture. Passengers looking to catch some rays can commandeer one of 10 sunloungers located at the bow of the top Sun Deck. Other quiet recreation areas can be found at the stern of the Bridge and Main decks. The Promenade Deck is a popular area for active travellers looking for a walking loop.
The ship carries a purpose-built exploration vessel called the 'Xplorer' for beach landings and exploring narrow waterways. Large enough to carry all passengers and crew, the boat features padded seating, an overhead canopy and toilet. Thanks to a hydraulics system that lowers it into and out of the water, passengers can board the Xplorer from the rear of the main deck without getting their feet wet. The ship also holds kayaks and inflatable Zodiac rubber landing craft. These are used on specific itineraries.
The Bridge Deck Lounge has a small library with a computer that passengers can use to log into paid Wi-Fi services. Satellite Wi-Fi is also available throughout the ship for anyone with a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Prices start at AU$40 for an hour or AU$60 for two hours, but this becomes cheaper the more hours that are purchased. Depending on the ship's location, the connection can be painfully slow or unavailable.
The reception area doubles as a passenger shop selling souvenirs, toiletries and Coral-branded polo shirts, caps, backpacks, water bottles and stubby coolers. Sunscreen and seasickness pills are freely available from the purser's office. Coral offers a paid daily laundry service for passengers.
Coral Discoverer has no spa or fitness facilities. A cross-trainer and exercise bike are located outdoors on the promenade deck.
There is no age limit on a Coral Discoverer cruise. Nor are there kids' clubs or dedicated kid and family programs. This could prove a deterrent for families with young children, particularly on longer cruises when the itinerary leans towards lectures and cultural pursuits. Adventurous teens might enjoy cruising Indonesia and Papua New Guinea where there is the chance to swim, snorkel and scuba dive some of the best coral reefs in the world. There are no interconnecting rooms. Passengers travelling as a family will need to book cabins side by side. Rooms can be configured as either junior king or twin share.