• Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Log In
  • Find a Cruise
  • Deals
  • Excursions
  • More

Coral Expeditions II Review

Find a Coral Expeditions II Cruise

Coral Expeditions II
4.0 / 5.0
47 reviews

Pros
Cons
Bottom Line
Comfortable expedition ship ideal for exploring Australia's Great Barrier Reef

About

Passengers
44

Crew
12

Passenger to Crew
3.67:1

Launched
1985

Shore Excursions
0
Sails To
Sails From
Coral Expeditions Cruise Deals
Briar Jensen
Cruise Critic Contributor

Coral Expeditions II Overview

Coral Expeditions II was purpose-built for the waters of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and at just 35m (115 feet) in length, is ideally suited to exploring the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Marine Park. Its catamaran design handles choppy waters well and its small size enables it to visit places larger vessels can't, making reef exploration a breeze. Travellers embarking on a cruise get the feeling it's an intrepid adventure, setting off to sail around deserted islands and pristine reefs well beyond the reach of day trippers.  

Free Price Drop Alerts
Get tomorrow's price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Two differing round-trip Great Barrier Reef itineraries depart from the port of Cairns in Queensland -- a three-night south-bound cruise and a four-night north-bound cruise, each offering a snapshot of the marine park's diverse ecosystem. Combine them and you have a weeklong holiday that will have you struggling to remember the number of islands you have visited or reefs you have dived.  

The name is key to what this ship is about -- it is an expedition vessel, and activities are focused on island, reef and shore-based expeditions, therefore it doesn't have the swish onboard attractions of bigger cruise ships, such as swimming pools, climbing walls, theatres and spas. The attractions are natural -- uninhabited sand cays, continental islands, historic coastal townships and coral reef outcrops. Fitness is experienced in the great outdoors, not in an air-conditioned gym -- think beach walks, bushwalks and township visits, swimming, snorkelling, diving and kayaking. With that in mind, and the fact there is no lift onboard and the stairs between the three decks are quite steep, this is not a ship for the mobility-challenged.

If you've always dreamed of finding Nemo, the clown anemone fish from the movie, or just want to visit the Great Barrier Reef without the hordes of tourists, this is the ideal cruise. Coral Expeditions II is small enough to be allowed to anchor close to island fringing reefs, and has exclusive moorings on ribbon reefs and coral bommies. Anchoring stern-to these reefs enables passengers to float off the swim platform straight over the coral -- you can't get any closer than that. A standout feature is the hydraulic glass-bottom boat platform, which raises the boat to deck level, so passengers can step aboard straight from the deck, before the boat is lowered into the water. Once the boat, which is also used as a tender to ferry passengers ashore, has moved, the platform provides a convenient means for snorkelers and divers to access the water. Enrichment lectures by onboard marine biologists have passengers mesmerised by the beauty, and fragility, of the reef and the antics of its marine inhabitants. (Did you know parrotfish sleep in a bubble of their own mucus?)

While certified divers will revel in the multiple opportunities to dive each day (fees apply), novices can take a free scuba skills session with a qualified dive instructor on board and, if feeling confident, can continue with one or more introductory dives (fees apply). It certainly beats learning to dive in a swimming pool, with the immediate rewards of colourful coral gardens and psychedelic fish and, even if you never dive again, you can brag you have dived Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Those who don't like getting wet can still experience the underwater world through multiple glass-bottom boat tours at each reef, a touch tank of small reef creatures put together by the marine biologists and a fish feeding session attracting the likes of giant trevally and tawny nurse sharks (once all swimmers are out of the water, of course).

While the ship was built in 1985 it hides its age well, having had a complete makeover when purchased by Coral Expeditions (then Coral Princess Cruises) in 1996, annual monthlong tidy-ups and a major refit in 2015, with improvements ongoing. It's not luxurious by modern ship standards, but the extensive use of teak gives the cabins and dining saloon a lovely old-world maritime feel, while the upper deck with its wrap-around windows is more contemporary. The Sun Deck, adjacent to the Lounge, has plenty of tables and chairs. As an expedition ship there are no balcony rooms or full-length cabin windows, but this hardly matters, as you tend to spend such little time there.

Another advantage of a ship this size is it doesn't feel overcrowded. Although it can accommodate 44 passengers, it rarely takes more than 40, and some cruises have even less. It's easy to get to know other passengers, yet you can always find a small corner by yourself to read or snooze. During pre-dinner drinks, the lounge is abuzz with excited chatter about the day's sightings, but such active days require a good night's sleep, so most passengers retire early and the lounge is all quiet by 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. A party ship it's not.

For many passengers it is the crew that makes the ship so memorable. Friendly, multi-skilled and extremely hardworking, they are approachable, knowledgeable, accommodating and fun. They'll be calling you by name in no time and are always available to help, whether its navigation details from the captain on the bridge or help with fish identification from the marine biologists.  The only time service is a bit slow is at the start of pre-dinner drinks in the lounge when the two bar staff struggle to fulfil the number of first drinks, especially if there are lots of cocktail orders. Food is of a high standard and the smell of just-baked biscuits as you clamber out of the water tired and hungry is bliss.

Coral Expeditions II was previously Coral Princess II, but underwent a name change along with the company in June 2015, to better reflect the nature of the business, the ships and their exploratory cruise itineraries. An expedition cruise on the Great Barrier Reef is certainly an enriching, rewarding and enjoyable way to experience one of the world's most beautiful natural wonders.

For more details about cabins, dining and things to do, see the separate sections of this review.


Top Coral Expeditions II Itineraries

View All Coral Expeditions II Itineraries (0)

Fellow Passengers

With an itinerary focused on exploring the islands and reefs of Australia's World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, the ship attracts nature-lovers and divers of all ages from across the globe. Australians account for about 30 percent of passengers (more during Australian holiday periods), while the majority of the balance is made up by British, North Americans and Europeans, visiting as part of a Sydney, Rock & Reef itinerary.

While good value, the cruises are not cheap, so passengers tend to be more mature -- 30+ and well-travelled, including active retirees (there are no lifts on the ship so it's not for the mobility-challenged). There are some younger people, including honeymooners, but it is out of the price range of young budget travellers. Families are well represented, including many multi-generational groups during school holiday periods. There's a generous sprinkling of solo travellers who find it easy to mingle with like-minded passengers in the lounge and over dinner.


Coral Expeditions II Dress Code

As this is an expedition cruise ship, formal attire is not required so leave the dinner jackets and stilettos at home. Smart casual apparel is all that's required; more casual during the day and a bit smarter for the evenings.

Given you are changing into your swimwear two to three times a day for snorkelling and diving, quick-change clothes are easiest. It also pays to take several swimsuits if you don't want to be putting on cold, wet swimming costumes after lunch, as they are not allowed in the dining room. With so much time spent in the water, especially snorkelling, sunscreen is essential and a swimming shirt (a T-shirt or rash shirt) is recommended. Hats and sunglasses are important and reef shoes or plastic sandals are handy for beach visits and sneakers for bushwalks.

Even when you smarten up a little for dinner, this is no place for heels. The ship can sway in choppy water and there are narrow stairs between the top deck lounge, where pre-dinner drinks are served, and the dining room on the lower deck.


Free Price Drop Alerts
Get tomorrow's price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Find a Cruise

Coral Expeditions II Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins3.04.4
Dining4.04.8
Entertainment2.04.4
Public Rooms3.04.7
Fitness Recreation2.04.7
Family2.0N/A
Enrichment4.04.8
Service4.04.9
Value For Money3.04.6

Already Booked?

Get to know who you'll be sailing with

More about Coral Expeditions II

Where does Coral Expeditions II sail from?

Coral Expeditions II departs from

Where does Coral Expeditions II sail to?

Coral Expeditions II cruises to

How much does it cost to go on Coral Expeditions II?

Cruises on Coral Expeditions II start from null per person.

Awards and Recognition

Coral Expeditions II Member Reviews

Coral Expeditions II
Richard from Sydney
Sail Date: Jan 2020
No prize for guessing it is Coral Expeditions 7 night Great Barrier Reef Cruise on the Coral Explorer II.... Read More
Coral Expeditions II
helliottcruise
Sail Date: Jul 2019
Our vessel, Coral Expeditions II, also has a glass-bottomed boat, and we had multiple trips daily where the cruise director (also a marine biologist) helped interpret what we were seeing.... Read More
Coral Expeditions II
1000
Sail Date: Mar 2019
The pristine beauty of the fish and coral life on the Great Barrier Reef was the highlight of this cruise.... Read More
Coral Expeditions II
Junebruce1948
Sail Date: Mar 2018
You visit a no. of Coral Sea Islands, learn about the fish and coral on the reef. The food is great with buffet lunch and breakfast with a choice for dinner, including a BBQ and seafood night.... Read More

Coral Expeditions Fleet

Coral Discoverer
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

33 reviews

Fit for adventure seekers, the 72-passenger Coral Discoverer features a purpose-built expedition tender, an onboard scuba diving department and both single and double kayaks.

View All Coral Discoverer Cruises
Coral Expeditions I
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Coral Expeditions I is a small catamaran built for expedition cruising in Australian waters. With just 46 passengers and 10 permanent crew members, the experience is very intimate.

Coral Expeditions II
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Coral Expeditions II was purpose-built for the waters of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and is ideally suited to exploring the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Marine Park.

Coral Adventurer
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

The largest of Coral Expeditions' ships, 120-passenger Coral Adventurer features two tenders, six Zodiacs and all cabins will have views, most with balconies.

Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
Cookie Consent