This week, Coral Expeditions "restarted" cruising with its yacht-like Coral Discoverer on a week-long sailing to remote reefs and isles within the Great Barrier Reef.
Forty-six passengers—all Australians and mostly Queensland residents—sailed from Cairns on the first of a new series of seven-night "Outerknown Adventures of the Great Barrier Reef," expeditions. During these small-ship cruises, small groups of guests will not only explore remote locations within the reef area but also have a connection with reef conservation efforts.
Months of Planning
Coral Expeditions said the departure marks the culmination of months of preparation, effort and initiative by its team, which partnered with medical expert Dr. Ian Norton from Respond Global to develop the line's "SailSAFE Plan."
Mark Fifield, group general manager, Coral Expeditions, said in an announcement that the resumption of cruising is a "major milestone" and "we hope that our successful return to operations gives confidence to travelers and authorities that small-ship expedition cruising with a local Australian operator is a logical and prudent point of a restart for the marine expedition industry."
This cruising program has been approved by all Australian state and territory governments, and is based on rigorous safety principles that create a "travel bubble" for guests and crew. Core elements include pre-boarding screening, an onboard mitigation process and authorized response control.
The company also emphasized that its Australian flag status, small guest count on its vessels and the all-Australian policy for guests who board (as well as crew who serve them) is creating "peace of mind" for consumers.
From a cruise industry perspective, Joel Katz, managing director, Australasia, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said that "Coral Discoverer’s first departure shows how a carefully controlled operation with strict health protocols in place can help revive tourism in Queensland and Australia, while at the same time keeping a focus on safety as the highest priority."
Katz called the cruise "an important step forward for Australian tourism" and said it will help bring confidence as the industry works toward recovery.