Coral Expeditions has announced changes to its April-May 2021 Kimberley and Northern Australia sailings following a notification sent to cruise lines by Australia’s Northern Territory government.
The Australian expedition cruise line said the changes affect itineraries onboard the Coral Adventurer and Coral Geographer – due to their bigger size and capacity – while the sailings onboard the Coral Discoverer remain unaffected.
The new directions from the government mean that ships that carry more than 100 people in total – including both guests and crew – can’t use Darwin Port, which is the traditional port for Kimberley region sailings.
“(T)he vessel Coral Discoverer, which has a capacity of 72 passengers and operates with 23 crew, will be able to meet this new directive and will operate her season across the Kimberley and Cape York as scheduled between Broome and Darwin. There will be no change to the scheduling of Coral Discoverer,” Coral Expeditions wrote in its travel update.
“(F)or our vessels the Coral Adventurer and the Coral Geographer, it will not be possible for them to call on the Port of Darwin whilst the 100-person capacity limit remains a part of the principles. As a result, we have made some changes to our sailing schedule for April and May for these two vessels, and we are working with all affected passengers and travel partners in communicating this,” the cruise line added.
Coral Expeditions decided to switch the embarkation and disembarkation point to the Port of Broome for sailings operating in April and May 2021. Those passengers who have already made travel arrangements for Darwin Port will have an option of getting on a charter flight between Darwin and Broome for an additional fee of $300. The charter flights have been organized by the cruise line and are “entirely optional but will ensure travelers can continue their planned itineraries with minimal disruption,” the cruise line said. They will be timed according to the scheduled ship movement.
Coral Expeditions added that it decided not to consider making changes to the sailings after May 2021 at this stage, as it hopes that the regulations will change.
“We will continue our dialogue with authorities in the Northern Territory and are hopeful that we will be able to see some progress in the coming months that may allow our Australian flagged small vessels to operate with 99 passengers plus crew as is the case across all states of Australia and in line with the federal Biosecurity legislations. As soon as we are able, we will revert to our usual scheduling pattern once again,” the expedition cruise line said.
Guests and travel partners whose voyages are affected by the changes will be contacted by Coral Expeditions to communicate the situation and possible options.
The government’s notification included other requirements for cruise lines, which Coral Expeditions said it’ll be able to meet.