While the world's largest cruise ships languish at anchor, the only Australian-flagged and crewed ocean-going fleet sailing our waters, Coral Expeditions, is powering ahead with fresh itineraries - and now a new investor.
The NRMA has taken a stake in the five-vessel line that has been quietly sailing out of Cairns in Queensland, much to the delight of its loyal fans.
The investment will give Coral Expeditions access to the NRMA's 2.8 million membership base, and its expanding tourism holdings, from caravan parks to services such as the Manly Fast Ferry and whale-watching vessels.
The deal will also mean Coral can expand at a time when its vessels are in high demand.
"This investment will support Coral Expeditions in growing its operational footprint into the future," said a statement from both parties.
The 35-year-old line has an all-new ocean-going fleet featuring the intimate blue-water vessel Coral Discoverer and the brand-new flagship Coral Adventurer.
Coral Geographer, sister ship to Coral Adventurer, arrives in March - just in time for the Kimberley season. There will be three Coral ships there for an extended period.
Coral is already sailing the Barrier Reef and expands into South Australia later this month and into Tasmania in October.
"After the implementation of its SailSAFE plan and new flexible booking options, Coral Expeditions has completed its twelfth successful voyage with the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmanian seasons starting since October," says the company.
"In the current environment, the company is focused on meeting surging domestic demand, with its Australian-flagged and crewed ships exploring the Australian coastline while complying with relevant health regulations."
Coral Expeditions' commercial director, Jeff Gillies, told Explore the line's vision is to "continue to build our fleet of world class expedition vessels, expand our geographic destination of sailing schedules in time for post-COVID and also to increase our distribution network".
He added The Kimberley demand remains strong despite the climate, but having deployed three ships on an extended the season, the line still has some cabins available.
"At present there remains some anxiety around safety, but more so around predictability of border restrictions and being caught out by hotspots that develop," said Mr Gillies.
Paul Chacko, executive director of Coral Expeditions, commented: "We began discussions with NRMA last year and were struck by the fit between both organisations. Both have long-term planning horizons, a guest and member-focused culture, and significant customer demographic overlap."
Rachel Wiseman, chief investment officer of NRMA, commented: "Coral Expeditions is an Australian flagged expedition cruising business offering Australians an opportunity to safely discover their region, through a small group, premium experience. We are excited for the opportunity this provides for our members and Australians more broadly to enjoy the incredible experiences Coral offers.
"There has never been a time when Australian domestic tourism has been more important."
Explore more: www.coralexpeditions.com
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