With three intimate ships, Coral Expeditions and its ownership group in Kallang Capital Holdings like what they are seeing in the expedition cruise market.
“We have grown every year, and this will be the biggest year ever,” said Paul Chacko, managing director.
Kallang Capital Holdings took over the ownership in 2014 and Chacko said revenue has been growing on an annual basis.
Does that mean a capacity increase is coming for the cruise company that carries around 5,000 guests annually? “I can’t say anything at this point, but we have a loyal guest base, we know these parts of the world and at the same time, we know what we are good at.”
Unique Cruise Program
The Cairns-based operation is good at intimate voyages to wild areas: the Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberly, a growing Tasmania program and an evolving Papua New Guinea deployment.
The trio of ships, the Coral Expeditions I, Coral Expeditions II and Coral Discoverer, are unique in their Australian flag operational profile. Any expansion would have to come under the Australian flag as well, noted Chacko.
“We have to be careful with what we do in regards to capacity growth,” he continued, adding that any new tonnage would need to be developed for the brand, as opposed to chartering an existing vessel or already-planned newbuild.
The company’s revenue has been growing with increasing demand based primarily on a word-of-mouth passenger base out of Australia. That is being taken to the next level, with increased marketing activities and a push to source North Americans.
“We’ve been around for 33 years, we don’t make one off moves,” Chacko told Cruise Industry News in an interview.
Changes are coming in Tasmania, where the company is swapping in its biggest ship, the 72-passenger Coral Discoverer, for a three month season.
“We can take the ships into parts of Tasmania that large ships cannot get to. And, because they are Australian-flagged we are able to do some unique things.”
There are also new voyages in Papua New Guinea taking guests up the Sepik River
“We are bringing people into unseen Papua New Guinea. Our ships have the draft and expedition capabilities to do that. We are doing a series of these expeditions in January.”
The company’s three Australian-built ships are highlighted by a unique tendering system that allows them to land all guests ashore in under 20 minutes. Recent investments have seen a big-budget refurbishment program become part of the company’s ongoing strategy.
“Our guests are not looking for traditional luxury,” Chacko said. “They are looking for a high level of personalization and the ability to interact with the crew. We have an open bridge policy. All the excursions are included in the cruise fare. The small size of the ship is the greatest luxury.”
Offering a self-described Australian atmosphere aboard and unique itineraries on small ships with a focus on personal interaction, Coral has developed its own unique niche within a niche.
More awareness in the market is helping drive the expedition cruise business.
“I’m glad the expedition cruise market is expanding,” Chacko said. “For decades it’s been about big ship cruising and now the small ship product is getting its moment in the sun.”
As for the surging overall cruise orderbook and expedition segment of it, Chacko said it remains to be seen what a sustainable base of growth for small ship cruising would look like for the greater expedition industry.
“We’re not looking to do anything dramatic, it’s been a gradual evolution. Our clientele is evolving with their expectations and we are changing in line with that. Because of our high repeat rate, we listen to our customer requirements very carefully. We offer a high level of interaction and engagement.”