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“Amazing Experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Reef Encounter

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Reef Encounter
Certificate of Excellence
Austin, Texas
1 review
“Amazing Experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 January 2012

My husband and I just got back from a trip with reef encounter, it was amazing. Within 15 minutes of getting to the reef we were snorkeling and within an hour we were being briefed on scuba. The entire trip was outstanding. We did opt for the top deck which really paid off because we have individual care, meaning for each snorkel and dive we had our own personal guide Lance who was very professional and helpful. I ended up diving 6 times including a night dive, this was the highlight of the trip. We had such a good time, the only thing we would do different is stay longer (we stayed one night on the boat as we were going to Sydney for NYE).

Room Tip: Top deck cabin comes with many perks the best of which is personal guide during each dive. Also the...
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  • Stayed December 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank ashley e
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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Markham, Canada
Level Contributor
13 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 January 2012

We spent one night on the Reef Encounter in December 2011 and it was fantastic. We were traveling with two children (aged 13 and 10) and it was a highlight for all of us. The staff were incredible - very nice and helpful and knowledgeable. The food was great and there was lots of it. The boat was large and comfortable. The staff were great with the kids and took them on guided snoring tours. My son and I did an introductory scuba dive and the staff were very thorough and safety conscious. The boat visits two to three dive and snorkle sites per day so there is a lot of variety. The snorkling was great! We wished we had booked for more than one night. Highly recommend this!

  • Stayed December 2011, travelled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Leanne C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cairns, Australia
Level Contributor
16 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 January 2012

I spent two days on this boat diving, compared to all my other boat trips this is my opinion:
boat huge, cabins great and everything very comfortable, very nice interior common room etc., really amazing food (except the coffee), including the breakfast, nice personable staff.
However, I found the dive sites to be a bit disappointing because they don't go to those far off with really good visibility because they have to meet the shuttle boat to load up on new passengers. The equipment was ok but some parts could have been better cared for. The staff was personable but to my taste a bit too personable at times, I would have preferred it to be more professional at times. (For example, I had to repeatedly ask for a dive briefing.) As a novice diver just certified, I would have felt a bit left alone, I guess. They have 6 water session each 40 min per day which is really good for snorkelers and scuba beginners but annoyingly short for experienced divers with slow air consumption. I didn't take part in a course but got the impression that open water courses were well taught. The night dive was outstanding!

  • Stayed December 2011, travelled solo
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Helpful?
3 Thank Annana2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Indiana
Level Contributor
31 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 31 December 2011

We spent three days and two night on the Reef Encounter during our recent trip to Australia at the end of September 2011 and were very pleased with the experience!

The on-board accommodations were adequate (as expected on a boat of this size) - clean and serviceable. The food was above average - entrees were tasty and the portions were generous without being wasteful. The exception was the coffee which was poor at best. This was due to the fact they only offered instant coffee (yuk!). The all-important dive equipment was in good repair and well organized. The staff was, in a word, outstanding! They were friendly and ready to offer any assistance. They guided passengers through the daily activities, offering everything from recommendations for the upcoming dive to assistance with entering and exiting the water. It was their customer focused attitude that insured passengers had the best possible experience while on-board.

My husband and I were very pleased with our time on the Reef Encounter and would definitely recommend it to others.

  • Stayed September 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
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Helpful?
Thank EMCIndiana
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Elmhurst, Illinois
Level Contributor
151 reviews
41 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 150 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 December 2011

We have always wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef and so when we made our plans to visit Australia, spending time at the reef was a top priority. We researched a lot of options and found that the Reef Encounter best met our needs of maximizing our time exploring the reef and flexibility in scheduling they offered with daily arrivals and departures.

We decided to book their Top Deck option. Since we are snorkelers, we felt the guide could take us to the really interesting parts of the reef. Little did we know that this decision would make an amazing difference in our experience.

I will try to share information that we hope you will find helpful in planning your trip.

If the option for the Top Deck is available for your vacation, we would highly recommend you take advantage of this opportunity. We normally don’t splurge, but we figured this was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience and we are so glad we did. From the moment we gave our names at the pier to the moment we departed, we received exceptional service from the staff on Reef Encounter. Our assigned guide Mark, a wonderful young man from England, took care of our every need and made this an extremely unique experience – one that we will remember for a lifetime.

Once we boarded the day-tripper boat (Reef Experience), we were whisked upstairs to an air-conditioned room where breakfast awaited. Mark proceeded to give us a run down on what to expect during our stay on Reef Encounter. We also attended the presentation on the marine wildlife which we felt was very informative. The ride out to the reef took about an hour and a half where we were then transferred directly from Reef Experience to Reef Encounter, our home for the next four days/three nights.

Cabin – After our safety briefing we were shown to our room and were delighted with our cabin assignment (cabin 301). The room was more spacious than expected with four large windows, a large bed, tall dresser for hanging clothes, two night stands and a spacious bathroom with stand-up shower and a regular toilet (yeah – and unexpected luxury after our experiences on a catamaran – if you have ever had to pump a toilet you understand the excitement). They also included really nice shampoo, conditioner and soap in the bathroom. We were given incredibly soft towels both for use after swimming and after our showers.

Snorkeling – I think that most people who go out on the boat are geared towards diving, but I have to say we had an amazing time snorkeling the reef. With the Top Deck option your guide goes out with you each time you leave the boat. Mark pointed out several things that I think we would have just swum over if he had not been with us on the lookout, for example a cuttlefish hidden by its colors over the coral and an epaulette shark. He also showed my husband some great underwater coral to swim through – some lasting close to a minute in duration. Hubby was thrilled. Mark also took underwater shots of us which turned out fantastic and gave us the ability to relive our underwater experiences together (normally it is just solo shots). Our favorite picture was of the clown fish in the anemone. We were amazed at the underwater life we were able to see in addition to what we mentioned above – the large wrasse who seems to have a great relationship with the crew members (named Frank) who ate a chicken egg from our hand, white-tipped reef sharks, black-tipped reef sharks, whaler sharks, turtles, puffer fish, angel fish, parrotfish, trigger fish (to name a few) and the incredible variety of vibrant coral which exceeded our expectations. After each session we came out of the water with huge smiles on our faces in awe of what we saw under the water.

Scuba – we were in our room relaxing between snorkels when Mark came up to our room full of excitement. He said that if we were going to try diving we should really consider our upcoming site as Norman Reef was one of the best diving options. His excitement was so infectious that we couldn’t help but try our first scuba experience. We had a safety session with our instructor Simmo, and then it was time to gear up and get in the water. My husband was very comfortable with the scuba gear, but I struggled with the breathing (so used to holding my breath from competitive swimming). I completely panicked while underwater with tank breathing (twice), but with Simmo’s reassurance I was able to give it a go and enjoyed the experience. We went down about thirty feet and swam around some beautiful coral and saw an abundance of fish. We are glad that we took advantage of the experience while we had an opportunity to do so.

Food – one of the reasons why we absolutely loved the Top Deck option is that our dinners were served on the top deck outside the wheel house under the stars. We had an incredible view of the sun setting each night and the location was very romantic. Atmosphere alone would have given this option a 10+++ as we had each meal out under the stars, but the food that Aaron the chef created was phenomenal. We had rack of lamb our first night, kangaroo the second and steak and shrimp on our final night – and each meal was fantastic. And the food presentation was similar to a five star restaurant.

In the morning they served a cold breakfast before the first water session (6:30am) and then a warm breakfast before the second session (at 8:30am). Lunch was served mid-day and they had a nice variety. The presentation and meals were exquisite, more along the lines on what you think would be include on a nice cruise ship.

Service – We cannot say enough to convey the exceptional service we received from Mark. He was always there when we were ready to get in the water, he serviced our room in the mornings and evenings (including chocolates on the beds) and served us our meals. I am sure we would have enjoyed our time on Reef Encounter with the regular package as all staff members were very helpful, but Mark really was an unexpected addition and made this our dream vacation experience.

Safety – the staff on Reef Encounter was extremely safety conscious. Every morning and every evening there was a check to make sure everyone was on board. You also had to check in when you left the boat and then once again when you returned. There were specific water session times - 6:30am, 8:30am, 10:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm and 6:30pm (for the night dive). They also do not let you in the water once you have had any alcohol (and so we enjoyed our complimentary champagne on our way back to port as we did not want to miss out on a moment on the reef).

Weather – overall the weather was okay. Our first day was nice and sunny and so we got some great shots of the coral underwater. The next three days were overcast with some sun and while we definitely would have preferred complete sunshine it was still enough light to enjoy the underwater wonders.

Stingers – we understood November to be the beginning of stinger season but I am happy to report that we did not see one during our entire visit. I was very worried about this as there were warnings in every single thing I read about the reef at this time, but when Mark told us he had only seen one jellyfish so far, we felt safe getting in the water without a wet suit.
All too soon our time at this amazing place came to an end. We packed our bags but were still allowed access to our room until the transfer (which was around 1pm – very nice touch). We transferred to the glass bottom boat which brought us back to Reef Experience to join the second part of the day-trippers’ tour for that day. We were given the opportunity to snorkel on the inner reef on our way back to port but Mark told us that it would pale in comparison to what we saw at the outer reef (which was confirmed by others after they got back on board). So we hung out on board with our new friends and then headed back to port.

Here are a few tips:

1. If you are prone to sea sickness please take the pills before you leave port. There were a lot of passengers on the way out (and several who boarded Reef Encounter when we were leaving) who tossed their cookies right in front of us.

2. We had to stay in a hotel in Cairns the night before so that we could get to the pier at 7:30am. We had a very nice stay at Pullman’s Reef Hotel and Casino (the beds were amazing) and within two blocks of the marina. No cab necessary to get to the port.

3. I know that it is not customary to tip in Australia, but the level of service provided by the crew at Reef Encounter definitely deserved it. We tipped our guide, the dive instructor and the chef based on the outstanding service provided. They were also doing a fundraiser for Movember (fundraiser for prostate cancer ) and the hubby threw in some money as a way of thanks for Tori and the crew.

4. Bring a rash guard if you are prone to sunburn (t-shirt made of swimsuit material). This helped block the sun and is not harmful to the reef as suntan lotion can be.

5. We brought our own snorkel equipment, but thought they provided very nice equipment for those who did not. There are containers at the back of the boat on the third level where you can store your gear and a nice warm shower for cleaning off after you get out of the water.

6. Take advantage of all the water sessions they offer. After all the time in the water everyone seemed quite tired at the end of the day and there was very little going on at night.

7. When you book the trip, you are immediately charged for the entire amount. For non-Australia travelers, timing may be an issue based on the exchange rate.
The folks at Reef Encounter were fantastic but if we were to offer advice we would suggest they improve their pre-trip communications. We were coming all the way from the US and had a bunch of questions that never got answered via numerous emails prior to our trip (information we needed that was not on the website).

If you have read along this far in the review, we have to imagine that you are hooked. A big thanks goes out to the crew of Reef Encounter

Please feel free to contact us with any questions – and have an amazing vacation! We hope you enjoy your experience as much as we did!

Room Tip: Top Deck waw a wonderful expereince and cabin 301 was fantastic. This larger room had views both ov...
See more room tips
  • Stayed November 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Gordo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Minnesota
Level Contributor
120 reviews
46 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 82 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 December 2011

Book this trip now. It is fantastic. The crew is wonderful. The snorkeling (we don't scuba) is beautiful and you'll be amazed at all the gorgeous coral and fish. Even the food is good. They take care of you on this boat and safety is a top priority. They get to know your name and overall just want you to have a good time. Book today - you won't regret it for a minute!

  • Stayed November 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank GuyAndGalOnTheMove
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
27 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 21 December 2011

It was my second time on the boat and it appears that all the chefs they have on board are fantastic. All meals on board were the best meals ever!

I have to make special mention to Lucy, the dive master who brought me down for a dive and showed me the wonderful underwater world. She really is an awesome dive master who is passionate about what she does.

I had a previous bad experience with diving but had worked up enough determination to try it again. Lucy made it really easy as she explained things clearly and precisely and also took every step to ensure the diver feels safe and secure.

On that dive, I saw a shark really close by and tons of other cool creatures in the reef. WICKED! is what they would signal underwater haha!

Besides Lucy, there are many other fantastic crew on board like Tori, Aaron and I'm sure many more who are friendly, sweet and really nice people. Together, they made the Encounter an awesome one!

I recommend this boat to all snorkelers and divers out there who want to see the Great Barrier Reef. It's good value for money considering the number of dives you can do whilst on the boat and not to mention the sun set/rise you get to see on the reef. Beats going on a day trip if you ask me!

Depending on the weather, we got to visit many reefs this time. Norman, Saxon, Hastings, Breaking Patches!!! As with all things nature, it does involve a bit of luck but for everything else within control, Encounter takes it to the top :)

  • Stayed December 2011, travelled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Angela_K09
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Reef Encounter

Property: Reef Encounter
Address: 100 Abbott St, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia
Phone Number:
Region: Australia > Queensland > Cairns Region > Cairns
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Restaurant Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 85 Speciality Lodging in Cairns
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:4 star — Reef Encounter 4*
Number of rooms: 52
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Reef Encounter,Great Barrier Reef, Cairns Liveaboard is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef’s floating luxury boutique hotel. Spend one night or several nights on one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Transfers departing from Cairns, Queensland daily, offering guests a unique opportunity to enjoy the ultimate reef experience. Enjoy the sunsets, relax, snorkel or scuba dive the crystal clear blue waters. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Reef Encounter Hotel Great Barrier Reef

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