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Australia’s Underwater Hotel: A Night in the Great Barrier Reef at Cruise Whitsundays Reefsuites.

Feb. 8th, 2021

Sleeping with the Fishes sounds like a line from the Sopranos and surely not something that any of us would want to personally experience.  However, in this case, it is something completely different and refers to a once in a lifetime chance to sleep under the sea surrounded by Australia’s greatest treasure. The Reefsuites, from Cruise Whitsundays offer guests a submerged hotel room with a surreal view into the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. Bada Bing!

Australia is a country filled with unmatched gifts of nature from the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree, to the vast desert scrublands of the Outback and, endless miles of coastline as it is after all the world’s largest island. Australia’s most famous natural treasure is the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world, with over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands. The reef is massive; 1430 miles long and 133,000 square miles, equal in size to Japan, Italy, or Germany. 

In the middle of the Great Barrier Reef chain are a string of 74 islands,  and one of Australia’s most popular tourism destinations, the Whitsundays. This is Australia’s tropical playground with boats at every turn, mountainous islands with remote coves and private beaches, and of course the Great Barrier Reef as its main attraction.  

The Reefsuites are located on the Reefworld which is a floating three-story pontoon in Hardy Reef, 40 nautical miles from the coastal town of Airlie Beach. Hardy Reef is a mile and a half stretch of pristine coral reef bursting with underwater wildlife from extraordinary coral formations to the giant neon clams, green sea turtles, and all manner of fish. There are numerous ways to experience the barrier reef from scuba to snorkel and glass-bottom boats.

The Reefsuites and Reefworld are owned by Cruise Whitsundays that operates high-speed ferries that bring holidaymakers around the islands as well as offers several top-rated excursions. To get to the Reefworld, guests depart from the Airlie Beach Marina for a three-hour scenic tour on their high-speed catamaran ferry with a few island stops along the way.   

On board are daytrippers out for a half-day Reefworld excursion who then leave at 3 pm. The journey terminates at the Reefworld pontoon, a massive three-story seaside play station where guests dive into a day of snorkeling, glass-bottom boat tours, and for the more serious divers, a scuba experience unlike no other in the world.

The Reefsuites are one of the most exclusive and unusual hotels in the world. For many of us, this will be the most exotic room in which we have ever spent the night. The overnight stay gives guests a front-row seat into a mesmerizing underwater realm of the Great Barrier Reef while submerged 10’ under the sea.

There are only two underwater suites with all of the amenities one would expect in a five-star accommodation with a plush king-size bed, contemporary furnishings and design, and an ultra-modern bathroom with a shower. One could compare the accommodations to at a cabin on a uber-luxurious cruise ship.

What guests will never forget is the feeling of being in a sort of reverse aquarium where instead of the fish being in a tank, we are in the ocean’s tank looking out.  A wall of windows is all that separates guests and the sea where every moment shows a variety of fish and wildlife passing by. There are viewing panels on the floor as well, so you walk over the fish swimming below. Even the bathroom’s walls are floor-to-ceiling windows so as you shower the sea is never far away.

No matter where you look there’s always something that beguiles; schools of shimmering minnows fish pass by only interrupted by larger more ominous ones.  As the sun sets the pace quickens as this is their feeding time and smaller fish scramble so as not to be in the line of sight of a school of ominous trevallies looking to satiate their appetite.  At night and blue neon light shines into the dark sea, drawing fish close. Guests must make the difficult choice between falling to sleep or staying awake to watch the dazzling sea life performance before them.

These waters are designated green zones meaning that no fishing of any type is allowed so the underwater life is abundant and preserved for future generations. Expect to see shimmering minnows in formations that dart one way and then shapeshift going in another direction. Purple surgeonfish, yellow-tailed fusiliers, damsels, and a beautiful black and yellow angelfish picking at the algae near your window. The school of trevallies is riveting as well as the appearance of the area’s largest inhabitant, George, a giant 15-year-old Queensland grouper, six-foot-long weighing over 130 kilos, and well known to the ship’s crew.

As there are only two suites, it is the most exclusive and sought-after accommodation in Whitsundays. For guests looking to enjoy the reef overnight in a different way, Cruise Whitsundays offers their Reefsleep which are 12 sleeping pods on the top deck. The fully covered queen-sized elevated bed doubles as a day bed or a bed for sleeping at night. Inside the spacious area is a bed and headboard light and fan. At night and unzipped, the Reefsleep offers a view of a sea of stars as the sounds of the ocean breeze lulls guests to sleep. 

Beyond the unforgettable accommodations, guests enjoy fine dining cuisine prepared by highly skilled gourmet chefs. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner are included in the stay.   

After the daytrippers depart at 3 pm, the massive ship is reserved for an exclusive group of passengers. The feel is a combination of a luxury resort at sea or a first-class cruise ship especially as guests enjoy high tea in the afternoon, canapes before dinner. Dinner is first class on the pontoon’s upper deck with a sophisticated menu of international dishes served with haute presentation.  Beyond that, the setting is romantic as couples dine alfresco and under the moonlight night on seafood and meat dishes well paired with regional wines.  

As hard as it may be to peel yourself away from your room, there are other activities and ways to enjoy the reef for overnight guests. The Reefsuite and Reefsleep guests enjoy exclusive snorkeling experiences and scuba diving is an option as well. Underwater voyeurs can expect to see staghorn coral, humphead wrasse, giant clams,  manta rays, and green turtles. Guests may also choose to see the reef via a private guided snorkeling tour or semi-submarine tour.

A stay in the Reefsuites is a bucket-list experience like no other. Cruising through the tropical paradise of Whitsundays and then partaking in the undersea adventures of the Great Barrier Reef is nothing short of thrilling. Indulging in gourmet dining at sea and returning to a bedroom with a non-stop view of fascinating marine life is a memory that one will never forget. Simply put, there’s just no place on earth like the Reefsuites by Cruise Whitsundays.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 105 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)