All in all, I rate the Derwent Hunter as a good day out. There are a few issues, but given the age of the ship and the conditions that it has to deal with, you have to expect some people to get a bit grumpy about the day.
The food, staff and general condition of the ship and the equipment, including the toilets are first rate, however, the seating is not luxurious and you do struggle a little to keep out of the sun, which at 3pm can be blistering. I suggest that if you want a comfortable perch, you take a padded mat of some sort. What dosn't help the space issue is the number of guests and the fact that some ignorant people insist on lying prostrate over several seating positions. Our trip on Boxing Day was fully booked and did get a little cosey at times. The Derwent Hunter is a converted fishing boat cum racing yacht, not a luxury cruise liner or pleasure boat.
On our trip, the sea was mill pond flat with absolutly no wind so we had to motor all the way to the islands and 90% of the way back, just using the sails for about 15 minutes to see if they would work. The crew actually admitted that they hoist the sails more for shade than power. This is not the fault of the ship, no wind is an issue you will have to take up with a higher being than the captain. I can understand people being miffed by this, especially if you wanted to sail, but wind is wind, or not, as the case may be.
Due to using the engine, time on the reef was limited and because it was so hot, the wildlife was limited to a few fish. We did not get time to walk on the islands and snorkle, you really had to pick one or the other. We had no issue with the shuttle, it dropped you on the beach, you grabbed a foam noodle and off you went. A noodle is essential, even if you are an Olympic swimmer. It gives you bouyancy and saves you energy so you can fin round more of the reef. I am a diver and having previously dived the reef off Cairns, I thought that the coral on this trip was much better and more colourfull than Cairns.
We took a couple of litres of our own water so didn't have to buy any, but I do agree that a captive audiance should be given some free water, even just tap from a cooler like they do on many other trips in Australia. Water in this part of the world is a necessity not a luxury. Beer and pop are totally different issues, you want it, you pay, no problem. The same goes for sea sick pills. If you suffer, buy some before you set sail, lots of chemists in town, in short, be prepared.
The wierdest thing of the whole day was the bus trip to the boat. On booking from the UK, I was told that the bus trip from Marina Shores was essential as it was too far to walk. We waited 45 minutes for the bus as it was late, we got on, it struggled to do a 5 point turn on our drive and then went up the hill, turned left, down the hill and stopped in the marina that we could see from the bus stop??? The night before, we had walked further to the Sorrento restaurant for dinner.
I would reccommend this trip, but bear in mind that the weather, hot/cold/rain/wind/sun etc, will have a huge effect on your day, be prepared.