Learn about the back story of Cruisers Yachts here...The 300 Express is the smallest boat in Cruisers lineup that extends to 56’ (17 m). But does the same quality of workmanship go into this boat or is it the neglected stepchild? Cinderella Complex?
For starters, let’s address the first question. Yes it is the smallest boat in the Cruisers catalog, but when we stepped aboard, it was self evident that this was not the neglected stepchild one might expect. Certainly, the company executives were quick to point out that “the same quality that goes into the 560 goes into this boat,” but what else would they say? However, once you step aboard and see it for yourself, you quickly become a believer that you’re still getting quality, even in the smallest boat. The Transition
Which brings us to why this size is so popular. There are a lot of boats smaller than this and a lot of boaters that own them. When the 2-foot rule kicks in (you always need a boat 2-feet bigger than the one you own) and it comes time to move away from the bowrider or small pocket cruiser and into an actual weekender/cruiser, then yes, this is a good size to transition to. The next step is for you to get into the layout and start nitpicking what makes one boat better than the other, so let’s step aboard and start picking away. Attention Aft
The 300 Express is boarded from the swim platform and it’s large, roomy, and molded into the hull. Yes, this adds to the 31’3” (9.5 m) LOA, but keep in mind that we’ve seen others that have a tiny platform and offer an “extended swim platform” as optional. No such option is offered, or needed here. The re-boarding ladder is four-step, and we’ve heard enough of how our test captains feel about that (“beats three steps any day”). Notice the aft cleats raised above the “trip zone.” The cockpit refrigerator is an option, and notice the swim ladder is just outside the transom door so anyone using it is visible from the helm.
The transom door opens inward, and we like that: When it’s closed, there’s a built in protection from falling into it and having it open outward by accident. We think all transom doors should open inward for that reason alone. There is also a step up into the cockpit which will keep that following wave from washing onto the cockpit when you pull back on the throttles quickly.
Once inside, the cockpit is laid out in the usual fashion with wrap-around seating to starboard, sink to port. The tables have lower pedestals to form a sunpad, and we like the removable cooler under the sink. There is an option for a cockpit refrigerator or icemaker, but having a cooler that you can load at home and bring aboard beats a small refrigerator all day. Helm Deck
Moving forward, the port side has the now obligatory lounger, great for conversing with the captain or watching the wake shrinking in the distance. The helm features a double wide seat, and it’s never a bad idea to have a second set of eyes facing forward. The 300 helm is also where the long list of standard features, that are usually on other manufacturer’s options lists, starts becoming apparent. Cruisers calls this an “ergonomic” helm, but we’d rather see the engine controls mounted at a more level angle.
Items such as a compass, Raymarine Ray55 VHF, a digital depth finder, a Garmin GPSMAP 292C chartplotter, dual hour meters (often not even offered on others), an anchor windlass and a remotely controlled spotlight…. all standard.
Not necessarily remarkable for being standard, but notable nonetheless, are the Faria gauges with chrome bezels, power assist steering and electro-hydraulic trim tabs. And we couldn’t help but notice that there are sacrificial zincs on the tabs. Down Below
Moving down below, a trademark Cruisers Yachts feature comes into play… 6’3” (1.9 m) of headroom. Couple that with the boat’s 10’ (3.0 m) beam and any claustrophobic tendencies are out the window. This 300 Express layout lends itself nicely to four people spending a weekend onboard.
The roominess is helped along with the crescent shaped sofa that doesn’t extend into the salon as far as a typical C-shaped one would. This limits the seating a bit but that is supplemented with the spacious aft settee in the mid-cabin. We’ve always found these spaces abaft the salon to be much more conducive to intimate gathering, especially when the boat is being “weekended” by two couples. Naturally this aft settee converts into a double berth, making comfortable accommodations for those two couples or a family of four. For comfort, there’s the standard 10,000 BTU heat/ac (yes… standard). The salon is completely carpeted and gloss wood finish is used throughout. Notice the open storage spaces above the crescent settee. The galley features additional hardwood finish that complements the rest of the cabin. Portlights add natural light into the living spaces. A full sized forward berth has ample storage in full length shelves. Two reading lights can be pivoted for use as indirect light. While we like the use of this after settee for a convenient gathering area, the ability to convert it into a second berth also has its appeal. Note the privacy curtain at left. Optional Extras
So if the 300 Express is so long on standards, what is left as options? The fact is… not much. There are a few essentials however. We love, and recommend the look of, synthetic teak decking. It’s low maintenance and Cruisers makes it available for the cockpit deck and swim platform. The cockpit refer/icemaker we’ve already decided to leave off the boat. There is a privacy curtain to close off the bow. By eliminating the bulkhead, Cruisers has opened up the space.
If you are the type to spend nights on the hook, then you might want to consider a generator to allow your standard heat/ac to do its thing. There are four offered, two gas and two diesel, in a 4kw or 5kw version.
Then there are power choices. Cruisers has aligned themselves with the good folks at Volvo Penta and you can have a pair of gas 4.3L 225-hp in either raw or freshwater cooled versions, or opt up to 270-hp 5.0L with the same cooling choices. Finally you can go with a 160-hp D3 diesel, which frankly, can only be justified if you live overseas, where the price of fuel dictates if you are fortunate enough to cruise so extensively that the added cost will be offset by the lower fuel burn, so much the better. The 300 Express weighs 10,300 lbs. (4,672 kgs.) dry.Performance
We tested the 300 Express with twin 4.3L engines and recorded a WOT speed of 39.7 mph (34.5 knots). Best cruise was at 4,000 rpms where the boat traveled at 28.4 mph (24.7 knots). Click on the "Test Results" tab at the top of the page to see the complete test results.
Which brings us back to where we started. Is this a good transitional boat? Clearly, the size is manageable to anyone moving up and she can be easily operated by just a couple of people, so we’d have to say a resounding yes. But more to the point, Cruisers Yachts has added so much value for the money, that the 300 Express deserves a place on your short list. Then it’s just a matter of stepping aboard and getting a test ride to do the final convincing for you.