Share this article

APT quite literally 'raises the bar' on new luxury river cruise ships

At an APT media lunch at Sydney’s Park Hyatt hotel, the Australian family-owned travel company shared details of its new luxury river ships, including news of an industry-first, hydraulic bar.

At an APT media lunch at Sydney’s Park Hyatt hotel, the Australian family-owned travel company shared details of its new luxury river ships, including news of an industry-first, hydraulic bar.

A private dining room of Park Hyatt Sydney, overlooking the Sydney Opera House, was a fitting venue for APT to showcase its new fleet of luxury river cruise ships and to announce an exciting new ‘elevated’ dining experience. 

The event was hosted by Lou Tandy, APT Travel Company Co-Owner and Director; David Cox, CEO; Jason Shugg, Chief Marketing Officer; and Scott Ellis, General Manager of Sales. 

David Cox addressed the group of media, explaining more about the APT ethos and its current position in the market. 

“Who we are, I would argue, has been a quiet achiever for 97 years. We are Australia’s largest cruise and tour operator, and have been for some time. We don’t generally get out there and shout out about that, we’ve gone quietly about our business. We always want to remember that we are 100 per cent Australian owned and we are family owned – and that is different to the vast majority of our competitors,” said Cox.

Owner's Suite on Ostara Solara by APT.
Owner’s Suite on Ostara and Solara by APT.

Cox continued: “We know our customers, we create great products, we innovate and we don’t stand still… we evolve and that has been the key to our success. I’m very pleased to say that we’re back. We’ve had a kind of semi-hiatus for some time and we’ve been pretty quiet but we’re back now. This year will be our best year since 2017, the best results. We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes but we’re actually seeing the results now that come from that.”

“We are in growth mode and we’re actually really lifting the level of the APT luxury brand. Over the last four years we’ve launched a new Mekong river ship for APT. We’re about to launch a new ship on the Douro. On the rivers, we have the newest, most luxurious ships of anybody at this point in time. You can never own that forever, but right now we do – so we want to get that message across,” he said.

Conversation pit on Ostara and Solara in Europe.

Cox also spoke of APT’s recent investment for its Australian product with new vehicles and camps, its partnership with Seabourn, and the new, upcoming Murray River paddle steamer which, he said, the market has responded well to. 

Investment is also being made into redesigning the APT website this year, its main “shop front”, according to Cox, with a “broad range of products and such a lot of stories to tell,” he said. 

Jason Shugg moderated a panel to share more about the APT story and the new class of river ships. The panel included Lou Tandy and Scott Ellis from APT; award-winning Melbourne architect Paul Hecker from Hecker Guthrie Design; and hospitality specialist designer, Monique Lane, Founder of Fellow Hospitality.

Lou Tandy spoke to the APT customer being largely from Australia. 

“Now that sets us apart immediately from everybody else in the river cruising industry. The river cruising industry is dominated by players from the northern hemisphere. The market tends to be Americans, those from the UK, and to a lesser extent, Germany. We’re from the southern hemisphere and Australians travel differently. We’ve got the opportunity to now design products specifically for Australians, and that has been a really key and core part of the impetus behind this entire project,” she said. 

“We looked at the sector and we said you know what? We think that the design of the infrastructure and the hospitality experience in food and beverage can be elevated. Here is our opportunity. And how do we do that for an Australian customer? That’s why we got Hecker Guthrie involved,” said Tandy.

Annie’s Table restaurant on APT’s Ostara and Solara ships.

Paul Hecker from the design team Hecker Guthrie welcomed Lou Tandy’s brief to throw out all the pre-conceived ideas about what a ship should be. 

“We wanted to bring something that was about being elevated, stylish, and quiet luxury. I would like to think that because we understand how to create quiet luxury. It’s not about trying to always keep up with the Joneses. It’s about being in your own lane, doing what you do really well, and fundamentally, knowing in your heart of hearts that what you’ve got is a great product. I think from our perspective, that’s the way we approached it,” said Hecker. 

Scott Ellis, General Manager of Sales, added that the trade has been “completely blown away”.

“I think what we’ve seen in recent years is that there’s been a huge amount of innovation and investment on the oceans. This has been the first of its category on the rivers. The attitude for agents is that they’re just so thrilled to see that it’s not a cookie cutter approach, and it has been something that is really tailored and bespoke to the Australian market,” said Ellis. 

“It’s of a calibre and quality that we have not previously seen and there’s a real focus on the Australian market which is really important. For me, that’s a lot around the restaurants. As Lou said earlier, ships that have been built for the North American market have been designed with one or two restaurants – where the US market is going for seven-night cruises and that would be suffice,” said Ellis. 

“But we’re very, very different here in Australia. We’ve got a 14-night itinerary where our guests would not enjoy having 45 meals in a row in the same restaurant! So what we’re able to offer is six unbelievable specialty restaurants where it can feel as though you’re dining in Sydney – with choice and quality cuisine at every dining experience. From a trade perspective, they’ve welcomed it,” said Ellis.

The new class of ships

APT Gruner-Bar-&-Dining-Ostara-Solara_1000x648
The hydraulic Grüner Bar & Dining on Ostara and Solara, an industry first.

The Grüner Bar & Dining venue concept was announced at the event.

It features a state-of-the-art hydraulic system that will raise the entire venue from its location on deck three to the upper Sun Deck for 360- degree vistas. When docked, the Grüner Bar will retain its views of wherever the ship is docked. 

“That whole venue lifts and becomes level with the Sun Deck and actually opens out on the Sun Deck,” said David Cox. 

Sun deck on Solara and Ostara_APT
Sun deck on Solara and Ostara.

The ships will feature seven distinct dining venues for guests – including The Owner’s Cellar, Grüner Bar & Dining, Bistro Saison, The Salon, the Daystar Deck or Annie’s Table (named in honour of Lou Tandy’s mum, Anne). 

Guests will be able to choose from regionally inspired cuisine crafted from local ingredients.

APT event at Park Hyatt Sydney. Credit: Katrina Holden
APT event at Park Hyatt Sydney. Credit: Katrina Holden

For more information, visit