South Coast Register

Aussie demand for luxury and adventure drives investment by travel pioneer

A render of the new APT Solara river ship debuting in 2025. Picture supplied.
A render of the new APT Solara river ship debuting in 2025. Picture supplied.

This is branded content for APT Travel Group.

As Australian travellers demand more luxury and unique experiences, David Cox is working furiously to deliver, whether it's travel on land, sea or in the air.

The CEO of leading Australian travel company APT Travel Group - which is fast approaching its 100 year anniversary in 2027 - is leading his team on a major new era of innovation and expansion.

The family-owned travel giant is heavily investing globally to continue to develop more high-end travel options designed specially for Australians - including building its own luxury small river ships.

At the same time, it's increasing its collaboration with other luxury travel leaders to continue to elevate the cruising experience for its customers.

"APT has been in the travel sector for the long game, the 100-year game." Mr Cox said.

"During COVID we were all about preparing for when we came out. It's the way the business has always operated, investing and innovating to ensure we stay ahead. And always focused on exceeding expectations."

APT Travel Group CEO David Cox onboard the Mekong Serenity. Picture supplied
APT Travel Group CEO David Cox onboard the Mekong Serenity. Picture supplied

APT's growth focus comes as Australians' passion for travel continues to boom, particularly cruising. One in four Australians will go on a cruise this year, according to research from the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia with figures more than tripling since last year.

River cruising, the smaller sister of ocean cruising, is a particular growth sector, with its appeal of travel in smaller luxury vessels navigating close to shore providing a unique way to experience some of the world's most iconic destinations.

Australian-made and designed

One of the leaders in the river cruising sector, APT is on a mission to elevate the experience even further for its guests. Its launch next year of two wholly Australian-designed luxury river ships in Europe is a milestone APT is particularly proud of, said Mr Cox.

With almost 20 years of experience operating river boat cruises on Europe's great rivers in chartered ships, creating its own vessels is a significant new step for APT.

"Our new Solara and Ostara ships will set a new standard in luxury on Europe's waterways," Mr Cox said. "We're expanding on our already large range of luxury experiences by building more of our own product from the ground up,"

Designed by Melbourne-based firm Hecker Guthrie, each of the new ships will carry only 154 guests on board, serviced by 60 dedicated crew.

Six world-class dining options including the main restaurant, an intimate wine cellar, a relaxing conservatory, casual dining, and exclusive aft restaurant, and rooftop dining. Of course, there's also the option to dine in in your own suite.

Onboard APT's Mekong Serenity. Picture supplied
Onboard APT's Mekong Serenity. Picture supplied

The arrival of the European ships follows the launch last year of APT's brand new 88-passenger Mekong Serenity sailing Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as the imminent launch of purpose-built, 114-passenger MS Estrela, which will cruise the Douro River in Portugal. It's due to commence operation for the northern hemisphere summer.

Ultra-luxury expansion

The investment in the river ships is part of APT's "quiet expansion" over the last few years after the upheaval of COVID pandemic.

Mr Cox said the company had used the time during the pandemic to develop ideas for even more exciting ways for Australians to explore both the world, as well as where the business began - in our own backyard.

Besides the new ship builds, APT has invested strongly in its experiences at home, particularly in the Kimberley region, as well as in the ocean cruising sector.

The company has spent more than $15 million upgrading its luxury wilderness lodges in the Kimberley with the Mitchell Falls Lodge now providing high-end glamping to match the stunning wilderness location.

"We've also worked with Mercedes Benz on four brand new custom-built expedition trucks so our customers can further experience pure luxury in one of the world's harshest terrains," said Mr Cox.

"The investment ensures APT stays close to its roots as the company that pioneered outback travel and continues to be the leader in the region whether it's by air, land or sea. It's been 60 years since Geoff McGeary introduced outback travel for Australians keen to explore the vast interior."

The Seabourn Venture takes luxury cruising to a new level. Picture supplied.
The Seabourn Venture takes luxury cruising to a new level. Picture supplied.

APT's mission to help its customers experience the pinnacle of luxurious cruising is also part of its newly announced partnership with Seabourn, the leader in ultra-luxury travel and expedition travel.

Under the partnership, APT will charter two of Seabourn's luxurious small ship expedition vessels, Seaborn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit to destinations including the Kimberley, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, the Faroe Islands, and the UK and in 2025.

"The collaboration represents a significant milestone for both companies," said Mr Cox. "We're excited to embark on the journey with Seabourn to create unforgettable travel experiences for our guests.

"It brings together APT's near century of touring expertise with Seabourn's reputation for delivering extraordinary luxury at sea."

  • To find out more about APT's itineraries visit or contact your APT Travel Expert on 1300 336 932.