The Golden Age of Cruising

The world of ocean travel has never been more buoyant. Here’s how to pick the perfect trip, and experience the romance of the seas in authentic luxury.

By Lee Tulloch 21/03/2024

The exhausted cliché is that cruises are full of nauseating honeymooners taking selfies against a never-changing sea, and silver-haired couples with cashmere sweaters casually tied around their shoulders smugly clinking champagne glasses against a dazzling sunset. 

According to the international Cruise Lines Industry Association, an estimated 36 million passengers will embark on cruises in 2024—and, of course, not all of them fit the time-worn stereotype. Some people love it so much they go multiple times; 85 percent of passengers who have cruised would do so again. 

The industry will tell you there’s a cruise for every kind of person. And to a large degree, that’s true, unless you’re phobic about water or hate dining with strangers. Cruises can effectively be divided into four camps: mass-market, luxury, ultra-luxury, and meh. A voyage might be a family adventure on Royal Caribbean’s newly launched Icon of the Seas, which carries 7,600 passengers and looks like someone has sawn off a funfair from land and set it free on the ocean. Or it might be a week-long sail on Satori, a hand-crafted solid-mahogany-and-teak schooner with private chef and spa therapist on board that you’ve chartered with nine friends on a jaunt down the coast of Tuscany. 

Somewhere in between there are over 300 ships and thousands of itineraries to choose from each year, sailing to every corner of the globe, with expedition cruises to the extremities—the North Pole and Antarctica—being the hot ticket right now.

You can cruise through the fjords of Norway and view the northern lights from Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen, watching the ice melt and crumble, knowing there most certainly won’t be the same amount next time you meander by. Or you can hop around  the Mediterranean or down the Adriatic on Silversea’s Silver Ray, never without a finely crafted, locally inspired cocktail swooshing in your hand. 

Exploring Baltic Norway aboard Oceania Vista renowned for its gourmet cuisine among other things.

Then there are the river ships, which offer a slower kind of cruise, usually with fewer passengers. If you’re thinking of embarking on one of those this year, beware that many itineraries are elastic with the use of the word “luxury”. 

Important stuff to know… 

Small is beautiful. Ships carrying less than 1,000 or so passengers tread more lightly on destinations, not disgorging so many people onto the streets at once. There’s an emphasis on small-group land tours and travelling individually. Expedition ships have even fewer passengers and a higher price point. Cunard is the exception, as its 2,000-plus passenger ships have an upper class, the Princess or Queen’s Grills, with larger suites, dedicated butler service and exclusive use of facilities, isolating  you from the guests downstairs. 

Lunch beside Alaskan glaciers on Le Soléal.

Listen to the experts. On the superior cruises, expect talks and enrichment lectures from a range of interesting sorts (famous writers, respected journalists, esteemed historians etc), and performances by accomplished musicians. Silversea is particularly good at this. On its Silver Shadow vessel many years ago, I bonded with a group of Hollywood actors and writers who had been invited on board to give lectures —we ignored the shore excursions and hit the South American bars together. 

Upskill while you chill.  Perhaps you’d like to learn Italian or  the finer points of wine appreciation?
Even the smallest cruise ships have a daily program of activities, the best of them stimulating, inventive and unforgettable. The smaller the ship, the more intimate and tailored the experience. Who knew that Estonia had a champion salmon-smoker who looked like a jolly gnome? I do now —I met him last year on a culinary excursion with the chef from Regent’s Seven Seas Splendor. And his smoky smoked salmon was the best I’d ever tasted. 

Menus are stellar. The world’s top chefs oversee some very fine restaurants, such as The Grill by Michelin-starred chef  Thomas Keller on Seabourn, or Umi Uma by Nobu Matsuhisa on Crystal Cruises’ Serenity and Symphony. And there’s no six-week wait for a table, as on land. Elsewhere, foodies praise Oceania Cruises for its cuisine, so you might think about a voyage on Oceania Vista, which has 12 dining options and a cooking school. 

Everyone’s going wild. Most cruise lines do expedition sailings now, but some are just more immersed in the destination. For polar regions and other remote destinations, Aurora Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions and 130-year-old Hurtigruten Expeditions have been doing this for a very long time—great if you like science-based and environmentally sensitive voyages. That said, for ultra- luxury it’s hard to beat Ponant’s PC2 Polar Class Le Commandant Charcot, built with new technology that allows it to go deeper into the polar regions. Done out in swank polar white, it features an Alain Ducasse restaurant and thermal baths.

Enjoying the view form the EOS ORBIT sauna courtesy of French cruise line Ponant.

It’s not all smooth sailing. Cruising under sail can be thrilling and there are some beautiful yachts at sea now. Ponant’s original vessel, Le Ponant, is a 32-passenger schooner interior-designed in nautical French chic—the first sailing ship to be granted the Relais & Châteaux label—that can be hailed in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. Last year, I sailed on it through the Kimberley with 10 passengers and 34 friendly sailors—what could be bad about that? Also try Windstar’s four- masted, recently refreshed sailing yachts, Wind Surf, Wind Star and Wind Spirit.

Style matters. Most ships look the same, give or take a chandelier, marble staircase or artwork or two. That is, except for Silversea’s new Nova-class ships, Silver Nova and Silver Ray, which have redesigned the classic layout to have the swimming pool along one side. Each ship is so chic, it feels like the Amalfi Coast on rudders. If you like sleek Scandi design, you might feel at home on Viking Vela, which comes with a Nordic spa and snow grotto. 

There are floating hotels, literally. Not content with giving five- star service on land, luxury hotel chains are getting in on the act. Four Seasons is planning invitation-only cruises on a fleet of gorgeous new 95-suite motor yachts, first launching in 2025. In the meantime, Four Seasons Explorer, an exclusive- use catamaran, takes keen divers to the Micronesian island of Palau. By 2025, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will have three superyachts at sea, the newest being Luminara, with five restaurants, six bars and a wine vault for 452 guests. 

Owner’s suites reign supreme. There exists a celestial level above mere suites and residences—owner’s suites and grand suites. Owner’s suites are often reserved for just that, the cruise lines’ owners or top executives, but are made available to guests when free. Expect enormous terraces, private whirlpools or plunge pools, dining rooms, saunas and treatment rooms, expensive beds, even a grand piano in some. A word to the wise—the top suites are always reserved first, sometimes years ahead, so don’t dally.

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Greek Epic
Immerse yourself in local tradition around the heavenly Cyclades Isles here.

Into the Deep

Above and below water, Scenic’s Antarctic adventure is visceral and unreal in equal measure, continue the journey here


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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.


Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time


Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!


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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.


This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.


Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively;

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