There couldn’t have been a more fitting setting for the Tuesday 8 August Signature Luxury Travel & Style inaugural Cruise Awards Presentation Lunch than Sails on Lavender Bay. The sun-filled McMahons Point restaurant, nestled on the edge of Sydney Harbour, was buzzing with Australian representatives from the world’s finest luxury cruise lines. They were all celebrating their recent wins in the Best-of-the-Best Luxury Cruise Awards 2017, which were announced in the Winter edition of LATTE‘s sister publication, Signature Luxury Travel & Style. Taittinger on arrival added to the celebratory mood.
Founder, CEO & Group Editor, Cathy Wagstaff, delivered the opening remarks, commending all winners for their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. MC and TV personality Andrew Daddo entertained the crowd with his personal tales of cruising and luxury travel (or rather, its opposite). The awards were judged by a panel of 10 respected luxury travel advisors, and we were honoured to have some of these judges attending the lunch to announce the winners across seven categories: Large Ships, Small Ships, Boutique Ships, Tall Ships, River Ships, Expedition: Luxury and Expedition: Four-star ship, five-star experience.
Joel Katz, Managing Director of CLIA Australasia, set the scene, with extraordinary figures from CLIA’s latest report on ocean cruising. In 2016, the industry grew 21 per cent to see 1.28 million Australians setting sail on an ocean cruise. Judges handing out awards added their own comments and experiences of the cruising boom, including Claudia Rossi Hudson from Mary Rossi Travel, Phil Hoffmann AM from Phil Hoffmann Travel (who generously flew up from Adelaide to attend), Jo Gostin from FBI Travel, Justine Sealey from Ramsgate Travel Service, and Carissa Johnson from Spencer Group of Companies (on behalf of Penny Spencer).
Taking out first place in each category were:
- Large Ships (751-2500+ passengers): Oceania Cruises (Marina and Riviera)
- Small Ships (251-750 passengers): Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Boutique Ships (50-250 passengers): Crystal Yacht Cruises
- Tall Ships: Ponant
- River Ships: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
- Expedition: Luxury: Ponant
- Expedition: Four-star ship, five-star experience: Lindblad Expeditions
Between the presentation of the awards, guests feasted on a choice of seared scallops, Byron Bay Berkshire pork belly and comté fondue for entrée; pink snapper, Bannockburn chicken breast or Cape Grim beef tenderloin for main; with an exquisite selection of desserts, including rum baba, white and dark chocolate terrine, and a cheese plate. The 2016 Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc from Nelson, NZ and the 2012 Flowstone Cabernet Sauvignon Touriga from Margaret River served as the perfect complement.
As Australia’s first accolades dedicated solely to the luxury segment of cruising, the Cruise Awards were hailed by attendees as a resounding success, with the distinguished panellists bringing authority and expertise to the voting process.