London - When money’s no object, the world is your oyster – whether you want to sail the high seas in a super-yacht or go beachcombing on your own private island.
If you’ve got the cash to splash, a private jet is the only way to travel. Everyone’s getting in on the act.
Four Seasons (fourseasons.com) has linked up with Noma for a three-week world cuisine scene private jet expedition next May, from Seoul to Paris via Tokyo, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Mumbai, Florence, Lisbon and Copenhagen, starting at a mere $135 000 (about R1.8-million) per person. Aman (aman.com), meanwhile, has just jetted some of its guests off in two eight-seater planes on a 17-day jaunt around China, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka, bedding down in eight Aman hotels along the way – for $63 888 per person.
Even Crystal Cruises (crystalcruises.co.uk) is taking to the skies next year in its own personalised Boeing 777-200LR (Crystal AirCruises) kitted out with all the hi-tech gizmos (including a live cockpit-to-ground listening channel) a bar and duvet and topper-topped flat-beds for the 84 well-heeled passengers.
It’s easy to see the appeal, of course. Who wouldn’t swap a packed charter flight for a private charter and a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Some private jet journeys even come with a get-out-of-jail-free card for those with global warming qualms. andBeyond (andbeyond.com) is launching three African expeditions in 2017 travelling by private jet, turbo-prop fixed wing aircraft and helicopter to access tricky to reach locations in the bush. But it’s offset the footprint, guaranteeing carbon-neutral itineraries.
You get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the conservation work, plus you’re helping to save the planet as you hang out of a helicopter to catch a cheetah-chase. The 15-day Southern Africa and Beyond adventure spans South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe for up to six guests costing $75 000 per person.
My own private paradise
Private islands are also big news among the mega-rich. Richard Branson’s is in the Caribbean (virginlimitededition.com), his sister’s is in Scotland (eileanshona.com), the late Marlon Brando’s is in French Polynesia... Brando fell in love with Tetiaroa while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in 1960. He bought the atoll of tiny islands surrounding a lagoon to preserve its beauty and biodiversity. The Brando (thebrando.com) is now a private island resort with 35 secluded villas and a pioneering model of sustainable technology. Rates start from €2 400 a night all-inclusive for a two-person villa (minimum three-night stay).
Privacy is (usually) guaranteed of course. If you’re worried about being papped, on Velaa (velaaprivateisland.com), a fantasy island in the Maldives, they guarantee no snooping snappers. It’s a drone-free zone. To hire the whole island costs $1m a night for a minimum of four nights – yes, it’s expensive, but you do get breakfast thrown in. The resort even has its own mini-submarine.
A new definition of barefoot luxury: prising oysters from the rocks on the beach of your Indian Ocean idyll while someone waits on the sand with the Tabasco and lemon juice. Just one of the highlights on the coral reef-ringed private island owned by Swedish philanthropists Dan and Christin Oloffsson – designed, apparently, while with the Kennedys on Cape Cod.
Thanda Island (thandaisland.com) off Tanzania was completed this year and is eight hectares of tropical paradise. The five-suite villa comes with an outdoor copper roll-top tub – and an indoor aquarium. There’s a Steinway grand piano and a recently discovered “sunken city” dating back to 50AD to explore. It’s off-grid, solar-powered and marine-conservation-active and yours for an all-inclusive, fully-staffed rate of $10 000 a night for a double, with a minimum stay of three to seven nights, depending on the season. Includes boat transfers, all activities and house wines.
Gone in sixty seconds
It’s never been easier to get a taste of the high life – or life in the fast lane. Check into the Reverie Saigon’s (thereveriesaigon.com) top suite at $12 000 a night (yes, the mini-bar’s complimentary) and you’ll be picked up at the airport in a Rolls Royce Phantom.
Too staid? Tuscan estate Castello di Casole’s (castellodicasole.com) Ferrari Experience includes an early morning test drive with the Ferrari team before you’re let loose on your way to roar through Chianti to Siena to visit the private museum of one the Palio’s jockeys and do a few laps of a racetrack. The four-night stay starts from €4,400 including breakfast.
Exclusivity is a key requirement of ultra-luxe travel. Ileana von Hirsch, founder of UltraVilla (ultravilla.com) says, “Clients at this level don’t want to stay somewhere everyone has access to; they are looking for haute couture as opposed to pret a porter. What we saw a need for was a Bond Street of the vacation world.” And there are plenty of companies out there only to eager to satisfy the demand.
Join the super-yacht set
Tired of life – or maybe just in need of a couple of days swanning around the French Riviera. Knightsbridge boutique hotel The Wellesley (thewellesley.co.uk) has acquired a 56m super-yacht so that guests could do just that. With its glamorous Art Deco interiors, the yacht mirrors the hotel’s 1920s style, each individually designed bathroom clad in marble from Italy’s Carrera region.
MY The Wellesley’s (mythewellesley.com) 12 staff pamper up to a dozen guests as they soak in the hot tub, enjoy a massage on deck, or curl up to watch a film in the outdoor cinema. There are jet skis, water skis and diving equipment, while for the moguls onboard there’s even a smoking deck, a humidor stocked with Cuba’s finest and fiery Cognac. The cost? A snip at €240 000 full-board per week.
Break out the Champers
For their VVIPs, Grape Escapes (grapeescapes.net) has been nurturing relationships with the world’s most exclusive wineries, normally closed to the public, such as Mouton-Rothschild in the Médoc and Dom Pérignon in Champagne. Tailor-made experiences include blending your own Champagne or wine, which is then aged in the estate’s cellar. A two-night trip to Bordeaux includes Rolls Royce Phantom airport transfers, a three-Michelin-starred dinner in Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant, a private helicopter tour of the region’s vineyards and private tastings at three Grand Cru Classé estates – including Château Pape-Clement in Pessac-Léognan (the Graves appellation) where guests will stay in a suite in the magnificent private quarters. It costs from £2 497 per person.
To the slopes
This year’s hottest new opening on the slopes is Alpine ski chalet meets boutique hotel Blumen Haus Lech (blumenhauslech.com), launching December 1. Designed by Reinhard Strasser, the nine no-expense-spared super-suites have been furnished by Italian studio Minotti. The high-tech stuff includes iPad wall activations and Revox sound systems. The contemporary artworks will change regularly to create a rolling gallery. Add a spa, infinity pool, steam room, two saunas, state-of-the-art gym and hypoxic chamber for high-altitude training. The flowing champagne is Pol Roger; the chef, Barbara Mairhoffer, trained with Gordon Ramsay. The price? From around £2 000 per suite per night full-board, including a welcome bottle of Pol Roger Rose, Indigo skis & poles, champagne afternoon tea, 24-hour concierge and transport in resort.
Behind the scenes at the museum
It’s described as a money-can’t-buy experience – but it can; €5 500, to be precise. That princely sum secures you the VIP Art Package at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris (leroyalmonceau.com). Not only does the hotel have a private art gallery, cinema, art bookshop and dedicated Art Concierge, but on this two-night break guests gain private access to the Grand Palais’ exhibitions on Tuesdays when the museum is closed to the general public, along with a gourmet lunch in the gallery. The package also includes breakfast, two spa treatments and car transfers.