Travel advisors from the Virtuoso network of travel agencies and executives from luxury resorts, cruise lines and tour companies have descended on Las Vegas for Travel Week. Today, a select group of travel professionals who sold over a million dollars for preferred partners or who had multiple clients in the top 4% of spenders was part of a new invitation-only series of presentations under the banner Ultraluxe.
With big money at stake – last year Virtuoso agencies clocked $26.4 billion in sales – suppliers unveiled the most sought after luxury travel experiences, and Forbes.com was there.
Around the World with Geoffrey Kent: An Inspiring Expedition by Private Jet
While Abercrombie & Kent has run over 50 private jet trips, in 2020 the company’s founder Geoffrey Kent is planning to personally escort this 26-day journey that will take advantage of its private Boeing 757 to visit places that would be hard to reach on commercial airlines.
Don’t worry that some of the places you will be visiting may not have luxury accommodations. “Whatever is missing we bring,” says a company representative. In some cases, it’s quality bed linens. In other cases it’s beds. On this trip Chamba Camp Thiksey in India didn’t have enough luxury tents, so A&K is commissioning nine new ones that will be ready when its group arrives next fall.
You start in Seattle and fly to Kanazawa where you will have a private dining experience with geisha, then after visiting the prison nicknamed “Hanoi Hilton” in Vietnam, you will helicopter to a private yacht for a cruise of Ha Long Bay. In Laos, you’ll be blessed by a monk, then go kayaking and fishing in the Maldives, and you’ll make stops in Eritrea, Benin and remote areas of Brazil before returning to New Orleans for a Mardi Gras-style celebration. Price is $160,000 per person, and the trip is already nearly sold out after going on sale just two weeks ago.
A Private Estate on Lake Como
Dating from 1573, set against the base of a steep mountain, Villa Pliniana offers access by boat and helicopter, and spectacular 180 degrees views of Lake Como. You can play billiards on the same table as Napolean, one of its many famous guests, and so can your friends.
The private resort is only available for full takeovers and its 17 bedrooms spread across several buildings accommodate 34 guests. It’s managed by same owners as nearby Il Sereno and Le Sereno in St. Barts. If you want, the team from Michelin star Ristorante Berton Al Lago will oversee your kitchen.
Because of the layout with different buildings, it’s ideal for smaller groups as well, however, the rate is 20,000 euros per night either way.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
With its first voyage set for February and many sailings already sold out or close to being sold out, getting aboard Ritz-Carlton’s first entry on to the oceans may not be easy.
Tomas Baca-Cruz say unlike most vessels, this one won’t have a home port, but instead will “follow the sun,” moving from Ft. Lauderdale to Barbados, then the Med for the early summer and Baltic region before cruising Atlantic Canada and New England in time for fall foliage, then returning to the warm waters of the Caribbean.
Five of its six suite categories – it’s all suites – will have both walk-in show and separate tub, and all have balconies. There’s no casino or theatre with big stage shows, with performances instead by notable local entertainers in various ports.
Despite only holding 298 guests, there will be 10 different dining experiences, including one designed by Chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg.
Several advisors asked about availability for full ship charters. Sorry, no dates are available until 2021, but in case you want to start planning, budget at least $235,000 per night with a five-night minimum.
Take A Safari, Educate A Child In Africa
For clients where private flights and iced bottles of Dom Perignon are not enough, Micato Safaris delivers trips “that completely remove any stress” said a company official. Voted nine times to Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best list, there is valet laundry service every day, everywhere.
Before you go, you provide your dietary preferences so all your meals will be aligned with what you like, even in the wilds of Africa, and yes, all vehicles have Wi-Fi. For every safari it sells, Micato funds the education for an African child.
Origami Meets Augmented Reality
If you are looking for something beyond the ordinary, Windows to Japan probably has the answer. Working exclusively through travel advisors, it creates one-off experiences around culture, food and craft.
As an example, for one family that wanted to experience the juxtaposition of Japan’s strong traditions and modern technology, the company created an excursion where they learned the art of origami from a family that has been practicing it for more than 700 years before turning their works into an augmented reality app they could share with their friends.
Safari Off The Beaten Path
For those of you who have been there, done that, or aren’t driven to stay in Africa’s many highly regarded and sometimes hard to get a reservation at luxury lodges, Wilderness Safaris specializes in what it calls “the luxury of space and exclusivity.” Some of its camps are limited to as few as six guests at one time.
Explore The World Through Sight, Smell and Taste
While luxury cruise lines often battle each other with famous chefs, Silversea Cruises believes food is about more than a meal, but is rather a gateway to the many exotic places its ships visits. S.A.L.T. stands for Sea And Land Taste and is a new program that includes a dedicated restaurant, bar and kitchen aboard Silver Moon.
Concocted with the direction of former Saveur magazine editor-in-chief and James Beard award winner Adam Sachs, on each voyage and for each port, the local cuisine becomes a window into that place and its people.
Guests will learn about why certain ingredients are used in one place and not another, and how history played a part in various cooking techniques.
You won’t go hungry, after gaining immersion on land, aboard ship you’ll get demonstrations and even learn various techniques from local chefs in the test kitchen, and then dine on locally sourced ingredients and down similarly inspired beverages at the restaurant and bar.
Million Dollar Listing
Luxury Retreats, a villa rental agency that was acquired by Airbnb several years ago, might not be the place you would think about for an ultimate luxury experience. However, executives were showcasing two different private islands – one in the Caribbean and the other in French Polynesia – each which rent for a cool million Euros per week.
You won’t have to rummage through somebody else’s kitchen in any of the over 5,000 villas it lists. Its concierge team will provide anything you want from chefs to massage therapists and even security. “As long as it’s legal, we can do it,” said Chelsea Whipps, who told the advisors it recently was able to arrange for private skiing by buying out a mountain for the day.
Kayaking and Fine Dining in Patagonia
Former investment banker Emmanuel Burgio combines his passion for Latin America and the Med – he’s French and his wife is from Argentina – with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, soft adventure and gourmet dining.
A recent private trip by Blue Parallel included kayaking in Patagonia to a remote beach where guests had a famous chef cook for them. Another trip included biking through Croatia’s wine country before dinner in a villa. Your change of clothes was of course transported and waiting for you so you could shower and freshen up first. “Outdoor adventure, white-glove service and privacy,” he told the advisors.
Tornado Chasing in a Luxury RV
For Excursionist, getting you backstage to meet the cast of Hamilton might be almost run-of-the-mill. In addition to tours of corporate headquarters such as Google and Facebook, or behind the scenes at the Supreme Court, consider glamping in National Park or something it recently pulled off for the CEO of a major company, tornado chasing in a luxury RV with an expert who advised in making the movie Twister.
Firing The Guns of HMS Belfast
London-based Noteworthy specializes in the U.K., Ireland and Paris, and its tricks included getting clients from row viewing for the wedding procession of Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle as they exited St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
With no other royal weddings in sight, don’t just visit the HMS Belfast, the most significant surviving WWII Royal warship, now docked on the Thames in Central London. The destination specialist can arrange for you to actually fire one of its guns and while you’re doing so, they’ll raise your own personal flag to the top of the mast.
Of course, that’s just the start. The company can arrange private visits with many notable figures, you just have to ask discreetly. “We have a very interesting black book of contacts,” said Angela Tupper, creative director.
A VIP Start To Your Australian Odyssey
Most flights from the U.S. to Australia arrive around six o’clock in the morning, and unless you want to pay for the night before, with high occupancy rates at Sydney’s top luxury hotels, chances are you will be snoozing in an armchair in the lobby.
Instead, let One&Only Wolgan Valley pick you up at the airport in a helicopter and whisk you 30 minutes to its rustic location on the Great Dividing Range between the Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone National Park, within the World Heritage-listed Greater Blue Mountains.
The 4,413 sq. ft. Wolgan Villa will give you plenty of space to relax and unwind and work off the jet lag with hikes through the brush, horseback riding, biking, bird watching, a private campfire under the stars, and maybe a trip to its award-winning spa.
James Wyndham, the resort’s general manager says you’ll also be able to skip Sydney’s famous zoo, having seen a good deal of Oz’s famous wildlife while you were unwinding and getting ready for your Down Under adventure.
Let Your Star Shine in Los Angeles
Celebrities who truly don’t want to be seen don’t go through the regular airline terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, they used The Private Suite, a heavily fortified VIP compound on the south side of the airport, located behind several layers of secured walls.
Once inside, you get your own private room with lounge chairs and sofa, full bar, toilet with shower, and where you can arrange a massage. If you need anything, just pick up the phone and somebody will be there in seconds. When it’s time to get on your flight, there is private TSA security on site, and then you are driven privately of course to your flight, where you can choose to either board first or last from the jet bridge so you never enter the terminal.
Arriving, you will be met at the door of your plane and whisked to the Private Suite where your luggage will be brought and loaded into your car while you wait in your private suite, of course.
If you are coming in from overseas, no worries. It has its own immigration and customs officers located onsite. If you live in La La Land and left your car, they will detail it while you are away. And if you want to get some fresh air while you are waiting, there is an outdoor lounge area with fire pits as well as a playground for the youngsters.
Non-members pay $3,500 for up to three people for arrival or departure on a domestic flight and $4,500 for international trips.
Cruise Like James Bond
When Crystal Endeavor launches next August, the expedition yacht from Crystal Cruises will not only feature a team of 22 expedition experts and your typical zodiacs for its 200 guests. She will have a mini-submarine and two helicopters, both of which will come in handy when visiting the Great Barrier Reef.
Of course, there are some restrictions. Mark Spillane, a company executive, said it won’t use the helicopters because of weather when Endeavor visits Antarctica and so far it hasn’t been able to get permissions when she cruises within Russian waters in the Far East.
A Luxury Residence in French Polynesia
To visit The Brando in French Polynesia you have to take a 20-minute flight from Papeete. And while the luxury villas on the sustainable island where Marlon Brando once lived have won shelves of awards, the new 3,000 sq. ft. three-bedroom Brando Residence takes things to the next level providing a full luxury home experience.
There’s even a fourth bedroom for nannies or your own personal chef if that’s how you travel. Don’t worry about mosquitoes or pesticides. The resort releases sterile males and after mating, neither he or she won’t be bothering you to put it politely.
There’s a minimum stay of two night and five nights during the festive season. The nightly rate for the residence starts at 15,000 Euros. Of course, even spa treatments are included.
Making It Happen
While hotels and cruise lines take direct bookings, a number of the destination companies mentioned will only work through travel advisors, the main reason being that putting complex experiences and itineraries together takes both time and effort, so they know when an advisor sends a request, they have a client who is serious instead of just kicking the tires.
Because Virtuoso’s agencies generate billions of dollars in sales, you can also get perks in many cases you wouldn’t if you booked direct. For example, Luxury Retreats gives a $200 concierge credit for reservations via travel agencies, and the price is the same either way. You can find advisors who specialize in anything you might have dreamed about by their areas of expertise here.