by Elizabeth Hansen
We travel for lots of reasons ó and usually meeting new people is one of them. However, there are times when this isnít the case.
My friend Jack thought it would be fun to
share his 75th birthday with family and friends, so he invited
them to join him on a cruise in the Mediterranean — and
he chartered the whole ship. This alternative provided privacy
for his party and set the stage for an event that few of us
will ever forget.
“Alone together” is also a good
policy when planning a family reunion. Mixing multi-generations
of far-flung relatives
is sufficiently challenging without having to deal with the
presence of total strangers.
So what are the alternatives
for assuring privacy without sacrificing luxury? Happily,
they are many. Read on.
Jack and his family chose a seven-day
Seabourn cruise because they were familiar with the ships
and confident that the
suites and service would be top notch. Size is the other
makes Seabourn a good choice for chartering. The line’s
Pride, Spirit, and Legend — each offer 104 staterooms
for a maximum guest complement of 208.
When a ship is chartered,
the host can customize the itinerary and plan special shore
excursions and onboard programs.
All Seabourn cruises include open bar, open seating at
ocean view suites, and freedom from tipping, but in the
case of a
charter, special theme nights, menus, and entertainment
can also be arranged.
For instance, one of the Seabourn
ships has been chartered for a week this summer by someone
who’s celebrating his
60th birthday and his just-achieved Ph.D. in Italian.
His guests will be family members, favorite professors, and
And the itinerary? Italian ports, of course. What his
friends don’t know is that he’s arranged a shore
excursion to the beautiful Hotel San Pietro in Positano where
will enjoy an exclusive Rod Stewart concert. (More costly,
way, than the week’s charter of the ship.)
is another plus of chartering. High-profile folks like
the controlled environment where everyone
can be carefully screened. Given this fact, it’s
not surprising that cruise ships are becoming increasingly
If you like the idea of a shipboard celebration
or family reunion, but would prefer a more intimate setting
to home, American
Safari Cruises (ASC) has three yachts available for charter.
Safari Quest accommodates 22 guests, and Safari Spirit
and Safari Escape each offer six staterooms for up to
These elegantly appointed yachts cruise
the Sea of Cortés
from December to April and travel the Alaskan coast
from May to September. They also offer excursions in the
(including Washington’s San Juan Islands) on
the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and through the California
Because of their size, itineraries are
guests have access to ports that have never seen a
In Alaska, for instance, the Safari Quest anchors in
a dramatic fiord one night and in a remote fishing
village the next.
coves can be explored by kayak or inflatable launch.
forest walks, whale watching, and the chance to visit
with local residents are other popular aspects of these
The attentive staff, excellent meals,
and upscale facilities of Safari Quest have attracted Warren
Gates, and William Randolph Hearst III, who cruised
coast and waterways with their families. Chuck Norris
is another former guest. The Young Presidents Organization
has chartered the yachts on three occasions.
folks, like other guests, have all requested special meals,
itineraries, and services — one of the most memorable
being the group of seven bankers who chartered
the Safari Quest in Alaska a few years ago. When they learned
remote location precluded TV reception of a pro
football game they wanted to watch, ASC arranged for a float
them up and fly them to a B&B near Glacier
Bay National Park. Here, the bankers enjoyed refreshments
and watched the
game on a big screen while the plane waited and
flew them all back to the yacht.
Then there was
the guest who had a habit of shaving while singing
along with Italian arias. He wondered
if it was
pipe his favorite opera music into his stateroom
at a certain time each morning. It was, and they
So you like the idea of an exclusive excursion,
not keen on boats? How about hiring the most beautiful
private railcar in North America? Last summer husband
Richard and I
traveled across Montana in the Bella Vista, a fully
restored 1956 dome car owned by Rail Ventures,
Inc. We slept in a comfortable
queen-size bed and spent the day admiring glorious
scenery through the curved-glass windows of the
vista dome. The traditional
feel here — created by polished teak woodwork,
mahogany tables, brass fittings, and seats covered
in rich upholstery — transported
us to another, grander era.
How do I know that
the Bella Vista is the most beautiful? Because
our itinerary overlapped with
that of AAPRO — the American
Association of Private Railcar Owners — and
I had an opportunity to tour the best of the best.
It didn’t take long to
conclude that none was restored to the impeccable
standard of the Bella Vista (and only the BV offers
and all lower beds — no bunks).
railcar can be attached to any Amtrak train in
the U.S. or any Via Rail train in Canada,
providing a private and luxurious setting for a
Gourmet meals and an open bar are included in the
cost of chartering, as are a chef and porter to
In fact, we were so well looked
after on the Bella Vista that I started to feel
like royalty. When
Chef Seth learned
Twinings Earl Grey, he jumped off the train in
the next town and bought a tin. He also prepared
meals — huge
grilled prawns with fresh asparagus, medallions
of elk with a currant
demi-glaze, Idaho red trout served with Columbia-Crest
Grand Estates Chardonnay — and all artistically
For his part, dear Elton — the
porter — waited
on us night and day, ran DVDs on the flat screen
in the dome car after dinner, and welcomed us back
to the train with huckleberry
champagne every time we went for a walk.
parties, a second private railcar can be attached.
The Yerba Buena also sleeps eight — in
a combination of upper and lower beds. This provided
just enough space for
Steve Straun, CEO of Straun Explorations in Denver.
For the last two summers, he’s flown his
extended family of 16 to Sandpoint, Idaho by private
jet, then boarded the train
for the two-day trip to Livingston, Montana. Along
the way, three generations enjoy each other and
the 360-degree view
of majestic scenery from the vista dome.
client leased the cars to take a group of sports
fans to the Super Bowl, but what I think
be fun would
be to gather friends and take the train up the
coast to San Francisco. In addition to providing
can serve as a hotel at destination.
But what if
you don’t want your party to be a movable
feast? Hotels are never quite right for hosting
special occasions and even resorts are sometimes a little
best is to invite nearest and dearest to your
home — or
maybe one of the 200-plus homes you have access
to as a member of Exclusive Resorts.
club is causing owners of multiple homes to re-think their
options. Why tie up capital
two or three
endure the hassle involved with managing them
when, as a member of Exclusive Resorts, you could
residences around the world every time you want
I haven’t seen all 200-plus homes,
but I have toured one of the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath
residences in Trump
International Hotel & Tower in New York.
This impressive home-away-from-home enjoys a
view of Central Park and offers
tasteful furnishings, a state-of-the-art stereo
and flat-screen TV, access to the hotel’s
spa and fitness facilities, and room service
from Nougatine — Jean-Georges’ hip
eatery on the lobby level. The concierge can
stock the kitchen or guests can make their own
choices from Whole Foods just
steps away on Columbus Circle. For non-members,
the published rate for this suite life is $1,725
I’ve also visited the Exclusive
at Montage, the spectacular oceanfront resort
that opened in Laguna Beach two years ago. This
home is one of 14 adjacent
to the hotel with its beach access, three restaurants,
full-service spa, fitness center and lap pool,
attractive shops, and fully-furnished
cabanas next to a picturesque mosaic-bottom pool.
fact, my visit to the villa unexpectedly overlapped
with the arrival of members Dr. Jim Lee and Wolfgang
and I was happy to have a chance to chat with
them while they decorated the residence for the
next day’s Christmas
Like — I suspect — many members,
Lee and Möckel
were first attracted to Exclusive Resorts because
it provides cost-effective access to The World — the
floating community of 165 luxurious apartments
some residences on this ship can be rented, most
are owner-occupied, so the fact that Exclusive
Resorts owns five was a big plus.
“We’ve planned all our trips for the next two years,” Lee
told me, and then he rattled off a list that
included Snowmass, New York, three voyages on The World, Puerto Vallarta, and
“The house in France is five bedrooms,” Möckel
we won’t have trouble finding friends to
Having a place large enough for
friends and family is a big selling point for
this private residence
have four bedrooms, which accommodate multi-generation
and special occasion celebrations. Another big
plus: a concierge to provide turnkey convenience
In the case of the Montage, Mary Jo Goodman helped
organize the party and coordinate catering from
Like the staff on the Seabourn ships,
of Safari Quest, Safari Spirit, and Safari Escape,
and porter on
the Bella Vista, the concierge of the villa at
Montage makes it possible for guests to spend
with the people
they know and love the most.
I can’t think
of a better reason for traveling.
Chartering a Seabourn ship saves about 50 percent
off the published per-person rate. The all-inclusive
ranges from $75,000 to $95,000 a day. Group
rates for up to 40 suites are also available. 800/929-9391
all-inclusive charter of the Safari Quest in
Alaska costs about $95,000-$126,000 a week.
and Safari Spirit cost from $52,000 to $78,000.
Private air travel can be arranged to your
point of embarkation.
Full railcar charter runs
about $5,000 a day for a group of eight. This includes limousine
transfers to and from the train, two onboard staff, and all
Members of Exclusive
Resorts pay an initial deposit of $375,000 (80 percent is
(for 30-60 stay-days a year). Access is guaranteed
anywhere, anytime to the entire portfolio
of homes (worth an average
$2.5 million each) with 90-day advance notice.
Guests may stay one night or up to two consecutive
800/447-8988 or www.exclusiveresorts.com.
Elizabeth Hansen is the travel editor
of Ranch & Coast.
She loves planning and attending get-togethers
with her large, extended family. When not traveling, she and
Richard Adams are at home in La Jolla.