luxury

Travel

James Taylor Takes to the Queen Mary 2

James Taylor Takes to the <em>Queen Mary 2</em>
Cunard Line

Five-time Grammy Award–winner James Taylor is taking to the high seas next summer aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 for a pair of concerts during the ship’s eight-day transatlantic journey from New York to Southampton, England, via Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“We always aim to create a one-of-a-kind ambience onboard our ships,” says David Dingle, CEO of Cunard. “So having the rare chance to get up close and personal with a legendary musician like James Taylor is exactly the kind of experience that we love to bring to our guests.”

Tickets for the cruise (August 27 to September 4; from $1,698) officially go on sale December 19; members of the luxury travel agency Virtuoso (virtuoso.com) can book ahead through December 18.

Considered the most magnificent ocean liner ever built, the sophisticated ship features onboard amenities like five swimming pools, a Canyon Ranch spa, six dining options (chief among them chef Todd English’s award-winning restaurant), a planetarium and highly personalized service. How sweet it is, indeed. 800-728-6273; cunard.com.

A Full-Service Escape to Anguilla

A Full-Service Escape to Anguilla
Courtesy of Ani Villas

This time of year often centers on excellent gifts and plans to spend time with family and friends. An exclusive beach escape to Anguilla—a partnership between Àni Villas and Moët Hennessy—offers the ultimate combination of the two.

The retreat for up to 14 guests (available now through 2014) includes round-trip private-jet service, a weeklong stay in a pair of five-bedroom villas overlooking Anguilla’s Little Bay, a custom list of Champagnes and wines curated by a Moët Hennessy Champagne expert and exceptional dining experiences designed by a private chef. (For example, the Rosé Sunset Cruise, a jaunt by sailboat to a private island for a freshly caught seafood dinner, is paired with Ruinart Rosé Champagne and select Cloudy Bay and Numanthia vintages.)

“Guests at Àni Villas are discerning travelers who value high-end unique experiences,” says general manager Felix Pina. “As a result, we wanted to find a way to complement their villa experience with luxury indulgences prior, during and after their stay.”

The estate values privacy and features infinity pools, indoor and outdoor dining options and a full-service team—from concierges to butlers to. Guests can enjoy a tennis court, a full gym, mountain bikes and paddleboards, as well as yoga and a variety of spa services. Add in your favorite people and it’s one lovely package to put at the top of your wish list. From $250,000; 264-497-7888 (ask for Ira Bloom); dreams@anivillas.com; anivillas.com.

The Ultimate $1.5 Million Gift

The Ultimate $1.5 Million Gift
Courtesy of Abercrombie and Kent

Forget what you know about traveling the world in 80 days and its medley of challenges. Passport to the World, the newest collaboration between private-jet company Flexjet and award-winning travel outfitter Abercrombie & Kent, offers adventurers a premier opportunity to circumnavigate the globe by private jet.

The 14-day itinerary takes up to eight people aboard a dedicated Challenger 605 aircraft, stopping in seven celebrated cities. The setup allows guests to travel with just their intimate group (versus people they don’t know) and to leave on dates that work best with their schedules instead of pre-planned departures.

In Japan, shop stores in the Nishi-Umeda district of Osaka and dine at Kyoto’s Michelin three-star restaurant Arashiyama Kitcho. In China, learn tai chi from a resident master at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and cruise Hong Kong’s famed Victoria Harbor at sunset. India brings the Taj Mahal in Agra; a private tour of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum marks Turkey; and Paris offers after-hours access to the Louvre.

“One-of-a-kind travel experiences are the new luxury,” says Flexjet president Deanna White. “We’ve created a turnkey solution to an incredible private-jet experience our owners would never be able to plan on their own. There is no limit to the unique offerings we can craft.” From $1.5 million; 800-554-7016; abercrombiekent.com.

The Ultimate Grand Tour of Europe

The Ultimate Grand Tour of Europe
Dorchester Collection

The Dorchester Collection is bringing back the exhilaration of the journey with its Ultimate Grand Tour of Europe: a 12-day trip through London, Paris, Geneva, Milan and Rome by way of one cultural highlight after another.

Taking inspiration from the original Grand Tourists, who explored these same cities in search of art, history and culture in the 18th century, this modern-day incarnation retraces the footsteps of curious British aristocrats while adding a contemporary spin of its own.

Highlights from the highly ambitious itinerary include stays at all five Dorchester hotels: Le Meurice, in Paris; Hotel Principe di Savoia, in Milan; Hotel Eden, in Rome; Le Richemond, in Geneva; and the Dorchester, in London. Private, expert-led tours of the British Museum, the Louvre and La Scala Opera House (plus a private viewing of da Vinci’s The Last Supper in Milan) mingle with wine tastings, high teas and châteaux visits.

Michelin-starred dining is courtesy of chefs like Alain Ducasse and Fabio Ciervo, and transport is by helicopter, Eurostar, Mercedes, Maserati and vintage Citroën—proving that getting there (wherever it may be) really is half the fun. Price upon request; 44-18/2975-1038; grand-tourist.com.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Trips by Private Jet

Around the World by Private Jet
Courtesy of Intrav

When Linda Wischmeyer, president of the private-jet company Intrav, is asked what surprises people most about the brand of flying she deals in, her answer is simple. “That this type of bespoke, first-class, around-the-world travel even exists,” she says.

Intrav’s itineraries for 2014 and 2015 do sound nearly too good to be true. Its inaugural Timeless Destinations trip (April 7–May 1, 2014 or September 8–October 2, 2014; from $99,950) focuses on eight destinations—including Rio de Janeiro, Bora Bora and Istanbul—and is a classic around-the-world journey that recalls a style of travel that really hasn’t been experienced in decades.

Other expeditions include an African journey (February 26–March 21, 2015; from $65,950) through the likes of Madagascar, Marrakech and Tanzania, and a Seven Wonders trip around the globe (January 31–February 24, 2015; from $109,950) that touches down in Bali; Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu, Peru; Easter Island, Chile; Fes, Morocco; Sri Lanka; Rwanda and the north or south island of New Zealand. Getting there really is half the fun, thanks to no fatiguing connections and Intrav’s custom-designed Boeing 757-200ER. Big enough for 50 passengers, the plane is flush with details like 180-degree flat-bed seats throughout the cabin, in-flight WiFi, an on-board chef and caterer and an open bar.

“Intrav recognizes that people are seeking highly personalized experiences that leave them with enriching memories long after their bags are unpacked,” says Wischmeyer. “We offer more than a trip. It’s a transcendent journey that leaves an indelible memory.” Call for prices; 206-209-5770; intravjet.com.

A Retreat in Thailand's Similan Islands

A Retreat in Thailand’s Similan Islands
Courtesy of Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Though located just 50 miles from the tourist crowds of Phuket, Thailand’s Similan Islands might as well be in another universe. The nine isles, clustered off the Phang Nga coast in the cerulean waters of the Andaman Sea, have been protected as a national preserve for more than 30 years. They are as unspoiled as the nearby coast is overrun.

Given their much-hyped aquatic scenery (the reefs are routinely listed among the world’s top snorkeling and diving destinations) and dearth of on-island lodgings (there are none, apart from a few dozen bungalows that the National Park Service maintains for overnight travelers), the islands are explored best by boat. And though group-tour cruises and private charters abound, one live-aboard excursion stands out: the new Similan Island Escape, which Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve launched in October.

Up to six guests at a time can experience the weeklong trip, which starts with a three-night stay at one of the property’s luxe Royal Beach Villas, each with an infinity pool, 24-hour butler service and access to Thai massages and herbal infusions at the resort’s ESPA spa. A transfer by private helicopter to Phuket connects with a luxury yacht, which then embarks for three days of sea exploration.

Once guests are aboard, the bespoke adventure begins. Island outings include hikes among dramatic boulder formations like Sailing Boat Rock on Koh Similan, picnics and swims at secluded white-sand beaches on Koh Huyong and Koh Tachai and guided snorkeling and diving excursions with whale sharks (near Koh Bon) and giant manta rays (near Koh Hin Pousar).

The one drawback? The yacht is comfy enough that guests may need a push from the crew to abandon ship. Available through April; six nights, from $25,000; 111 Moo 3 Nongthalay, Muang, Krabi; 66-7/562-8111; ritzcarlton.com.

T. Anthony Luggage Goes Old School

T. Anthony Luggage Goes Old-School
Jason Acton

T. Anthony, designer of handmade luggage, has teamed up with The Chatwal hotel (130 W. 44th St.; 212-764-6200; thechatwalny.com) for a limited-edition, five-piece canvas travel set called The Chatwal Collection. The pieces ($1,000–$1,525), meant to capture the feel of 1920s ocean-liner travel, include two suitcases, a hatbox, a jewelry case and a makeup case.

“I’ve always loved T. Anthony luggage and wanted to work with them in some way,” says Joel Freyberg, general manager at The Chatwal. “So I came up with the idea of luggage that was reflective of the hotel and, luckily, they were very responsive.”

The dark red hue, leather details and nickel hardware mimic the hotel’s lobby, which is adorned with red leather chairs, long brown banquettes and nickel appointments on everything from light fixtures to the front-desk bell. The connection is clear. “I wanted the luggage to blend in so well with the aesthetic of the hotel,” says Freyberg, “that it looks like a piece of furniture in the lobby. 445 Park Ave.; tanthony.com.

Ask Sophy Roberts: Burma or Botswana?

Sophy Roberts
Photo by Chris Colletti

I can’t decide where to take the family this year: Burma or Botswana?

It’s a tricky call. Burma is so hot right now, you’d be lucky to get enough rooms for your family. Botswana works if it’s your Africa trip of a lifetime, but only if you’ve done Kenya—I’m of the opinion that you need to get the Africa clichés out of your system early on: the Maasai Mara, Hemingway’s Chyulu Hills, sitting around the campfire at Cottar’s. For Botswana, contact Will Jones at Journeys by Design [will@journeysbydesign.com; journeysbydesign.com] and ask him about San Camp in the Kalahari [rooms, from $1,100; reservations@unchartedafrica.com; unchartedafrica.com] and Abu Camp in the Okavango Delta [rooms, from $2,160 a person; 27-11/807-1800; wilderness-collection.com].

For Burma, I was impressed with Catherine Heald at Remote Lands [catherine@remotelands.com; remotelands.com]. She was the only outfitter I could find with serious experience of the Mergui Archipelago, a string of islands on the country’s Andaman coast that used to be known as a “remote region” (junta-speak for out-of-bounds to most foreigners). Burma isn’t a walk in the park—even if it’s among the most compelling places I’ve been lucky enough to visit.

A Micro-Guide to Berlin

A Micro-Guide to Berlin
Courtesy of Hotel Adlon Kempinski

Stay: Simply put, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski (Unter den Linden 77; 49-30/22610; kempinski.com/adlon) recaptures the romance of travel. The original was destroyed at the end of World War II, and the reconstruction, which opened in 1997, re-imagines it very well. The location on Unter den Linden is central, and a room with a view of the nearby Brandenburg Gate is worth it. Service is exceptional and the restaurant is excellent; a soft-boiled egg at a recent breakfast wore a little hat to stay warm. In Berlin everyone rides a bicycle in dedicated bike lanes: You can rent one from the hotel, but ask the concierge for an upgrade from the so-so three-speeds parked out front.

See: Berlin’s Museum Island, the northernmost portion of an island in the Spree River, is home to wonderful cultural institutions like the Pergamon Museum (Bodestraße 1–3; smb.museum.com). But if you take a short walk from there along the river, you’ll find the privately financed DDR Museum (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1; ddr-museum.de), which shows what life was like in Communist East Germany during the Cold War. Climb into an iconic Trabant automobile and take a simulated drive through East Berlin, watch Communist TV programs in a typical living room of the time or submit to questioning in an interrogation chamber. The shop sells egg carriers and other items designed in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), which disbanded in 1990.

Eat: Spend a day strolling along Bergmannstraße in the hip and culturally diverse Kreuzberg section and stop in at one of the numerous cafés that line the attractive shopping thoroughfare and its adjacent streets. Italo (Marheinekeplatz 4; 49-30/691-5637), located under a striped awning, specializes in Italian fare. You might have a priest pour you a beer at nearby Kreuzberger Himmel restaurant (Yorckstraße 89; 49-30/2574-3888; kreuzberger-himmel.de), part of St. Bonifatius Church, or stop by Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36; curry36.de) for an addictive currywurst (German sausage, curry powder, ketchup). End things at Vannile & Marille (Hagelberger Straße 1; vanille-marille.de), just a few blocks away, for one of Berlin’s best ice cream cones.

The Berlin addition to the Departures Ultimate City Guides iPhone app will be available in January 2014. Download the app here.

A Tuscan Itinerary: Val d'Orcia

A Tuscan Itinerary: Val d’Orcia
Courtesy of La Bandita

Located in central Italy, Val d’Orcia is the Brooklyn of Tuscany, thanks to an abundance of artisanal everything. It is home to small-batch pastamakers, dairy farmers and upstart wineries that have created a bold new class of Brunello. Tiny workshops sell hand-tooled leather goods, textiles and ceramics. The scent of local Pecorino wafts from the many specialty food shops. And two stylish hotels have put a decidedly luxe stamp on things.

STAY
Val d’Orcia’s neo-Tuscan verve is most evident in two rustic-chic La Bandita properties situated in and around the Renaissance town of Pienza. La Bandita Townhouse (rooms, from $265; 111 Corso Rossellino; 39-0578/749-005; labanditatownhouse.com), a former convent, sits smack in the middle of one of the most charming towns in Tuscany. The 12 guest rooms are minimalist yet warm, a fusion of crisp Italian linens, honey-colored stone, wood floors and whimsical accents like a handwoven straw bag to be used for shopping. La Bandita (rooms, from $265; Podere La Bandita; 39-333/404-6704; la-bandita.com) is an idyllic villa surrounded by verdant, Cypress-and-sheep-speckled grounds with airy lounging areas, shaded terraces for alfresco dining and an infinity pool. The restaurants offer a set menu of fresh, local fare served at oversized tables. The communal setup lends itself to making fast friends with, well, everyone.

EAT
Try the farm-to-table experience at Monteverdi (39-05/7826-8146; monteverdituscany.com/dining), where celebrated chef Paolo Coluccio whips up dishes like lavender risotto. At organic farm Podere Il Casale (64 Podere Il Casale; podereilcasale.it), one crosses peacocks and the random donkey before sitting down to a hearty meal and a drop-dead-gorgeous view of the Val d’Oracia valley. Exquisite cheeses, olive oil, pasta and honey are available for purchase.

DRINK
Arrange a tasting at smaller, cutting-edge Montalcino/Brunello producers, such as Sesti (sestiwine.com), Cupano (cupano.it.) and Fonterenza (fonterenza.com).

SHOP
Tucked into Via Dogali, an ancient cobblestone street in Pienza, Officine 904 (16 Pienza Via Dogali; officine904.it), led by a husband-and-wife designing duo, quietly produces some of the most fabulous (and versatile) bags in Italy. The hyper-modern wares can also be purchased online.

Most Recent Features