Six perfect gifts for the avid traveller
Compiled by Bruce Wallin
From a 111-metre superyacht to a custom supersonic jet, these over-the-top vessels, villas, experiences, and more are sure to please the most discriminating globe-trotter on your holiday list.
Aerion AS2 Supersonic Private Jet
There's nothing new about supersonic flight. Military aircraft exceed the speed of sound every day, and until 2003, civilian passengers could travel on the Concorde fleet.
But building a next-generation transport jet to replace the Concorde has proven a frustrating quest, thanks to the high price of fuel, the astronomical cost of bringing a new aircraft design from drawing board to market, and the noise restrictions that forbid supersonic flight over the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world. These factors don't favour a positive cost-benefit analysis.
Nevertheless, the Aerion Corporation is determined to build the first supersonic business jet, starting at $US120 million (about $A162.4 million). The Nevada-based company has patented a wing design that promises top-of-class efficiencies. It has secured deep-pocket financial backing from billionaire Robert Bass. And it has formed a partnership with Airbus that provides access to its engineering expertise.
Aerion was established in 2002, and two years ago it began developing the AS2. It expects to fly the aircraft for the first time in 2021 and begin deliveries in 2023. It already has at least 20 aircraft on order and backed by refundable deposits. Those jets are reserved for the fractional-ownership company Flexjet, which placed the order in 2015.
The AS2's designers are aiming for a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 (about 1600km/h) and a 9660-kilometre range. When flying over most land areas, the pilots will have to throttle back to subsonic speeds, but the hours gained over water or less-restricted parts of the world could shorten flight times substantially. For example, a flight from Washington, D.C., to Paris will be three hours shorter, and you'll save more than six hours flying from San Francisco to Singapore.
Aerion is working with DesignQ, an automotive and aviation design consultancy based in England, to develop additional options for the 9.2-metre-long cabin. The standard configuration seats eight in club seating, but the designers want to maximise the choices so each cabin can suit the preferences of the buyer.
DesignQ CEO Howard Guy says it's a challenging project because the cabin is relatively small compared to those of non-supersonic ultralong-range jets such as the Gulfstream G650 and Dassault Falcon 8X, and it tapers slightly from front to back. But, he says, "there are no excuses — everything has to be the best."
The AS2 is still in development and is an estimated five years away from its first flight. Aerion does not expect to begin delivering the first examples until 2023. (aerionsupersonic.com) - Mary Grady
The 364-foot superyacht Ascendance
The International Business Times reported last year that the owner of a superyacht spends an average of $400,000 a year on fuel, and that a yacht as large as 70 metres burns more than 490 litres of diesel per hour. In response to such monetary and environmental costs, designers and builders have dabbled in lower-guilt, more fuel-efficient yachting in recent years by creating vessels that feature hybrid propulsion systems or lightweight hulls. The plans for Ascendance, a new 111-metre concept from London-based Andy Waugh Yacht Design, call for both.
According to Andy Waugh, Ascendance (starting at $US225 million, or about $A300.5 million) will be 25 per cent lighter than comparably sized yachts — “3200 gross tons as opposed to 4000 for most yachts this size,” he says. Waugh and Nobiskrug, the German yard planning to build the yacht, will achieve this weight savings by using steel-and-carbon-fibre construction—steel for the hull and major bulkheads, and carbon fibre for the upper structures — and a slender, low-volume hull. The bow will be steeply angled to create “a sense of strength and solidity,” according to Waugh’s marketing literature, “while the elegantly sloping aft structures give the impression of speed and efficiency.” A hybrid biodiesel/electric propulsion system will add to the yacht’s fuel efficiency and produce less vibration and noise than the engines that typically power a yacht this size.
In addition to fuel efficiency, Ascendance will offer quite a few splashy amenities. They will include a sunken fire pit on the bridge deck, a main-deck swimming pool with a waterfall that flows down toward the swim platform at the stern, and a helipad that rises from and retracts into the forward section of the owner’s deck.
Waugh founded his firm in 2011 after working on yachts ranging from 36 metres to nearly 120 metres for London’s H2 Yacht Design. Nobiskrug was established in 1905 and has been focused on building and refitting superyachts since the start of this century. Its portfolio includes Tatoosh, the 92-metre owned by Paul Allen, and the 143-metre sailing yacht A, which it plans to launch next year.
Motor Yacht Design Company, a recently established firm based in London and Paris, penned the yacht’s interior. It will feature an atrium with a grand staircase that connects the main-deck saloon and the upper-deck dining area. The design also calls for a glass-enclosed elevator that connects all of the decks and a cantilevered spiral staircase that wraps around the elevator shaft. Other highlights of the design include a cinema, a gym, a beach lounge, and a spa club with a steam room, sauna, and massage room.
On the bridge deck, the bar in the poker-and-smoking lounge will look out toward the fire pit and be flanked by two pop-up TVs. A pair of gas fireplaces will warm the room and lend it a club-like ambience. The owner’s suite will offer 180-degree views from the bedroom. Below the owner’s deck, on the main deck, will be eight guest staterooms. Ascendance will also accommodate 32 crew members in 17 cabins.
“This could be owned by any type of superyacht client,” says Waugh. “It has broad appeal, although it is less likely to appeal to a client looking for a traditional-style boat.” The build time for Ascendance is about four years. (nobiskrug.com, andywaugh.co.uk) - Danielle Cutler
Kaaboo Dream Pass
Forget fantasising about a day in the life of a rock star. How about a long weekend instead?
Designed specifically for Robb Report's Ultimate Gift Guide, the Kaaboo Dream Pass is a four-day passport to indulgence for a group of 10 attendees, granting nearly unlimited access to Kaaboo — the multifaceted music, comedy, culinary, and arts festival (a production of Virgin Produced) in Del Mar, California, from September 15 through 17, 2017.
Beginning on September 14, the ultra-posh perks includes private jet service to San Diego (up to 30 hours of air time), use of up to five chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz sedans, and accommodation in an exquisite five-bedroom villa overlooking the Pacific.
At the festival site, guests will meet-and-greet with various artists; have a choice of premier front-of-stage, on-stage, or backstage perspectives for all acts; and access to their own private sanctuary (the Dream Compound), where they will be treated to exclusive pop-up performances and a celebrity chef–prepared dinner (the night before the official start), daily brunches, and culinary presentations. And when a little privacy is preferred, five lavish live-aboard tour buses are dedicated to the group — one for each couple.
The passes also include a private concierge, complimentary spa services, a photographer to capture their experience and much more customised to the experience of each Dream Pass holder.
Only two Dream Pass packages will be offered at a price of $US1 million (about $A1.35 million) each. Click here to find out more. (kaaboodelmar.com) - Viju Mathew
Benetti Fisker 50 Semicustom Yacht
Henrik Fisker is no stranger to superyachts. The automotive designer regularly spends time in the Mediterranean aboard vessels owned by friends and business acquaintances. But he hadn’t designed a yacht in more than two decades, not since he was a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Nevertheless, when Fisker casually mentioned his interest in styling a yacht with Benetti, the Italian shipyard immediately agreed to the project.
The objective, says Fisker, was to create a yacht that was as functional as it was forward in its design. “As with the car industry, many amazing concepts never actually materialise,” he says, “so we wanted to come up with one that was feasible and would actually be built. The challenge was to do more than just throw another concept out there, but to imagine an innovative and unique design that would go from rendering to reality.”
The 50-metre semicustom Benetti Fisker 50 (starting at $US37 million, or $A49.6 million) can become a reality for whoever purchases this gift. Not surprisingly, Fisker’s automotive background has influenced the yacht’s look. The curved shape of the hull near the stern calls to mind the haunches of a sports car, and the bow, accented with black carbon fibre and horizontal stainless steel bars, resembles the grille.
Fisker’s plans call for six cabins that can accommodate a total of 12 guests.
The main saloon will be furnished with a bar instead of a formal dining table. The bar will face the ocean, and you’ll be able to lower it electronically so that it can serve as a dining table.
Throughout the yacht, the living spaces will be designed to accommodate large groups of people. These include the top deck, which will feature a fireplace and a circular fire pit with seating for 12 people. The interiors can be completely customised; if you want your yacht configured as Fisker conceived it, he is available to advise you. (benettiyachts.it) - Shaun Tolson
Exclusive Resorts’ Five-Year Plan
Give the gift of travel this holiday season with Exclusive Resorts’ five-year travel package. The plan allows families to reserve multimillion-dollar vacation homes in more than 75 destinations ranging from France to Mexico to Costa Rica. Personalized trips, daily housekeeping, and onsite concierges allow families to focus on spending quality time together instead of worrying about logistics. Starting at $US18,750 (about $A25,100) for 15 days of annual travel (plus a one-time initiation fee of $US85,000, about $A113,900), the package is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. (exclusiveresorts.com) - Rebekah Bell
The Gentleman’s Florence with Stefano Ricci
Born and raised in Florence, Stefano Ricci epitomises the spirit of a true Renaissance man with his love of art, culture, craft, and, of course, fine wines and food. So it’s not surprising that when Ricci established his luxury lifestyle brand more than 40 years ago, he chose to employ local artisans and celebrate his beloved city’s heritage. He’s offering a Robb Report reader and a guest the opportunity to experience three days of his Florence (starting at $US100,000 or $A134,000).
The true essence of Florence is expressed through Stefano Ricci’s clothing, which is made with exceptional fabrics including silks woven on some of Italy’s oldest looms, fine tailoring, and styles that range from sartorial suits to weekend wear for the country gentleman.
To fully appreciate the cloth and craft behind the clothing, Ricci is inviting the recipient of this gift to meet with his master tailor, who will guide him on selecting a bespoke wardrobe that satisfies his lifestyle, from formal to casual. (The clothes will be delivered within a few months after the visit.)
After the wardrobe consultation, the guests will be taken on a private tour of the famous Galleria degli Uffizi, one of Ricci’s favorite institutions and a venue where he has held his fashion shows. The first day will end with an intimate dinner with the Riccis at the authentic Tuscan Osteria delle Tre Panche, famous for serving the best truffles in Florence, and an overnight stay at the magnificent Palazzo Tornabuoni.
On day two of their journey, the guests will be driven to the family’s hunting lodge in the Tuscan hills of Mugello, the original land of the Medici family. “My father fell in love with this valley five years ago during a hunting trip,” says Stefano’s son Filippo. Within months, the designer acquired the lodge and spent four years renovating and expanding the space to include a family villa and eight suites designed to host friends — where the guests will stay on the second evening. “It is in our family’s private moments [here],” says Filippo, “that we can fully appreciate the sense of the Tuscan countryside tradition and take inspiration for new collections.”
While at the Riccis’ Tuscan estate, guests are invited to join the family on a boar or pheasant hunt (depending on the season) and learn first-hand about Ricci’s trained royal eagles, which are the brand’s mascot. They will also have a viewing of his personal collection of antique Ferraris, showcased in a state-of-the-art garage on the estate. In the evening, the Riccis will host a final dinner to celebrate the best of Florence’s foods and wines and toast to the finer things in life.
On the third day, the recipient and guest will return to Florence for a private tour of Ricci’s Antico Setificio Fiorentino, a historic silk mill that since 1786 has woven — and continues to weave — precious materials on looms that are hundreds of years old. Airfare is not included. The three days must be mutually agreed upon by the designer and the recipient.(stefanoricci.com) - Jill Newman