17th Century Hacienda in the Yucatan
Turtle Tagging in Vanuatu
These are good times for travel deals. How about a night of snorkeling where few people have gone before — on the virgin reefs between two remote South Pacific Islands? You’ll capture, tag, and release a giant sea turtle, give it a name for the global turtle database, and go down in marine history forever. The experience is right out of the storybooks, and it will only cost you a donation of $50.
One of Vanuatu’s islands was the idyllic Bali Hai in James Michener’s mid-20th century novel, “Tales of the South Pacific.” Vanuatu still remains deliciously unspoiled.
Tourists are still a novelty to the islands of Nguna and Pele. Villagers still gather on the shore to welcome visitors with flowers, handshakes, and bountiful feasts. The spectacular virgin coral reefs in the newly-formed Nguna-Pele Marine Protected Area (MPA) harbor migrating Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles.
I suggest you charter your passage to Vanuatu from New Zealand aboard the three-stateroom luxury sailing yacht, Charlatan. You’ll have other South Pacific stops on the way, and when you get to Vanuatu, you can have the captain make the arrangements with the MPA.
The Charlatan accommodates up to six passengers for $60,000 per week. More about the Nguna-Pele MPA and Vanuatu at www.marineprotectedarea.com.vu.
Charter the Christina O
If you missed the wedding reception of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace aboard the Christina O, or were unable to join J. Paul Getty, Sir Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo or Marilyn Monroe at one of Aristotle Onassis’ little gatherings, you still can re-create the fairy tale.
The palatial yacht that the Greek shipping magnate called home for two decades, the one with the pool deck that replicates the Palace of Knossos, is available for private charters. Home for the 325-foot is the French Riviera. But she winters in the Caribbean. There are two decks to accommodate 36 guests, and you’ll want to reserve the Onassis Suite on the Bridge Deck for yourself. Favored by Jackie and Ari, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton, it comes with a paneled study, beamed ceilings, fireplace, and a king-size bedroom with marble bath.
The tariff, you ask? Does it really matter? Something in the neighborhood of $500,000 for the week should about cover it. Live vicariously at www.christina-o.com.
Rent an Island in the British Virgin Islands
If the Christina O is a tad out of your budget right now, I suggest you and your party rent an island in the British Virgin Islands and wave to the yacht as she sails by. It really won’t be that painful, I promise. And at roughly half the price (about $250,000 for the week), it’s a veritable bargain.
Here’s what you get: a stunning, reef-studded volcanic island that’s considered to have among the richest diversity of plant and animal species in the Caribbean. A half-mile of white powder beach, and 12 miles of hiking trails. Caribbean-luxe villas and secluded beach cottages for yourself and 32 of your closest friends.
You also get: Gourmet meals and wine, and plenty to tide you over in between. Your own private tennis courts, croquet lawn and equipment. Fishing and snorkeling gear. Sailboats, kayaks, pedal boats, windsurfers, and beach toys. You can book all kinds of extras, like spa services, fishing charters, and captained sails to neighboring islands.
And oh, the scenics. But please don’t take my word for it. Drool over it yourself at www.guana.com.
$10,000 a Day Ski Escape in France
Crowds and lift lines not your cup of tea? Do you require serious pampering after a day on the slopes? The new Jiva Hill Park Hotel, Crozet, tucked into that luscious little corner of the Alps where France meets Switzerland, has a two-night ski escape I think you’ll like.
On Day One, you will choose one of the five spectacular ski resorts in the Jura Mountains. After breakfast, you’ll be transported there by helicopter to meet your private ski instructor. You will ski all day, passes included, and come home to a sports massage and a gourmet dinner.
On Day Two you will choose another resort and live the fantasy all over again. A VIP welcome, breakfasts, dinners and airport transfers to Geneva International Airport are included in the $20,000 tariff. Get more information at www.jivahill.com
17th Century Hacienda in the Yucatan
Your party will be the only guests at the exclusive Hacienda Petac. The intimate, five-bedroom villa on a 200-acre estate was built on the remains of a Mayan site on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Once a cattle ranch, then later a hemp plantation, Hacienda Petac acts like a world-class hotel in a private estate setting. It’s romantic to the max, with ancient adobe walls, arches, and an old family chapel. Next month they’re opening the luxurious Na’a Maya Spa. Beneath its palapa roof, and nestled in a grove of banana trees, you can sign up for Mayan-inspired healing rituals using local honey, aromatic flowers and clays.
With direct flights from the U.S. to Meridia International Airport, it might be just right for your family group or and wedding party. Your hacienda, with hostess, cooks, maids and gardeners, is $10,000 for the week. Learn more at www.haciendapetac.com.