Private islands in perfect turquoise waters, hotels so exclusive they don’t bother with star ratings and choppers that’ll whisk you far above mere mortals.
Nothing was too grand for the recent Shanghai International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), where the biggest and most exclusive names in hospitality battled for a slice of the lucrative and growing Chinese outbound travel pie.
Money not an issue? Here are a few of the more incredible experiences that were on show:
1. Necker Belle (Caribbean)
Virgin boss Richard Branson’s Necker Island is already famed for being one of the world’s most spectacular private retreats. But he also likes to get his feet wet on the Necker Belle, a 105-foot catamaran that he calls “a mobile version of Necker Island.”
Guests can design their own Caribbean itinerary, during which they’ll spend the days scuba diving, fishing, sunbathing, enjoying water sports, eating and drinking with up to 12 of their luckiest friends. At night, a screen and projector is set up on deck for movies under the stars.
Priced from $110,000 per week, more info at: Virginlimitededition.com
2. Hotel President Wilson (Geneva, Switzerland)
Bill Gates, Matt Damon, Rihanna and Mikhail Gorbachev make an unlikely quartet.
The common thread? They’ve all stayed in the Royal Penthouse suite in Geneva’s Hotel President Wilson.
Overlooking Lake Geneva and the Alps, it features 12 bedrooms over 18,000 square feet – all for a cool 75,000 Swiss francs, or $80,000 per night. Guests don’t even have to slum it in the gym as it’s got its own fitness area and spa. Bulletproof glass, a private elevator and a helicopter pad all ensure it’s the safest spot in town.
Hotel President Wilson, 47 Quai Wilson, Geneva, Switzerland; +41 22 906 66 66
3. Private helicopter tour (Queenstown, New Zealand)
Few landscapes are as dramatic as the south island of New Zealand. For those short on time, veteran pilot Louisa “Choppy” Patterson offers helicopter day trips that take in everything from Queenstown to Stewart Island.
A payment of $12,000 secures exclusive use of a Eurocopter, including an hour’s flight to isolated Stewart Island, where the nation’s flightless kiwi bird is said to outnumber humans.
Once on land, an expert guide takes guests hiking, kayaking, fishing and bird watching.
Over The Top, Blue Hangar, Tex Smith Lane, Queenstown Airport, Queenstown, New Zealand; +64 3 442 2233
4. Belmond Napoleon barge (Provence, France)
River cruises are one of the hottest trends in travel right now, and the super luxury market is no exception. One of the swankiest tours on offer is a six-night cruise on the Belmond Napoleon barge, which floats down Provence’s Rhone River, from Arles to Tain l’Hermitage.
Guests enjoy candlelit al fresco dinners and soaks in the outdoor jacuzzi at night and visit some of France’s most famous wine chateaux during the day.
High season rates to book the entire barge, which has six cabins and holds up to 12 passengers, start at $76,100.
More info at Belmond.com
5. Private jet tour (Australia)
Bill Peach Journeys has 30 years of experience creating private jet luxury tours in Australia and New Zealand. Its most recent bespoke trip came in at a cool $27,000 per person for a family of five.
All travel was by Cessna Citation and included stops in Sydney, the Outback and Uluru, the Northern Territories and the Great Barrier Reef. All accommodation during any of Bill Peach Journeys’ trips is, unsurprisingly, five-star.
More info at Billpeachjourneys.com or +61 2 9693 2233
6. Singita Serengeti (Tanzania)
For safari enthusiasts, Singita offers the ultimate in African wildlife encounters. This includes the private four-suite Singita Serengeti House villa at Sasakwa Hill, which costs $84,500 per week during high season.
That elephantine price tag buys prime game watching in the heart of the private 350,000-acre Singita Grumeti game reserve, which sits on the western flank of the Serengeti. A lap pool, private chef, horseback riding, mountain biking and archery are all available. All meals, drinks, guides and a private Land Rover are inclusive.
Booking info at Singita.com or +27 21 683 3424
7. South America cruise, Seven Seas Mariner
Booking the 2,000-square-foot master suite on the Seven Seas Mariner’s South America cruise costs $120,000 per person – not terribly outrageous given you’ll be spending 72 days at sea.
Starting and finishing in Miami, passengers take in destinations like Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and much of the Caribbean along the way. As the ship caters to only 700 guests, the staff-to-guest ratio of 1 to 1.6 means a gin and tonics are never far away.
More info at Rssc.com or +1 844 473 4368
8. Geological wonders tour, Iceland
The land of fire and ice has no shortage of thrilling scenery, landing it on plenty of “places to go in 2015” lists. One of the more luxurious Iceland tours comes via high-end travel specialists Ker & Downey.
Their 10-day bespoke tour takes in geological wonders including the Godafoss waterfall, Krafla volcano, Skutustadagígar craters and Dimmuborgir lava pillars. They’ll also help with the pronunciation. Add in puffin and whale watching in Husavík’s Skjalfandi Bay, the famous Golden Circle tour and an extended stay in Reykjavik for their “culture night” festival and you’re looking at a price of about $23,325 per person.
More info at Kerdowney.com or +1 800 423 4236
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Chris Dwyer is a Hong Kong-based communications consultant and food writer. His restaurant reviews, chef interviews and more canbe found at finefooddude.com.