Conde Nast let’s us know you don’t have to go to Europe to feel its essence.
With trips to Europe on pause for most Americans, these six domestic destinations offer appealing alternatives.
BY DEBRA KAMIN
July 14, 2020
With the coronavirus still impacting much of the world, there’s no doubt that this summer will be a very different one for most of us—especially Americans, who are largely banned from traveling to Europe right now. But while your plans for Roman holidays and decadent Lyonnaise meals are on hold, there are a handful of places right here in the United States—perhaps even within driving distance of your own home—that can offer a distinctly European fix, thanks to their quaint city squares, rich architecture, and Old World food scenes. (Of course, while coronavirus remains a concern, you should always remember to check the latest local guidelines before visiting.) From coast to coast, here are six U.S. destinations worth experiencing this summer.
Conde Nast helps us all out on when to book a camping trek to a National Park this Summer.
Mark your calendar for these key dates to grab a reservation as soon as they become available.
March 8, 2021
Patrick J. Endres/Getty
With temperatures rising and the days getting longer, it’s hard not to daydream about summery nights under the stars—particularly at an epic national park, if you can swing it.
In any other year, it can be highly competitive to nab a campsite in the middle of popular parks like Yosemite. Yet with national park visitation numbers still hitting record highs in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to plan ahead and book early—especially as several parks have added new rules in the wake of the coronavirus: Grand Teton just moved its entire campground reservations system online for the first time ever; Yosemite and Rocky Mountain have had on-again-off-again requirements for day-use permits; and Acadia will be implementing a new permit for driving up to Cadillac Mountain this summer.
All to say, if you want to camp at a national park, you’ve got to be serious about tracking important dates, including when they open for the season, when booking begins, and when the most popular campgrounds tend to book up. As a general rule of thumb, most sites become available six months in advance on Recreation.gov, with camping at the most visited parks selling out four to six months ahead of time. Of course, many parks set their own schedules—and, at some, nabbing the spot you want may mean sitting in front of your computer the day summer reservations become available.
Here are the dates to pay attention to this summer, for camping at the country's top parks. Remember to keep track of state travel restrictions and park guidelines, which are always subject to change, before heading out.
Campgrounds typically open from May to October each year and can be reserved up to three months in advance. This year, Blackwoods is open May 7 to October 17 (bookings opened in early February), and Seawall and Schoodic Woods are open from May 26 to October 10 (bookings opened February 26).
For travelers who want the famous Cadillac Mountain sunrise experience, a reservation for day use is now required for visits during mid-June through October. Permits are not yet available online, but will be announced on the park’s official website.
Sites at Fish Creek and Many Glacier campgrounds are reservable online this year. On January 28, the park released all sites for these areas for visits through July 27. After that, campsites will become available six months prior to the date of arrival, with new spots being released every morning at 10 a.m. ET. (i.e. for a September 15 date, you could book starting March 15).
All other campgrounds within the park will operate on a first come, first served basis in 2021. St. Mary and Rising Sun Campgrounds will be closed.
Looking to stay at the Phantom Ranch cottages at the bottom of the canyon? Year-round, the lottery for these spots opens 15 months in advance of the date of arrival (i.e. a March 2021 submission would be for a May 2022 stay).
As for Mather and North Rim Campgrounds, online reservations can be made up to six months in advance, with spots being available at 10 a.m. ET daily. North Rim is usually open from May 15 to October 31 each year, while Mather is year-round. Desert View is first come, first served only. At the privately run RV park, Trailer Village, reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance.
Grand Teton National Park shifted all campground reservations to online-only in 2021. The new system launched on January 26, for stays through July 26. Reservations for the rest of the year will become available on a rolling basis, six months before the date of arrival.
As for backcountry permits, requests will be accepted from January 6 through May 15, 2021, for the summer season. The park will reserve one-third of these permits in advance and will retain two-thirds of the permits for day-before walk-ins.
Like many other popular parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park allows car and horse camping sites to be booked up to six months in advance, with sites becoming available daily at 10 a.m. ET. Group campgrounds can be reserved up to a year in advance. Most campgrounds first open sometime between early April and mid-May, with the season usually running until October 31.
This year, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, and Elkmont open April 2, Abrams Creek opens April 23, Balsam Mountain opens May 14, and Deep Creek opens May 21. Cades Cove and Smokemont are open year-round and can often accommodate last-minute bookings, even during the busy season.
From May 5 through September 1, 2021, the popular Cades Cove Road will be closed to vehicles on Wednesdays to allow more space for hikers and bikers.
Yosemite's campsites are notoriously tricky to book, but with pre-planning and patience, this view could be yours this summer.
Though the park intended to roll out online permit booking for wilderness camping on March 1, the website crashed, and Rocky Mountain announced that it will push back the start date for reservations to March 8 at 8 a.m. MT. (This is for requests to camp between May 1 and October 31.)
As for car camping, reservations can be made up to six months in advance, with Glacier Basin and Moraine Park’s summer season opening on May 27 (meaning that you’d want to log in on March 10 at 8 a.m. MT for a September 10 booking). Longs Peak and Timber Creek Campgrounds are first come, first served in the summer, as is Moraine Park during winter months.
Yellowstone just announced that beginning March 24 at 8 a.m. MT, Mammoth, Slough Creek, and Pebble Creek campgrounds will be reservable online, for dates throughout the next six months, a first for the park-managed sites. (This means visitors should log in on March 24 for any booking before September 24.) Forty-one percent of the sites will be placed onto Recreation.gov, while the rest will remain first come, first served. Most are only open summer through fall, with the exception of Mammoth.
Many of the park’s other campgrounds are managed by Yellowstone National Park Lodges and can be reserved online starting a year in advance. On May 1, 2021, they will open reservations for the entire summer of 2022, as the 2021 spots for these privately managed campsites are already sold out.
Reservations for car camping at Yosemite can be tricky. Sites are made available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 a.m. PT (seriously, grab a notepad for this one). For example, on March 15, 2021, campground reservations for July 15 to August 14 will open up.
Can’t get a spot? Several of the park’s campgrounds, including 50 percent of famous Tuolumne Meadows, are first come, first served, and the park notes that these sites generally fill by noon during the summer.
In the event that you need to cancel your vacation plans, note that most of these parks are quite forgiving when it comes to issuing refunds. The real perk is that great sites occasionally come available last minute, when other travelers take advantage of that flexibility and cancel—so, even if you don't snag that coveted Yosemite spot the day reservations open, it's worth checking back regularly.
From Conde Nast a new cool hangout spot in Miami…
The first phase of The Underline, a 10-mile linear park, has opened in the Brickell neighborhood.
BY JESSE SCOTT
February 26, 2021
Hanging out underneath train tracks likely isn’t your idea of a pleasant afternoon. But in the case of Miami's new Underline—a 10-mile, 120-acre park and urban trail—it’s about to become the place to be. The first phase of the project, a half-mile stretch known as “Brickell Backyard,” is now open to the public after seven years of planning and construction.
Set directly below the above-ground Miami Metrorail system, The Underline is a testament to the power of creative urban development. It will serve up outdoor recreation for visitors and locals; it will showcase public art; and perhaps most unexpectedly—yet apt, given its location—it will offer a transportation benefit, too. “A lot of people don’t think about this as a transportation solution, but connecting walking, biking, jogging, and more to transit is probably the lowest hanging fruit for reducing our obedience to the car,” says Meg Daly, CEO and President of Friends of The Underline, the non-profit organization that has overseen the project.
The Underline's 120 acres were unused spaces, formerly covered by sprawling weeds, sporadic trash, and empty real estate. Now, in the case of Brickell Backyard, which is just north of the Brickell Metrorail Station, they sport a line of domino tables, a community dining table that can seat 50, outdoor ping-pong tables, a basketball court, and a community stage for yoga, movie nights, and live music.
The first phase of Miami's Underline is near the Brickell station.
Between these key features, green signage and crosswalks guide folks through the experience as the train periodically roars above. Native landscaping, including gamma grass and scarlet sage, lines the pedestrian areas, with the periodic monarch butterfly landing for a rest (a butterfly gardena also made its way into the plans).
The blossoming space won't appeal just to visitors; local businesses are excited for it, too. "The Underline is going to be such a huge asset," says Paul Greenberg, co-founder of American Social, a popular Brickell restaurant and bar. "Connecting the Miami community with one 10-mile park is sure to get people outside, active, and walking around. We're hoping this will help to boost business along the Miami River and bring people together."
With Brickell Backyard in the books, there are eight more phases of construction that will be rolled out in the coming months and years. The project is expected to be completed by 2025, with an ultimate cost of $120 million; $100 million of which is publicly funded. When finished, The Underline will stretch southwest along the Miami Metrorail line from the Miami River in Brickell to the Dadeland South Station, touching neighborhoods and hotspots like Vizcaya, Coconut Grove, and the University of Miami along the way, offering locals and visitors an innovative new way to connect with the city.
Feb 23, 2021
The top motivator for travel in the next six months is visiting friends and family.
Eight in 10 Americans have travel plans in the next sixth months, with two-thirds reporting that the vaccine rollout has impacted their travel plans, according to the latest tracking study from Longwoods International. Forty-five percent of those surveyed say their top priority is visiting friends and family, followed by going to a waterfront destination or embarking on a road trip.
Why It Matters
There’s no question that recovery is on the horizon. This increase in Americans’ intent to travel — even domestically — is reflective of a significant shift in the consumer’s mindset. This is good news for travel advisors and suppliers, who should be prepared for a spike in requests during the coming months.
Although domestic drive destinations are likely to remain more popular than international excursions, only 40% of U.S. travelers now cite the pandemic as an influence in their trip-planning (compared with two-thirds back in April 2020). This confidence, coupled with optimism about the COVID-19 vaccine, has resulted in travel demand that approaches pre-pandemic levels.
Traveler optimism continues to track with the drop in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the progress in vaccine distribution.
- This wave of the Longwoods International survey took place Feb. 17, 2021 with a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults.
- Results remain consistent with findings from the most previous wave, which was conducted two weeks prior.
- Two in five travelers say they will not take a trip until they are vaccinated, while one in five are considering the vaccination of their friends and family; the nation; or the destination to which they will be traveling.
What They Are Saying
“We are encouraged by the high percentage of travelers in trip-planning mode in the two most recent survey waves,” said Amir Eylon, president and CEO of Longwoods International. “Traveler optimism continues to track with the drop in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the progress in vaccine distribution. As long as these positive trends continue, we would expect to see steady improvement for the U.S. travel industry.”
Mar 05, 2021
Denver International Airport is working on a gate expansion and concourse renewal program.
As travelers gradually return to the air, many will notice that the airport experience may be a bit different, and perhaps even better, as airports around the country rebuild and redesign their facilities. Last month, for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the release of $76 million in grants designed to upgrade airport infrastructure. While that cash infusion only affects three U.S. airports, numerous improvements are either in the works or already complete in other cities, too.
The latest grants are going to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which will receive $25 million to build a new runway; Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, which will receive $31 million to expand its taxiway system; and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which will receive $20 million to fund a runway extension.
These are the first in a series of more than 1,500 grants that will eventually pump some $3.2 billion into the infrastructure at hundreds of U.S. airports. But there are already plenty of improvements underway that aren’t related to the grants, as well.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, for example, will complete a modernization project at Terminal 2 by July 2021, after remodeling two concourses at Terminal 3 last year. Chicago O’Hare, meanwhile, is making plans for what it calls O’Hare 21, an $8.5 billion redevelopment project that’s described as the biggest expansion effort in the facility’s 60-year history. A $2.2-billion newbuild Global Terminal, an expanded Terminal 5 and two new satellite concourses are all part of the project, which is slated for completion in 2028.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport is receiving $25 million in grants to build a new runway.
Nearby, Chicago’s Midway International Airport is benefiting from a modernization project that includes a new, 80,000-square-foot security pavilion that doubles the facility’s previous TSA processing capacity; parking garage enhancements and a new concessions program are also part of the refurbishment.
Not far from Dallas Fort Worth International, meanwhile, Dallas Love Field Airport is starting reconstruction of runway 13R/31L, as well as the construction of a new taxiway and improvements to the airport entry road.
Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic are playing a major role in airport modernization, according to SITA, an air transportation IT provider. Based on surveys conducted in the second half of 2020, the company’s most recent Air Transport IT Insights report found that features such as automated passenger processing and touchless and mobile services have increasingly become a necessity for modern airports.
The report also found that 64% of airports plan to debut self-boarding gates by 2023, as biometric technology has proved its value as a tool for safety and efficiency.
In fact, self-boarding gates will be a key component of a brand-new, one-million-square-foot terminal in the works at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Designed to replace Terminal A, the facility will feature a variety of “post-pandemic design” changes including touchless check-in, hospital-grade air filtration, contactless TSA checkpoint entry and contactless self-boarding at gates.
The first new gates are expected to open in early 2022, with the entire terminal to be completed by the end of 2022. The construction is part of a $5.5 billion project that will also include redesigned roadways and improved AirTrain Newark access.
Dallas Love Field Airport is starting new improvement projects.
Elsewhere in the New York City area, LaGuardia Airport has already debuted a sparkling new terminal B, with additional new concourses being completed this year and plans underway for a new AirTrain LaGuardia link. Nearby, John F. Kennedy International Airport is finalizing plans for an ambitious $13 billion redo that will include two new international terminal complexes. The first new gates are to debut in 2023, with the entire project expected to wrap up in 2025.
Recently upgraded facilities elsewhere around the country include Salt Lake City International Airport, which debuted a new four-million-square-foot airport terminal in 2020, and Denver International Airport, which is in the midst of a gate expansion and concourse renewal program that will be complete in 2024.
On the West Coast, Los Angeles International Airport is spending some $1.86 billion to revamp terminals 2 and 3, as well as the Tom Bradley International Terminal, by 2023. And there’s even more in the works — including a new midfield satellite concourse, a consolidated rental car center and a 2.25-mile automated people mover designed to make it easier for passengers to travel among terminals as well as to the Metro Rail and other public transportation services.
Mar 2, 2021 10:15am
The luxurious Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma
We tapped in to our newly named “30Under30” winners for 2020 to find out where they send their clients in Mexico for destination weddings and honeymoons. They’ve provided a broad selection of romantic resorts which should help you for your altar-bound clients.
Andrew Rose of Vacations At Sea in New Orleans loves working with couples on honeymoons. “Of course, not everyone has the same budget — but with a once-in-a-lifetime trip [we all hope], I try to advise my clients that this is certainly something that you shouldn’t cut corners on and one of the few trips that you’ll remember for a very long time and take many picture from,” he says.
In Mexico, Rose says he tends to lean toward adults-only properties that he’s been to or that have great reviews or excellent track records.
“For AMResorts, Secrets is my go-to brand. For Karisma Resorts, El Dorado is the way to go and there are other great brands like Le Blanc, Royalton and more,” says Rose.
“A new brand that I’ve come to recently adore is the TRS brand by Palladium Resorts. This is an adults-only brand with excellent food, drinks, service and more. I stayed at the TRS Coral Hotel in the Costa Mujeres area and was blown away. Another nugget of info on this resort, [if you book early enough] the swim-up suites cost only a little more than the Garden/Standard suites. To spend an extra $20 to $40 for your own pool to use 24/7 is a no-brainer,” says Rose.
Corey Hargarther of Dream Vacations in Ponte Vedra, FL highly recommends the Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun for honeymoons in Mexico. “While the resort is expansive and offers an array of amenities for guests, the property itself does not feel crowded. Additionally, the service is exceptional and the cuisine is to die for. Another great option is the Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya. The property is family-owned and its design is unique within the Riviera Maya region.”
Christine Wolff of Brentwood Travel in Saint Louis, MO recommends the Palace Resorts brand for destination weddings and honeymoons in Mexico. “They specialize in creating unforgettable experiences with amazing romantic twists. Their staff/groups staff are unbelievably amazing to work with, and their products never disappoint for both a honeymoon and destination wedding…they will supply a bride and groom with anything they may need or want for their big day and if they don’t already offer a requested service, they know how to obtain it to make sure one’s wedding is exactly what they were hoping it would be. They have beautiful grounds and views for an unreal destination wedding/honeymoon setting. The staff is amazing to work with when planning a destination wedding/honeymoon as they are all very responsive and will take all the time they need with us when planning/facilitating bookings and make suggestions that make our job much, much easier. Last but not least, the brand offers unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for both types of travel and we all know that these two types of travel are some of the most important in people’s lives. They truly leave the clients feeling like they are the most important people on property. This also leaves the clients feeling like we [the travel advisors] are the rock stars because we went above and beyond to plan and execute these unique, special moments with the resort,” says Wolff.
What’s on the horizon for romance travel? “The soon-to-open One&Only Mandarina will be a stunning honeymoon and/or destination wedding location,” says Sarah Brook Austin of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited. “Located on one of the last remaining beachfront jungles in Mexico, the property enjoys the luxury of having the beach, jungle, and mountains. The rooms are jaw dropping, many with plunge pools — the treehouses are my favorite. The property has a romantic, sexy feel that makes it perfect for a wedding or romantic getaway. Guests will feel like they are in Bali or Thailand without having to go halfway around the world. Also, One&Only is famous for their impeccable service.”
For families, it’s “Rosewood Mayakoba, which offers a great ‘Rosewood Explorers’ Club for the little ones as well as many family fun activities and theme nights throughout the year. Their room categories are ideal for family travel as they have a number of configurations and connecting options,” adds Austin.
“Grand Velas is a land-based ‘cruise experience,’ including so much in its fixed pricing that it is ideally tailored for those families who want to know their costs before they travel.”
Sarah Attaway of Sea to City Travels, an affiliate of Cadence Travel in Santa Monica, CA also recommends Imanta in Mexico. “It’s close enough to Punta Mita and Sayulita to leave the resort to explore,” she says. “Imanta offers an extremely unique, adult ‘treehouse’ experience. The hotel is known for romance by providing exceptional romantic dinners around their property and couples treatments at the Jungle Spa.”
Emma Major of Major Traveler, an affiliate of Travel Edge in Atlanta, GA says her recommendations for honeymoons in Mexico vary drastically based on the client’s budget and preferences, specifically whether they desire all-inclusive or not. “In Mexico, I recommend Chable Maroma, Viceroy Riviera Maya and Nizuc for clients who desire the non-all-inclusive route. For those envisioning the opposite, I recommend Le Blanc Los Cabos, Grand Velas [Los Cabos and Riviera Maya], Excellence Playa Mujeres, and UNICO,” she says.
For a bit of colonial Mexico, Anna Clara Lee of Valerie Wilson Travel in New York recommends San Miguel de Allende. “Not only is it a cultural gem that leaves you feeling inspired by its history and style, but it is an incredibly romantic destination filled with hotels that encompass the city’s natural beauty,” says Lee. “The Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is my favorite property for weddings, as the multiple venues are truly stunning and the staff’s level of service and attention to detail are unprecedented.
An Ocean Treehouse at the One&Only Mandarina
“Another Mexican favorite of mine is the ultra-luxurious Le Blanc Cancun. For the toes-in-the-sand kind of bride, this property’s extensive beachfront is the ideal spot to tie the knot, and the views from each room are unforgettable.”
Rachel Troop of Vacation Experts in Louisville, KY recommends UNICO 20°87° in the Riviera Maya for a destination wedding. “This is my top pick because of multiple reasons with one being that the planning process is seamless due to having coordinators based in the U.S. who make communication a priority. Though they have packages to help start the ideas and planning, each wedding is totally customizable based on their preferences from the ceremony backdrop all the way to the different venue options for the reception. Other reasons I recommend this resort is due to the fact that you fly into the Cancun International Airport, which is easily accessible from many cities in the U.S. if guests are coming from all over, and that multiple religions and same-sex marriages are welcomed.”
What if there are children attending the wedding? Troop recommends “any of the Hard Rock properties since they are under the same hotel group as UNICO so the process is similar.”
Sara Matulonis of Cruise Planners in Fort Pierce, FL also likes UNICO 20°87° “because nothing says romance like indulging in 24/7 room service churros while relaxing together in the soaking tub on your oceanview balcony. Working with the U.S. and hotel-based wedding team makes planning easy and the Limitless Inclusions program is a can’t-beat value for couples and their guests. Say goodbye to your typical all-inclusive Miami Vice or rum and coke and sip on craft cocktails made with mezcal or homemade guava syrup while dining on Yucatecan cuisine,” she says.
Mexico lets travelers in speedily
By The Associated Press
Mar 06, 2021
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Even as other countries institute airport testing, tracing and mandatory isolation, Mexican authorities bragged Wednesday about the speed with which they let tourists exit the terminal in Cancun.
Mexico's National Immigration Institute, the INM, said Wednesday it took tourists an average of only one to two minutes to enter the country.
"The INM is working to maintain and offer rapid service, with quality and warmth," the institute said.
During peak hours Tuesday, checkpoints at the Cancun airport processed almost 9,000 tourists arriving on dozens of flights.
Mexico has not recovered the level of tourism it had before the pandemic; the overall numbers of tourists arriving at the Cancun airport, one of Mexico's busiest, was about 1.3 million in January, 54.7% lower than the same month of 2020, when almost 2.3 million passengers landed there.
But Mexico is one of the few nations in Latin America, and the world, to have instituted almost no measures to limit travelers, require mandatory testing or isolation upon arrival.
Passengers bound for Mexico just have to fill out a form asking about their risk factors for Covid-19 and their contact details.
International arrivals in Cancun took the biggest hit in January, but domestic arrivals of people boarding flights within Mexico to Cancun were down only about 18%.
Flights from the U.S. dried up last spring as the pandemic took hold but returned to near-normal during the holiday season. In December, Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, was averaged 460 air arrivals and departures per day compared to a pre-pandemic average of 500. Tourism accounts for 87% of Quintana Roo's gross domestic product.
A new hotel gives travelers yet another reason to get on the ferry from Long Beach.
November 14, 2019
Los Angeles and gridlock are virtually synonymous. But in Avalon, a hamlet of 4,000 people on Catalina Island, built a hundred years ago by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., you're more likely to find yourself riding in a golf cart (there's a 25-year wait list for a vehicle permit). Or, you could hop on the back of an eco-friendly H1 Hummer (it runs on biofuel) for a tour of the rugged interior in hopes of spotting the island's herd of wild bison.
Many Angelenos, who on a clear day are able to see the green and yellow grass-covered speck 22 miles off the coast, think of Catalina as not much more than a place where Boy Scouts go camping and rich people dock their sailboats. But this year brings new reasons to catch the 60-minute ferry from Long Beach. In August the seaside Hotel Atwater reopened after a restoration that brought back much of the familial character Wrigley imbued it with in 1920, when he hoped to turn Catalina into a world-class holiday destination. Sweet rooms have beds in corals and teal and cozy comforters, while the lobby holds the Wrigley family's albums and heirlooms.
Nearby, the Catalina Island Museum has an exhibition devoted to the tycoon's influence. You can also head around to the coast to dive with bat rays or zip-line through a lush canyon—though for all of Catalina's natural beauty, there are still reminders of Hollywood's proximity: Avalon is home to one of the first talkie theaters, where Cecil B. DeMille hosted lavish preview parties, and the Art Deco rotunda Catalina Casino, where Benny Goodman's big band played in the 1930s. Even those bison roaming the island have silver-screen cachet; rumor has it that they're descended from a few menacing extras who broke free from the set of the 1925 Western movie The Vanishing American.
“It’s a fantastic way to be self-sufficient in your own little bubble.”
September 29, 2020
Scott Macahonic is the captain of the 178-foot M.Y Spirit. The five-cabin luxury vessel accommodates up to 11 guests and 13 crew and can be chartered through Y.co starting at 255,000 euros per week ($301,000). Though some guests postponed their 2020 charters due to the pandemic, the company reported a modest 5 percent spike in demand this year over last. It also says yacht sales are through the roof, having sold five pedigree boats in August alone. We caught up with Macahonic, who's currently in Naples, to find out why private yachting is booming and what challenges the industry faces in the coming months.
A lot of boats spend January and February in the Caribbean, then cross to the Mediterranean in March, April, or May. But this year we planned to cross in late February because we were doing an interior refit in the South of France. COVID-19 really started blowing up when we were in the middle of the Atlantic. We got to France the day [President Emmanuel] Macron closed the borders. We’d been isolated for almost three weeks at sea, so nobody knew what was going on—just that everything was locking down. We showed up to the shipyard and did a maritime declaration saying that we were all healthy. They were like, “Welcome, tie up,” and then the shipyard closed.
You can charter the M.Y. Spirit on Y.co, along with other private yachts like Gladiator**, above, which travels the Mediterranean and starts at $180,000 per week.
France had a policy where nobody was allowed to leave their home except to go to the pharmacy, doctor, or other essential place. So we just stayed on the boat and kept working, overhauling the whole interior from mid-March to mid-May. Some yachts pared down to a skeleton crew and laid people off because they didn’t know what was going to happen, but we had good owners who made sure we were looked after.
I’m not really worried about the charter industry having issues. We have a very select group of clients: the 1 percent of the 1 percent. That market sees the advantage of being in its own little world. They’re not sharing this experience with 3,000 other people. Chartering a yacht is a way to get away from everyone, a bubble that provides people with a safe place to holiday. They have their own chef onboard and everything imaginable. The problem has been getting to this safe place. Many of our clients come from the U.S., Russia, and Asia, and they can’t get into the Med for their charter. Only people who were already in the E.U. could come.
We operate differently than some of the 100-meter boats, which may have 50 or 60 crew. When we have a group on board, they get to know all 13 of our crew. If there's an engineering issue, they talk directly to the engineer. They hang out with the chef in the galley. There's an interior team of five who are constantly working inside the rooms, or serving and bartending. And then we have our deck crew, outside doing water sports, driving the tenders, and maintaining the boat.
We always wear masks when we leave the boat and we have kits to test our crew. There are temperature checks onboard, but we don’t require our guests to be tested. And once everyone is onboard, we’re like family. It’s hard to keep your masks on all the time in such a small environment. It doesn’t make me nervous though because we don’t have exposure to a lot of different groups; we had one charter recently for a whole month. They came from Bermuda and were tested before they boarded the yacht. We wore masks until they were comfortable, and then we just stopped.
There’s no typical day for us. We cater to whatever the guests feel like doing, which is generally a lot of water sports, land excursions, sightseeing, or shopping. Some people want to relax and do nothing. Others might play on the toys: We’ve got a floating trampoline, Sea-Doos, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks. Our deck crew is out there quite a bit, driving the jet skis and playing in the water with the kids. Anytime I can get on the slide, I'll take that opportunity.
We’ve spent the majority of our summer in Italy, and there haven’t been any additional testing requirements [to enter a port]. France has been quite easy, too, but it gets more complicated if you try to dock in Greece, Turkey, or Croatia. We usually spend winter in the Caribbean, but we’re not going this year. We decided to stay in the South of France instead and do an extended refit, taking advantage of what could potentially be a slower charter season.
I’m ready for 2021, and to just get on with our lives. As soon as people can start traveling again, the charter industry will bounce back. It’s a fantastic way to be self-sufficient in your own little bubble.
Conde Nast does let us know there is an alternative to the big boy cruising...
Take your family—and a handful of close friends—out on the water this summer.
BY FRAN GOLDEN
March 17, 2021
Courtesy Red Savannah
While much of the cruise industry halted operations in the last year, it didn't mean that all sailings stopped. For families or pandemic-era bubble groups who wanted a sunny getaway on the water, a trend emerged: renting out entire yachts, complete with crew, for a new kind of custom sailing.
Exploring destinations around the world on a private yacht with your kids, and maybe another family or two, is both a luxurious and practical way to travel these days. The sea turns into your personal playground, and your captain will steer you to islets and beaches away from the crowds. On board, you can spend time together in a pleasant, contained environment—plus, no one has to cook. Bring on the movies and board games!
Here are our favorite family-friendly yachts available for private charter around the world.
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Howler monkeys, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies are one attraction, pristine beaches another as this new 128-foot motor yacht, operated by the sustainably conscious expedition line Kontiki, explores less-touristed areas on the coast of Ecuador beginning this summer. The nine-cabin yacht carries up to 18 guests in contemporary high-style. The 10-member crew includes local guides, a chef, and wellness professionals—there's even a masseuse on board. On land, visit nature preserves and treat the kids to a private tasting of Ecuadorian chocolate.
Book now: From $152,800 per week
Explore the coast of Turkey on this high-end, 148-foot traditional Bodrum-style gulet, with a classic mahogany interior and crew of six. The schooner sleeps up to 16 guests in eight spacious cabins. Enjoy the Jacuzzi and water toys—jet skis, water skis, snorkeling equipment, wakeboards, a canoe, paddleboards, a banana boat. Everyone can dine together at an open-air table at the stern, then watch movies in the saloon. Not-to-miss spots on the Gulf of Göcek include the protected Iztuzu Beach, where turtles nest.
Book now: $57,500 to $75,000 per week, plus food and drink
Prana by Atzaró's Batavia master suite.
Courtesy Atzaró Group
The world’s largest Indonesian phinisi yacht explores remote islands, such as Komodo National Park (home to the famous dragons) and Raja Ampat. Made of teak, the 180-foot, Spanish-owned luxury yacht has nine cabins across four decks—plenty of room for fussy teens to have their own space. Luxuriate on daybeds, hang out on beaches, and snorkel or dive in the region’s famous coral reefs. The 20-person crew includes a cruise director, dive instructor, chefs, and masseuses. Water skis, wakeboards, and towable floats will thrill the kids.
Book now: From $15,000 to $17,500 per day, four-night minimum
Family groups of up to 10 will frolic under the Midnight Sun in Norway’s sparsely populated western fjords on this funky wooden boat, which started life as a Swedish Navy minesweeper. A meticulous rehab includes an oak-paneled saloon for dining, lounging, and board games. Perfect for kids, two of the five cabins have bunk beds. You can swim off the bow deck (where a gun turret once was located), as well as hike, bike, paddleboard, kayak, and fish during your stay.
Book now: From $54,204 per week
This 78-foot yacht cruises Alaska’s tidewater, the glacier-rich Prince William Sound. Customized itineraries include Captain Jeff Gorton’s favorite spots for berry picking and hiking; watching glaciers calve; and spotting killer whales, Stellar sea lions, and frolicking otters. Get up close to the shoreline on the yacht’s kayaks and paddleboards. Three suites (one with bunk beds) accommodate six. In the spacious main salon, the private chef will prepare for dinner shrimp you caught that day.
Book now: $9,900 per night, three-night minimum
I Sea's amenities include a floating swimming pool and a sky lounge.
Courtesy Camper & Nicholsons International
Cruising the Greek Isles on this 134-foot superyacht brings luxury touches adults will appreciate, such as a master suite with private balcony on the Bridge deck. The waterslide will get the kids’ attention; it runs from the top deck to the sea. Great amenities include a floating swimming pool, banana boat, and snorkeling and diving equipment for two. Onboard are a Jacuzzi and a main salon for watching movies on TVs, plus a sky lounge. A crew of six caters to up to 10 guests in five cabins.
Book now: $156,000 to $178,000 per week
A 3D outdoor cinema and 13-foot diving board for jumping into the sea are among the cool features on this sleek, 10-guest, five-cabin superyacht, available for cruising Croatia and Montenegro—including stops at gorgeous white-sand beaches. Onboard are a spa pool and a crow’s nest where kids may play pirate when not competing on the PlayStation 3, or using a provided easel and art supplies. Parents of younger kids will like the two forward staterooms with a connecting door.
Book now: $118,00 to $138,000 per week
This contemporary catamaran can be crew-chartered, with captain and chef, for up to eight guests in St. Thomas, for cruising the U.S. Virgin Islands. Visit popular Trunk Bay, then snorkel with sea turtles in Christmas Cove and look for dolphins in Leinster Bay. Toys include water skis, kneeboards, and a draggable inflatable tube. Hang out on beanbags or on the “trampoline” between the catamaran’s two hulls. Indoors, a TV/DVD player is set for movie nights in the expansive saloon.
Book now: From $21,479 per week