This story first appeared in the July 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Grace Kelly‘s former private yacht is now enjoying a second life as a luxury cruise vessel in the famed Galapagos (reachable via a three-leg, 24-hour flight from LAX). The M/Y Grace (quasarexpeditions.com; doubles from $5,800 a person) features nine cabins, all renovated in 2012. Shell out $99,900 and the entire ship can be requisitioned as a private charter. Built in 1928 for the chairman of the Prudential Insurance company in Britain’s Southampton, the vessel later was conscripted into the navy. Once the war was over, the craft was snapped up in 1951 by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who gifted it to Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly as a wedding present five years later. Onassis had funded a princely renovation, and the pair used it on their seven-week honeymoon around the coasts of Corsica and Sardinia. Now, the yacht takes passengers on a seven-night itinerary serving inclusive meals on deck and weaving through 18 islands that together host the most impressive zoological hoard anywhere. It isn’t just its storied heritage that gives M/Y Grace an advantage over other ships — its size does, too. At just 147 feet, it can pit-stop at some of the most remote and delicate sights in the archipelago, where larger vessels cannot reach or would interfere with wildlife.
A stunning volcanic 42-mile-long island off the southeast coast of Africa — and once the home of the extinct dodo bird — Mauritius is not a quick getaway (from L.A., it’s nearly 24 hours, including a stop in Paris via Air France). But perhaps that’s the point. The allure of being far away from it all but still blanketed in luxury draws the likes of Serena Williams and Prince Harry to this hideaway, renowned for a climate with little or no wind and warm-water currents. “It’s more than the quintessential tropical paradise,” says David Rubin of luxe tour agency DavidTravel. “Our clients love its unique fusion of cultures — Indian, French, African, Asian and British.” The latest star on the island, already home to a Four Seasons and an Oberoi, is the new St. Regis Mauritius Resort (rooms from $480). It lies on a glorious stretch of the Indian Ocean at the foot of Le Morne mountain (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Each of its 172 rooms and suites has a butler to facilitate everything from kite surfing and dolphin-spotting excursions to making sure your offspring are occupied while you have a coconut mango bath in the spa. Among the property’s restaurants is Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar‘s Simply India. Of course, you could simply have your cocktail and nibbles delivered to a prime spot beneath a banyan tree by the turquoise sea.
Don’t be surprised to see Leonardo DiCaprio sunning poolside at the new Four Seasons Safari Lodge (rooms from $890) in the heart of the Serengeti; he ponied up $22,000 during a spirited auction at this spring’s GLAAD Media Awards for a trip to this lavish hotel in Tanzania. The Serengeti’s name derives from the local Maasai word for “endless plains,” and it’s such a standout among safari destinations that the park has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. The popular country in East Africa has been on the vacation itineraries of such names as the Katzenberg family and actor Josh Radnor in the past year.
Certainly the setting is one noteworthy feature of the Four Seasons hotel, located deep within the 12,000-square-mile park amid herds of gazelles, zebras and buffalo. This isn’t a standard luxury safari setup, though, which usually involves the glossy take on camping known as “glamping.” Rather, this hotel — a midmarket lodge reconfigured in December by the five-star chain — is a permanent structure, with 77 rooms and villas linked by elevated walkways. This confers several advantages in that the amenities can be expanded drastically: The hotel offers satellite TV, air conditioning and Wi-Fi, plus a full spa, an educational facility for kids and three restaurants. Plan on a three-leg, 26-hour flight on KLM to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, then a 90-minute local flight to the nearest airport, an hour’s ride from the hotel.
More than anything, though, the Four Season’s billet in the heart of the park turns safari from a juddery jaunt in a jeep into a comfy perch poolside. The hotel is surrounded by watering holes, bringing animals within view without leaving the property.
When the tragedies of civil war receded, the Balkans took off as a 21st century destination for travelers grown tired of the same old, same old. Dubrovnik, on the coast of Croatia, first attracted the likes of Tom Cruise and Beyonce. Now Montenegro — significantly name-checked in Casino Royale and reachable via a three-leg, 21-hour flight from LAX — is ready for its close-up, already having drawn such visitors as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And on the fortified Montenegrin islet of Sveti Stefan — a fishing village surprisingly transformed during the ’60s into a luxury playground (Sophia Loren and Kirk Douglas were just two of its visitors) by Communist leader Marshal Tito — Aman Resorts has ratcheted up the high-end factor with the new Aman Sveti Stefan (rooms from $825). Its 58 rooms include modernized rustic stone cottages and a swish suite with its own swimming pool. This summer sees the opening of a new spa. Ask the concierge to book a private tasting with the Masanovic family at its legendary nearby winery.
Read about summer getaways below: