Sunday, June 8, 2008

all adventure travel is a luxury It's fair to say that all adventure travel is a luxury. But, of course, there's luxury and then there's real luxury. Ohio- based travel company Abercrombie and Kent specializes in the latter.

Take, for example, the "luxury camping" trips the company offers. On Abercrombie and Kent's "mobile camping tented safaris," clients sleep in tents, but as company spokeswoman Jean Fawcett makes clear, "these are not tents like you and I think of them. In fact, we call them 'bush pavilions.' The guests have access to flushing toilets and heated showers. There's linen on the tables and Waterford crystal on the nightstand."

Nightstand? Crystal?

Not exactly roughing it.

Not exactly cheap, either. Abercrombie and Kent's 14-day "East Africa Hemingway Safari" in Tanzania and Kenya costs $11,925 per person, not including air transportation to and within Africa.

As steep as that may seem, it's hardly the most expensive travel package in the company's catalog. A 20-day "adventure cruise" to Antarctica, for example, costs $25,000, and an around-the-world flight on the company's customized Boeing 757 can run close to $100,000.

The "Nine Wonders of the World" private jet tour features visits to places such as Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal. At a total fare of $89,800, that works out to about $10,000 per wonder.

Has the specter of recession put a damper on such lavishness? Fawcett says no.

"On our last worldwide flight," she reports, "we had about 15 passengers rebook even before they got off the plane."

Cosmos-wide travel

How about booking a spot on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo? Sir Richard Branson's suborbital space flights will carry passengers to a maximum altitude of 360,000 feet, where they will be able to glimpse the curvature of the Earth as they drift weightlessly around the cabin. After a few minutes, alas, gravity will reassert itself and the vessel will come back to Earth. Flights won't begin until next year, but the "spaceline" has already sold more than 200 seats at $200,000 a pop.

For anyone keen on entering orbit, the price tag is at least an order of magnitude higher. Dennis Tito, an aeronautical engineer turned financier, became history's first space tourist in 2001. The American billionaire reportedly paid $20 million to visit the International Space Station aboard a Russian spacecraft.

Since then, the price has gone up considerably. The company that arranged Tito's voyage — Virginia-based Space Adventures — advertises the trip to the space station at $30 million to $40 million.

In 2005, the company announced an even bolder vision for space tourism — namely, commercial lunar expeditions. As always, there are technical obstacles to be surmounted, but if everything goes according to plan, two paying passengers and a cosmonaut will fly a Soyuz space module around the moon with a possible stopover at the space station. The first challenge will be finding people who can afford the fare: $100 million per passenger.

No comments: