Written by Staff Writer at CNN
The luxury travel destination experience may have changed from luxury travel into luxury without a title, but with all the high-end brand monikers revolving around the word “experience,” there is still something of a luxury aura surrounding journeys on luxurious boats.
There was Coco Chanel’s Aqua Fabrica, where the designer hosted a floating salon in 1923. And then there was the Aqua Tour in 1981, where host and designer Philippe Starck housed a full-blown bedtime party in the moored ship.
According to Paul Roberts, whose photography has featured in Travel + Leisure magazine for over two decades, it all comes down to the ambience on board these vessels.
“The boat must be peaceful, like no one else can be. It must also be a place where there is some excess — people traveling in posh brands taking their time — and also the freedom that comes with not having to perform for anyone in the name of efficiency,” says Roberts.
“There are differences in these experiences and brands that result in different emotional appeals to different people,” he adds.
Red carpet aboard Paradise
The grandest luxury boat on the waterways is Langham Place (bio www.langhamplacenyc.com), which sits in the Hudson River in New York with a celebrity parade of private dinners and private garden parties on board.
Over the past two decades, it has hosted international and local jetsetters including Leonardo DiCaprio, Sir Mick Jagger, Jessica Simpson, Seal, Kevin Spacey, Hugh Jackman, Billy Joel, Steven Tyler, Joss Stone, B.B. King, Wyclef Jean, Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Cynthia Nixon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katie Holmes, Portia de Rossi, Marlon Brando, Prince, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Gene Simmons, Dennis Rodman, Pierce Brosnan, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Stephen Dorff, Geoffrey Rush, Annabelle Wallis, Paris Hilton, Priscilla Presley, Farrah Fawcett and Gerard Butler.
It’s so popular that author Liza May, who wrote about Langham Place for her travel book “Private Islands,” was once invited by a guest to join them on the boat — but she was disappointed not to go.
“I read the tea leaves here and if I knew then what I know now, I think I would have jumped at the opportunity,” she says.
It’s an understatement: the luxury allure is hard to beat.
“I enjoy being put in one place and knowing that I am never going to be in the same place twice. No matter where I go, I feel a wonderful connection,” says James Hart, another celebrity guest.
Hart is a high-roller who has spent weeks cruising around Langham Place and heads straight back to his boat on the Hudson River. His travels have included Sardinia, Mexico, the Galapagos, Chile, South Africa, Sydney, New York, and Rome.
“My friends describe the cruise as a best friend’s dream. It’s intimate, relaxing and full of entertainment,” he says.
But he insists that the perks of the boat are no gimmick.
“The opportunity to spread out in one place is part of the appeal. Langham Place is a playground that I don’t want to leave,” he says.
This is especially true for New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who sailed to New York with his family last year.
“You need to go somewhere with real character, that has personality and personality helps define quality,” he says.
While some cruises in Washington DC are high-budget affairs, Tom Stierheim is responsible for outfitting the vessels for the city’s largest party.
Stierheim is a veteran ship captain who has worked on the Eastern Shore and Old Dominion yachts, but the one-time luxe yacht fanatic has made an indelible mark in Washington D.C. with his experience and reputation for managing huge parties.
He is responsible for organizing the events aboard the Harbor House at the Metropolitan Club and also organizes the mid-week yacht parties at the Rayburn Building, the home of Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
“The advantage of the club is that its programs and bar can be used as weekend parties too,” he says.
But not all experiences on a luxurious boat is glamorous — at times, it can be an expensive lesson in physical therapy.
Author and yacht racing enthusiast Louis Calbonne was looking forward to the restoration of the 142-foot Albatross in the Caribbean Sea a few years ago.