The world’s best luxury tour operators
Thinking about leaving the humdrum of everyday life behind and embarking on that dream trip? Well look no further. AsianCorrespondent.com has selected 10 of the best luxury tour operators in the world to help you find that once-in-a-lifetime vacation…
ASK anyone in the travel business which sector of the tourism industry rode the recession storm the best and they will tell you that it is the high-end, luxury resorts, restaurants and tour operators that have emerged relatively unscathed. People may not be spending as much, but when they do spend they like to know that they are getting the very best. Makes sense, when you think about it.
While the chosen few can spend their lives going from one exotic location to another in a whirlwind of sun, sand and champagne, most of us only get a few bites of the ‘dream vacation’ pie. And when it is time to plan that luxury trip, there’s so much to choose from. In fact, it is one of those few times that you really do feel like you have the world at your feet.
The choice of luxury vacations and adventures is literally endless. For some the pinnacle of travel heaven is the around-the-world cruise, for others it’s a wildlife safari in Mozambique, or maybe yoga and treatments on a sun-kissed Kerala beach. Whether it’s adventure, relaxation or the high life, the important thing is to do it in style.
For those of us who have put the backpack in the attic and think that a shoestring is something to do with footwear, there is no shortage of world-class luxury tour operators that will make sure you get a vacation that lives up to expectations. In fact, with the right tour operator even the planning and the booking will be a pleasure.
The whole point of a no-holds-barred trip is that you don’t have to lift a finger, from start to finish. Choose the right tour operator and you won’t have to. Just give them your dates, your likes and your dislikes and they will tailor for you a vacation that you will not forget. Whether it’s a dream Hawaii holiday with Classic Vacations or an adventure to the Galapagos with Abercromie & Kent, these tour operators will do it all for you. If you wish, each day of your trip will be planned out in meticulous detail so you can concentrate on relaxation and enjoyment.
There is a huge choice of excellent luxury tour operators around. Here we’ve narrowed it down to what we think are 10 of the best operators out there. Here you will find tours to every corner of the globe and to suit every taste, all organized by operators that won’t leave you lift a finger.
In an age of package holidays and weekend breaks, it’s refreshing to travel with a company like Classic Vacations, where veterans of well-heeled globetrotting work their private network to deliver luxury vacations with a difference, exclusive privileges and hard-to-land suites. Travelers who book through Classic Vacations enjoy VIP treatment and customizable itineraries, and they regularly find themselves unraveling in the region’s finest spa or landing last-minute tee times at world-class golf courses. Travel agents around the world rated Classic Vacations the number-one luxury vacation company for a reason: satisfied customers. Travel agents are really just brokers, and when they find a company that can truly dazzle vacationers, they latch on to it. This is an oft-overlooked distinction; and it matters.
If it’s Asia that stirs your fancy look no further than the options with Exotissimo. Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia feature among their destinations. Each tour is designed to capture the buzz, essence, culture or food of the region it visits, allowing you to really get to grips with a particular area. For example, you may wish to indulge in a culinary tour of Vietnam, wander the nation’s watery deltas or sample some of the hill country life and tribes of the north. While their Vietnam tours are particularly good – they first established themselves in Ho Chi Minh City – the beauty of their tours are not only are they expatriates living in Asia, but they also employ local staff. This means they know what foreign tourists want when they visit Asia, plus they can give you a lot of local flavour – it’s the perfect balance.
ABERCROMBIE & KENT
Abercrombie & Kent was founded in 1962 as a modest African safari tour operator that allowed travelers to enjoy the splendours of the African landscape and wildlife in safety. Since then it has grown into one of the largest luxury tour operators in the world, offering travelers unique and unforgettable experiences in every corner of the globe. Of course it still offers some of the best African safaris out there, while you can also explore the peaks of the Andes mountains, view the wildlife of the Galapagos, or walk with penguins in Antarctica. With over 60 offices around the world, Abercrombie & Kent specializes in once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and will make sure you do it in style.
From Panama in Central America right down to the Galapagos and Antarctica, Latin Excursions has South America covered like no other tour operator. Established in Miami in 2001, Latin Excursions is a relatively new addition to the luxury tour operators scene but has quickly built up a reputation for quality and reliability. It has a network of travel specialists throughout the continent that guarantee an experience for travelers that they will not find anywhere else. No tour guides here, traveling with Latin Excursions is about experiencing real people and real places. And while excitement, adventure and new experiences are an integral part of any Latin Excursions trip, top-class accommodation, personal hosts, spa treatments and countless other luxuries are always at hand.
Jacada Travel doesn’t cover a huge amount of destinations in South America, but the places it does go to it does it in style. Jacada picks the most beautiful and exciting locations in South America, such as Brazil, Argentina, Peru and the Galapagos, and combines them with high-end luxury. The aim is to provide a flexible and hassle-free experience. Jacada makes sure that its customers don’t have to worry about bookings and arrangements, while still ensuring that travelers can tailor their accommodations and activities to suit their tastes. Jacada specializes in standard luxury tours, honeymoons, and ‘elite touring’, which it says is “for those looking to go above and beyond the standard definition of luxury”.
CAZENOVE + LOYD
Cazenove + Loyd is another luxury tour operator that prefers to narrow its focus to specific parts of the world, namely Central + South America, Africa + Indian Ocean, and South and Southeast Asia. The award-winning, UK-based Cazenove + Loyd tailors its trips individually for each customer using destination experts who have intimate knowledge of the regions. Owners Henrietta Loyd and Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell believe the personal touch is what sets Cazenove + Loyd apart from its competitors. Customers enjoy the benefits of this from start to finish, including 24-hour care and assistance while on their trip.
BUTTERFIELD & ROBINSON
Since 1966, Butterfield & Robinson has been tailoring high-end tours and vacations for those with a passion for the great outdoors. B&R covers all the continents and all the big attractions with a firm belief that they are best seen on boat, bike or foot. There’s no such thing as a typical day on a B&R trip, but breathtaking sights, healthy exercise, excellent food and luxurious accommodations usually get a look-in. There is a huge choice to tours in every corner of the globe catering for singles, couples, families and groups, and there is something for every fitness level. And for those who like something a little different, B&R will be more than happy to tailor a trip that meets your exact needs.
Orient-Express offers unique experiences for the discerning traveller right around the globe, and as the name suggests trains are heavily involved. However, an Orient-Express tour does not mean you will spend endless days looking out a train window. In fact, if you prefer you will not even set sight on a train. Orient-Express’s main goal is to deliver experiences and opulence that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Trips range from city experiences in the world’s most famous metropolises to country retreats in secluded villas. Whether you choose from Orient-Express’s amazing options, or tailor your own, it is likely to be an experience you won’t forget. And yes, there are plenty of railway adventures on offer too.
COX & KINGS
The world’s oldest travel company, Cox & King offers tours and tailor-made itineraries to virtually every destination imaginable. And after well over two centuries in existence, this luxury tour operator has learned a thing or two about the art of travel. Don’t let its advanced years fool you though, Cox & King knows what the modern traveller wants and consistently strikes the perfect balance between adventure and luxury. Cox & King employs regional specialists that have travelled extensively in their regions. They can suggest ideal itineraries, or you can start with a blank page and, with their advice and expertise, tailor your trip yourself. The range of travel opportunities is diverse, but the experience is consistently excellent.
Twenty-nine years ago Magda Johnson decided to put her years of experience as a worldwide traveler to use and set up Travel Wizards. Already a business owner, Magda built Travel Wizards into one of the largest independent travel agencies in California. Travel Wizards caters for trips to luxury destinations around the world, and specializes in cruises, honeymoons and adventure travel. With Travel Wizards there really is no end to the choice of dream vacations on offer, whether it’s for couples, families or groups. Travel Wizards has something to suit every taste, in every corner of the world.