What’s it like to spend three weeks flying around the world on a private jet? Laura Begley Bloom checks out the Four Seasons Private Jet Experience and makes some amazing discoveries along the way.
“In a few minutes, look out the left side of the plane,” the pilot announces over the intercom. “We’re going to be flying over Mount Kilimanjaro.”
I put down the glass of champagne I’ve been drinking and grab my camera. The jet takes a turn and starts circling the snow-dusted summit of Kili, the tallest peak in Africa and the world’s highest freestanding mountain. I can almost peer into the crater.
It’s probably the closest I will ever come to climbing this majestic mountain — and it’s just one example of the many singular experiences I have while spending three weeks on the Four Seasons Private Jet.
Launched in 2015, the Four Seasons Private Jet Experience has been creating quite a buzz in the travel world, thanks to its around-the-world itineraries with stays at Four Seasons properties, hand-holding service, and over-the-top trappings: a Boeing 757 outfitted with just 52 white Italian leather flatbed seats, Bulgari amenities, and a fully loaded iPad that you get to keep at the end of the journey.
The 19-day Cultural Escapes trip that I’m taking starts and ends in London, with stops in Moscow, Dubai, the Seychelles, the Serengeti, and Florence. Four of my fellow passengers are on their second Four Seasons Private Jet trip in less than a year. The reason? For the access you get to money-can-buy experiences. Like having the prima ballerina from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre perform at a private gala dinner. Or driving Formula One race cars in Dubai. Or hunting for truffles in Tuscany, then eating them shaved over eggs and fettuccini just moments later.
FIRST STOP: LONDON
The pinch-myself service begins as soon as I arrive at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane and discover that the free “house car” is a chauffeured Rolls Royce that can drop guests within a two-mile radius of the hotel. I ask the driver to take me to Mayfair, so that I can scope out a few shops before the trip begins. (Ok, I admit — seeing a woman swanning through the lobby in head-to-toe white cashmere makes me panic that I haven’t packed the right clothes.) So off we go to Bond Street, where I splurge on a cashmere Burberry coat and a few other wardrobe flourishes.
Imagine my surprise (and relief!) at the champagne welcome toast that night, when I discover that the white-cashmere lady isn’t part of the jet trip. Instead, the other passengers are people who look just like me. They’re smartly dressed. And most of all, they’re interesting and engaged — and they’re really excited to spend the next three weeks exploring the world together.
Beautiful views in Seychelles.
READY FOR TAKEOFF
The next morning, it’s time to head to Moscow, so we make our way to a sleek private jet terminal at London’s Stansted airport. It couldn’t be more different from the typical departure scene at Heathrow. For one thing, there’s no line. Four Seasons has done all the advance work with customs, bag check, and more. So after security takes a quick glimpse at my passport, I’m ushered onto the tarmac. A red carpet leads to the sexy black Boeing 757, where the crew is waiting to help whisk me to my seat.
I’ve seen photos of the jet, but it’s even more impressive in person. Each of the leather seats is topped with a thick orange cashmere throw. (There’s also a fluffy down blanket and pillow, in case you want to sleep.) Every passenger is also given a stylish gray duffel filled with treats that are yours to keep, like a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
I don’t know what it is about taking off in a private jet, but somehow, everything feels smoother and there’s less turbulence than when you fly commercial. The gracious crew also seems to anticipate your every need. Just when you’re feeling a little pang of hunger, there they are with snacks. All the menus — in flight and on the ground — are curated by Kerry Sear, a private chef who has a long history with Four Seasons. He incorporates local flavors whenever possible, like caviar and blinis en route to Moscow. It’s just a small preview of what’s to come.
Soaking up the Serengeti.
MOSCOW AND MORE
When we arrive at the Four Seasons Hotel Moscow, a group of musicians and dancers in elaborate dresses and embroidered headdresses are swirling around the lobby. They offer up bread and salt, a traditional way to greet dignitaries — and invite everyone to a reception in the Royal Suite. There, we eat more caviar and have a tasting of some of Russia’s finest artisanal vodkas while gazing over views over Red Square and the Kremlin.
Over the coming days, I start to settle into the cadence of this amazing journey. In each destination, guests are given a long list of adventures to choose from, each more dazzling than the next. I mean, how do you choose between a private tour of the Kremlin’s Armory (Moscow’s oldest museum), a visit to Star City to meet with a cosmonaut, a backstage look at the Bolshoi Theatre, or a tour of a Cold War-era bunker?
No matter which experience I choose, Four Seasons makes sure it exceeds my every expectation. I don’t think I will ever forget floating over the Serengeti in a hot air balloon at sunrise and watching zebras and giraffe from above, followed by a champagne breakfast in the bush. Of course, I also won’t forget the hilarious night with some of the other passengers at the rooftop bar of the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, looking out at the view of the skyline, drinking Dom Perignon, and laughing until our sides hurt.
And that’s the thing. As incredible as the experiences are, as spectacular as the hotels are, as sleek and glamorous as the plane is, what really makes this trip so special are the people. The other passengers. The airline crew. The Journey Staff. The people who work at the hotels. I find myself tearing up on the last night of the trip, back in London, as I have to say goodbye to these new friends, people who I will now call friends for life.