Claire Hanney, Global Product Development Manager at Insight Vacations, is in charge of creating the company’s new Luxury Gold trips, poised to set the highest standard in elegance and opulence for luxury trips.
Launching in 2016, Luxury Gold vacations will offer the ultimate in luxury and refinement for travelers. At the heart of these trips are unique experiences, unavailable to independent travelers or even those visiting destinations with other operators. Here are five insider experiences that caught AFAR’s attention.
1. A Secret Corridor is Opened
The masterpieces of Italian art are, of course, known all around the world. If you didn’t realize that already, you will when you visit the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City and are herded through with thousands of others. On the Ultimate Italy trip from Luxury Gold, you will have early hours access, but it’s another exclusive access opportunity that Claire is most excited about. “The Vasari Corridor is closed to the general public, but our guests get to see it,” Claire explains. “It links the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and allowed the Medicis to admire their art and then return to the Palazzo Pitti without descending to the street.” She says it is experiences like this that impress even the most sophisticated travelers. “The corridor contains some 10,000 pieces of art, and the tour of it proves to be a highlight for many of our guests who know all about the history of the Renaissance and find it amazing to walk in the footsteps of Lorenzo d’Medici.”
2. Witness One of London's Most Timeless Traditions
For the Anglophile drawn to London by the country’s long history and celebrated pomp and pageantry, few events can compare to a visit to the Tower of London with Luxury Gold. Here, Claire and her team have arranged for access to one of London’s most timeless traditions, dating back hundreds of years. “At the end of each day,” Claire explains, “the Yeoman Warders hand the keys to the Tower of London from one shift of guards to the next. Before witnessing the actual ceremony, which is not open to the public, our guests will meet with one of the Yeoman Warders and hear about their responsibilities and learn about the ceremony. The Tower of London is a fascinating and historic, and also hauntingly quiet, site located amidst the bustle of one of the world’s great cities. Visiting it is special at any time, but for Luxury Gold guests there is the added plus of witnessing this age-old ceremony and meeting the guards who carry the weight of national pride on their shoulders.”
3. When Life is a Cabaret
Guests on the French Elegance itinerary will spend an evening at one of Paris’s most storied cabarets, the Nouvelle Eve. “It is owned in part by the Moulin Rouge,” Claire explains, “but we chose the Nouvelle Eve for this experience because it’s much more intimate. Guests will be greeted by the owner of the cabaret—it’s been run by the same family for generations—and then they’ll meet the choreographer. They’ll get to try on one of the headdresses, take some photos—it’s a fun experience as well as an eye-opening one as people realize all the work that goes into a show.”
After meeting some of the people who make the magic possible, guests will then be taken to the best seats in the house and enjoy the spectacle with a glass of champagne in hand.
4. A High Note in Barcelona
The Luxury Gold Spain and Portugal in Style trip offered by Insight Vacations includes a visit to one of the city’s most famous cultural institutions, the Liceu Opera House. While thousands of people visit the opera house each year, very few get to experience the way guests on this trip do. “Guests will start with a tour of this stunning theater, but then they get to head next door to a private club,” Claire says. “They have an art collection that is world-famous, and guests will sip glasses of cava as they admire the Picassos and other masterpieces on the wall. Afterwards, everyone will head to a restaurant overlooking the port. This trip is so exclusive that I haven’t even had a chance to experience it myself yet, but will make it to Barcelona before our first guests.”
5. Hapsburg Harmony
Like the art collections of Italy, the gilded palaces of Vienna are perhaps too popular for their own good. The stately rooms where the Hapsburg and Austrian nobility listened to performances by Mozart are now crowded with hundreds of guests. The Luxury Gold itinerary Harmony in Central Europe, however, allows travelers after-hours access to the famous Palais Augsburg. Claire says that, “Guests will be treated like royalty with an evening that begins with a champagne reception before they are shown to their front-row seats in a stunning palace. This is a chance to experience a classical performance as it would have taken place in Mozart’s days, in a small chamber offering an intimate setting.” Fans of Chopin can attend a similar concert in one of several palaces in Warsaw.