20 Retro Luxury Travel Experiences

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Expedition Ship Charters
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THROWBACK TRAVEL

Travel and vacation have changed dramatically over the decades. Ask someone who used to put on a dress and pearls to fly what they think of the people in coach who can't keep their shoes on for an entire flight. Watch "Titanic," and remember that modern cruise lines are now judged by who has the best waterslides. Some travelers want to keep it retro and, well, we honestly can't blame them. We took a look around the globe and found several vacation activities and destinations built to take travelers back to a simpler time.
Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Photo credit: The Majestic Yosemite Hotel/facebok.com

MAJESTIC YOSEMITE HOTEL

Where: Yosemite National Park, California
Starting price: $511 a night in January
Art deco, Native American, Middle Eastern, and Arts and Crafts architecture come together in this 1927 lodge that is now a National Historical Landmark. It took 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 feet of lumber that were carted through the mountains during the park's early years to build it, and a renovation looked into Yosemite's archives to match the textiles and colors of the original English country-house interior.
Yosemite
Photo credit: The Majestic Yosemite Hotel/facebok.com

MAJESTIC YOSEMITE HOTEL: STUNNING VIEWS AND AFTERNOON TEA

Once you've taken in the tapestries, stained glass, and hand-stenciled beams, what do you do here? Well, if you spring for some of the higher-priced rooms, you can look out onto Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, or Half Dome and plan your day in the outdoors. Afterward, you'll get complimentary afternoon tea on the patio overlooking Glacier Point. There's a sweet shop, bar, and a heated outdoor swimming pool. If you want to sit beneath the 34-foot ceilings in the dining room for breakfast, lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch, we'd suggest making reservations.
Air Chathams Douglas DC-3
Photo credit: Air Chathams/facebook.com

COCKTAILS ON AIR CHATHAMS

Where: Auckland, New Zealand
Starting price: $127

The Douglas DC-3 is the airplane that helped launch commercial air travel in the mid-20th Century. Fresh off military service in World War II, the DC-3 was pressed into duty carrying well-dressed passengers and crew from city to city, with lots of legroom and tons of free food and booze. The downside? It was really loud, required lots of layovers over long distances, and luggage took forever to retrieve. They're hard to track down outside of museums these days, but Air Chathams still flies them.

Charter Back in Time
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AIR CHATHAMS: CHARTERED "FLIGHT BACK IN TIME"

No, $127 doesn't seem like much, but you're paying for the privilege of taking a scenic flight to nowhere in an unpressurized cabin with only a "Mad Men"-worthy supply of hard alcohol to steady your nerves. For the whole swinging 1950s flying experience and a party with your friends, you could always spend a lot more to charter a "flight back in time" with in-flight catering and uniformed pilots and flight attendants.
Simplon-Orient Express
Photo credit: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express/facebook.com

SIMPLON-ORIENT EXPRESS

Where: London
Starting price: $3,500
The Simplon Orient-Express first ran in 1883 and made the trek from Paris to Istanbul until 1977. The line was shortened several times thereafter, but runs now as a tourist train. With cabins lovingly restored to resemble those in Agatha Christie's 1934 novel "Murder on the Orient Express" (as well as the ensuing films), its routes now serve Berlin, Istanbul, London, Venice, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Verona, and Bucharest.
Simplon-Orient Express Interior
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SIMPLON-ORIENT EXPRESS: VINTAGE CABINS AND UPSCALE DINING

The starting price covers only shorter routes such as London to Venice. That said, you're traveling in lavishly appointed 1920 woodgrain cabins, eating decadent meals as a steward sets up and takes down your bedding, and, in most cases, getting a deal: The original Paris-to-Istanbul trip, which runs just once a year, includes hotel accommodations and is already sold out for 2019, and it costs closer to $10,500 per person.
Grand Hotel
Photo credit: Grand Hotel/facebook.com

GRAND HOTEL

Where: Mackinac Island, Michigan
Starting price: $937
How much of a throwback is the Grand Hotel? Enough that the 1980 Jane Seymour/Christopher Reeve time-travel romance "Somewhere In Time" was filmed here. Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac and wedged between Michigan's lower peninsula to the south and its upper peninsula to the north, the Grand Hotel has been greeting Mackinac Island travelers since 1887 and has maintained much of its Victorian charm.
Grand Hotel Horse Drawn Carriage
Photo credit: Grand Hotel/facebook.com

GRAND HOTEL: HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES, GOLF AND SPA TREATMENTS

Since there are no cars on Mackinac Island (and only 600 full-time residents), the Grand Hotel fetches you from the ferry terminal in a horse-drawn carriage. Once you arrive, there's golf on the Jewel course, spa or salon treatments, biking the island, swimming in the 220-foot Esther Williams pool, afternoon tea, and dancing to the Grand Hotel Orchestra. Once you're done visiting all nine eateries, you can stare at the painstakingly-restored wallpaper as you de-bloat.
Zeppelin Flights
Photo credit: Zeppelin NT/facebook.com

ZEPPELIN FLIGHTS

Where: Friedrichshafen, Germany
Starting price: $236
Oh, the luxury! Granted, the Zeppelin flying today isn't a whole lot like the rigid, steel-framed Zeppelins of the early 20th century. But considering that most Americans know those Zeppelins either from Indiana Jones films (where they're piloted by Nazis) or from the Hindenburg disaster, perhaps that's best. Built for 12 to 14 passengers, the airship's gondola has a toilet as its greatest luxury. But with gorgeous views of the countryside and sumptuous meals and Champagne waiting in the hangar, there are glimpses of the Zeppelin's more glamorous existence.
Zeppelin Pilot
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ZEPPELIN FLIGHTS: PILOT FOR A DAY

The new Zeppelins, flying since 2001, have carried more than 250,000 passengers. While there are longer flights that cost about double ($534), the ultimate experience allows you to actually fly a zeppelin for $4,100. You have to be a licensed pilot and take the two days of instruction included in the price.
Giraffe Manor
Photo credit: Giraffe Manor/facebook.com

GIRAFFE MANOR

Where: Nairobi, Kenya
Starting price: $569 per person per night
Want to go on safari, but feeling too lazy to actually go anywhere? Giraffe Manor brings much of the wildlife to you. Built in 1932 and modeled on a Scottish hunting lodge, this lodge has had giraffes on its lawn since the 1970s, when Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville first adopted an orphaned Rothschild's giraffe. It's been a hotel since 2009. You'll get giraffes peeking their heads into the lodge to join you for breakfast, and room fees include airport transfers, local transportation, all meals, house wines, beers, soft drinks and spirits, laundry, wireless internet, croquet, and entrance to the Giraffe Centre. Massages and tips are extra.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Adoption
Photo credit: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust/facebook.com

GIRAFFE MANOR: ADOPT A BABY ELEPHANT

You don't just have to hang around the meticulously restored 1930s manor house drinking wine and petting giraffes (though not wanting to do so is kind of odd). The nearby David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust will let you adopt a baby elephant; you can paint in a greenhouse filled with orchids; and you can explore the museums and shops of Nairobi.
Vintage Car Tours
Photo credit: Classic Travelling/facebook.com

VINTAGE CAR TOURS

Where: Various locations
Starting price: $1,110 per person, plus $1,948 for car rental
You could drive less than 200 miles and spend four days seeing England's oldest brewery, Winston Churchill's house, and numerous castles in Kent, or you could stay closer to home and spend nearly three weeks watching the leaves turn color in New England. In any case, you'll be doing so behind the wheel of either your own classic car or one of several available for rent.
Vintage Car Tour Expeditions
Photo credit: Classic Travelling/facebook.com

VINTAGE CAR TOURS: ROADSIDE PERKS

This tour isn't just about the cars. Hotels, GPS devices, concerts, guided tours, and a traveling tour director are all included in the price; groups are limited to about 20 cars total. Even better, a knowledgeable classic car mechanic comes along for the bigger tours just to make sure everyone has a good time and keeps their car on the road.
The Equinox
Photo credit: Equinox - A Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa - Vermont/facebook.com

THE EQUINOX

Where: Manchester, Vermont
Starting price: $499 a night
The Equinox has been at the center of Vermont's winter fun since 1769 — it's close enough to ski slopes, dog sledding trails, snowshoeing grounds, and ice-skating rinks to be a true winter retreat, and it has a spa and Land Rover Driving Experience that lets you plow through the snow.
Equinox Canoe
Photo credit: Equinox - A Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa - Vermont/facebook.com

THE EQUINOX: FLY-FISHING, FALCONRY AND FIRESIDE READS

The Equinox is also one of the Green Mountain State's few all-weather resorts. The bar's outdoor fire pit, tennis lessons, lake canoeing, outdoor retailer Orvis' fly-fishing and shooting schools, and a falconry course all await during warmer months. When finished outdoors, take a swim, get a bite at any of the Equinox's five eateries (including the Revolutionary-era Marsh Tavern), or find a book and a spot by the fire in the library (and look for Levi Church Orvis' inscription on the Chop House fireplace).
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Photo credit: Golden Eagle Luxury Trains/facebook.com

GOLDEN EAGLE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS

Where: Moscow to Vladivostok
Starting price: $13,395 for 15 days
The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express runs on the longest continuous railway line in the world and operates on 15-day itineraries along a route that typically takes seven days. You'll tour cities, see the endless steppe, ride along Lake Baikal, see the yurts, and end up in Russia's key pacific military port — it's straight out of "Doctor Zhivago," only with nicer cabins and none of the hassle of the Russian Revolution.
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express Interior
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GOLDEN EAGLE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS: IMPERIAL SUITES

For a 15-day trip on a train, the greatest luxuries of all are the accommodations. The train provides three classes of service; all three include in-cabin showers, meal service, drinks, excursions, services of onboard tour guides, porters, and even a doctor in their prices. To switch from a twin room to a single and from low-tier Silver Class to a top-tier Imperial Suite, expect to pay close to $68,000.
DDA Classic Airlines
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DDA CLASSIC AIRLINES

Where: Lelystad, Netherlands
Starting price: $155 to $260
There are only two places in the world to fly in a DC-3, and The Netherlands are one of them. This particular DC-3 dates back to 1944, dropped paratroopers into Normandy on D-Day and participated in Operation Market Garden in what was then Holland. Prince Bernhard bought the aircraft from U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower himself, and flew it until 1975. It was restored in 1998 and has been flying ever since. Flights are 30 to 60 minutes, feature uniformed pilots and flight attendants, and fly out of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Lelystad.
DDA Classic Airlines Flying
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DDA CLASSIC AIRLINES: CUSTOM ITINERARIES

What makes this truly a luxury, aside from flying to another country just to fly in a plane that goes nowhere, is that becoming a sponsor of the plane means you can fly anywhere you'd like on a custom itinerary. Otherwise, a $11, one-time donation allows you to fly once; an $86 membership gets flights throughout the year and more information on the plane.
Trans-Canadian Rail Trip
Photo credit: Fresh Tracks Canada/facebook.com

TRANS-CANADIAN RAIL TRIP

Where: Halifax to Vancouver
Starting price: $10,330
Canada's old coast-to-coast Dominion train hasn't run in years. But the Rocky Mountaineer excursion train and Via Rail Canada combine for a 22-day, 21-night trip that recalls the Dominion's former glory. The Rocky Mountaineer operates on the Dominion's Canadian Pacific tracks and passes through the scenic mountains along Banff and Lake Louise, but you'll also see Vancouver, Jasper, Toronto, Old Montréal, and broad portions of Quebec.
Fairmont Banff Springs
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TRANS-CANADIAN RAIL TRIP: 5-STAR LODGING

You get a private cabin on the train for the duration of the ride, though you can mill the lounge areas and dining cars with fellow travelers. When not on the train, you'll be staying at local three- to five-star hotels or lodges, including the Fairmont Banff Springs and Hotel Place D'Armes in Montreal.
Napa Valley Wine Train
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NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN

Where: Napa, California
Starting price: $224 per person
Established as a passenger line in 1864 and maintained through the 1930s, the Napa Valley Wine Train wasn't known as such until it opened as a tourist line in 1989. The train's Pullman cars were built in 1915 but have been restored completely with Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions, and velveteen fabric armchairs. Its locomotives and Vista Dome Car with glass ceiling panels were built in the 1950s, but all now exist solely to shuffle wine tasters around Napa.
Napa Valley Wine Train Interior
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NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN: WINERY TOURS AND MURDER-MYSTERY RIDES

That starting price is just for a lunch or dinner train. If you'd like to take the train for a half-day winery tour, a full-day winery tour, or special events such as murder-mystery rides, beer rides or holiday rides, it gets a bit more costly.
Airlander 10
Photo credit: Hybrid Air Vehicles/facebook.com

AIRLANDER 10

Where: Bedford, England
Starting price: $20 per person
Yes, the Airlander folks know: The world's longest aircraft looks like a giant posterior. But, that hasn't stopped its developers from bringing it out on test flights and preparing to market it elsewhere around the world.
Airlander 10 Hangar
Photo credit: Hybrid Air Vehicles/facebook.com

AIRLANDER 10: VIP TOURS

Airship travel is still a throwback; you don't just see passenger airships buzzing around on a regular basis. But signing on as a supporter for less than $20 a year as a supporter (or substantially more as an investor), is the best opportunity to get a VIP tour of the Airlander hangar and a flight for two on the Vector Airlander Flight Trainer.
American Queen Steamboat
Photo credit: American Queen Steamboat Company/facebook.com

AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT

Where: Various cities
Starting price: $599
Call it a steamboat, call it a paddle boat, call it a sternwheeler: These ships still run along the Columbia River and Snake River between Washington and Oregon, the Ohio River from Pennsylvania through to Missouri, and both the upper and lower Mississippi River. You can do new year's in New Orleans or spend more than three weeks heading from Minnesota all the way to the Big Easy.
American Queen Steamboat Show
Photo credit: American Queen Steamboat Company/facebook.com

AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT: LIVE ENTERTAINMENT AND PRIVATE BUTLERS

The American Queen offers spa treatments, a fitness center, live entertainment, three meals, and snacks. Luxury suites have their own private verandas and butlers. If you want Victorian-era luxury, you've found it.
Wentworth By the Sea
Photo credit: Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa/facebook.com

WENTWORTH BY THE SEA

Where: New Castle, New Hampshire
Starting price: $234 a night

It's owned by Marriott, but it by no means looks like a chain hotel. Opened in 1874 and given a $30 million overhaul in 2003, Wentworth by the Sea is one of the last of the area's grand hotels. It features a full-service spa, exercise studio, indoor and outdoor pools, a tennis court, historic gardens, 10,000 square feet of event space, four dining facilities, and a 170-slip marina.

Wentworth By the Sea Dining
Photo credit: Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa/facebook.com

WENTWORTH BY THE SEA: LUXURY SUITES AND JAZZ BRUNCH

There's a great Sunday jazz brunch, but also three different eateries, a winter wine festival in January, and holiday packages. The luxury comes into play when you splurge for the ocean views, king-sized beds, and whirlpool tubs in the Marina and Turret Suites.
Queen Mary 2
Photo credit: Cunard/facebook.com

QUEEN MARY 2

Where: New York and Southampton
Starting price: $699

Rumors of attempts at building a new Titanic are true, but why not enjoy turn-of-the century charms on an ocean liner built at the turn of this century with a clean reputation? Cunard isn't new to transatlantic cruises — it was actually a competitor to the Titanic's White Star line — and in 2004 built the Queen Mary 2, exceeding Titanic in numerous ways (not the least of which is still floating on the Atlantic rather than resting on its floor.

Queen Mary 2 Pool
Photo credit: Cunard/facebook.com

QUEEN MARY 2: ONBOARD THEATERS, SPA, AND LUXURIES GALORE

The Queen Mary 2 includes 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and a seafaring planetarium. Cunard has much to say about the luxuries of its liner, including its cinema, theaters, spa, grill, pet kennels, and massive Britannia restaurant, which goes the width of the ship on two decks. There's a grand lobby to greet you, grand staircases to traverse, and an 8,000-volume library to busy yourself with.
Steam Ship Sudan
Photo credit: Steam Ship Sudan/facebook.com

STEAM SHIP SUDAN

Where: Egypt
Starting price: $2,183 to $3,103

Built in 1885 for Egypt's King Fouad, this steamship inspired tourist Agatha Christie to write "Death on the Nile" in 1937. There are just 23 cabins, five of which are suites, with period furniture (including wall-mounted telephones and brass beds). There is a sun deck, and each voyage includes buffet breakfast and lunch, followed by a four-course dinner.

Temple of Karnak
Photo credit: Temple of Karnak/facebook.com

STEAM SHIP SUDAN: TOURING THE CHAMBERS OF THE PHARAOHS

The Sudan runs from Luxor to Aswan, where you'll get to see the halls and sculptures of the Temple of Karnak, the burial chambers of the pharaohs (including Tutankhamen and Ramses III), the Temple of Edfu, and Kom Ombo. It is hard to get more retro.
Abercrombie and Kent Safari
Photo credit: Abercrombie & Kent USA/facebook.com

ABERCROMBIE & KENT SAFARIS

Where: Southern Africa
Starting price: $13,995 per person
From bustling, cosmopolitan Cape Town in South Africa to towering Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to the extraordinary Okavango Delta in Botswana, this Southern Africa safari is indicative of what Abercrombie & Kent has been booking since 1962. Founder Geoffrey Kent was born while his parents were on safari, raised on the family farm in Kenya, and was the first person to travel from Kenya to Cape Town on a motorcycle. If you're looking for authenticity, you've found it.
Victoria Falls
Photo credit: Abercrombie & Kent USA/facebook.com

ABERCROMBIE & KENT SAFARIS: CRUISING THE CHOBE RIVER

If you think wistfully of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in "The African Queen," this trip means pining no more; it spends three nights cruising the Chobe River aboard the Zambezi Queen; and a two-day journey on turn-of-the-century Rovos Rail goes through mountain ranges and savannas on the way to Table Mountain overlooking the Twelve Apostles range, the Cape of Good Hope and its African penguin colony on Boulders Beach, Victoria Falls, and Sanctuary Chief's Camp in Okavango Delta's Moremi Game Reserve, home to numerous predators (yes, including lions). If this seems steep, just consider that prices range from less than $2,000 for a tailor-made trip to Victoria Falls to $185,000 to join Kent himself at the South Pole with Emperor penguins.
Sahara Camel Tours
Photo credit: Desert Luxury Camp/facebook.com

SAHARA CAMEL TOURS

Where: Merzouga, Morocco
Starting price: $575
Seeing the massive dunes of the Erg Chebbi in any circumstance is awe-inspiring. Seeing them from the back of a camel as you make your way to and from camp with help from Berber guides is as authentically "retro" an experience as you can muster. Modernity disappears once your Hyundai minivan picks you up at the airport and drops you into the village. If you had a five-star riad or hotel in Marrakech, staying in a tent in the wind-swept desert or sitting on a carpet by the fire at night will be an interesting change of pace.
Desert Luxury Camp
Photo credit: Desert Luxury Camp/facebook.com

SAHARA CAMEL TOURS: DESSERTS IN THE DESERT

Guides will be with you the whole time, along with your group's chef. Dinners are three-course feasts with salads, soups, tajine (stew), lamb mechoui (spit-roasted lamb), seven-vegetable couscous, and desserts with seasonal fruit and pastry. Breakfast features jams, cheeses, oils, honey, and yogurts on Moroccan pancakes or fresh-baked bread.
Expedition Ship Charters
Photo credit: Classic-Charters.com/facebook.com

EXPEDITION SHIP CHARTERS

Where: Wherever you'd like
Starting price: $35,000 per week
Anybody can rent a yacht and play William Randolph Hearst for a weekend, but chartering an expedition vessel and channeling Jacques Cousteau? That's a far more rare feat. With some vessels dating back to the 1940s with mid-century Cousteau-style design elements, and others retrofitted with luxury features (think hot tubs, giant flatscreen televisions, and bars), Classic Charters lets you can follow scientific pursuits or just play adventurer for as long as you desire.
Classic Charters
Photo credit: Classic-Charters.com/facebook.com

EXPEDITION SHIP CHARTERS: JOURNEY TO THE CARIBBEAN OR THE ARCTIC

While some expedition vessels are restricted by geography (some, for example, won't leave the Caribbean or a particular ocean), others will charge up to $286,389 a week to lay the world at your feet. To visit a particularly challenging destination — such as going polar bear watching in the Arctic — expedition ships might be worth the investment.

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