Adventure Travel Meets Luxury, In The Arctic

adventure travelThe idea of “adventure travel” is hot and those who sell travel know it. Travelers who lead an active lifestyle as a big part of their everyday life want to continue that focus when traveling. Local adventurers who might camp, hike, hunt, ski or bike around where they live, want the thrill of doing that in an amazing place somewhere else on the planet. Even travelers once satisfied with a pre-packaged land tour or the standard fare on a Caribbean cruise want more. Only one problem: not everyone who likes the idea of adventure travel is equipped to handle it. But they still want it.

Enter land tour operator Abercrombie and Kent, known for safe and luxurious safari-like travel packages with a hefty price tag.

Offering more than a lazy man’s adventure, Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) recently announced a 2014 lineup of cruises to the Arctic. These luxury versions of the frigid expedition sailings for hearty explorers, normally associated with that part of the world, might very well be just what the pseudo-adventure traveler has in mind too.

On their July 29, 2014, sailing – Arctic Cruise Norway: Polar Bears & Midnight Sun – A&K guides take their guests to see polar bears, walrus and reindeer from the northern shores of Norway to the Svalbard Archipelago and Spitsbergen (AKA the last stop before the North pole), setting foot on the coastal city of Tromsø and the polar bear stomping grounds of Nordaustlandet. The 12-day adventure starts at $8,995.Another choice – A&K’s Arctic Cruise Adventure: Norway, Greenland & Iceland (Aug 7-21, 2014) – boasts stunning wildlife, geological features and history on an intense 15-day Arctic voyage from Norway and Spitsbergen to the region’s most remote and magnificent islands.

Visiting polar bears on the Svalbard archipelago, Kejser Franz Joseph Fjords and Scoresby Sound in Greenland along with Iceland’s extinct Snaefellsjokull volcano among other stops is not a cheap swing around the Caribbean. This one will run you $11,995.

Think that sounds like a lot to pay? Not everyone does: A&K’s 2013 Arctic offerings sold out 10 months in advance. This video gives us an idea of why they might be so popular:

[Photo credit – Abercrombie and Kent]

White Collar Travel Extra: Abercrombie CEO grounded!

When you think about it, $71.8 million in total compensation just isn’t what it used to be. That’s what Abercrombie & Fitch Chairman and CEO Mike Jeffries raked in for 2008. Meanwhile, the company he was skippering showed a profit of $254,000. Basically, A&F as a company – with all the resources available to it – earned the decent salary of a lower-level executive. So, it’s no surprise that Jeffries had his wings clipped.

According to the Corporate Library, a watchdog group, Jeffries was one of the top five Highest Paid Worst Performers of 2008. Translation: never has one received so much for accomplishing so little. I don’t know if you can call it punishment – hell, it doesn’t even feel like a reality check- but A&F is putting the brakes on its contributions to the CEO’s personal travel cost. After $200,000, he has to pick up his own tab. Compare that to the 2008 personal travel bill he turned over to shareholders: $1.3 million.

Yeah, times have changed.

Now, I’m sure someone, somewhere, is about to shed a tear for Jeffries. After all, he’s losing a nice perk. Fortunately, he has found a way to compensate (well, be compensated) for the change in travel policy: A&F is kicking in a $4 million lump-sum payment.

I know it’s fashionable to hate greedy CEOs. Frankly, I’m fine with their making obscene amounts of money, as long as they’re creating kick-ass amounts of shareholder value – that’s really all that matters. Well, Jeffries hasn’t been delivering the goods, which means just about anything is “generous” at this point.

If it had to happen, at least, the cap on personal travel expenses came at the right time. Flights are still pretty cheap, and hotel rates aren’t likely to start recovering until next year.

Abercrombie & Kent vacation clubs: try before you buy

Let the tough timeshare and vacation club market work to your advantage this year. Upscale travel firm Abercrombie & Kent’s Residence Club is offering two-year trial memberships starting at $18,700 a year for 15 nights – that’s a tad under $1,250 a night. The residences tend to be around 4,000 square feet and have four bedrooms. A&K suggests that you can “even travel with the extended family,” but I’m sure I could find other uses for the extra space (I’m not a fan of traveling with a lot of people, regardless of connection).

Okay, so it’s basically a decent amount of cash for access to some great properties in places like the Turks & Caicos and Deer Valley, Utah. The details, however, make the difference. A&K takes care of airport pickup, grocery shopping before you hit the ground and the other prep activities that could slip your mind when you’re worried about catching planes and disappearing from the “real” world for a few days or weeks. The Global Experience Manager will take care of all this for you, including any unique needs or interests you may have – from a behind-the-scenes private tour of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Turtle Hospital to skiing withOlympic athletes in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“This two-year trial offer is designed for those considering a second home or who simply want an extended opportunity to experience club life before making a long-term commitment,” says Abercrombie & Kent Residence Club President Scott Wiseman. “Families can enjoy the privacy of a spacious home in their choice of popular resort destinations for much less than the cost of comparable hotel suites. Club membership is an affordable, maintenance-free alternative for those thinking about buying a second home.”

Under this trail program, you can play without having to drop any cash up front. Instead, you pay the normal dues with a 10 percent premium. If you join later, A&K will credit it to your capital contribution. Fifteen-, 30- and 45-night programs are available, so you can choose your level of decadence. If you choose, you can exchange your nights for credit toward other A&K travel, like a cruise in the Galapagos or an African safari.

This is a pretty wild deal – a chance to date a vacation club before marrying it.