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A Look At The World Of Elite Travel — And The Stuart Companies That Provide The Services

How do you know you’re among the world’s top travelers? An airline loyalty card, with tens of thousands of miles, gained mostly by flying first class? Or perhaps it’s an ability to skip the lines at passport control, or pre-check at security. Although those perks are nice, they pale in comparison to the truly upper class. To be considered one of the most elite travelers, you have to skip these everyday hassles altogether.

Imagine arriving to the airport, and instead of the normal check-in process, you’re whisked straight away to your private jet. The crew is ready, a glass of your favorite cognac waiting for you by your favorite seat, accompanied by a chef-made meal. The newspaper has been pressed so as not to leave ink on your fingers as you peruse through world events while en route to Aspen, or Paris, just for breakfast.

Luxury jets, like the one pictured on this page, feature gold-plated fixtures, personal electronic devices for each seat, electronic window shades, custom lighting in the carpet and more.

These details may seem other-worldly to most, but to Sereta Gregory of Sea to Sky International, orchestrating these details is her normal. Gregory combines a background in yachting with a talent for estate management. Her clients consist of South Florida’s most notable residents, some of whom have never fueled their own vehicle or even entered a supermarket. “Their car’s always washed, always full of gas, the fridge [is] always stocked with groceries,” she says, describing how her clients will find their properties when left in her care. But land is easy—it’s the water that poses the greatest challenges.

The new 86-foot Sapelo by John Vance of Jim Smith Boats

“This is the epitome of luxury travel.”

- Sereta Gregory

The leisure yachts of the ultra-wealthy have more in common with five-star hotels than their other floating counterparts. “This is the epitome of luxury travel,” Gregory explains. It’s a matter of transferring the clients’ lives, from point A to point B, so that it’s as if they never left the comfort of their own home. “We have had special wines imported from different countries to please charter guests. We have even had produce delivered by seaplane to remote anchorages,” she recalls, listing but a few of her most memorable cases.

John Vance knows something about the nautical luxury world as well. As president of Jim Smith Boats in Stuart, it could be argued he knows more than the average enthusiast. Vance builds completely custom sports fishing boats. It takes 12 months to three years to complete one, and he and his team take on no more than two boats at any time. “We build the client’s last boat,” he smiles.

The owners are involved from the earliest stage, selecting a layout and determining what they want the boat to do. An interior designer helps with the selection of materials and finishes, such as marble flooring, granite countertops, the highest end fixtures and flat-screen TVs. “Off-the-shelf stuff no longer satisfies,” Vance says. These boats are a composite of every good feature from every other his client has previously seen, or owned.

The finished product is as luxurious as any yacht in the world—the difference being that these are built for performance, specifically sport fishing. “We’re kind of a boutique,” he says, referring to its niche luxury market. And while these boats might not be used just for leisure, they still require a crew to operate. “You can approach seven figures a year just to run them,” Vance explains.

“We build the client’s last boat.”

- John Vance

But if the water is the home of the ultimate earth-based luxury, the next level requires you to turn your eyes upward—toward the sky. If you thought boats and yachts could be over-the-top, wait until you enter the world of private jets. Just ask Wylie Dennis Martin of Jet Sales of Stuart.

Martin buys and sells corporate jets at Stuart Jet Center. “We sell between $1 million and $20 million airplanes,” he explains. They come outfitted with any level of luxury you can imagine, from special gold plating for fixtures, individual personal electronic devices for each seat, to electronic window shades and custom lighting in the carpet. There are interior design firms that specialize in jet refurbishments, which range in cost from $100,000 for a small jet, and $500,000 to $1 million for a larger aircraft.

A custom boat from John Vance of Jim Smith Boats, such as this one, can feature marble flooring, granite coutertops, flat-screen TVs and other luxury amenities.

Of course these private jetsetters enjoy the privilege of skipping security, but that’s just one of the added benefits. “The biggest reason people will buy an airplane is for convenience,” Martin says. No lines, your vehicle drops you off right on the tarmac. Your crew is ready and waiting to fly you somewhere fabulous, with every detail already accounted for and planned. It’s the total hassle-free, leave-whenever-you-want lifestyle that seals the deal.

It can be argued that for all of the above—estate management, yachts, custom boats and private planes—convenience plays a primary role. And the underlying reason for that: time. Time not spent managing the logistics. Time spent instead devoted to pleasure, connecting with loved ones through shared experiences. Time is the greatest luxury of them all. And it certainly helps to pass it in first-class style.

Want more of an inside look at these elite travel experiences? Check out this video below: