Gifts of Good Cheer: Winter Wonderland

Many people will tell you that the most important part of the holiday season is the time that it affords for creating memories with family and friends. For the people who subscribe to that philosophy and want to extend it beyond the holidays, Charlie Birkett, the CEO of Monaco-based superyacht charter company Y.CO, can deliver a customizable Antarctic expedition aboard a 229-foot vessel that accommodates as many as 26 people.

The yacht, Sherakhan, was designed in 1966 but rebuilt from bow to stern in 2005. Offering 13 bespoke cabins, a dining room with seating for 22, and a glass-bottomed Jacuzzi that will hold almost 20, everything about the vessel is large. Because the hull was built specifically to withstand ice and due to the ship’s expansive black water storage system (waste cannot be dumped in Antarctic waters), Sherakhan is one of the few private superyachts that can access the frozen desert during the months when the sea ice melts and allows passage— mostly for research vessels. “Typically, clients looking at this type of thing are experienced charter customers,” says Birkett. “They might have done a Mediterranean or Caribbean charter and now they’re looking for an experience as opposed to a party on the beach.”

Sherakhan also is equipped with the most modern approved tender for daily excursions out onto the ice, which provides clients with opportunities for glacial walks, mountaineering, ice cave exploration, even trips for a soak in natural hot springs. Up-close observations of wildlife, such as humpback whales, penguin colonies, leopard seals, albatross, and giant petrels, are certain to enhance each day of a trip; and Birkett suggests a day trip of sea kayak-ing through glacial fjords for a humbling experience. He also recommends, if weather permits, a trip to Deception Island, a popular nesting ground for chinstrap penguins, where steam rises from large, natural geothermal pools to create an eerie, prehistoric atmosphere.

Chartering Sherakhan, its captain, and a crew of 19 starts at €455,000 (about $585,000) per week; but for those with the means to do more, Birkett can arrange grander activities that are planned and executed by British luxury travel company Based on a True Story. From Champagne breakfasts while crossing the Kalahari Desert by hot-air balloon to behind-the-scene visits to orangutan sanctuaries in Borneo, the company is ready and willing to take on any special request. As Birkett explains, the traveler is in complete control. “If you wanted to create an extra-special experience,” he says, “your imagination is the only thing that will drive the budget and the limits.” 

Y.Co., +377., www.ycoyacht.com

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