(Fortune Magazine) --Welcome to the trip of a lifetime," Martha Wharton, vice president of TCS Expeditions, says to the 74 guests relishing a Ritz-Carlton dinner of filet mignon and giant prawns in Orlando . It's the eve of what is to be 25 days circumnavigating the globe in a 757 refitted to all-business class - a guided excursion that's part of a growing phenomenon in the industry: private-jet travel.
Early the following morning, the trip of a lifetime starts to take shape. As the flight gains altitude on its southern route toward Lima , out comes the Moët & Chandon accompanied by caviar and blinis, followed by rack of lamb. The trip's own physician passes through to make sure passengers feel well, and a live lecture from the accompanying anthropologist about Machu Picchu - the group's first destination - pops onto the video display.
This Around-the-World trip traverses the globe, changing destinations each spring and fall. The cost - $55,950 per person ($59,950 in 2009) - is unquestionably steep, but it covers everything from accommodations in top hotels to meals, and even tips.
"You spend most of your life rushing around," says traveler Fred Gluck, 72, who ran McKinsey & Co. from 1988 to 1994 and appeared on the cover of Fortune in 1993. "I saw a lot of the inside of a lot of hotels over the years." Now he's seeing the world outside them - in style. But this trip isn't just "a travel buffet for type-A personalities," as Victor Samra, a long-retired Lehman Brothers veteran, likes to call it. Travelers are given a recommended reading list before the trip, an art historian travels with the group, and activities are geared toward experiencing local culture.
The stop in Peru , for instance, featured a visit to an art collection in a private home as well as the opportunity to taste the local delicacies, alpaca and guinea pig meat. But with such high-powered attendees (this particular trip included the inventor of both the medical staple and the horseshoe-shaped tooth flosser, several prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and a founder of Yahoo, business is never off the agenda. Says traveler Greg Desmond, a 37-year-old former Goldman Sachs investment banker who now runs his own asset-management firm: "To see the capital at work and at risk in places like India and China and convey it back to your client is much different than reading about it." Spoken like a man who enjoyed his vacation ... we think