Immersive travel experiences: From Bond-inspired treasure hunts to WWII battles, yachts are the new stage for insanely real reenactments

Immersive yacht experiences

Marine-based travel companies Berkeley Rand and Pelorus break down their high-thrill offerings

For the latest craze keeping yacht owners on the edges of their helm seats, consider a trick that even world-famous illusionist David Copperfield would find challenging: instantly transporting a superyacht 300 metres under the sea, allowing guests to experience the ocean’s twilight zone without ever leaving the main salon.

That stagecrafted experience, produced by London-based Berkeley Rand, requires underwater drones, high-definition cameras, augmented-reality technology and a host of digital-effects wizards to create. “West Coast tech titans are critical members of our audience,” says Berkeley Rand cofounder Andrew Grant Super. “The complexities around trying to entertain a three-generational power family who have seen it all is stifling, but they love what we do.”

Priced between US$350,000 and around US$2 million, the company’s activations have included a trip through the lost city of Atlantis, using both a yacht and a submersible, and a pop-up Michelin-star restaurant on a sand shelf in the Maldives where, using advanced digital panels with 3D layering originally developed as camouflaging technology for the US military, the waiters and food seemed to appear out of nowhere. Or consider an adventure from a few years ago, when Berkeley Rand helped re-enact the Battle of Midway, transforming a client’s superyacht into a World War II American battleship; effects included virtual combat against enemy fighter planes, with the smell of cordite and cannon fire drifting on the sea breeze, plus full-body haptic suits so wearers could feel the ship taking incoming “fire.” Each trip is overseen from the brand’s Mayfair headquarters and supported by up to 40 lead creative tech experts from entertainment and technology powerhouses including Marvel Studios, Apple, Disney and Google—even NASA.

Of course, “stagecraft,” according to its most common usage, is all about the technical aspects of theatre production, including set design, props, lighting and machinery, and indeed many experiences are less virtual, more reality—think a full-costume rendition of a Broadway hit, performed by professional actors on a floating pontoon just off the yacht or re-creating a miniature Burning Man in the Arctic.

Adventure travel company Pelorus has arranged a Bond-themed treasure hunt in Greenland, with yacht owners and guests hiking across the barren landscape, solving clues and using abandoned radar stations as overnight campsites. Or, if that seems too straightforward, consider The Game, Pelorus’s immersive experience within a controlled, high-pressure alternate reality using actors and professional production teams, named after the psychological thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. Guests can find themselves in staged car chases or extreme, survivalist jungle missions involving special forces, intelligence agencies and counterterrorism experts.

“It goes far beyond your typical travel and yachting encounter,” says Venetia Stagg, Pelorus’s travel designer. “The theme and content are tailored to individual clients, but we call on government officials and military contacts to help stage the series of bucket-list events. It’s a way of experiencing something you’ve always wanted to do but never could.”

There’s even an NFT component, with a non-fungible token giving the option for guests to not only repeat but also own a tradable blueprint of their bespoke experience—Super describes it as an “instruction manual” that can be performed (for an additional activation fee) as many times as the client likes.

They’re currently only available in cryptocurrency, but ownership can also make the holder a royalty stakeholder should they wish to sell the NFT in the future.

If you’re part of the been-there, done-that superyacht crowd, this new evolution of big-budget, high-production-value personalised entertainment might be just what the doctor—perhaps even Dr Who—ordered.

Berkeley Rand and Pelorus