The sun may not shine as brightly, but nothing on Earth can compare to sunset drinks over the red Martian landscape. Veteran travelers and residents claim that you don’t notice the additional 39 minutes per day, but newcomers swear Mars-lag is real. No matter, after a morning spent off-roading across the red rocks and dust, the armchairs at theTwo Seasons welcome sore bottoms like a loving mother’s embrace. And the gins and tonic are perfect; they even have a license to use real ice.
With nearly every corner of Earth developed, there’s little left for the discriminating traveler who wants a novel yet luxurious experience. That’s why more of today’s elite tourists are boarding rocket ships to vacation in hundreds of off-planet hotels, resorts and spas that are putting a new spin on “out-of-this-world” luxury.
“Bookings are up 250 percent,” says Kay Von de Gute, spokesperson for On Beyond Earth, an upscale agency specializing in otherworldly travel. “It used to be that only adventure-seekers were willing to go zero-g. But last year, luxury travelers outnumbered the daredevils by three to one.”
This doesn’t surprise Hubert Frank, executive manager of the Two Seasons, Mars’ first and largest tourist destination. It was Frank’s group, of course, that terraformed Mars to provide enough oxygen to support human life. Today, his highly trained staff of expatriate chefs and hoteliers serve some of the galaxy’s finest dining, set against an otherworldly backdrop of red rock cliffs and wind-swept plains.
Elsewhere on the Red Planet, Richard Branson’s Virgin Martian Enterprises has followed up his first off-world resort — the 450-acre, domed Necker 2.0 — with Necker 3.0, the first orbital platform to be constructed entirely out of a private asteroid. It’s estimated the Branson spent $850 million to tow ML6565 out of the Asteroid Belt and into Martian orbit. The result is a dual-torus paradise of unparalleled luxury. There are 46 total units, split evenly between sales and rentals.
Branson doesn’t have a lock on the Martian thermosphere. Cyberdyne’s Private Edenz is a cluster of 12 private terrariums on Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons.
“We have nothing against terrestrial or even extra-terrestrial resorts,” says Cyberdynespokesperson Molly Armitage, “but orbital is the future. Considering most Earthlings already wear facemasks on a daily basis, bundling into a space suit doesn’t seem like a hardship. It’s not like anyone can breathe fresh mountain air back on Earth anymore.”
It’s not just the Red Planet that’s enjoying a tourism boom. Some of the hottest new properties are actually spinning around Saturn. “It’s a little further than Mars, but it’s definitely worth the trip,” says noted travel writer Charles Prentice. “Seeing the rings up-close, of course, is just amazing, but it’s also about the quality of experience.”
New Tibet isthe newest satellite in Saturn’s orbit to declare sovereignty. This self-sufficient Buddhist nation, and home to the Dalai Lama, welcomes tourists who “seek enlightenment yet also appreciate fine dining.” The Far Eastern-style suites are opulent yet serene, decadent yet purposeful. Before making a reservation, check New Tibet’s web site for safety updates; orbital skirmishes with China’s nearby manufacturing satellites are ongoing.
Not every off-planet vacation requires a five-month cryogenic sleep and extra-planetary immunizations. Closer to home, the Moon’s Ritz-Carlton at Central Mare Tranquillitatis is the newest lunar resort — and also one of the most deliciously deluxe. Even the smallest suite comes with a king-sized bed, the most modern amenities and fresh water (not re-constituted). Such luxury comes at a price, of course, but unlike Martian and Saturnal getaways, weekend moon getaways are possible.
Just don’t expect breathtaking Earthrises — because lunar rotation coincides perfectly with our home planet’s, there are permanently light and dark sides of the moon. That may change though. Pending government approval, a consortium of developers hopes to slow down the moon’s rotation by 10 percent, giving lunar tourists those perfect Earthrises they crave.