Riding in a Rolls-Royce
It's one thing to show up at a special event in a stretch limousine, whether it's a traditional Lincoln Town Car or one of those fancy Hummers or Ford Super Duty trucks.
Making a first impression by stepping out of a 2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost EWB (extended wheelbase) is an entirely different matter altogether, however.
Starting last November, Oahu-based Albatross Transport began offering rides in that vehicle along with a supercharged 2011 Jaguar XJL and 2011 BMW X3 xDrive35i. But it's the Rolls-Royce that makes the company's private car service unique, since they own the only one currently in Hawaii.
"There's a lot of staring, especially in Waikiki," said Albatross Transport chief operating officer Phil Deprez of the reaction people have to seeing the Ghost in person. "People take pictures. Sometimes it gets a little crazy."
For Deprez, a Florida native who moved to Hawaii four years ago, the adventure never ends — regardless of which car in the fleet he's driving. The people he's met since the business launched in November have been interesting to work with, he said, and the constant change that comes with the job means a new adventure is always just around the corner.
"When (the owner of Albatross Transport) offered me a job out here, I was like, 'Why not?' Getting to drive a Rolls-Royce is incredible," he said.
IT'S ALSO pretty incredible getting to ride in a Rolls-Royce. Deprez picked us up at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newsroom last week for a quick trip through Waikiki and Kahala, donning white gloves while opening our door and taking the time to point out some of the more extravagant features of the car.
Besides the obvious new car smell that still lingers inside the passenger compartment, the Ghost's extended wheelbase meant there was plenty of leg room for my six-foot frame. Adjusting the seat was easy, thanks to the power adjustment controls at my fingertips, and I almost took Deprez's advice to take off my shoes and run my toes through the lamb's wool floor mats beneath my feet.
While we didn't partake this time around, Deprez also mentioned some of the amenities offered to customers, including complimentary use of an iPad 2 and Wi-Fi access during travel. Beverage and floral services can also be arranged in advance.
As we rolled down Ala Moana Boulevard, I could see a few people sneaking looks at us. Most were guys who apparently recognized how rare it is to see a $250,000 automobile on the streets of Honolulu, but I also noticed a trio of female Japanese tourists who were obviously impressed when we passed by.
Once we got to Kahala, however, there was a slight shift in attitude. Pulling up to a neighborhood park to get a look at the other vehicles in the Albatross stable, an older gentleman sat in a folding chair and gave us a single, dismissive look as we got out of the Rolls-Royce right in front of him. Maybe he had a Phantom at home?
At $600 per hour (two-hour minimum reservation required), it's a good bet that I'll never see the inside of that Ghost again. And while the Jaguar ($150 per hour) and the BMW ($120 per hour) are more affordable, it's still quite an expensive proposition to have Albatross pick you up for dinner and a night on the town. Special packages are available, however, and custom reservations are also offered, so don't get discouraged without giving them a call and seeing what kind of deal can be worked out.
Still, what can you expect for such a high-end luxury travel experience? While international tourists have provided the bulk of the business for Albatross so far, Deprez said he's gotten a few calls from local residents looking to book the Rolls-Royce for weddings.
For more information about Albatross Transport and the services they provide, visit www.albatrosstransport.com or call 921-8000.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at email@example.com.