Live the Dream

This Florida couple chartered a Boeing jet and cruise ship for a massive party — here's how it went down

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Couple charters cruise ship with submarine and jumbo-jet for party

When Florida restaurateur Damon DeSantis and his wife, Cindy, wanted to bring 56 friends on a week-long adventure in Europe, they chartered a Boeing 777 passenger jet and a 280-foot cruise ship.

Here's how it all went down:

CNBC

There's flying commercial, and then there's this...

"Our trip started when we boarded the Crystal Skye, which is an over-the-top private charter plane with every amenity you can imagine," Cindy DeSantis tells CNBC.

Crystal Skye
Crystal

Crystal Skye is not your average private plane. It's a jumbo-jet operated by Crystal, the same company behind luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises. After purchasing the Boeing 777, the travel firm renovated it and made it available for private charter in 2017.

While this size aircraft can typically seat up to 400 passengers, Crystal decided to go quality over quantity and configured the jetliner to just 88 "executive class" seats so there is more room to spread out.

"Executive-class" seats
Crystal

Every seat is equipped with Bose headphones, an iPad and a 24-inch interactive TV with on-demand programming and a music library. The seats can also be converted into beds.

Crystal Skye flat bed seats
Crystal

The DeSantises' fancy flight kicked off with a glass of champagne handed to guests by a "sky butler."

Crystal Skye butler
CNBC

In the jet's social lounge, a mixologist was on staff to whip up cocktails at the bar. The plane also has a wine cellar that can store more than 150 bottles and there was even a sommelier on-hand to help pick the perfect vintage.

Mixologist
Damon and Cindy DeSantis

Custom Michelin-inspired meals were prepared on board by an award-winning executive chef who curated a menu customized for each guest's individual preferences.

The DeSantises' friends enjoy a meal in the Crystal Skye dining area
Crystal

Five thousand miles later, the group reached their final destination in the Mediterranean, where they met the Crystal Esprit cruise ship.

When a mega-yacht just isn't big enough...

"We couldn't find a mega-yacht big enough to accommodate everyone," says Damon, who is co-owner of the Agave Modern Mexican Taqueria chain. "So we chartered this luxury cruise ship."

A few weeks after their party, CNBC met up with Damon and Cindy onboard the Crystal Esprit for a VIP tour, beginning with the ship's main lounge known as the "Cove Bar."

Crystal Esprit Cove Bar

"The first meeting place was here for all of our guests. Cocktails and champagne were served," recalls Cindy.

Next stop, the dining room.

Crystal Esprit dining experience
Crystal

"When you have 56 guests, you have a lot of different tastes," says Cindy. "The chef was able to accommodate everyone with over-the-top meals."

Every one of Damon and Cindy's 56 guests had staterooms with their own butler.

Crystal Esprit owner suite bedroom
Crystal

Inside the DeSantises' stateroom – the owner's master suite – there is a living room, dining area and bathroom with a full-size tub.

Owner suite bathtub
CNBC

"It's like being in a floating apartment," Cindy says.

The DeSantises' guests could take in the underwater sights, without getting wet, in the $2 million, three-person submarine that launches right off the boat.

Submarine
Crystal

How much did it cost?

While the DeSantises picked up the bill for the whole shindig, they didn't want to talk numbers.

But based on some information we obtained from the charter company on the cost to rent the ship and airplane, plus all the extras the couple added like the customized excursions and events, food and beverages, airport fees, docking costs, etc., CNBC estimates the mega-party cost around $1.1 million.

Despite the hefty price tag, Damon DeSantis tells CNBC he saved "a few hundred thousand dollars" by going with the jumbo jet and cruise ship instead of chartering multiple private planes and yachts.

Finding out that this over-the-top luxurious trip actually saved the DeSantises money, surprising. So CNBC decided to crunch the numbers.

How CNBC crunched the numbers

A company spokesperson for Crystal tells CNBC the average base cost of a transatlantic flight on Crystal Skye is $495,000 round trip. With 58 passengers (the DeSantises, plus their 56 guests), the total comes to $8,534.48 per passenger.

Crystal Skye's amenities package (the Bose headsets, food and beverages, etc.) at around $500, but the price could increase or decrease depending on the choices of the client. For 58 passengers, this would be an additional $29,000, for a grand total of $524,000, plus a few thousand dollars in airport fees.

CNBC used a Google Flight search to compare those numbers to a transatlantic first-class flight from Miami, Florida to Venice, Italy for October. (Florida is where the DeSantis group departed from, and Venice is where they met the cruise ship.)

The cheapest option CNBC found was a Lufthansa round trip fare of $12,727 per passenger, with a layover in Frankfurt.

Multiply that fare by 58 passengers and the total cost comes to $738,166.

In this hypothetical travel scenario, the luxury charter option turned out to be a lot more convenient and over $200,000 cheaper than flying first class with an airline.

While the DeSantises might have scored some super-sized savings, the couple's 56 guests got the best deal of all.

CNBC's Christopher DiLella and Jessi Joseph are producers for special projects.

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