Chalkmarks West Coast

SO this is what it’s like being a celebrity. I’m on a private jet ready to take off on a tour of West Coast America.

There was no check-in, no security and no gate. The stewardess simply checks my passport onboard while asking if I want tea or coffee with my croissant. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

This might sound like a million-dollar holiday but this is the latest twist on the great American road trip.

I’m on a Mauiva AirCruise, which has taken the cross-country guided coach tour and put it in the air.

Instead of being stuck in the traffic we fly over it, in a 30-seater jet airliner – the very same plane used by Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nick’s and bad boy musician Kidd Rock.

Chalkmarks West Coast
Chalkmarks West Coast

And just like them our tour group gets whizzed through private airports VIP style, taken to the best places in town and put up in top hotels.

On Day One of this Western Wonder Experience, we leave Downtown Los Angeles at dawn to fly north to Monterey County, which juts out into the hazy Pacific Ocean.

A coach drops us off at a plush airport lounge where the coffee and snacks are free. But we have to be quick, our jet awaits.

My shoulders unhunch as the guides take our luggage and we stroll aboard. I nab a window seat, and there’s a buzz of excitement as we set off on our seven-day jam-packed journey.

I am looking forward to visiting San Francisco, seeing the Grand Canyon and staying on the famous Strip in Las Vegas.

Also on the schedule is a tour to see the world’s tallest trees in Muir Woods National Park and the waterfalls in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The views from the jet are stunning with everyone getting snap-happy before we had even land.

In under an hour we’re in the city of Monterey where a waiting coach whisks us off to the harbour at Fisherman’s Wharf for a spot of whale watching.

Again, there are no immigration queues, no luggage claim and no customs.

Had I been on a bus trip, this 350-mile journey would have been a six-hour schlep. But it’s still the morning and I’m on a ship heading out into the Pacific to take pictures of the hundreds of sea lions and seals that lie around on yachts and rocks as we leave the jetty.

The captain soon spots a humpback whale so we all wait quietly for it to flip its fin or belly flop into the water to let us know it’s there. But for more than an hour there’s no sign of this ocean giant and instead we catch glimpses of the bright egg-yolk jellyfish that float pass.

At lunch we head back to the Wharf to dine on classic clam chowder served up in a bowl of bread in Isabella’s.

We then board a coach for a scenic ride down 17-Mile Drive – which is really only about six-miles long – that winds along the coastline.

The route takes in the homes of movie stars Sylvester Stallone and Clint Eastwood as well as landmarks including the Lone Cypress and Pebble Beach.

Camaraderie soon develops on the tour regardless of the many languages. Everyone is smiling, swapping seats and sharing their snaps by dinner.

It’s sweet dreams all round at the Hyatt Regency after a day of adventure on the high seas and exploring the playgrounds of the rich and famous.

This was an effortless way to travel with the hotels, restaurants and attractions all pre-booked. All we had to do each day was rock up and roll with it.

There was no check out at hotels, no nerves about arriving in new cities and no time wasting. The rest of week went on like this.

We then flew into San Francisco for two days, for a spell in Alcatraz then we jet off to Las Vegas to try our luck in the casinos.

Nothing prepared me for the sight of the mega-hotels kitted out with aquariums, gigantic chandeliers, marbled floors, huge stone statues, grand swimming pools and bright neon lights.

We check into the glamorous Luxor hotel and casino which houses 4,400 bedrooms, two wedding chapels, a five-acre pool area, shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shows, exhibitions, and of course thousands of square-feet of slot machines and gaming tables.

I had never been a fan of guided tours but this city-hopping air cruise takes them to new heights, previously only the reserve of VIPs.

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