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But I'd long since made Kate's acquaintance and instead introduced myself to the next most glamorous passenger on board, our host, 70-year-old Geoffrey Kent.
Le Boreal had been chartered by his exotic travel company, Abercrombie & Kent, which was celebrating its 50th year of bringing modern luxuries to the most hostile environments. Beneath a glazed mane of swept-back hair, Kent was regal as we sat down to lunch in the ship's formal dining room, opposite his wife, Otavia.
At age 16, Kent—born in Zambia, raised in Kenya—rode his motorbike from Nairobi to Cape Town. His father promptly punished him by dispatching Kent to Sandhurst, Britain's equivalent of West Point. In the Royal Army, as a member of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, he was made aide-de-camp to Gen. John Frost, hero of the Battle of Arnhem, memorialized in the film A Bridge Too Far, in which Frost was played by Anthony Hopkins.
In 1962, at Kufra in the Libyan desert, General Frost told Kent he wanted ice and every other modern amenity brought to their training base. When Kent wondered how he might conjure refrigeration in the desert, the general said, "Geoffrey, only a bloody fool should be uncomfortable anywhere." Kent instantly adopted that as his life's motto.
"At the time," said Kent, eating a fresh garden salad as Antarctic waves crashed against the glass portals of Le Boreal's five-star restaurant, "we would bring the finest silverware and china everywhere, so that any place in the world could be made to resemble White's, or any other gentlemen's club of London."
He started Abercrombie & Kent as a 20-year-old in Kenya, when he first began taking Americans on safari with a single Land Rover. "I tried to think of the most dangerous things you could do, do them myself, then make them less dangerous," he said. "I thought, The most dangerous thing an American does each day is run an amber light on the way to work."
Kent found the perfect business partner in Abercrombie, a man who doesn't exist. "I made him up," Kent conceded. "That name put us at the top of the Yellow Pages and gave me someone to blame when things went wrong."
Over the years, as one billionaire recommended Kent's services to another, his exotic travel business grew. When not playing polo with Prince Charles, he was taking Bill Gates whitewater rafting or guiding David Rockefeller up the Nile.
Geoffrey Kent doesn't like to name-drop famous clients, but the famous surely love to name-drop Geoffrey Kent. While on safari with Richard Burton in the 1960s, the two watched lionesses kill a buffalo a few yards in front of their tent. After closing his own mouth manually, an astonished Burton turned to Kent and said, "If I bring Elizabeth next time, could you arrange the same thing for her?"
In October 2014, Kent will host a 28-day around-the-world tour on a chartered jet, making stops in Easter Island, Madagascar, the Amazon, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Kenya and his new home, Monaco.