“There was one highlight after another,” said Buckhead resident Ginny Rather. “You tour Westminster Abbey and nobody is there. You’re like, ‘How is this happening?’”
Rather and husband Dan (not the former CBS news anchor) were two of 16 attendees on an eight-day tour of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last month, planned and hosted by Ken Ward of Buckhead-based Ken Ward Travel Inc.
The group’s days were fully loaded, including Jubilee events, royal dinner parties, tours of the Parliament building and the Epsom Downs Derby race, where the queen officially kicked off the Jubilee to celebrate her 60-year reign.
“It was the best combination of having front-row seats and the perfect place to see the flotilla and the queen going up to St. Paul’s Cathedral,” Dan said.
Ginny said she used to be skeptical about Ward’s apparent connections to royalty and famous people overseas.
“I thought maybe he just paid somebody a bunch of money, but he definitely has the connections,” she said. “Princess Michael of Kent came out right before the queen and stopped in her tracks and said, ‘Ken’ and I almost fell over,” she said. “She was not just having cocktails. She was in a royal procession.”
About 30 years ago, Ward said he started planning domestic and worldwide trips, offering group deals like the Jubilee journey, as well as individual vacations for couples or families.
“I have been in travel since I went to work in high school as an office boy. I saw the trips that were out there and I tried to do something that was a little different,” Ward said. “They get an experience they cannot get in any other way. They come away with a better insight into whatever country we’re visiting and they get to meet local people.”
In 1996, Ward started planning the Rathers’ excur-sions to faraway places like Jerusalem, Budapest and Prague.
“We are just doing our bucket list,” Ginny said. “We know we’re not going to miss the good things and with his expert tour guides, you don’t wait in line for three hours. Time-wise, you get to do more things than you would because you’re waiting half the day.”
The Rathers said Ward books every detail, including hotels, meals and tours, and does a fair job of accommodating everyone’s budgets.
“It [cost] is geared to their budget,” Ward said. “Most is governed by the hotel and choice of accommodations as the guides and special openings remain the same.”
This week, Ward is cruising the Atlantic hosting a local family of four generations on a New England cruise to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Newport.
The Rathers’ next excursion is a cruise to South America for three weeks in January, booked and planned, naturally, by Ward.
“Ken has such a good knowledge of all these places,” Dan said. “You can pretty much pick any spot in the world and he can add a lot of value to your presence there.”