Go ahead. Step from reality into nirvana where everything is exactly how you want it. Isn’t that the way chartering a yacht should be? Not always.
Todd Beechey, Chief Experience Officer of Oceanscape Yachts (www.oceanscapeyachts.com) kindly spent some time with me to nail down the ten most important steps to ensure your dream cruise is everything you hoped for.
Step 1: Select a reputable charter yacht broker
Yacht charter operators come and go. Check out yours. Longevity equates to stability and happy, repeat customers. Ask for and follow up with as many references as possible.
If the charter broker hasn’t inspected the charter yachts on offer during the last year then they really haven’t seen the boat or evaluated the crew. Recently having had feet on deck is a must for anyone giving you boat recommendations.
Ask what professional associations your broker belongs to. The main ones are the Florida Yacht Brokers Association, The American Yacht Charter Association, the Charter Yacht Brokers Association, and MYBA. Pass on brokers not a member of any such organizations.
Step 2: Decide on the number of people in your party
The 24-40 meter (80-130 ft.) boats usually accommodate up to eight guests. Even the larger yachts generally max out at twelve guests. Decide on the size of your party and stick to it. Restrict the guest list to couples only, family, and long-standing friends you’ve traveled with before. Friction among the guests shrinks the size of even the largest super yachts.
Step 3: How long will you be aboard?
Beechey recommends ten days. This allows time to unwind at the beginning and time to enjoy a week of carefree days before ramping up for the return home. Most charter contracts begin and end at noon. So it’s a good idea to arrive at the embarkation point a day early to enjoy your first day aboard without feeling rushed.
Step 4: Decide where you want to go
Choose a boat that’s already in the area you want to cruise. Then meet it there. During a week’s cruise plan on traveling 80-220 miles in a power yacht and 70 and 150 miles on a sailing yacht. Longer journeys mean you spend less enjoyable time at anchor.
Upon embarkation you’ll finalize the overall itinerary. Then each morning you’ll review the day’s plans depending on weather, sea conditions, and guest preferences. You can stay in places as long or as short as you wish.
According to Beechey of Oceanscape Yachts, “…certain super yacht destinations are known for different things. For a beach or golf vacation choose the Caribbean. For culture and history, the Mediterranean (May-September). For outright adventure, Indonesia is the place. For world class dining and entertainment, nothing beats America’s east coast with time in New York City.”
Step 5: When do you want to go?
Some locations have preferable seasons. For example, French Polynesia is ideal for private yachting in May through October. If your schedule doesn’t accommodate the ideal time, then at least know what to expect.
Step 6: How much yacht do you require?
Start with the number in your party. For more than 4 couples, you’ll need something larger than 40 meters (130 ft.). This size yacht often has a pool or spa, a main deck master suite, larger deck spaces, and an upper salon. The boat will also have a bigger crew.
If you require a helicopter, then you will need a minimum 150-foot yacht.
Submarine operations also require dedicated space for launching, maintenance, and storage.
Decide if you want a new vessel or one more seasoned. If well maintained and professionally crewed, older vessels charter at a slightly lower rate for no reduction in luxury.
Identify the essentials
Apart from the chef, the three most important essentials are an onboard tender, shore communications, and connectivity. If you select a super yacht sans tender, then you will either swim to the beach or use a Zodiac RHIB. Your decision.
The same goes for coms and connectivity. For some guests the goal is to get away; for others that’s a death sentence.
The 40-meter yachts and larger usually have four or more couples cabins. The beds are often queens, doubles, and twins. Some can be moved together. Find out about cabins and configurations—especially heads—before making your final decision on a boat.
Step 7: Complete the Guest Preference Questionnaire
Do take the time for every single member of your party to complete the Preference Questionnaire and send it in. Without this the crew has absolutely no idea what you and your guests want in food, drink, and everything else during your voyage. Be as picky as you want—right down to the beer brand. No amount of detail is too much.
How attentive do you want the crew?
Do you want a crew dressed in smart uniforms? Or does a relaxed crew wearing shorts and t-shirts make you more comfortable? Include this on your Preference Questionnaire. The world’s best yacht will fail if the crew doesn’t mesh with you and your guests. Conversely, a yacht that’s not at its best but has a brilliant crew will make everyone happy. Ask about the chef’s qualifications and experience. If you’re not satisfied, move on.
Step 8: Estimating the cost
The boat you select will have a weekly base rate. There are a number of mandatory add-ons that drive up the cost. Most of this is the Advanced Provisioning Amount for food and fuel. Here’s a sample of a charter budget:
Weekly base rate: $100,000
Advanced Provisioning Amount at 35% of base: 35,000
Crew gratuity (15% to 20% of base): 20,000
Customs, immigration fees, docking and marina fees 10,000
Total weekly estimate $165,000
Split among, say, twelve guests this comes to $13,750 per person all in.
It is customary for the charter broker to disburse your deposits from their client escrow account to the boat owner according to this schedule:
- 12-6 months before embarkation: 25% deposit
- 6-months before embarkation: 25% deposit
- 45 days before embarkation: final 50% is due
Step 9: Safety record of the boat and the crew
Assessing boat and crew safety is the charter broker’s job. Ask to see the written records of work they did to form their opinion. If you’re worried, ask about safety features aboard such as fire suppression systems, life jackets, life rafts, lifeboats, US Coast Guard certification, and compliance. If you’re not satisfied, change brokers.
Things happen forcing cancellation and causing financial loss. The cost of trip insurance is immaterial compared to the cost of the week aboard—$150-$300 per person. Buy it one year in advance and be sure the time span includes your entire trip up to your arrival back home.
Step 10: Before you embark
Make a checklist of the things you want to bring. Since yachts don’t store hard-sided luggage well make yours soft-sided. Also bring never-worn sneakers (so there’s no embedded grit on the soles) with a white rubber bottom. On many boats it’s either that or go barefoot.
Have a wonderful, best vacation ever!
About the author
Chris Malburg is a popular writer whose work in the luxury travel and timepiece space appears in a variety of publications. His four thriller novels deal with cyber warfare, political espionage, financial terrorism, and pirates and ghosts. Connect with Chris at https://www.enforcementdivision.com