Cruising vacations come in many shapes and sizes. For those who want the most personalized form of luxury cruising afloat, there are crewed charter boats — booked not by the cabin, but by the entire yacht. So it’s just you and the crew onboard, doing whatever floats your boat.Booking a crewed yacht charter is far different from booking other cruise vacations. The very nature of yachts makes each one unique. Charter yachts are not owned by the companies that market them. Nor are they usually built for mass appeal. Instead, they are owned by individuals who have outfitted them to their own tastes. Yachts are, quite literally, personal toys on a multimillion-dollar scale.
Many first-time charter clients make the mistake of looking at brochures or websites, choosing a décor that they like, and assuming that the experience and amenities onboard all yachts are the same. In reality, you need to know far more than any photograph shows in order to book the best charter yacht for your needs. Some yachts are designed for fast sailing. Others are for opulent parties. Some are packed with fishing gear. Others have extravagant hot tubs. Owners who are foodies hire chefs trained at Le Cordon Bleu. Those who scuba dive hire crew who are PADI-certified instructors. Owners with young children hire crew with backgrounds as nannies — and have special cabins for the children, instead of cabins that appeal to adults.
To help ensure the best yachting vacation, it is best to work with a specialist known as a charter broker, whose job is to fly around the world inspecting yachts and interviewing crews. Charter yachts are like real-estate listings. Just as any Realtor can help you buy any property, any charter broker can help you book any yacht. Some brokers work for large companies that buy, sell, and market yachts on behalf of the owners in addition to representing charter clients. Other brokers work exclusively for charter clients, with no company ties to the yacht owners. It is your broker’s job to represent you exclusively no matter where he or she works, especially if a problem arises such as a mechanical breakdown or weather disruption. To ensure that you are working with a reputable broker, check the online membership lists of professional organizations such as the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association, Charter Yacht Brokers Association International, the American Yacht Charter Association, and the Florida Yacht Brokers Association.
Your broker’s job includes everything from negotiating the yacht’s weekly rate to making sure the chef knows your dietary needs and helping the captain organize an itinerary that excites you. The majority of crewed charter yachts spend summers in the Mediterranean and winters in the Caribbean, but other destinations are available, such as New England, Alaska, the Bahamas, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific. Typical itineraries are one week. Some yachts may be booked for several weeks or even several months in a row.
When comparing pricing, it’s important to note whether the figure for each yacht is a base rate or an inclusive rate. Most crewed charter yachts outside of the Virgin Islands have base rates, which include the yacht, the crew, and not much else. Extras such as food, alcohol, fuel, marina dockage, and crew gratuity typically add at least 25 percent to the advertised base rate. In general, larger yachts cost more than smaller yachts; motoryachts cost more than sailing yachts; and high-demand weeks such as Christmas are charged at a premium. It is the captain’s job to keep a tally of every nickel spent, and it is your broker’s job to review the receipts at your request.
All of these options can seem overwhelming to the first-time charter client. In truth, the various combinations mean that, with the help of a reputable broker, you can enjoy a vacation that is personalized and priced to your own idea of perfection. While yachts are impressive in and of themselves, crewed charter is less about the yachts than it is about you — the ideal vision of you, actually, enjoying the cruising vacation of your dreams.