Chartering a yacht is undoubtedly one of the most elite experiences imaginable. Not only do you have a floating palace at your disposal ready and waiting to explore the world’s most beautiful waters, but it also comes with a fleet of stewardesses and deckhands whose only job is to cater to your every whim. And, unlike those who decide to buy their own yacht, you get to step off at the end and not worry about the maintenance.
Of course, unlike a traditional holiday, chartering a yacht does come with a few more complexities – especially if it’s your first time. We caught up with some of the leading charter yacht brokers to get their top tips…
Remember it’s a holiday - and plan accordingly
“Planning a yacht charter is like planning any other holiday: find the destination, the dates, the budget, and bring your family and/or friends on board,” says Ekaterina Pavlova, senior charter broker at Imperial Yachts. “Enjoying the dazzling French Riviera or exploring the most remote areas of South East Asia are two completely different approaches in terms of yachts to charter and crew.”
Just as you wouldn’t plan your holiday based on a specific hotel, don’t book your charter because of one specific yacht. As incredible as the yacht may be, once you’re on board it is the destination that really matters and, if you find yourself in the Caribbean when you’d really rather be in Australia, you won’t enjoy yourself as much.
Find a good broker
With many superyacht charters costing the same as an average family home, it pays to have an expert around to work out the finer details. “The right broker gives you access to all available yachts, ensures thorough research is made to present you with a selection that is relevant and fun to choose from and you receive all of the necessary advice on regulations, VAT and additional charges before deciding on your final yacht and itinerary,” explains Jim Evans, managing director of SuperYachtsMonaco. “They should be someone with the right tools and the right attitude. A broker needs to be diligent in researching available yachts, clear in their presentation of information and the costs and also creative and inspirational in terms of destinations, itineraries and activities.”
Like any client relationship, there is no one definition of a good broker. While some like to keep things strictly professional, you may prefer someone who is more relaxed and happy to chat via WhatsApp about your charter. “It is mostly about the feeling you have with your partner over the phone, by email or during a meeting,” adds Eric Lepeingle, Head of Sales & Charter at Imperial. “You could work with the best charter broker in the world and not feel comfortable telling him your expectations, while you could be super comfortable in front of a junior broker for whom you would be his first ever client.”
Use your broker properly
A broker is far more than a travel agent so don’t be shy about putting them to work – they’re there to make sure you have the best charter experience possible. “Using a broker means everything is taken care of on your behalf, leaving you free to enjoy your time on board to the fullest,” says Anastasia Legrand, charter broker at Fraser. “A broker is there to deal with anything unexpected, fight for the best deal on your behalf, hand-pick a selection of yachts based on in-depth on board knowledge of the vessels and their crew and much more.”
In most cases, your broker will be the one liaising with the yacht owner, manager or captain on your behalf so don’t be afraid to make clear exactly what you’re expecting from your charter. If they don’t know they can’t ask – but their expert knowledge also means they can suggest things you might not even have thought of. “It’s like building a house. Would you start the construction by yourself with the certainty of making mistakes at every step? I don’t think so,” adds Lepeingle. “Creating a yacht charter is the same: your broker has to be the person that knows your wishes, your expectations and your desires. It is a mutual partnership that you build charter after charter, until it becomes something automatic and easy.”
Think practically about your choice of yacht
Yes, you might have fallen in love with that sleek speed machine you spotted off the coast of Cap Ferrat last summer – you even wrote down its name and builder for good measure – but if you’re actually going to be chartering with small children that might not be the best yacht for you.
“Clients tend to know which styles they like in terms of the interior design and exterior lines, but the right yacht can depend on where they would like to go, the ages of the guests and what kind of activities they enjoy on holiday,” explains Evans. “More often than not a yacht that looks racy is fast and suits clients that enjoy the thrill of shooting from brunch in Monaco to clubbing in St Tropez, with sundowners at a beach club inbetween. A more family style yacht often has classic good looks, a queen of the seas, making her way gently along the coast, with lunch at anchor in a secluded bay, watersports all afternoon and a BBQ with friends in the evening.”
Again, this is where having a great broker can come in handy. Brokers spend a lot of time visiting the yachts in their fleet and getting a feel for the type of holiday they offer so it pays to listen to their suggestions – even if they’re not what you thought you wanted. “Each yacht in the selection put together by your charter broker has been specifically chosen because your broker knows it will work for you,” says Legrand. “Brokers invest significant time on board yachts, getting to know the crew and on board culture. Our selection is chosen not only for its features, but because we know you will like the crew and toys, because it’s in the right destination and because it is available when you want it.”
Bigger isn’t always better
When you’re booking a suite in a hotel it’s fairly easy to judge from images and the description if it’s going to be the right size for you. However, due to charter regulations and yacht classifications, this often isn’t the case when chartering – and it can be easy to book a much larger yacht than you really want or need.
“Most yachts, even if they have more than 12 berths can only take up to 12 guests sleeping on board whilst chartering, whether it’s a roomy 35m or an immense 65m+,” explains Evans. “For a larger yacht with enough cabins to carry more guests they would need to change their classification and become a passenger vessel to be able to charter with more than 12 guests. Most yachts are not built or operated in a way that makes this feasible.”
These rules have clear implications for your holiday. Be sure to keep your guest list below 12 if you want to avoid severely reducing your yacht options and be aware that, unless you’re planning on hosting a mammoth yacht party during your charter and inviting guests from on shore, you probably don’t need that 80m you’ve been eyeing up. Of course, if palatial is what you’re after then may we direct your attention to the 136m Flying Fox. Available with Imperial, she’s the largest charter yacht in the world and, thanks to her PYC compliance, can sleep up to 25 guests.
Be honest with your preference sheet
A yacht charter is designed to cater to your every wish and desire and, accordingly, the crew will want to know what to expect in advance so they can prepare. It is, after all, difficult to get hold of your favourite croissants from that little bakery in Antibes once you’re 20 miles out at sea (although crews have been known to fulfil much harder requests).
A few weeks before your holiday, your broker will ask you to go through a preference sheet with them. This is your chance to let the crew know what food and drink you would like and if you have any special requests, such as holding a birthday party, planning a proposal or bringing a pet on board. The most important thing is to be honest. This is not a test and you’re not going to win any points for saying you love lobster and single malt scotch when what you really want is burgers and craft beer. With a private chef on board, the food is a huge draw of any yacht charter so make sure you enjoy it.
The same also goes for any activities you particularly want to fit into your itinerary. “If you love exploring historical sites or you are a fan of water sports, let your broker know and they will discuss what the yacht and the destination can offer,” advises Legrand. “Extra touches such as inland tours and specialist privately hired water sports instructors will ensure you enjoy your charter to the fullest and make lifetime memories.” This can also be a factor in your choice of vessel – the 62m Lucky Lady, for charter with Fraser, features a PGA golf tee on the sundeck which you won’t find on too many other yachts.
You can’t predict the weather
Your broker will help you plan a trip that takes into account the weather in your chosen destination but, even if you’re on board in the Med in July, you can’t guarantee wall to wall sunshine and calm seas. If you’re not used to sailing it’s also easy to forget that, just because everything seems calm in port, just a few miles out to sea the conditions can be very different.
It can be disappointing but, remember, it’s no-one’s fault and you still have an incredible boat at your disposal. Talk to the captain about alternative activities – a good crew will always have something up their sleeve for rainy days. This is also something to consider when choosing your destination. SuperYachtsMonaco, for example, is offering the 75m yacht Cloudbreak in Croatia this summer. While slightly off the beaten yachting track, it does mean there are plenty of onshore activities available should the weather let you down.
Make sure you take extra costs into account
Yes, the price on the tin may seem expensive but be aware that it doesn’t cover everything. The base price covers the yacht and the crew but provisioning (food, drink, fuel, ground transport etc) aren’t included and neither are crew tips. Tips are a necessary and expected part of a yachting holiday and should typically be 10-20% of the charter price and given in cash – so make sure you visit the bank before the end of your trip. No-one likes unexpected surprise costs so be sure to go through any additional charges with your broker so you don’t have to worry about them when you’re on board.
Need some inspiration? These are the world’s best destinations for yachting adventures…
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