The Beckhams do it. Jeff Bezos does it. Leonardo DiCaprio even did it last month. Chartering a yacht has become many celebrities’ favorite way to get away from it all, whether lounging on sunbeds or snorkeling remote atolls. According to Fraser Yacht’s 2021 market report, there are around 2,900 yachts available for charter in the world today. The global charter fleet keeps on growing, which means there is a charter-yacht vacation out there to suit everyone.
Ranging from 80- to over 450 feet, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to the South Pacific, elegant sailing yachts, high-performance motoryachts, explorer yachts with expansive deck spaces and award-winning gigayachts with armadas of water toys are available.
If you’ve never dipped your toe in the charter waters before, let us walk you through the need-to-know details of how to charter a yacht successfully and have the time of your life.
How to Choose the Right Yacht to Charter
Consult the Pros—Talk to a Broker
The biggest question for first-time charterers is where to begin. The tried-and-tested method is to engage the help of a reputable charter broker. It’s their job to understand what you would like to get from the charter and then matchmake your preferences with the most suitable yacht.
“Engaging a professional charter broker is free and they are key to ensuring your holiday is stress-free,” Alexandra Groom, charter broker at Worth Avenue Yachts, told Robb Report. “Professional charter brokers have access to exclusive databases with stringent membership, communication and ethics rules, meaning they are most likely to be able to find you the right yacht in the right location, even if what you require is off market.”
“Make sure your broker gets to know you and your family,” adds Nick Trotter, chairman of the charter committee of MYBA The Worldwide Yachting Association. “Finding the right broker is often via word of mouth, so ask your friends, ask people you trust, find out what they’ve done and who they’ve done it with. The communication between you and your broker is paramount because the broker represents you, they’re acting on your behalf, so you need to be able to articulate your vision.”
Neal Hornsby, co-founder and CEO of Yomira, advocates finding out about your broker’s eco-credentials, too: “Can they offset your carbon footprint from the charter, teach the kids about the marine environment or perhaps involve you in local conservation projects if you are keen to participate during your time aboard? The right broker for you is the broker that you not only connect with, but most importantly has the credibility to back up their advice.”
You can find a listing of charter brokers and companies that adhere to global guidelines at the MYBA, the yachting industry’s technical and ethics guide, as well as that of the International Yacht Brokers Association.
Booking With Apps
For those who feel safer behind a screen, several different online platforms, such as Ahoy Club, Yotha and Borrow a Boat allow you to scroll and book your yacht. This flexible approach embraces a younger generation of digitally minded charterers. That said, hailing a $10 taxi ride with Uber is much less risky than booking a $500,000 charter on your iPhone. So be sure you have contact info for a live human in case anything goes wrong on your charter vacation.
Finding the Right Crew for Your Needs
Equally as important when choosing a yacht is making sure the crew are a good fit. If you have children in tow, you’ll want a family-friendly crew who can keep them entertained. If you’re traveling with a group of active friends, having crew who double as watersports instructors is a great benefit. Or maybe you’ve been dreaming of a gastronomic itinerary that features a Michelin-caliber chef on board? A broker will go over all your options. June Montagne, charter consultant at IYC, recommends requesting references on the crew prior to making your final decision. “Your crew are far more important than your yacht,” she told Robb Report.
Picking Your Yachting Destination
An important element of any charter is knowing where you would like to vacation. This will also heavily influence the yacht that you end up chartering. Different yachts are based in different locations and usually move throughout the year, so if you have your heart set on experiencing Lady E’s brand-new beach club for spring break, you’ll be cruising the Indian Ocean. If you’re more interested in exploring UNESCO World Heritage sites along Croatia’s coastline, then GECO, which cruises the Eastern Mediterranean in summer, would be a smart option.
“Decide on your group’s makeup and whether or not you have a particular destination in mind,” Katya Hall, IYC sales and charter consultant, told Robb Report. “It’s fine if you don’t—your broker will propose yachts in multiple locations and walk you through highlights of every destination.”
The most common migration is the Mediterranean in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. However, you will also find yachts cruising the waters of Central and South America, Antarctica, the Pacific islands, Northern Europe and even Costa Rica. In 2021, the Amalfi Coast in Italy and the Greek islands were among the most popular summer charter destinations.
Choose a Vessel That Fits Your Plan—and the Occasion
Most yachts carry the basic water toys and tenders for being towed and simple snorkeling exploration. But some yachts carry specific equipment, from personal submarines, decompression chambers for scuba diving, inflatable slides and even Hammam saunas and snow rooms. Does your charter have a theme? Or maybe you want to celebrate a birthday? Just be sure the yacht caters for your needs, whether planning a party with a DJ or hosting a business meeting.
“A yacht charter opens up destinations in ways that staying in a hotel can’t,” says Groom. “Instead of being restricted by transport links and journey times, you can start at one part of a coastline and end at another, taking in multiple islands, villages or bays in one short week, all from the comfort of your yacht. Even if a particular coastline is new to you, your captain will ensure that your trip focuses on the elements that are most important to you.”
If you want to keep the yacht on the move, its speed, size, draft depth and flag will determine how many stops you can make. For example, cruising in the Bahamas requires a shallow draft if you want to visit out islands like the Exumas, though plenty of ports have deeper waters.
“A yacht with stabilizers is key for first time charterers if they haven’t experienced the sea before,” advises Lotte Barker-Hahlo, charter broker at Burgess.
Why Yacht Size Matters
The duration of the trip and number of guests is another consideration. One week for family and a second week for friends? Or maybe you’re planning a three-week itinerary to island hop your way around the Florida Keys. Charter brokers usually list pricings per week and most charter yachts are certified to carry 12 guests, plus crew. If you plan to vacation with more than that, you will need a PYC- or SOLAS-class yacht, which is licensed for up to 36 passengers. Yachts such as 278-foot Victorious, an explorer vessel capable of circumnavigating the world, has 12 staterooms for 24 guests plus crew.
Guest cabin configurations tend to be varied and flexible. The principal (person who booked the charter) will typically take the master suite. But yachts with large VIPs, cabins with bunks designed for kids, and twin cabins with a Pullman bed make sleeping arrangements tailored to suit your group easy. Don’t forget to include in your count any personal assistants, babysitters or other security guards. And if anyone in your party has concerns about limited mobility, factoring an elevator or stair-climber into your criteria early on is a must.
When to Book
Once you’ve identified which yacht you prefer in your chosen destination, be sure not to leave booking until the last minute. Just like any other vacation, chartering over the summer holidays, Christmas and popular events such as the Monaco Grand Prix makes for the high-demand season.
“Only book when you’re ready!” says Hornsby. “But as with any holiday periods, July/August and Christmas/New Year are always in high demand so an early conversation with your broker is recommended. There are always some great deals to be done in the quieter months, but lead-in time is key, particularly as we emerge from a Covid world.”
In 2021, Fraser Yachts reported an increase of 56 percent in bookings across their charter fleet compared to the previous year, as well as a slight increase in the number of tandem charters—clients chartering two yachts simultaneously so more of the family could be together. Booking your charter at the last minute could mean you’re unable to secure your first, second or even third preference. If the timing and the yacht are both important, book a year in advance. If you are flexible with both dates and the yacht, most brokers can find a yacht for you.
Privacy and Personalization
Privacy and discretion form the backbone of yachting. Builders usually don’t share who the owner of a yacht is, nor do the brokers or crew. If you have concerns about the confidentiality of high-profile guests during your charter, requesting your charter broker to sign an NDA is an option. As with all elements of a bespoke yacht charter, the choice is yours, from dietary needs and favorite cocktails to service etiquette and daily activities.
If you or your travel partners are inclined to remain plugged in, most yachts feature high-speed Wi-Fi, allowing you to keep in touch as much or as little as you would like. For those keen to get out and explore, options range from shopping for local artisan goods, taking a cooking class or dropping anchor in one cove all day to dive and fish. It’s up to you how you spend your time, just be sure to give the crew a heads-up so they know what to be prepared for.
Yacht Charter Costs: What Should You Expect to Pay?
The final step is the contract. Most brokers use the MYBA contract or something similar. All these decisions lead down to the bottom line: How much does it cost?
“Ask for all expenses involved,” says Montagne. “Does the charter fee include expenses or are they are additional? Is there any tax or VAT payable? What percentage is acceptable in the area you will be chartering? What about liability and trip cancellation insurance?” All these points need to be considered.
As an example, for the 2021 summer season, the 160-foot Rossinavi EIV superyacht, with five cabins and nine crew chartered in the Mediterranean from approximately $280,000 per week. The overall price varies with fuel consumption (staying in port or cruising), location (France or Greece), the number of people you are traveling with, food and drink, as well as activities. Adding in food and drink; expenses for docking, fuel and other fees; and tips will tack roughly 30 to 50 percent of the charter rate to your trip. So, if you were on EIV for a week last summer, it most likely cost you between $364,000 and $420,000 depending on how often the yacht moved, how many bottles of rosé you went through, and what kind of gratuity you left the crew for your incredible stay on board.
How Yacht Size and Destination Determine Price
When it comes to costs, the size of the yacht matters. A smaller yacht will cost less, while the 446-foot Flying Fox, one of the largest charter yachts on the market accommodating 25 guests and with an unprecedented 4,300-square-foot two-floor spa, charters from around $3,400,000 per week.
Certain destinations, such as Patagonia or Kamchatka, may bring a different set of fees if you intend on heli-skiing, while heavily protected locations like Antarctica and the Galapagos require permits confirmed in advance. Wherever you cruise, you will heavily rely on the knowledge, professionalism and help of the crew, so it goes without saying that the service tip is a crucial fee that should factor into your expenses.
How Much to Tip the Crew
MYBA suggests five to 15 percent as customary, though it’s left up to your discretion to reward an exceptional crew with a larger amount if you think that’s fair, or a smaller amount if the service hasn’t been up to par. In terms of how to hand the tip over, standard procedure is to leave the gratuity with the captain at the end of your stay so he or she can divvy among the various crew members you may or may not have seen, based on their duties.
All that’s left is to prepare to have a vacation of your lifetime. “There is nothing that compares to spending time on the water with your family and friends,” says Hall. “It’s about enjoying watersports, having exquisite meals and discovering magical spots of the world along the way.”