A beginner’s guide to superyacht charters

Which yacht, where to go and how much to tip the crew? Industry insiders give Risa Merl the truth for the first time charter customers entering the world of superyachts.

Get the most out of your broker

You should consider a charter broker as the link between you and a fabulous vacation.

“Your broker is your central point of contact from the moment you start planning your charter,” says Annemarie Gathercole, charter director at YPI. “They’ll interview you about your plans and your guests to find the perfect yacht, and they’ll also cook up an unforgettable itinerary for everyone on board. Once your charter has started, while your captain will be able to answer all your questions, your broker will remain at your disposal whenever you need them.

Image credit: Jeff Brown/Breed Media

On your side: The broker works for you. “Your broker will work on your behalf to negotiate the best charter rate and guide you through the contracting process,” says Eva Hiebert of Denison Yachting. “The charter broker represents the charterer and is there to protect their interests.”

Aware : “A charter broker travels to the destination, inspects the yachts and knows the level of service provided by the captain and crew. This allows the broker to offer his first-hand findings to the client,” says Kim Vickery of Westport Yacht Charters. This proven formula means that the most suitable yacht will be recommended to you. “A senior broker will know the crew of the yacht and will have had the chance to taste the chef’s dishes. This means that they can make personal recommendations rather than to rely solely on promotional material,” adds Pierrik Devic of Fraser.

Blank charter: First charter? No problem – your charter broker will recommend the best vacation possible. “If someone who has never chartered before asks me where to go, I would first like to know what they like to do,” says Fraser’s Lucy Ritchie. “If they want beaches, start by going island hopping for 30 to 35 meters in Greece. For experienced charterers I would recommend Thailand or Galápagos.”

Image credit: Guillaume Plisson

Plan the details in advance

You may feel like you’re high maintenance, but providing exact details before your charter will help your broker and crew create the ideal experience. “A broker gets to know his client and his wishes by gathering as much information as possible at the start, not later”, explains Pierre Hurel of Camper & Nicholsons. “The more detail you provide, the better a broker can meet your exact needs,” adds YPI’s Gathercole.

On Form: Your broker will provide you with a preferences sheet prior to your embarkation which will cover all aspects of your charter. “It is essential to fill out an information sheet in advance indicating culinary preferences or any special dietary requirements, preferences for drinks, newspapers, flowers or other special requests,” says Amanda Thibaut of Ocean Independence. “Details of medical issues, allergies and special occasions can also be given.”

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Choose the right yacht

Of course, one of the most important factors for an enjoyable charter is choosing the yacht that best suits your preferences.

Family first: Are you traveling with your offspring? Be sure to choose a yacht with enough space and a family crew. “I always ask clients the exact ages of their children and the type of family vacation they are looking for. I then glean as much information as possible about what everyone likes to do on board,” says Matthew Gant of Edmiston. “You want to make sure the crew is completely prepared because they can make or break a family charter.”

At home: “When a new client comes on board, I always sit down with them and ask them what their home is like,” says Graham Sullivan of Worth Avenue Yachts. “I believe a yacht should be a continuation of your home, at sea, and should allow you to sit back and relax as if you were in your own living room.”

Be sure to choose a yacht with enough space and a family crew

Set the pace: A good broker will also check if you need speed or prefer to enjoy life at a slower pace. “It would be a mistake to offer a fast, fuel-intensive yacht to a customer who doesn’t care about speed but will be shocked when they get the fuel bill,” says IYC’s Katya Grzeszczak. “Clients who like volume and comfort should be offered a full displacement yacht, while those who care about a sexy, sleek and fast yacht will likely find a slow and bulky full displacement yacht.”

The yacht you charter will also influence your ability to fit into your itinerary. “A displacement yacht will take five hours to sail from Monaco to St. Tropez, but a fast yacht would only take two and a half hours,” says Fraser’s Devic. “The broker should highlight the difference in terms of comfort at sea and at anchor.”

Age before beauty: Don’t overlook an older yacht in the quest for something new. Many yachts are refreshed and refitted and come out of the shipyard “like new,” says Grzeszczak. She also notes that brokers will inspect newly refitted yachts to see how extensive and successful the refit has been in order to report to clients.

Create a balanced itinerary

“The perfect itinerary comes down to what the customer wants for their trip,” says Sullivan of Worth Avenue Yachts. “Do they want to float off a private island in clear waters or hear the bustle of Saint-Tropez?

Don’t overdo it: It can be tempting to pack your charter to the brim with activities, but it is recommended to factor in some downtime. “Remember you’re on vacation,” says Hiebert of Denison Yachting. “Give yourself time to enjoy the yacht.”

Being flexible: “One of the best things about a private yacht charter is being able to change the itinerary,” says Maggie Vale of Churchill Yacht Partners, “so enjoy the flexibility.” Ekaterina Pavlova of Imperial Yachts says the most important thing is to let go: “Don’t control everything and relax: your broker and crew will take care of everything.

Time spent at sea: Saul Varndell-Baxter of Ocean Independence suggests sailing for six hours or less a day. “We suggest being flexible to change course depending on the weather or more time to enjoy a particular new location,” he adds.

Don’t make a meal out of it: Fiona Maureso of Northrop & Johnson warns that a common mistake new charterers make is booking multiple meals on board the boat. “They don’t realize that the chefs on board are better than the best on land,” she says. “It’s fine to have meals off the yacht, of course, but don’t do it all the time.”

Think outside the box: “Charge during the shoulder season instead of the peak season – you’ll get a better deal, the crew is less stressed and the marinas are less busy,” advises Splinter Fangman of Yachtzoo.

Keep in mind etiquette on board

From the outside, yachting etiquette may seem quite complex, but in reality, the basics are anchored in a good way. “Etiquette on board is simple: take off your shoes, be respectful to the crew and just enjoy your vacation with family and friends,” says Fraser’s Anthony Baud. “It’s exactly the same as a luxury hotel; people naturally know how to behave,” adds Edmiston’s Gant. For more details on superyacht charter etiquette, read our handy guide.

Understanding Tipping Protocol

Whether you’re rewarding a taxi driver after a ride or a server at the end of a meal, tipping can be a confusing and potentially offensive custom. But there’s no reason that should stop you from leaving your charter trip in style. “Crew tipping is customary, as in any hospitality industry,” says Vickery of Westport Yacht Charters. “It should be seen as a gift for a job well done and is based on the satisfaction level of the whole experience.” For more tips, read our Failover Protocol manual.

Know the basics of your charter

Make sure you know the terms and language of the charter booking process.

Rental price: This usually includes chartering the yacht and crew. The rate will be shown as “price from”, meaning it may vary depending on season and location. You’ll also see “plus expenses” next to the price, which refers to everything else.

ABS: The “plus expense” rating refers to the Advance Provisioning Allowance (APA), which is typically 30-35% of the total charter amount, and covers the cost of food, alcohol, fuel and impurities, etc.

Charter contract: Designed to protect both the charterer and the yacht owner, this document defines the terms of the yacht charter. It spells out details on everything from dates and location to cancellation and insurance.

MY BA: The Worldwide Yachting Association, known as MYBA, outlines the terms of the contract, including yacht charter, crew wages, insurance claims, water toys and engine room maintenance .

Other contractual clauses: You may come across other types of contracts, ranging from Caribbean Terms Included (CTI) for most small yachts in the Caribbean to Greek Terms (GT), which include berthing fees in Greek waters. This can get confusing, so it is essential that you discuss this with your charter broker.

This article is from the December 2019 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine delivered straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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