With hundreds of yachts available for charter, finding the right one for you might seem daunting.
The process can be compared to buying a house in that there are multiple options and different aspects that need to be taken into consideration, such as size, location, budget and style.
A charter broker is the best person to advise you, but here are four steps to point you in the right direction.
Step one: Establish the basics
Just as you would tell your real estate agent what your price range is, so should you tell your charter broker. You need to be honest about what you plan to spend and your broker will help you understand the various additional costs (fuel, dockage, etc). Before you depart, you will have a clear understanding of the cost (link to expense feature).
If you do not already have a specific location in mind your broker will be able to suggest the best destination. The area where you decide to charter a yacht will depend on the type of experience you are looking for and the time of year you are planning to travel.
Number of guests
With a house, the number of bedrooms is important and so it is with yachts. If you have children, then you’ll want more cabins, often with twin berths or bunk beds. Want to charter with several couples? Larger yachts can provide a level of spacious accommodations so that no one feels that they are second-class citizens.
The maximum number of guests allowed by law on many charter yachts is 12. Beyond that number, maritime regulations require that the yacht be registered under the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) regulations used on cruise ships. There are many large yachts that meet the SOLAS classification and can have more than 12 guests.
Step two: decide important yacht requirements
When you are reviewing potential yachts it is important to consider your layout needs. If you have children you might like to have them close to you. Look for a yacht that has smaller cabins near yours, or perhaps even with an adjoining door.
On the other hand, for couples, it is nice to have some separation. To put it delicately the bulkheads (walls) on a yacht are not nearly as soundproof as at home. Having suites that don’t share an adjoining bulkhead also allows you to snore or watch TV without disturbing your neighbours.
Many charter yachts are well equipped to handle young children, with everything from safety rails near stairs to removing any breakable objects. Tell your charter broker that you need a “kid-friendly” yacht and you’ll be delighted with the choices.
Charter guests with disabilities can be easily accommodated with elevators between decks (nice even for those with creaky knees!), wide passageways for wheelchairs or walkers, and crews trained to deal with special needs.
You also need to consider how you get to and from your charter yacht. Often your yacht will moor in a marina or to a quay (called Med mooring when the stern of the yacht faces the quay), so you just walk down a gangway that is solid and secure.
Step three: Work out which amenities are most important to you
Fine cuisine is one of the drawing cards for charter yachts, so review the qualifications and specialities of the chef carefully to ensure they match your own tastes.
If you like to be able to burn off your excess indulgences and stick to your regular regime many charter yachts have dedicated exercise facilities that equal (and often exceed) shoreside gyms.
If you are a dedicated scuba diver try and choose a yacht that has a certified dive master aboard as well as all the equipment for diving, including compressors for refilling the tanks.
Some yachts prefer, either for liability or insurance issues, to arrange “rendezvous diving”. This means that a professional local dive company arranges to rendezvous with your charter yacht, bringing their own boat, staff and dive equipment. This is popular in the Caribbean, where yachts regularly use local services. Whichever method is used having a yacht with a crew of experienced divers will enhance your adventure.
The traditional way to reach a charter yacht that is anchored away from shore is via a smaller boat, called a tender, which is often specially designed to protect the guests against wind and spray. Many yachts have several tenders for different purposes, such as water-skiing or fishing in addition to carrying guests to and from shore.
The latest version of the traditional tender is the helicopter. Many large yachts are built with helipads that can accommodate helicopters. While this won’t take you to shore for lunch as easily as the tender, a helicopter can whisk you seamlessly to and from the airport on arrival and departure, as well as on adventures away from the yacht.
Step four: Pick your style
Once you’ve decided on most of the details of your charter, the final question to ask yourself is what style you prefer. Charter yachts, like houses, come in all shapes and sizes. There is no point in spending a week aboard a yacht you think is ugly so choose a style you like.
Traditional or modern
You’ll probably see classic yachts built in the “roaring twenties”, sleek Euro-styled yachts with ultra-modern interiors, and sailing yachts with clouds of sail. More traditional yachts will have been updated with modern systems, but you may find smaller accommodation than more modern designs.
Sailing or motor
If you’re a sailor, then you should certainly consider one of the sailing charter yachts, which combine all the delights of an afternoon breeze and towering sails overhead with the luxurious amenities found on motoryachts. You might even want to charter a sailing yacht to enter one of the many regattas staged around the world that combine large yacht racing with social activities ashore. And don’t forget: Sailing charter yachts don’t require you to crank winches or trim the sails. Your crew will handle all that for you, using modern electric winches and sophisticated furling systems.
Time for an adventure
Expedition or explorer yachts are becoming common in charter fleets. These are distinct from conventional motoryachts because they are capable of venturing to faraway places that require a combination of seaworthiness and toughness. For example, taking an expedition yacht among the glaciers of Alaska allows you to chip off thousand-year-old ice for your gin-and-tonic. Or you might want to venture up a distant jungle river, explore deserted atolls in the vast Pacific. Expedition yachts are ready to fulfill all your dreams.