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A first timer's guide to superyacht charters

2 April 2021 • Written by Risa Merl

Which yacht, where to go and how much to tip the crew? Industry insiders give Risa Merl the lowdown for first time yacht charter clients entering the superyacht world.

Make the most of your broker

You should think of a charter broker as the conduit between yourself and a fabulous holiday.

“Your broker is your central point of contact from the moment you start planning your charter,” explains Annemarie Gathercole, charter director at YPI. “They will ask you about your plans and your guests in order to find the ideal yacht, and they will also put together an unforgettable itinerary that will be enjoyed by everyone on board. Once your charter starts, while your captain can answer any questions you might have, your broker will remain on hand whenever you need them.”

Image credit: Stuart Pearce

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 contractual process,” says Denison Yachting’s Eva Hiebert. “The charter broker represents the charterer and is there to protect their interests.”

In the know: “A charter broker travels to destinations, inspects the yachts and is familiar with the level of service that the captain and crew offer. This allows the broker  to offer their first-hand findings to the client,” explains Westport Yacht Charters’ Kim Vickery. This tried and tested formula means the most suitable yacht will be recommended to you. “A senior charter broker will know the yacht’s crew and will have had the chance to sample the chef’s dishes. This means they will be able to make personal recommendations rather than just relying on promotional material,” adds Fraser’s Pierrik Devic.

Charter virgin: First charter? No problem – your charter broker will recommend the best holiday possible. “If someone who has never chartered before asks me where to go, I would first want to know what they like doing,” says Fraser’s Lucy Ritchie. “If they want beaches, start with island-hopping on a 30- to 35-metre in Greece. For experienced charterers, I would recommend Thailand or the Galápagos.”

Fraser’s Lucy Ritchie suggests island-hopping on a 30- to 35-metre yacht in Greece as a first charter itinerary
Image credit: Unsplash

Plan the details in advance

It might feel as though you are being high maintenance, but providing exact details ahead of your charter will help your broker and crew craft the ideal experience. “A broker gets to know his client and his wishes by gathering as much information as possible at the beginning, not later on,” says Camper & Nicholsons’ Pierre Hurel. “The more detail you provide, the better a broker can cater to your exact requirements,” adds YPI’s Gathercole.

On form: Your broker will provide you with a preference sheet before you board that will cover every aspect of your charter. “It is essential to complete an advance information sheet noting culinary preferences or any special dietary requirements, beverage preferences, newspapers, flowers or other special requests,” say Ocean Independence brokers. “Details on any medical issues, allergies and special occasions can also be given."

The 40m Benetti Rebeca is recommended by her broker for first time charter guests.

Choose the right yacht

Of course, one of the most important factors in an enjoyable charter is picking the yacht that best fits your preferences.

Family first: Travelling with your brood? Make sure you choose a yacht with ample space and family-friendly crew.  “I always find out from clients the exact age of their kids and what kind of family holiday they are after. I then glean as much information as possible about what everyone likes to do on board,” says Edmiston’s Matthew Gant. “You want to make sure the crew are completely prepared as they can make or break a family charter.”

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

Make sure you choose a yacht with ample space and family-friendly crew

Set the pace: A good broker will also ascertain if you have a need for speed or prefer to enjoy life at a slower pace. “It would be wrong to offer a fast yacht with high fuel consumption to a client who doesn’t care about speed but will be shocked when they get the fuel bill,” says Katya Grzeszczak of IYC. “Clients who like ample volume and comfort should be offered a full-displacement yacht, whereas those who care about a yacht being sexy, sleek and fast will probably find a full-displacement yacht slow and bulky.”

The yacht that you charter will also influence how much you are able to fit into your itinerary. “A displacement yacht will take five hours to cruise from Monaco to Saint-Tropez, but a fast yacht would take only two and a half hours,” explains 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 the hot new thing. Many yachts are refreshed and refitted and come out of the shipyard “as good as new”, says Grzeszczak. She also notes that brokers will inspect newly refitted yachts to see how extensive and successful the refit was in order to report back to clients

Create a balanced itinerary

“The perfect itinerary comes down to what the client wants for their trip,” says Worth Avenue Yachts’ Sullivan. “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 factoring in some downtime is recommended. “Don’t forget, you are on vacation,” says Denison Yachting’s Hiebert. “Give yourself time to enjoy the yacht.”

Be flexible: “One of the best things about a private  yacht charter is being able to change the itinerary,” says Maggie Vale from Churchill Yacht Partners, “so take advantage of the flexibility.”

The toy garage on Illusion V.

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

Don’t make a meal of it: Northrop & Johnson’s Fiona Maureso warns that a common mistake first-time charterers make is booking multiple meals off the boat. “They don’t realise the chefs on board are better than the best on shore,” she says. “It’s okay to enjoy meals  off the yacht, of course, but don’t do it the entire time.”

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

Keep onboard etiquette in mind

From the outside, yachting etiquette can seem quite complex but in reality the basics are rooted in common sense. “Etiquette on board is simple: take off your shoes, be respectful to the crew and just enjoy your holiday with family and friends,” says Fraser’s Anthony Baud. “It’s just 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.

Understand tipping protocol

Whether you are rewarding a taxi driver after a journey or a waiter at the end of a meal, tipping can be a confusing custom fraught with the potential to offend. But there is no reason why it should stop you leaving your charter trip on a high. “Crew gratuity is customary, as in any hospitality industry,” says Westport Yacht Charters’ Vickery. “It should be regarded as a gift for a job well done and is based on the satisfaction level of the entire experience.” For further advice, read our handbook on tipping protocol

Know your charter basics

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

Charter rate: This generally includes the hire of the yacht and crew. The rate will be listed as “priced from”, meaning it can vary depending on the season and location. You’ll also see “plus expenses” by the price, which refers to everything else.

APA: The “plus expenses” note refers to the Advance Provisioning Allowance (APA), which is usually 30 to 35 per cent of the overall charter fee, and covers the cost of food, alcohol, fuel and dockage etc.

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

The beach club on charter sailing yacht Aquijo.
Credit: Stuart Pearce

MYBA: The Worldwide Yachting Association, known as MYBA, specifies the terms of the contract, including the hire of the yacht, wages for the crew, insurance claims, water toys and engine room maintenance.

Other contract terms: You might come across other types of contracts, ranging from the mostly all-inclusive Caribbean Terms Inclusive (CTI) for smaller yachts in the Caribbean to Greek Terms (GT), which includes berthing fees within Greek waters. It can get confusing, so it is vital you talk this through with your charter broker.

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