Where once guests felt lucky to escape on a superyacht for a week, today’s charterers are taking lengthier trips than ever. Industry experts discuss why charter clients are now spending more time on board and reveal the epic multi-month adventures at sea they're helping book now
“The increase is obvious,” says Rita Luskovic, head of charter at Princess. “I’ve worked in this industry since 2014, and I’ve never had so many enquiries for long-term charters. It just really picked up when the pandemic hit.”
And Princess isn’t the only brokerage house to notice a shift in bookings since Covid-19 appeared. YPI reported that as many as 41 per cent of its 2021 clients booked in for longer than one week, with another brokerage citing an increase in month-long charters from five per cent in 2019 to 15 per cent of all charters booked last year. Quite the gear change, when the length of an average charter trip is usually seven days.
Remote working and pent-up holiday days are a couple of factors that have allowed charterers to take more time off work. “With the advance in telecommunications, entire families are now capable of combining work, school and play while enjoying their preferred cruising destinations,” explains Ocean Independence senior charter broker Hanneke Maljaars, who describes these clients as “a growing generation of charterers.”
More time on board also means that charter guests can satisfy life-long desires to visit bucket-list destinations or try out adventurous activities such as submarine diving or heli-skiing as part of their itineraries. This is where yachting travel experts like EYOS Expeditions and Pelorus get involved, helping brokers organise excursions to remote Pacific islands or the North and South Poles.
“Really it’s a return on an investment,” explains Elise Ciappara, head of yacht expeditions at Pelorus. “We’re finding more and more people, having been stuck at home for so long, really want to maximise their time on board. And being on board for longer gives you much more freedom.”
Some of the longer charters Ciappara is currently organising include six weeks on 31 metre classic explorer Togo to focus on wildlife photography in Svalbard, five weeks on board 33.6 metre sailing yacht Imagine in the isolated atolls of French Polynesia, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, and three weeks on an African safari cruise between Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. Ciappara has also developed itineraries for 37 metre Dardanella, available for charter in Polynesia with New Zealand-based brokerage 37 South, and advises that the yacht's shark diving voyage through the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands is best enjoyed on a month-long cruise.
At EYOS Expeditions, destinations with distinct geographies and abundant wildlife, such as Antarctica, are on the radar of client director Tamsin Vaughan. After being cooped up during the pandemic, Vaughan has seen a rise in guests booking extraordinary voyages that simply can’t be undertaken in just a few days. For such a trip, Vaughan recommends 77 metre ice-class Legend, which she describes as “fantastic for Antarctica and South Georgia, with plenty of toys and also a Balinese spa on board which makes her very good for a long term charter."
An extended Legend cruise around the South Pole offers guests plenty of time to make the most of her facilities, including using the helipad for off-piste skiing adventures and taking the five-seater submersible out for underwater exploration. Other activities that can be arranged by EYOS might include kayaking between icebergs, whale watching, visiting penguin colonies or scientific research centres, climbing spectacular peaks and even scuba diving during long Antarctic days of near-24-hour daylight.
“I think people are just realising there’s so much more to see, and I think they realise that if they’re going to do these amazing once-in-a-lifetime trips, they may as well do it right, to the best extent possible,” says Vaughan.
As an alternative option, Nickie Tannock-Vincent, YPI’s head of charter retail, has seen “families from the Middle East book out yachts for a month or more at a time to give them flexibility to come and go as they need.” With yachts over 60 metres not so easy to come by in high season, “having one ready at your disposal is ideal” she adds, while noting that “this trend is not entirely new.”
Only two per cent of enquiries received through YPI over the last year were for trips of longer than three weeks. For hop-on, hop-off-style charters lasting a month or two, brokers maintain that the Mediterranean remains the number-one destination.
While booking a long-term charter does pose a risk for owners should a cancellation occur, brokers generally seem to sense that owners are on board with the concept and will even offer a discount for longer charters. “We all like long-term charters, believe it or not,” says Luskovic. “It’s an easier charter to have, without too many different payments and not too much checking in and checking out for the crew.” Nicci Perides, head of PR and communications at Burgess, agrees. “A charter rate discount for a long duration is often agreed as the owner isn’t losing time between shorter charters for change-over,” she says.
So what types of boats are being booked for longer charters? “The longer the charter, the bigger the boat they want,” says Luskovic, a comment which is echoed throughout the brokerage industry. Cecil Wright charter manager Vanessa Buck specifies that “the majority of enquiries are directed at yachts measuring 60 metres and more, which allow the space to combine family time with an office for remote work or even potential classrooms for on board tutoring.” Examples from the Cecil Wright fleet include 76.6 metre Boadicea, which received 11 enquiries last year alone for charters lasting over 30 days, and 60.9 metre Arience, on which a 10-week charter was booked in summer 2021 – which “would have been extremely unusual in pre-pandemic times,” according to Buck.
Currently available for cruises along Thailand's tropical coast, a long stint on board Cecil Wright's Boadicea is perfect for families, offering everything from a private office for adults to work remotely to extra cabins for bringing nannies or tutors. Refitted specifically for charter in 2016, Boadicea is even equipped with a private hospital for medical treatment at sea. Itineraries would allow kids to stay active with a day of water sports in Phang Nga Bay or diving excursions with sharks and swimming with sea cows around the islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Muk. Other stop-offs on a longer voyage might include a visit to The Ko Phi Phi chain – as seen in The Man with the Golden Gun and The Beach – where little ones can embark on a real-life treasure island hunt, while older teens and young adults can hit up the nightclubs and bars of Phuket’s lively Patong district after dark.
Maljaars from Ocean Independence specifies that “good seakeeping qualities and heaps of excellent facilities, plus a range of water sports and toys to keep everyone amused” are key elements on yachts being booked for longer charters. Other brokers stress that a highly regarded chef is important; if all dietary requirements, whether gluten-free or vegan, can be accommodated, then charter guests' won't feel the need to disembark to get the best meal. And for those feeling eco-conscious about the amount of time being spent on board, a sailing yacht from the Ocean Independence charter fleet such as 50 metre Meira offers a luxurious alternative that reduces fuel consumption.
When it comes to shorter vessels from the charter fleet, guests who are staying in villas for land-based holidays might book out a smaller superyacht as an add-on, providing the option of a day out on the water to switch up the scenery or practise water sports. For such bookings, Luskovic recommends 23.71 metre Lady Isabella, which can be chartered with Princess for a month at a time. Her petite proportions offer greater flexibility for dropping anchor anywhere along her cruising grounds of the French Riviera, while the toy box still rivals those found on larger vessels. As always, each charter is unique according to the needs and desires of the group on board – but it seems that 2022 is the year when charter guests need not fear overstaying their welcome.
First published in the April 2022 edition of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW