Superyacht charter success

2015-01-29By Chris Caswell
Great yacht, great owner, great captain and great crew. All those ingredients must blend together and the result is a charter experience never to be forgotten


A successful charter needs many factors to blend together well. Here, the industry experts reveal what it takes to make an outstanding charter experience for their many repeat clients.

In the world ashore, many almost indefinable qualities turn a place with a bed into a Hotel, one that always exceeds expectations. The same is true on the water: there are charter yachts and Charter Yachts. But what makes that difference? In nearly every case, it’s the melding of several high-quality aspects.

If all the ingredients are perfectly in tune, the charter will be a success

The captain

Mark Elliott has seen both sides of superyacht chartering, as captain of one of the most successful charter yachts and now as a broker with International Yacht Collection. “[A successful charter] starts with the owner,” he says, “who chooses the right yacht and hires the right captain.” He says the owner has to be open to changing his plans to accommodate a charter and give the captain the tools to do his job. “The captain’s directive has to be all about the charterer’s experience, from the best food, wine service and attention to details, to land excursions and tours.”

Dee Kraley, director of US charter marketing for Camper & Nicholsons, agrees, “There was a time charters were a ‘fill-in’ for owners, but today the owner has to have involvement.” He also sees the captain as key, since the style and management of a charter starts there. ‘”A good captain has to love his job,” he says. Shawn Laird, charter management director at Northrop & Johnson, says one common denominator among her top captains is, “One hundred per cent flexibility. Nothing is a problem for them, and they’re game for any challenge.”

One phrase used by several brokers when talking about captains was ‘can do’: the ability to field the strangest request and not only make it happen, but also embellish it in the process, is a trait of the best charter captains.

The crew have the ability to make or break the charter | Bugsy Gedlek

The crew

The crew is equally essential, says Anita Dodds, charter manager with Fraser Yachts. “There is longevity with our best crews. It indicates a happy team – and returning charter guests are greeted by name as old friends.”

When it comes to the crew, Alene Keenan has an insider’s take, as a seasoned head stewardess on charter yachts, as well as the author of The Yacht Service Bible and founder of training school Yacht Stew Solutions. One trait of an outstanding crew, she says, “is the adrenaline rush and challenge to do a great job when you gel as a team to pull it off. There is a powerful drive in successful crews to exceed someone’s expectations.” Keenan points to the famous quote by author and poet Maya Angelou as an example of a good charter ethic, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

One broker mentions a captain who, even faced with the rush of back-to-back charters, always gathers the crew for an hour-long debriefing after each charter. The crew dissects everything that went wrong and went right. Ideas on how to improve are shared and, like a football team running onto the field, the crew starts afresh.

Another captain holds regular team-building exercises because, as he says, “Teamwork starts from the top.” Some are ‘how do we handle this’ challenges, while others encourage crew to work together toward solutions.

Aboard several yachts, the crew gathers at the end of the first charter day to share notes, since crewmembers often rotate duties and shifts during the week. The notes might include insider tips such as ‘Mr X likes his drinks fully filled with ice’ and so, during the charter, Mr X will get his drinks prepared exactly as he likes them without asking.

Excellent service is key to an excellent charter | Marc Paris

The yacht and chef

The yacht itself is another key to a good charter and, on many of the most popular charter yachts, the captain (and even crewmembers) have been involved in the building process.

Alev Karagulle of Burgess notes, “Good facilities, such as state-of-the-art audio-visual, communications and water toys, are crucial; however, none of these guarantee success without a top-notch crew who deliver an ‘over and above’ level of service. And the chef must be extraordinary.”

Charter brokers use the phrase ‘gourmet chef’, but more important than creating fine cuisine is flexibility. Some guests always want a three-star Michelin experience; others prefer a more down-home style. The ability to switch from chateaubriand to hot dogs, from baked Alaska to hot fudge sundaes, is the mark of an extraordinary charter chef.

Great yacht, great owner, great captain and great crew. All those ingredients must blend together and the result is a charter experience never to be forgotten.