From finding the most suitable yacht type to understanding onboard etiquette, when chartering a superyacht, it’s the small details that make the biggest difference. Navigator highlights everything you need to know about superyacht charter.
What is a yacht charter?
Essentially a floating seven-star hotel that can take you anywhere you want to go, a superyacht charter is the ultimate customized experience. So customized, in fact, that it can differ from one guest to another, even within the same charter party. For some, it is the chance to spend quality time with family and friends in a safe and secure environment, while for others, it is the opportunity to explore the world in absolute luxury. Whatever the style of the charter, a superyacht is the ultimate platform for a truly diverse and unforgettable water-centered vacation.
Northrop & Johnson charter brokers know everything there is to know about the yachts in the charter fleet, the crew and the destinations in which they are cruising. They can advise on the best time of year to explore a certain cruising ground and suggest lots of exceptional things to do to make a charter as cultural, active, relaxing or fun as desired. In the meantime, here’s our Charter 101 advice on how to make your vacation as enjoyable as possible.
Choosing the right yacht
Decked out with everything from multiple cabins and gourmet kitchens to swimming pools and helicopter landing pads,
a superyacht provides the ultimate home-away-from-home. Most yachts have certain things in common, but they are all unique and offer a range of features and amenities. A traditional motor yacht is ideal for a family group, for example, while a sailing yacht is often better suited to a yachting enthusiast. Added to this, most charter yachts only operate within specific cruising grounds, so although there are no hard and fast rules as to which to choose first – yacht or cruising area – the time of year you wish to charter and the location you want to travel to will largely determine the yachts available. If this is your first yacht charter, you may want to aim for a tried-and-tested cruising ground with every facility on hand and a wide selection of available yachts to choose from. For example, somewhere in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. Family charters or chartering with large groups of friends is also about having fun, so look at the water toys and entertainment facilities available. Some yachts are equipped with Jacuzzis, and a few of the larger yachts have swimming pools. Some have steam rooms and saunas, and some even have their own spas on board with a treatment room and masseuse within the crew. It really depends on the size, budget and type of yacht you are chartering as to the amenities available. Prices vary significantly depending on where you are cruising, the size of the yacht and the duration of your trip. Most charter yachts come complete with crew, including a captain, stewardess, and chef, allowing for a completely bespoke experience.
Where to charter
The most popular cruising grounds vary by season. If you are planning a summer charter, consider the cruising grounds of the Mediterranean. With countless islands and mainland harbors to choose from, plenty of distractions ashore and cuisine to suit all tastes, this area is popular for all types of charter, including families and groups of friends. The top charter spots in the winter months are in The Bahamas and Caribbean. When considering family charters, the best cruising grounds tend to be those with great beaches, warm climates and safe waters.
For those with older children, the Pacific Northwest – with its awe-inspiring terrain and fantastic wildlife – guarantees great memories, as does Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand, to name just a few. If you are considering a more adventurous charter, choose based on your preferred time of year, as many cruising grounds are inhospitable off-season.
If you are chartering a yacht with friends, it might be the cuisine and dining that appeals most, and many cruising grounds are famed for their fine gourmet fare.
The Western Mediterranean – in particular, the Côte d’Azur or Amalfi Coast – would be an ideal choice for a gourmet-style charter, with some of the world’s best restaurants located along their coastlines. Of course, the chef on board your yacht will also play a major role in creating a memorable charter experience, by introducing you to the fresh local ingredients used to make regional specialties and creating your own personalized menu on request.
Those fascinated by history might enjoy a charter in some of the Mediterranean’s cultural hotspots, including the southern coast of Turkey, the Greek islands, or the Eastern Adriatic (Croatia and Montenegro), all of which are steeped in history and provide interesting day trips ashore. Perhaps you are simply keen to try new watersports, or looking to experiment with a new activity in some of the most stunning settings in the world. Whether your charter will include mountain biking through the pine forests of New Zealand, kayaking through the Norwegian fjords, or deep-sea game fishing for marlin in the South Pacific, the opportunities are endless.
When to charter
There are two main seasons in yachting: summer and winter. The summer season runs from late spring through October, with the peak summer season (and peak rates) in July and August. The winter season runs from November to April, with the peak season running primarily over the holidays and into New Year. Shoulder season charters are often a good option for those looking to avoid the crowds in the more popular cruising grounds, and you may have more choices in terms of yacht.
What to eat
Tailormade cuisine is an intrinsic part of any yacht charter experience. Superyacht chefs are some of the most flexible and creative in the world. Rather than relying on a menu, they will pre-plan meals that fit your mood and palate, no matter where you are cruising. As a rule, guests will have provided information on their preferences prior to embarkation, and the yacht’s chef and stewardess will purchase all the provisions. Once on board, most chefs will chat with their guests every day to refine original meal plans and adjust menus according to the specialty of the day at the local market, or the weather. Rest assured, onboard all of the recommended charter fleet, guests will be met with an enlightened chef and a seemingly never-ending stream of innovative dishes – all prepared to meet any dietary requirements.
How much does a charter cost?
Most yacht charter fees fall into two distinct categories: inclusive or expense-based, and it depends on the contract under which the yacht is cruising. Considered to be the industry’s leading point of reference, the MYBA Charter Agreement (MYBA The Worldwide Yachting Association) contract is the most commonly used. Under the MYBA contract, the charter fee is priced as a base rate that covers everything linked to the yacht (rental, insurance, crew) but is exclusive of expenses or anything specifically for the client. This includes everything from fuel costs to berthing fees and provisioning. In general, any additional expenses are paid via an Advance Provisioning Allowance (APA) of 30-35 percent of the base charter fee. Paid in advance and managed by the captain, the APA remains the charterer’s funds and any amount unspent at the end of the charter is refunded. Fuel often accounts for the largest portion of the APA, but it’s important to keep in mind that fuel is not used simply for moving the yacht but also for electricity, air conditioning, etc. There is no markup on the costs of food and fuel. Inclusive charters provide an up-front rate. Note that taxes or value-added tax (VAT) may apply based on where you are coming from and where you are going. VAT and other taxes are generally not included in the base price of a charter.
Basic charter etiquette
A charter may be all about the freedom a yacht provides, but there are still a few unspoken rules of onboard etiquette that should be followed. From treating the crew with respect to regarding the yacht as you would your own home, simple manners apply. Most yachts have no-shoes and no-smoking policies. When it comes to the crew, it is customary to leave a gratuity. While the level is completely at the charterer’s discretion, a general guideline figure is between 10 and 20 percent of the base charter fee.