view of the horizon at sunset from a from the deck of a sailing yacht

Vacations are making a comeback, but if you’re looking to hold onto social distancing practices a little longer, we’ve got a solution: Chartering a yacht. 

The long-beloved luxury getaway option is now more popular than ever, thanks to its ability to whisk us all away from the crowded landscapes and onto solitude-filled waters. But, if it’s your first time hitting the high seas on a yacht charter, there are a few things to consider first. Here are five things every first-time yacht-goer needs to know to ensure they plan the perfect trip.

Decide on an itinerary

Before booking a vessel, it’s key to think about as many details as possible regarding the itinerary. This includes your guest list. Is it going to be a family affair? A party-filled friends reunion? A quiet getaway for two? This first step can help set the mood for every decision you make regarding where you want to go, how long, and which kind of boat you really need.

After deciding who you’d like to invite, it’s time to consider a destination. Are you looking for a tropical getaway filled with crystalline seas and sugar-sand beaches? The Caribbean or Mediterranean could be the right fit. Want to pair your sea legs with city escapes? Cruising through Monaco or New York City are stellar options. Want a little more adventure? Head off to destinations like Alaska or the Sea of Cortez to go whale watching right off the bow of your boat. 

Finally, consider just how long you want to set sail. Be it for a month, a week, a few days, or even just an afternoon, this will help you narrow down your yachting options.

Picking the right boat

Image of the Maltese Falcon courtesy of Worldwide Boats

Now that you’ve settled on who you’re going with, where you want to go, and for how long, it’s time to start hunting for the right boat. Again, it all comes down to the type of experience you want to have. Want to go old-school and feel the wind flowing through your hair? Sailing is for you. But, if you want a bit more control over the elements, a motor yacht is the right way to go. 

Next, based on your guest list, is to think about the size of your boat. For overnight trips make sure to look for a vessel that has a large internal cabin, including the appropriate number of bedrooms as well as a good amount of space to spread out. Being on top of one another for a day or two may be ok, but the longer your trip is, the bigger the boat you may want to get. 
Also think about this important factor: How big is your crew? You’ll also need to think about where the crew will sleep if you need to bring them aboard for several nights. This could include a captain, a steward, a few deck crew members, and possibly an onboard engineer if the boat requires it.

If all this seems like too much for you to personally think about then it may be a good idea to consider hiring a yacht broker. As Worldwide Boat notes, “In the simplest terms, a yacht charter broker helps clients plan, schedule, and enjoy yacht charters everywhere in the world, from Cannes to Tahiti. Charter brokers, in a way, are the client’s concierge through the entire process — helping to answer questions, find ideal motor yachts and sailing yachts available for charter, and manage all of the legal, financial, and logistical matters related to booking a once-in-a-lifetime luxury charter.”

Go ahead and offload the stress of planning a trip to the experts. Your time is money, and handing this work off to a charter broker will save you a bundle in timecost.

Alternatively, find a hotel that offer yacht charters

Image Courtesy of Bequia Beach Hotel

Only hoping to get on the water for a day or two during a longer vacation? Try booking a hotel that also offers its own yacht charters to keep things as smooth as possible. This includes boutique luxury hotels like Bequia Beach Hotel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which has its own super yacht, The Star of the Seas, and Principe Forte Dei Marmi in Italy, which also has a  24-meter Mazarine yacht that boats four cabins and a massive fly bridge. The One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives has a yacht, a fishing boat, and a sailboat for total variety, and of course The Ritz Carlton has the entire ​​The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection to choose from. Decide on your destination and boating desires then find a hotel to match.

Etiquette for yacht charters

Yes, you’re paying for the sailing, but it’s important to have a general idea of yacht etiquette before stepping on board. This includes understanding that while you’re the charter guest, the crew is still in charge. Listen to all their instructions and requests. If a crew member asks you to do something it is very likely it is for your own safety.

There are even a few small rules the crew may set that you need to follow. This could include a “bare feet” rule, which asks that guests forgo shoes during their trip. That’s because stilettos could dent the wood decking, or dark-soled shoes could scuff the floors, ruining the boat for future guests.

Make sure to have a call with your broker or the yacht’s captain prior to the trip to go over all the rules from bringing pets, the amount of luggage you can bring, the cabin assignments, the rules on smoking, meal times, and any other lingering questions you may have so you can step into your vacation fully prepared.

The rules on tipping

If you’re booking a yacht charter that requires any crew at all it’s imperative to bake in tipping into the price. But how much? Worldwide Boat points to the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association, which says “the general rule is to tip between 10% and 15% of your weekly charter fee, excluding running expenses and taxes.” The website also notes that tipping rules can vary by the destination, but as a general rule a 10% to 15% tip is the norm in the Mediterranean, and a 15% to 20% tip is acceptable in the Caribbean. Like all tipping, it should be commensurate with your experience onboard. The better the service, the better the tip. Here’s hoping your yacht charter is worth a very, very good tip.