Everything you need to know before planning a yacht vacation

Caribbean, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: aerial view of the small group of islands in the Tobago Cays archipelago in the heart of the Tobago Cays Marine Park, with catamarans, a yacht and a three-master in the turquoise waters.

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What if you could travel the world with your family and friends on your own yacht, like in the Bravo TV series? Under the bridge? You can!

Imagine sailing among the rich and famous on a motor yacht along the French Riviera or discovering the hidden coves and secluded beaches of the Virgin Islands on a sailing catamaran with your own captain and crew taking care of all your needs. . Boat charters can also mean being your own captain, sailing through the beauty of the Florida Keys or along the River Thames in England with your itinerary subject to your particular whim that day.

Carole Wacaster Borden, president and yacht charter broker for Charleston, SC-based AquaSafaris, Inc., succinctly explains that “a private charter is all about you!”

Ready to set sail? Here’s what you need to know about yacht and boat charters.

Related: The 5 biggest mistakes to avoid when booking a yacht trip, according to an expert

How to rent a yacht

Unlike cruise ships where you simply choose a cabin and you’re good to go, chartering a yacht requires expert help. A yacht charter broker does the work to find your ideal boat from the thousands available around the world.

“Charter yacht brokers are industry professionals who share a range of vessels with you and are there to advocate for you, whichever vessel you prefer,” says Borden. “It is our duty to collect information from you, such as the number of guests, preferred travel dates and a host of other preferences, and to share with you ship details, including availability and rates,” says Borden. “We can also share crew information in an unbiased way so we can book the vessel that’s best for you.”

Borden is a past board member and current member of the Charter Yacht Brokers Association, Inc. (CYBA). CYBA and the American Yacht Charter Association (AYCA) are good places to find a qualified yacht broker.

Missy Johnston, President, Owner and Senior Charter Specialist at Northrop Johnson Luxury Yacht Charters in Newport, Rhode Island and President of AYCA, adds, “The moment the charterer sets foot on board, their interests in food and charter were arranged by the charter broker and sent to the captain, chef and crew. If there are interests ashore, the charter broker has arranged those interests.

Travelers can also work directly with a company like The Moorings, based in Clearwater, Florida, which ranks as a “top yacht charter provider.” It has a fleet of over 400 yachts available in 20 charter destinations around the world. The Moorings offers both all-inclusive crewed and bareboat (“sail yourself”) ships and cabin charters. Sister company Sunsail offers bareboat and skippered charters as well as cabin charters and flotilla vacations (where multiple boats sail together with a set sailing itinerary, social events and support from the main crew.)

View of Villefranche Sur Mer on the French Riviera, Cote d'Azur in France.

View of Villefranche Sur Mer on the French Riviera, Cote d’Azur in France.

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Where to rent a boat

When planning your charter, you first need to decide where you want to sail in the world, and then your broker can see which yachts are available for your dates and specifics, says Borden. She suggests the Virgin Islands is the best place for a first charter due to “great calm conditions” and “you never lose sight of land.”

Edita Sgovio, director of yachts for Toronto-based Kensington Yacht, said “in the Caribbean, the most important islands include the Bahamas and the Exumas for clear, shallow blue waters and marine life, including sharks. , swimming pigs and iguanas, St. Martin and St. Barths for the stage and to be “seen”; [and the] British Virgin Islands for each island’s natural beauty and superb dive sites.”

For those looking to sail the Mediterranean, Debra Blackburn, Fraser’s charter broker based in Fort Lauderdale, explains that “the western Mediterranean, including the French Riviera, Corsica, Sardinia, the Balearics, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily, is known for its shopping, restaurants, nightlife, sights, villages, culture and nature, while the Eastern Mediterranean – Croatia, Greece and Turkey – is ideal for tourism. history, unique culture, nature, water sports and beaches.”

In the United States, New England is one of Kensington’s most in-demand locations, “for its history, charming coastal towns, great seafood restaurants and natural beauty,” says Sgovio. She adds that the “big city feel” of Miami and the “stunning” archipelago of coral cays in the Florida Keys are also popular nearby options.

Related: The best yacht charters you can book worldwide

Luxury yachts at sunset in the port of Newport, USA

Luxury yachts at sunset in the port of Newport, USA

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Decide between crew or bareboat

Taking a charter with a crew is a very different experience than sailing your own yacht. “[A] crewed yacht is the ultimate luxury and a true charter experience,” says Sgovio. in the operation of the yacht and arrange a suitable cruising itinerary. A bareboat charter comes without the crew and the [guest] is responsible for the operation of the vessel.

The level of experience and qualifications to navigate your own bareboat through The Moorings and Sunsail vary by destination. Sunsail also offers the possibility of hiring a skipper and has its own sailing schools. Le Boat, based in Sussex, UK, has a charter fleet of 1,000 houseboats in the UK, Europe and Canada and does not require a boating license for guests. “Few of our new customers have ever driven a boat, but with the help of our knowledgeable staff, customers will find that it’s quite simple and they can drive a boat like a pro,” says Lisa McLean, Head of sales and marketing. Boat manager.

Amenities and adventures await

Whether you seek pampering or adventure, yachting has it all with plenty of choices for onboard amenities and shore excursions.

“How you spend your time on board is up to you: enjoy Michelin-level cuisine, relax in an onboard spa or hot tub, and enjoy the pampering of an onboard spa therapist, activate yourself with water toys and on-board gyms, go exploring on a dinghy, kayak or paddle board, dive with on-board scuba gear or even a submarine… the possibilities are endless,” says Blackburn.

“When it comes to onshore activities,” says Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for The Moorings and Sunsail, “that’s the beauty of a charter vacation in that your entire destination is accessible to you. from snorkeling at the beach, to visiting quaint seaside towns, to museums, bars and restaurants, the world is your playground.”

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