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Charter Provisioning: What to Know Before You Go

Salt air is legendary for revving up an appetite. It’s no wonder that meal times are one of the most pleasant parts of a charter. Just as there are choices when it comes to destination and type of vessel, so there are choices with provisioning. You can ‘do-it-yourself’, hire a chef, or opt for something in the middle. Here are some tips to help select what’s right for you.

CHEF ON BOARD

Chef or no chef, says Nicola Massey, Tortola, BVI-based marketing manager for Horizon Yacht Charters. “It really depends on personal preference. Some guests want to just sit back and relax. They don’t want to worry about meals, so they hire a cook.”

Narendra ‘Seth’ Sethia, base manager for Barefoot Yacht Charters, headquartered in Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, says, “Twenty-two percent of our overall business is fully crewed and these guests obviously have a chef. But of bareboat and skipper-only charters, less than one percent of guests hire a chef. I find this somewhat surprising as it can’t be very tempting to have to spend part of your vacation sweating and toiling in a galley.”

There are many advantages to having a chef, Sethia adds. “The Chef will know the best places to provision en route. In places like St Vincent & The Grenadines, there can be significant cost savings by knowing where to get what rather than simply buying everything under one roof. The Chef will also know where to source the best quality items.”

“The only real potential disadvantage that I can think of is having someone aboard that you don’t know and may not get along with,” Sethia says. “Although, I think that most charter companies are careful about employing only people who are easy to get along with.”

PROVISIONING PACKAGES

The percentage of customers using provisioning packages varies between what guests are familiar with and where they are going to be cruising. However, says Van Perry, produce manager for The Moorings, based in Clearwater, FL, “For Americans going to the Caribbean, the majority of our customers buy provisions from us and cook for themselves. They recognize the benefits of being able to order food and beverages in advance and having us place them on the boats and stowed appropriately prior to their arrival.”

Josephine Tucci, product manager for Sunsail, also based in Clearwater, FL, and owned by the UK’s First Choice Holdings, Ltd. (as is The Moorings), says, “We offer a number of provisioning packages to our customers, which can be booked and paid for in advance of the vacation. For example, our Dine Ashore package is for those who like to take a break from preparing evening meals. This option includes six breakfasts, six lunches and six snacks…and one dinner. This way, guests can really immerse themselves in the local culture and sample the dining that each destination has to offer.”

Provisioning packages reflect a huge array of choice, says Horizon’s Massey. “The packages have plenty of choice to reflect all sorts of special diets.”

The Moorings Perry adds, “We are working on developing some additional provisioning package options that provide more healthy options for customers.”

Packages may come with nifty opportunities.  Barefoot’s Sethia says, “We offer packages of home-cooked Indian and Malaysian meals. We also offer pre-cooked English meals from a private company called Galley Gourmet. Selections might include Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Honey & Prunes, Red Hot Ribs, or Three Cheese Beef Lasagna.”

DO-IT-YOURSELF

The advantage of shopping for yourself is the ability to pick out exactly what you want and need, and the opportunity for serendipity that local markets provide.

For those who do want to shop and have a late-arriving flight, says Sunsail’s Tucci, “We offer Sundowner and Sunriser packages. The Sundowner offers cold beer chilling in your fridge as well as tasty snacks that will feed four. The Sunriser is a breakfast that contains essentials such as coffee, tea, milk and croissants for four.”

The do-it-yourself option is best in destinations where supermarkets are plentiful, well stocked and relatively close to the marinas. This is the case in the U.S. Virgin Islands—check out Pueblo, Plaza Extra, Gourmet Gallery and the Fruit Bowl—and the British Virgin Islands—Bobby’s Supermarket, Rite Way and Ample Hamper, for example.

Many charterers like to shop for wines, cheeses, croissants and other imported specialty items in St. Maarten. Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Grenada and Trinidad are other islands where both supermarkets and local markets are easily available—and tempting.

Remember that many islands you’ll visit have terrific restaurants you may want to sample.  Ask your charter company if it offers split provisioning which gives additional flexibility for sailors who want to either shop for themselves or eat out often.  After you book, the company will mail you an item-by-item checklist for items they offer for provisioning.  Consider pre-ordering a seven-day supply of just the heaviest items: bottled water, soft drinks, beer, wine, or liquor.  They’ll be delivered to your chartered boat when you board, and all you’ll have to tote back from shopping expeditions are lighter-weight groceries—and fresh bags of ice.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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