If you’ve dreamt of sailing on warm tropical seas while in lockdown, then book a Caribbean yacht charter vacation now. There’s no better place, or time, than a region where countries are naturally socially distanced, and governments have effectively kept COVID-19 infection rates low through strategic quarantines, curfews and requirements for facial coverings in public. Now the islands, like much of the world, are opening back up. Sailing vacations are poised to lead the rebound of the region’s tourism sector by virtue of their being the ultimate ‘isolation getaway’ with five-star accommodations and an itinerary that features secluded bays, coves and anchorages. Expect, however, a ‘new normal’.
“The current situation is extremely fluid, and restrictions differ for each country. At the moment, most of our Caribbean bases are opening in June, if people can get there,” says Dan Lockyer, vice president of global tourism for Dream Yacht Charter, which operates 60-plus global bases including in nearly a dozen Caribbean islands. Additionally, “we’ve continued with our expansion plans and commitment to the region. Last month we opened a new base at Compass Point Marina, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in partnership with Virgin Islands Yacht Charters. We’ll be offering bareboat, skippered and crewed charters from St. Thomas. This is particularly useful for our customers in the USA, as it is domestic travel. They will not need a passport to enter the U.S. Virgin Islands. It will also be a cost-effective way to travel to the BVIs when the borders reopen.”
Yacht Charter Bookings & Availability
The only cancellations that have taken place thus far for the Clearwater, FL-headquartered, The Moorings and Sunsail, are those which have fallen within the recent quarantine timeframe, according to senior marketing manager, Ian Pedersen. “There was greater uncertainty over the spring, but as we head into summer there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We are seeing a large increase in bookings for winter 2020 and into 2021.”
Lesley Hayes, the St. Vincent-based crewed yacht specialist for Horizon Yacht Charters agrees and adds, “The vast majority of our clients have re-scheduled their charters for later in the year. We are getting inquiries although some are reluctant to confirm until the picture is clearer.”
However, it may be prudent to book sooner than later.
“Since much of the 2020 spring season has been rescheduled to next spring there will be less calendar availability,” says Ann McHorney, chief executive officer and charter broker for Select Yachts, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Indeed, there may not be enough boats to fulfill all the anticipated demand, says Raul Bermudez, vice president of Clearwater, FL-headquartered MarineMax Vacations, with bases in the British Virgin Islands. “If you think about it, we now have two to three years’ worth of demand waiting to go. We had two years of hurricanes and recovery and now this year the COVID closures. People want to go enjoy the islands and get away from the news.”
For new bookings, says Oriel Blake, executive director of the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association, based in St. Thomas, USVI, “we are recommending that guests take out Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) insurance. For a rebook with CFAR, the contract must be terminated and the deposit has to be returned to re-book with a new contract and new deposit.”
The New Normal
Charter companies such as The Moorings, with over a half dozen bases throughout the Caribbean, have implemented many new policies and procedures in anticipation of guests returning to the region to sail, says Pederson. “From new arrival procedures to encourage social distancing, enhanced cleaning measures, and even the purchase of industrial-strength fogging machines, we are striving to be as proactive as possible in defining what the ‘new normal’ will look like.”
As for what to pack, “unless we see an effective and accessible vaccine in the next few months, I fully expect facial attire to become the new normal for travelers this coming season,” says Dick Schoonover, manager of the crewed yacht clearinghouse, CharterPort BVI, in Tortola. “Tan lines get a whole new definition! Somebody out there will certainly invent a smart and stylish facemask that allows one to quaff many Painkillers without bothering to remove it, and they will certainly be sold in curio and souvenir shops locally.”
Once onboard, guests do not need to take any additional precautions beyond what they are doing at home right now, says Dream Yacht Charter’s Lockyer. “Keep washing hands, keep to social distancing when not with members of your immediate household and respect the local restrictions.”
YACHT CHARTER PROMOTIONS:
Many Caribbean yacht charter companies are offering special promotions. This makes it easier for folks to realize their charter yacht vacation dream. Here is a sampling:
A couple of yachts in their fleet that qualify to do USVI-only itineraries have started promoting short charters, 4 and 5 nights, for this summer.
Dream Yacht Charter
To find out the latest promotions, visit: www.dreamyachtcharter.com/special-offers/
Free Sailing Days from July 10 to October 31, 2020. Ten nights for the price of 7 and 14 nights for the price of 10 (Low season rates). Clients can secure their yacht with just a US $500 deposit.
Early booking savings of 5% for those that make a reservation at least 6 months in advance. Free change of dates offer if the islands are closed for the charter dates booked.
A discount of up to 15% on all charters departing between October 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021 (peak dates excluded). https://www.moorings.com/special-offers
Contact a charter broker to learn about yachts offering promotions or deals. vipca.org/book-a-charter/