What was once either a roughing-it adventure or a holiday for the rich and famous is now one of the most popular vacations. Testament to this is that the global yacht charter market is projected to nearly double, from $6.83 billion in 2020 to $10.82 billion in 2027, according to Fortune Business Insights. The Caribbean, with its stepping-stone islands, year-round warm temperatures, and numerous yachts for charter, is one of the world’s most iconic charter yacht destinations.
“A charter yacht vacation is like renting a villa or a house except that your view is always oceanfront. If you don’t like your view, you can move,” says Raul Bermudez, vice president of MarineMax Vacations, headquartered in Clearwater, FL, with a base in Tortola, BVI.
A yacht charter is the perfect option for those who would like to vacation on the water with the freedom of island-hopping and exploring at their own pace, adds Carol Hansen, head of marketing for the Americas, at US-headquartered Annapolis, MD-based Dream Yacht Charter, with nearly a dozen bases in the Eastern and Western Caribbean. “The size of most modern charter yachts makes it ideal for traveling with a group of family and friends. Charter vacations are uniquely ideal for multi-generational travel, offering something for everyone. For those that would rather relax than take the helm, or who don’t have sailing experience, a skippered charter or crewed yacht with a captain and chef is ideal. Most charter guests will tell you it’s the best vacation they’ve ever experienced.”
7 Top Yacht Charter Vacation Questions – and Answers
What’s to know before you book and go on a charter yacht vacation? Here are seven of the most frequently asked questions and the answers:
1. How suitable is a charter for babies and toddlers? Seniors? Can I bring my dog?
Plenty of guests have chartered with babies, toddlers, and young children, says Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for Clearwater, FL-based The Moorings & Sunsail, with bases in several Caribbean islands. “As a father myself, I would recommend perhaps waiting until your child is old enough to swim on their own, if only for peace of mind, and so they can also get the most out of the boating experience, but it is something we allow. As for seniors, a large portion of our customers are between the ages of 55 to 75, so it seems this is the ideal senior retreat. Pets, however, are not allowed on board our vessels as a company policy.”
2. What is the average price of a bareboat charter and crewed yacht charter in the Caribbean? What other expenses should I plan for?
One week, or 7 nights aboard, is the typical basis for pricing.
In ballpark figures, explains Dick Schoonover, who manages CharterPort BVI, a crewed charter yacht clearinghouse in Tortola, BVI, “A bareboat yacht will have only one price whether it’s two guests or 8 aboard. Think in terms of around $10,000 for a yacht that can accommodate 6 guests comfortably in at least 3 guest suites. On top of that are food, beverage, fuel, taxes, and water costs. More than likely there will be a fee for insurance on the vessel. And, instead of anchoring you wish to pick up one of the many mooring balls in the various anchorages, there are fees for those too.”
Yachts with a captain and a chef aboard tend to be larger, with the fully crewed fleet starting where the bareboat fleet leaves off, Schoonover adds. “Up to a megayacht size, crewed charters are priced inclusive of food, beverage, fuel, and water. Think in terms of between $20,000 and $30,000 for 6 guests, with all the fixin’s included.”
Flotillas are another way to charter. Offshore Sailing School, based in Fort Myers, FL, charter yachts typically from The Moorings or Sunsail for its Colgate Sailing Adventures flotilla vacations. These trips are for the school’s sailing school graduates, guests, and experienced sailors. Flotilla destinations in the Caribbean have included the BVI and Antigua.
“The trips include some provisions, hosted dinners, and gifts starting at $4,000 per person, double occupancy sharing a cabin. Travel, travel insurance, mooring ball fees, country visas or entry protocol costs, personal items, shore-based tours, and dining options are not included. Most yacht crews in our flotillas put equal amounts into a kitty for shared expenses during the week,” says Beth Oliver, vice president and director of sales and marketing.
3. When is the best time to charter a yacht in the Caribbean? How far do I have to book in advance?
The Caribbean is fabulous most any time of year, but there are some things to consider, says Dream Yacht’s Hansen. “November to May is high season, meaning charter rates will be higher, and anchorages busier. The ‘shoulder’ seasons in October and May/June can be nice, with fewer crowds and generally good weather. Summer is low season, with calm winds, warmer temperatures, and lower rates.”
To charter peak dates such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Easter, plan to book at least if not more than six months in advance, recommends Lesley Dowden, reservations specialist at Horizon Yacht Charters, in St. Vincent. “Off-peak then you can sometimes get great last-minute deals.”
4. Where are the best destinations to charter in the Caribbean – for bare boaters? For crewed yachts? For crewed yachts, will I have a say over where we go and what we visit?
There is no wrong answer here, says The Moorings & Sunsail’s Pedersen. “The Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, the Bahamas – you simply cannot go wrong. The US and BVI are the most popular destinations in the world for charter vacations and are an ideal starting point in your charter vacation journey. However, I would encourage anyone to branch out and explore different destinations as each one brings something special and unique to the table. On Crewed yacht charters, yes, you have a say in where you go and what you do. Generally, your crew will reach out to you in advance of your charter and discuss with you what your group wishes to accomplish during the week, what style of vacation you want, your food preferences, etc., and will craft an itinerary and plan for the week around your requests. However, at any time you can discuss with your crew and make changes to your plan if cool new opportunities arise throughout the week.”
5. I can’t go a day, much less a week, without Wi-Fi and/or internet. Will this be available during a charter?
The Caribbean is now well served with cellular services, though the providers can vary from island to island.
“Generally, with a North American cell provider as your service, you will find a complimentary service in the Caribbean, although users need to be alert to roaming charges that may show up in one’s bill,” says CharterPort BVI’s Schoonover. “The crewed yachts tend to offer Wi-Fi aboard, though they may not have the bandwidth to have 6 guests each watching a different Netflix film. Many of the bareboat operators offer a Wi-Fi option for charterers, though at an additional small fee.”
6. What type of clothes are best to pack for a charter?
Pack as light as possible and as casual as you can, says Horizon Yacht Charters’ Dowden. “You will need much less than you think you will. Shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, swimwear, sarongs, and maybe a couple of summer dresses and short sleeves shirts for going ashore for dinner.”
Be sure to plan for sun protection, adds Dream Yachts’ Hansen. “This includes sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and sun shirts. Footwear can include sandals or flip-flops for the beach, and soft rubber-soled sneakers or boat shoes for onboard. Water shoes can come in handy for exploring.”
7. What if I need to cancel or postpone my charter?
Make sure to read the rental agreement and cancellation policy before making a charter yacht reservation, recommends MarineMax Vacation’s Bermudez. “Cancelation policies vary by company and for crewed yachts, it can vary by the boat. Most will not refund if a reservation is canceled within 90 days of departure. Travel insurance is highly recommended.”