Yacht Charters Offer Something for Everyone – Here’s How

A couple sail their charter boat through the British Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy of the Moorings
Caribbean magic above and below the water. Photo courtesy of the Moorings

A charter yacht vacation offers something for everyone. This is true whether it’s bareboat or crewed. That said, and to narrow things down, All At Sea asked five experienced Caribbean charter professionals what to look for, ask for and expect in five different guest scenarios. Here’s what they said:

Family-wise, just about everybody says that if all the kids can swim, everybody has a better time on charter, says Dick Schoonover, manager of the crewed yacht clearinghouse, CharterPort BVI, in Tortola, “This compares to mum or dad constantly having to monitor and bird-dog the wee ones for fear that Junior or Sissy will inadvertently dive over the side.”

Some charter companies offer safety netting to install around the yacht’s deck for extra protection, especially for those guests with younger children or who would just like added peace of mind, according to Ian Pedersen, marketing manager for The Moorings Yacht Charters, headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, with bases in the BVI, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Canouan and Grenada. 

“If the children are very young, consider hiring a skipper when bareboating since children can be distracting, usually at crucial moments,” recommends Lesley Hayes, reservationist for Horizon Yacht Charters Grenada, in St. George’s. She adds, “Charter somewhere where there are interesting things for kids to see and do. The Tobago Cays, for example, where they can snorkel, and see turtles, stingrays and iguanas.” 

Sometimes you just have to chill. Photo courtesy of the Moorings

If you want wind in your hair, sea spray over the rail and time on the helm, choose a monohull, recommends Sarah Sebastian, director and charter specialist at Nicholson Yacht Charters & Services, in Antigua. “If you like watersports, look for yachts with as many water toys as possible.”

Yachts that offer scuba diving onboard must have crew with a dive master or higher certification. Beyond this, ask if boats charge additionally for diving and if there is a restriction on the number of dives that can be done, suggests Ann McHorney, director and charter yacht specialist at Fort Lauderdale, Florida-headquartered, Select Yachts, with Caribbean offices in St. Maarten and Dominica. “If you love the boat but they don’t have onboard diving available, a rendezvous with local dive companies is easily arranged. In some areas this may even be required. Saba and Grenadines come to mind.”

Kayaking, paddle boarding, waterskiing and other towed water sports are popular on charter. “Some of the super yachts have water slides that are launched from the upper decks and others carry water jet packs as well,” McHorney adds.

Kiteboarding is quite popular, says Horizon’s Hayes. “There are a number of charters in the Grenadines dedicated to kiteboarding. Union Island is the place to kiteboard.”

Fine dining is all part of the charter experience. Photo courtesy of Horizon Yachts

A large portion of the customer base consists of charterers over the age of 60, say charter professionals.

“Some catamarans have forward cabins between the hulls that eliminates steps or has very few steps. A good example is the Privilege 65. There are a few of these available in the Caribbean this winter. Some motor yachts even have elevators,” says Select Yachts’ McHorney.

The special needs of charterers with physical challenges remains something of a test for yachting, admits CharterPort BVI’s Schoonover. “A catamaran, even in a calm anchorage remains inherently an unstable platform, coupled with architectural impediments and challenges. That said, I hear repeatedly how physically challenged guests love the freedom provided by being able to get into the sea and enjoy water.”

A catamaran or monohull: that is the question. Photo courtesy of Horizon Yachts

The easiest way to save money while on charter is to captain the yacht yourself, recommends The Moorings Pederson. “A bareboat charter is much more affordable than hiring a skipper or opting for a full crew. Also, consider chartering in the slow-season, or ‘shoulder seasons’, when rates tend to dip as demand wanes. Finally, another tip to consider is that monohulls tend to be much less expensive than catamarans. Therefore, take the type of yacht you charter into account when planning your vacation.”

For a crewed charter, “a nice less-expensive option could be ‘Captain only’. Otherwise, be completely upfront with your broker as to what you want to spend. They know the boats and can get you the best value.”

A couple sail their charter boat through the British Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy of the Moorings

Those looking for an elevated charter experience should choose an all-inclusive crewed yacht, says The Moorings’ Pedersen. “Complete with a captain and chef, all meals are expertly crafted, alcohol is included, and the yacht expertly navigated and maintained – all without you needing to lift a finger, leaving you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest.” 

The most expensive charter yachts are the large ones that are less than five years old, says Nicholsons Yacht Charters & Services’ Sebastian. “These can offer everything like helicopter pick-ups, Jacuzzis on deck, have a masseuse and watersports instructor onboard, and discerning crew that cater to guests every desire down to type of flowers and caviar they require.”

As for what is available, note that the larger charter yachts will move around depending on the season, advises Select Yachts’ McHorney. “The best options for megayachts in the Caribbean are in the winter from December to April. After that, they return to the Mediterranean, New England, Bahamas, or ‘parts unknown’. Last season, and this season, will see more megayachts discovering the Windward Islands. However, fabulous choices are still found in the Virgin Islands and of course out of St. Maarten and Antigua. Basically, if you can afford to charter whatever and wherever you want, decide what you want and then look for the best in those parameters.”

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