The yacht charter market existed for many years and has seen immense growth in the last decade. There are traditional charter brokers, usually offering charter services in a specific geographical area/location and getting the right boat for the clients from a wide variety of fleet operators in that specific region. New types of companies have entered the market too – online booking portals, trying to emulate what booking.com did for the hotels.
These online platforms advertise tens of thousands of boats, cheap prices, and fast online booking. They are usually fuelled by huge venture capital investments and invest in google ads aggressively. The idea behind these platforms is to become so big, that they will eventually dictate the prices of the fleet operators and completely take the traditional charter brokers out of business.
What is happening, however, is that in pursuit of volume and growth, these online portals completely sacrifice quality. If a traditional broker knows all the fleet operators, and their yachts and understands the quality of their offering – the online platforms have none of this knowledge whatsoever. The online platforms boast the number of boats they can offer, which is very counterintuitive. It is a job of a professional broker to filter out which yachts are good and which yachts are not. This is why clients go to the professional broker – for their specific knowledge. Therefore, the claims by the platforms are not something clients should look out for. Quantity over quality is not good for the clients or for the industry players, who work hard to make sure clients have the best time.
Whilst traditional brokers are often limited by the geographical location they can offer yachts in, they can offer their knowledge of that area. Online platforms boasting 20’000 -30’000 yachts have no clue about who manages these yachts, in what condition they are, and what crews operate these boats. All of this means the client may be buying a cat in a bag. We have heard funny stories from the fleet operators, when the employees of these platforms would call them and will have no idea about the most basic things, such as the difference between a motor yacht and a sailing yacht. This is, indeed, very worrying.
Customer service is limited to getting the booking confirmed and then the client is on their own. What does this mean for the clients? Yes, they may get a yacht slightly cheaper from such a platform, but it is a game of chance if the boat is good, if the crew is good and, in some cases, if the boat is even there when you arrive at embarkation. This is one of the reasons in the last few years many such platforms came and went out of business.
Thousands of one-star reviews speak volumes. After all, it is not a hotel you are booking and booking.com style platforms do not work for the highly personalized yacht market, where in-depth knowledge proves crucial.
A yacht holiday is a delicate and highly personal product. So much knowledge goes into putting a trip together to ensure it matches what the clients are after. Starting from what area you are looking to charter in, what type of yacht works for your group, to budget and preferences regarding the type of activities you want on board and onshore. The crew can make or break a yacht holiday. Therefore, it is crucial to know that the crew you are getting will be knowledgeable, discreet, and professional in client service.
How to choose whom to charter a yacht with? What to look out for when chartering a yacht? How do I know that I will have customer service not just at the point of booking, but before, during, and even after my charter? These are all excellent questions clients need to ask and understand.
Here are a few things to look out for when looking for a good quality charter experience.
You most probably know when you want to plan your holiday for and have some approximate date periods. You may be flexible on location and want to explore different options. Questions to ask then will be: is it a good time for a yachting holiday in this specific location? For example, you want to go to the Caribbean. They have a storm and rain season in certain months, which you would need to avoid. You need to make sure that your chosen time will offer suitable weather and you can truly enjoy this. Just to give you an idea, here are some useful links about a few top sailing destinations you may find interesting:
A good broker will be able to advise you on these topics and guide you. Very often, some companies may advertise exceptionally good deals (a lot cheaper than it should be) for certain time periods. There is a reason for that. Clients need to be diligent and ask questions. If you are getting generic answers or no answers at all, this should be a red flag. You may wish to look elsewhere.
Another consideration will be how busy your chosen area is for your preferred dates. If you have children and are bound by school holidays, then you may need to be prepared that the area will be busier than usual. If you have no such concerns, it is worth exploring dates outside of the usual school holidays. For example, July and August are very busy in Europe. The prices are also the highest to reflect a spike in demand for these months. However, some of the European yachting hot spots such as Greece, Croatia, or Italy offer beautiful warm weather, stunning sea, and fewer people in June or September. The weather is guaranteed to be excellent, but marinas will be less busy, and the charter prices will also be lower. Win-win! Having said that, one of the great benefits of the yacht holiday is that you are very private and away from the tourist crowds, so whichever month you charter in, your privacy is guaranteed, unlike a traditional resort or hotel stay.
If you are new to yacht charters, it may be difficult to distinguish between the types of yachts offered and which one will suit your group and holiday wishes best. Another big consideration is budget.
For example, if you are a group of 8 guests and wish to charter a crewed yacht in Greek islands you may wish to consider a spacious catamaran or a motor yacht. Generally, a motor yacht will be a more expensive choice, not only due to the price of the charter but the price of the fuel. There are many luxury catamarans offering ample space, comfort, and amenities on board, where you will feel like you are in your private floating villa. If you want some oomph and celebrity style, a motor yacht will offer that, but you will need to adjust the budget accordingly and take into consideration fuel consumption, which will depend on the itinerary and your preferred route.
If you are after the thrill of sailing, a large luxurious sailing yacht or a sporty fast type will suit you better. Standard sizes sailing yachts may offer tighter quarters compared to catamarans, but there are also some larger, more luxurious sailing yachts where guests will not need to compromise on comfort, such us this beautiful Sailing yacht Aizu
You can find more information about the differences between the types of yachts here
Once again, the good broker should be able to walk you through various types of yachts, explain the differences and advise what is better suited to your needs and budget. Ask as many questions as you have. If they fail to give you detailed answers, this should be considered a red flag. A good and knowledgeable broker should be able to offer detailed answers and guide accordingly, as they have visited many yachts, know them in great detail and dealt with various types of clients for different types of yacht holidays.
The online platforms usually have a large amount of sales employees to work on the client requests and try to keep salaries to the minimum. This means, that majority of client service representatives have very little working knowledge of the yachts and most of them have never been on board a yacht at all. Generally, brokers with experience and knowledge are deemed to expensive for platforms that primarily focus on speed and quantity at the expense of the quality of service offered.
Experienced charterers may be fine with this, but if you are new or relatively new, you will want to have somebody knowledgeable to take their time and work with you on what will be the best option for you.
Once you have placed your request, you will receive an offer/ quotation for your yacht charter. It is very important to pay attention to what is listed as included in the charter and what is not. A good offer will be transparent with a detailed cost breakdown. It will also state clearly what is included and what is not included in the rate quoted. If you are not sure, clarify again what is included and what is not. There may be obligatory extras that you have to cover (VAT, other taxes, permits etc) and there can be a range of optional extras too.
Be diligent and if something is not quite clear, always ask. There have been many cases, where clients had an offer from large online platforms that included some water toys, but when they arrived on board, a fleet operator knew nothing about it, as they were not included by the fleet operator and simply “included” by a platform to make the offer seem more attractive. This leads to client disappointment as very often a fleet operator is unable to procure some items at the last minute in the high season, even if guests are prepared to pay extra for those.
There are also different types of pricing depending on the location. For example, in the Caribbean, the price will be pretty much all-inclusive (meaning it will include yacht accommodation, crew, fuel, food & drinks). In Europe, however, you can see various additional elements to the charter price such as VAT & APA (advance provisioning allowance which covers expenses such as fuel, food & drinks and docking fees).
If you are using an online platform marketing tens of thousands of yachts, you may be able to do an instant booking (booking.com style). Yes, it may be great and convenient (you can book whilst browse with friends at the bar on Saturday night), but you need to be careful that the listing of the yacht is detailed and states what really is included. It is always worth getting in touch with a client service representative to confirm all the details before clicking book and paying. The problem with platforms is that once you have made your payment, it will be either very difficult or nearly impossible to get back in touch with the service representative for “after-sale” questions.
The crew can truly make your experience amazing on board or can ruin your holiday. Some bigger yachts have dedicated crews on board and you should be able to request to see their CVs. Smaller yachts may not be able to show CV of every crew member, but a knowledgeable broker will be able to tell you about the crew of a particular yacht. One example is if you are going sailing with your kids, you want to make sure that the skipper will be good with kids and happy to show them the ropes. Or if you are a couple going for a romantic cruise, you want as much privacy as possible, so you want to make sure that your crew is aware of that and will be suitable to be super discreet on board.
You have decided on the yacht and would like to confirm the booking. You should be able to choose payment options – bank transfer, credit card as well as some others depending on your location. Normally you will need to pay 50% deposit to confirm the booking and the remaining 50% payable 1 month before the start of the charter. This may vary depending on who you are booking with, but 100% of the payment is only required for last-minute bookings. If you are booking 6 months in advance and asked to pay 100% of the fee, make sure you understand what the reason for this is, as this is not an industry standard. When paying via bank transfer it is always worth checking that the beneficiary name of the bank account you are paying into matches the name of the company you are purchasing from.
Once your payment has been received, the yacht should be reserved for you and you should receive a formal booking confirmation detailing your charter, dates, yacht, any inclusions, and extras. Check that information is correct.
If you have food & drinks included, you should expect to receive a sample menu, a preference sheet (where you are asked about your preferences for the food & drinks as well as for the charter overall). Normally, this is done 30 days in advance or earlier depending on the provider.
Always ask to see the Cancellation policy and familiarize yourself with it to clearly understand what your options are. It is always a good idea to have private travel insurance too. Yachts, which are offered for charter need to have a commercial license and be registered for charter to obtain necessary insurance. While some platforms offer “peer-to-peer” rental, beware as those may not have relevant insurance to protect you in case of things going wrong.
Quality brokers will not work with private individuals and only offer yachts from commercial fleet operators, who are properly regulated. This is important to know - that the yacht is registered for commercial charter use.
This article can be ten times as long if we go into details about what goes into the yacht charter. There are so many elements to consider, as you can see from some highlights we included here to emphasise how important it is to have a broker who has great knowledge of the yacht charter and can offer personalised advice.
While it may sound easy and hassle-free to book a yacht on a booking.com style platform, with slogans such as world-leading, the biggest number of yachts – beware of the pitfalls we detailed above. If you want to ensure you have a quality holiday, it is worth looking for a high-quality knowledgeable broker, who will offer specialized and personal advice. It is important to see they offer a curated selection of yachts they know, rather than thousands of yachts of unknown quality.
For a personalised, non-binding consultation with one of our yacht charter experts, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org