Crewed yacht charters are one of the few areas left of the vacation industry that is still vastly unknown and/or misunderstood.
Why a crewed boat?
First, read our FAQs and myths article about the crewed yacht thing. Then, we want to be clear that this is not about 150-ft yachts at $150,000 per week! We will discuss the 45 to 70ft yachts, between $7,000 and $20,000 per week, all-inclusive, for the entire boat. So you share that amount between all the guests.
Now, the most frequent reasons to book a boat with a crew are:
You're unsure of your sailing skills in general, or of your handling of this particular boat you need to charter for your cruise (the boat needs to be bigger than you are used to).
Your sailing skills are perfectly fine, thank you, but the rest of your sailing party cannot tell a sailboat from a cow, so you cannot count on any help whatsoever. Guess who's gonna do all the work? (ever tried to raise your main sail alone with 25kts. of wind on a 45ft sailboat? :-)
You want to go cruising in a completely new area, and you would feel more comfortable taking your first charter there with a knowledgeable crew, who, incidentally, would also act a tourist guide and an interpreter. This is particularly true in the Med where there are many historical or archeological sites to discover.
You had en entire season sailing on your own boat, and you simply want to kickback with the family, kids and friends without having to worry about anything if you don't want to. On a crewed boat, no hassle of being responsible for provisioning, cooking, doing the dishes, watching the weather, anchoring, the water level in the tanks, etc. On the other hand, if you like, you can sail the boat as much as you want or not at all!
You've done some calculations, and, to your great amazement, you came to the conclusion that, once you compute all the extras in a nice resort and if you share the boat cost with 1 or 2 other couples, a crewed yacht cruise is less expensive than a stay at a good resort, but sooo mush more fun.
What kind of boats and rates can you expect?
There are 2 kinds of crewed yachts: the charter companies' with crews, and the private ones.
Charter Company Yachts
The boats range from 50ft. to 70ft. for the monohulls and from 46ft. to 65ft. for the cats. The type of equipment on most boats is usually as follows (some specifics may apply):
- 6 to 8 guests plus crew
- Two uniformed crews (licensed captain and skilled chef)
- Air conditioning
- Double staterooms with full en-suite bathrooms
- Freshwater showers on deck
- Stateroom housekeeping services
- Flat screen TVs with DVD, sometimes in each cabin
- Sound system
- Snorkeling equipment
- Sailboard and/or kayak
- Some have scuba-diving equipment.
- Cellular telephone (usually Caribbean only)
- Board games, books
Those boats rates go from $8,000 per week in low season (Moorings 50ft. monohull/6 guests) to $25,000 p. week in high season (57ft. catamaran/8 guests).
There is a rather large range of private charter boats in the world. There are either operated directly by their owners, usually the captain and his wife, or they are operated by a professional crew paid by the owner.
Because those boats are not in a fleet as above, there is basically no standard, and most those boats have been customized by their owners. Therefore, the quality of the boat, the competence of the crew, and the level of equipment and services can vary greatly between boats. It is nearly impossible to detect the good from the bad and the downright ugly in that crowd, unless of course, close friends who recently had a cruise on it, recommend a particular boat to you. So people, beware! In our opinion, the help of a good broker is really worthwhile here (see below). The rates can go from $5/6,000 a week on an owner-operated, 4 guests, 45ft. boat to $15/20,000 a week for a 8 guest, 57ft. catamaran or a 65ft monohull.
All the way up the ladder, a week on the 135ft sailing yacht "Philanderer" will set you back a cool $75,000!
Where are crewed yachts available?
Basically everywhere in the world. The good news is, you can, with a crewed boat, cruise in very exotic or remote areas where you simply would not go by yourself.
Also, many private charter boats — usually large ones — have no particular port of call. They are simply based in a defined geographical area, and will pick you up within any reasonable distance.
What services and entertainment will you get?
Mostly everything is customized. And the more expensive the charter is, the more custom stuff you get!
The yacht's Chef will provision the boat according to your food / diet preferences, which you will have communicated beforehand. This goes from vegetarian, low fat, to European cooking to American cooking to very rich, all chocolate and pastries! Most crewed boats have a professional chef (often with formal instruction) on board. She will cook for you, 3 meals a day, and often serve hors-d'oeuvre with cocktails before dinner. Some boats require the guests to have one dinner ashore to give the Chef a break, but it is something you want to do anyway in order to enjoy some particular restaurant.
Waking up in the morning with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and croissants is definitely a winner in my book!
Again, the crew will accommodate any of your itinerary wishes, and the distance you want to travel every day, as long as the guests' requests are reasonable, of course. Remember: the Captain is in charge of the guests and the yacht safety. So HE ultimately decides what goes, not the guests. Going against him with unrealistic demands is not a good idea!
But remember that -if you did your homework- you are on board of a yacht operated by professionals. Therefore, they WILL do everything they can to make your cruise a memorable time for a simple reason: Word of mouth and repeat business are absolute key for them.
How to Organize Your Crewed Charter Cruise
Use of a Broker
Crewed yachts are often booked by brokers, except in 3 cases:
- You have cruised with that particular owners-operated private boat before, in which case you can book directly with them, if they allow it.
- You go with one of the Big Two - Dream Yacht Charter or Moorings: you won't need a broker because you are at very little risk of having a bad surprise in terms of quality and service.
- You fin on the internet a private crewed yacht that has very good references that can be verified. There has been over the last few years an increase of independent yachts, operated by a couple who do their own marketing and bookings. Some of them are excellent.
In all other cases, and especially if you are a complete newbie at this, we recommend you use a broker. Here is why:
Quality standards vary tremendously. By using a broker services, you receive unbiased, independent advice on all charter yachts.
Knowing the specifics of the crew is essential: I don't care if you are on a $2MM yacht, the crew will make or break your cruise. That is the broker's primary job. Charter brokers supposedly know each individual boat and crew on their listings. Therefore, reputable brokers should make matching your party to a suitable crew an important part of their service. Ed Hamilton, for example, is known to go himself to the charter boat professional shows and extensively interview the crews.
A good example is cruising with kids: Some boats/crews are friendlier to, and better equipped for kids than others. The broker will know how to book you adequately. He/she will send you an initial selection of recommended yachts, based on the specifics you indicated. This package will contain the broker's independent, detailed description of the boat and crew, as well as each boat's brochure. The broker will then discuss the features that you like in both boats and crews, sending you more selections as necessary, until your final choice is made.
A broker recommends hotels, provisioning options, itineraries etc. He may often save you money on your airfare by packaging your flight with the yacht.
If you have a problem during the cruise, a broker can normally reach a satisfactory solution more easily than you could as an individual.
Using a broker or not, your cost will be the same: the boat owner, not you, pays the broker's commission so it won't make any difference to you.
A knowledgeable broker knows all the industry's insights and will steer you in the right direction. A good broker will do everything he can to have you come back satisfied from your vacation.
Lastly, using a broker protects your deposit and final payment. Try using a broker affiliated with the CYBA (Charter Yacht Brokers Association) or the MYBA (Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association): They are required to have special escrow accounts to guarantee your deposit will be returned in case a problem happens with the yacht before your cruise. Most charter yachts operate outside the USA. In almost all cases the broker will keep your deposit in an escrow account, which is not released to the yacht until just before the charter. It is strongly advised that you do not send money to a boat directly. This does not imply that boat operators are dishonest, but things can go wrong and accidents do happen - it can be very difficult to get your money back after the fact.
Doing Your Homework
Before calling a broker, you should know the following - which you can find out by browsing on the Internet for example, on sites such as Ed Hamilton for example.
- Your basic budget
- Time of the year
- Number of guests (any kids coming along?)
- Area(s) of interest
- Sailing preferences: Type of boat you prefer, easy or more adventurous sailing conditions.
- Activity preferences: Are you very active, or just want to relax? Do you scuba? Do you want nightlife or quietness?
- Do you want to learn how to sail?
- Health problems: let the broker know about any such consideration or physical disability
- Your food/diet preferences
- Do you prefer a young or a more mature crew?
- Celebration (if any)
- What trip cancellation insurance is available?
Talking with the Broker(s)
Do not hesitate to ask as many questions as you want. You definitely have to feel comfortable with the broker: If you do not get the proper answers, call another one. All brokers in the world have access to the same boats, and all at the same price, so do not be afraid to call them all!
In the Caribbean, the price per week includes everything except the tip for the crew, which typically should be 10 to 15% of the cruise price. In the Med, prices are often quoted "plus expenses" which means food and other extras. Be sure to get the full details on this.
Where to Find Brokers
Buy magazines like Cruising World, Sail or Yachting and they are all advertising there, in the charter ads.
The Cabin Crewed Charter
Some charter companies, and particularly Dream Yacht Charter, offer the possibility to charter only one cabin in a crewed yacht. On some of the largest yachts of their fleet, you will find yourself on a mini cruise ship, without the crazy crowd. This option, which is obviously much more affordable than chartering an entire yacht, has pros and cons.
Pros: You can get great deals on those cabin charters, especially in low season. And if you're very lucky, and no other cabin is booked on the yacht, you will have the entire vessel for you.
Cons: You obviously will be sharing the boat with people you've never met before, so you have to be prepared for this. You may share the yacht with a great bunch of people and make new friends or... be paired with a not-too-fun gang. Unfortunately there is no way to find out in advance.As you can see, crewed yacht charters are not only for the rich and famous. This is definitely an option to explore for your vacations.