IMAGINE SETTING SAIL IN AN EXOTIC, far-flung destination, just you and your family or group of friends aboard a private yacht. The sun warms the deck, a soft breeze dances off the water, and an über-attentive crew caters to your every whim while the personal chef whips up the finest of the local cuisine with all of your culinary preferences top of mind. All the while, the captain navigates the yacht into secluded coves; to pristine, seemingly undiscovered beaches; or even to the hottest spots along the coast for a night out on the town.
“Sailing vacations offer the chance for you to discover a remote beach or restaurant only accessible by boat, snorkel in an uncrowded cove or watch the sunset at anchor wherever you choose in the world’s biggest swimming pool,” said Loïc Bonnet, CEO and founder, Dream Yacht Charter.
“A yacht charter is similar to having a fully staffed, floating luxury villa which allows you to explore beautiful regions with just the people you want to be with and only unpack your bags once,” added Melanie Burke, a yacht charter broker with Fraser.
Interest in this type of personalized yacht charter travel is on the rise, too. According to “Global Yacht Charter Market,” a report published in December 2019 by Transparency Market Research, the high cost associated with yacht ownership encourages customers to opt for yacht charter rather than outright purchase. The economics of yacht charters boils down to a more cost-effective travel scheme: Travelers pay only once during the usage and can fly to the destination and then charter rather than sail to the destination, saving time and fuel. The report also notes a change in consumer preference associated with owning luxury assets such as yachts, with charter services becoming more acceptable — factors expected to drive the yacht charter market.
In 2018 the global yacht charter market surpassed a valuation of $13 billion and is expected to see an approximate 7 percent compound annual growth rate through 2027, with a projected market value of $25.5 billion.
“The growth and overall popularity around yacht charters in recent years is really unprecedented in the industry,” said Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager, The Moorings. “This type of vacation has grown from being the best-kept secret of the seasoned sailing crowd to a mainstream and widely accepted type of vacation that appeals to travelers of all types.
“People are very interested in the advantages and surprising ease of renting a yacht for a week and the ability to travel to a variety of global destinations over time, all with the same company,” he added. “I truly believe the yacht charter industry is only beginning to blossom, and as products such as all-inclusive crewed yachts continue to grow, people with little or no boating experience will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that this type of vacation provides.”
One of the first decisions to make when it comes to chartering a yacht is whether to sail bareboat or on a crewed yacht. A bareboat charter proves the way to go if you are comfortable captaining and crewing the boat; if not, opt for a crewed charter and let the experts take the helm so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Once that decision is made, next consult with an experienced broker who can help you make the most of the luxurious vacation.
“So much of what is best for a family or a group depends on what they enjoy the most, and just understanding the options. That’s where a skilled and seasoned charter broker comes in,” explained Burke. “We help the client determine the cruising area that will be best for them at the time of year they want to travel, and can advise about all sorts of factors relating to how easy it is to get to certain places.
“We also help them decide what style and size of yacht will be best for them, considering the activities they enjoy and their budget,” she added. Fraser specializes in fully crewed yachts, from 45-foot catamarans to super yachts sailing in at more than 300 feet.
“For example, fully crewed motor yachts in the 80- to 200-foot size are the most abundant and very popular for family charters and groups of friends who want the freedom to explore that cruising on a yacht affords — along with the exquisite service, fine dining, ultimate privacy, water sports and the ability to go to places you cannot get to any other way,” Burke said.
She also noted yacht charters provide an opportunity for multigenerational families to spend quality time together.
“I have had so many families tell me they had never connected so well with their kids or grandkids,” she said. “The abundance of amazing activities also helps everyone in the family disconnect from their devices,” though full internet is available on nearly every yacht, except for those in very remote destinations.
“Today’s yachts are modern, chic, comfortable and come with all the facilities you’d expect,” added Dream Yacht Charter’s Bonnet. “The key difference between a sailing vacation and staying in a resort is you wake up to a different view every day.”
“Matching the clients with the right yacht crew is also a huge factor. The best brokers will travel to inspect yachts and meet crews in order to be able to best advise their clients,” said yacht broker Burke. “Some crews know how to provide a very formal level of service, and some clients want a more relaxed and friendly crew who will still provide excellent service but will interact with their family and be a bit more involved with the activities.”
In regards to yacht charter destinations, the world can be your oyster.
The British Virgin Islands ranks as a top pick for those who sail with Clearwater, Florida-based The Moorings, which offers both bareboat and crewed sailing and yachting charters. Best known for its crewed charters, each of those offered by The Moorings includes a three-person crew: captain, chef and stew. In addition to the BVI, St. Martin and St. Lucia, also in the Caribbean, have a strong following with those who sail with The Moorings, as does the Mediterranean, including Greece and Croatia, and more exotic destinations such as Tahiti and Thailand.
Northrop & Johnson, which opened its doors in New York City in 1949 and now has offices worldwide, primarily offers crewed yacht charters in a range of sizes, though most of its yachts are 100-plus feet. While the company can secure charters anywhere in the world, there is a seasonality to the destinations clients favor: summer in the Mediterranean, New England and Alaska, and winter in the Caribbean, with Southeast Asia a popular year-round destination.
Fraser finds its clients travel seasonally, too, and Greece, the south of France, Italy, Sardinia, Croatia and the Bahamas rate among the most popular destinations in the summertime, with the Caribbean a favorite in the wintertime. Though not necessarily considered hot spots, the crew also count Alaska, the Baltic, New England, Norway and the South Pacific as summer favorites, and Antarctica, Australia, the Maldives, Thailand and the Seychelles, off the coast of Africa, in the winter.
In addition to the aforementioned British Virgin Islands, the Mediterranean and the Seychelles, Dream Yacht Charter finds its clients enjoy sailing the Grenadines in the Lesser Antilles, too. They also enjoy exotic destinations like Asia and Tahiti, where “the islands’ beauty deserves being described as paradise.” Earlier this year, Dream Yacht Charter expanded its portfolio when it debuted a new partnership with river cruise specialists Les Canalous. This new collaboration offers canal boating vacations in 10 countries across Europe aboard Les Canalous’ fleet of 400 boats.
“There is increasing demand for vacations with a difference and to discover places that aren’t exhausted by mass tourism and cruise ships,” said Loïc Bonnet. “Travelers want authentic experiences of local culture and to support local populations.”
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