Booking a private cruise on a yacht lets you skip the headaches of hundreds of other passengers and enjoy a magical journey on the water with your significant other, or even just friends and family. While there are a number of ultra-luxury options out there, some charter companies are far more reasonable than you might expect.
The Whole Boat to Yourself
Instead of a cruise ship full of other passengers you don't know, you can charter an entire boat for yourself and your travel companions. The variety of vessels available to charter is expansive, from a crewed sailboat vacation around the Caribbean to captaining your own mega-yacht in the Mediterranean.
Keep these important facts in mind before booking:
- The size, length, and included amenities can vary widely based on the destination, the chosen company's fleet size and the boats they represent.
- If you're a diver, you may prefer a luxury liveaboard option. Other destinations may only offer rendezvous diving where the charter company contracts local dive operators on each island they anchor at.
- Many amenities are included onboard and resemble a five star resort experience on land. Your charter may include gourmet dining, open bar, fishing off the boat, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and more.
- Added upgrades or extra charges may include scuba diving (if not offered as part of the charter), kite surfing, deep sea fishing, taxes, gratuities, and sailing certifications/classes.
- When it comes to itineraries, you usually have more flexibility than with a standard cruise line. Some charter companies offer suggested itineraries while others may let you choose your desired itinerary.
Although you need to book early in most cases, peak holiday times like Christmas and New Year's are especially popular.
Bareboat or Crewed?
One of the biggest choices is whether to book a bareboat or a crewed charter. Bareboat charters provide no crew or provisioning; you are basically alone on the boat. A crewed charter, on the other hand, means you have a captain at a minimum.
In an interview with LoveToKnow, Belize Sailing Vacations Captain Ruben Trejo explains, "With a crewed charter, you get to be pampered and choose what you want your vacation experience to be. Whereas, with a bareboat, you have to figure out where to get groceries, how to navigate the waters, plan where you will resupply the boat, and gauge when you will run out of fuel and water. With a crewed charter, we do all that for you and much more -- you just choose where you want to wake up the next day. And, you can still drive the boat as much as you want."
Types of Boats on Charter
Boats available to charter can be quite different as many are owned by individual people who place them with charter companies. Charter companies maintain the boats and book the trips. Don't necessarily expect the boats you find in the Caribbean to be the same as those in other parts of the world. Some boats are better suited for certain waters, so if you have a specific itinerary in mind, it's best to reach out to the charter company and explain your preferences. They know the boats inside and out, and what works best for what type of charter.
You could almost liken yacht charters to the Airbnb of the boating world, just perhaps a bit more complex. Trejo talks about the benefits of owning a boat and placing it with a charter company: "You can own your own boat, but you don't necessarily have to take money out of your own pocket to maintain it when it's placed with a charter company. The boat will still be available to you and in a working condition at all times. When the boat is on charter, it can be diagnosed and any problems fixed prior to the owner coming down."
The popularity of people owning boats and putting them in a charter pool is great for travelers as it opens up more options for those who don't want to spend their holidays with 2,000 other people they don't know.
Charter Yacht Companies
When it comes to booking your private cruise, there are a number of options. Some specialize in certain destinations whereas others operate a huge fleet of boats all around the world.
Belize Sailing Vacations
Belize Sailing Vacations (BSV) is Belize's leading catamaran charter company. With more than five boats in their fleet, BSV offers crewed sailing trips throughout Belize and neighboring areas, including an unforgettable adventure up the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. The size of the boats in their fleet range from 43-foot to 50-foot catamarans, all fitting up to six adults and two crew comfortably.
Boats have air-conditioned double cabins, private bathrooms, LCD TVs, indoor and outdoor dining, and lounge areas. BSV's knowledgeable captains hit the best spots in Belize and you'll have a personal chef onboard to cook local gourmet food and prepare drinks. Food, beer, rum cocktails, and wine with dinner are all included. Other amenities include complimentary use of snorkel gear, kayaks, standup paddleboards, fishing equipment and more. Scuba diving is arranged at a separate cost with local dive operators in each destination.
Belize Sailing Vacations also operates a sister company, Absolute Belize, that can arrange extra days on the mainland or one of the Cayes. They can book hotels, tours, and provide recommendations for other things to do or places to eat.
An example of pricing with Belize Sailing Vacations is a 50-foot Lagoon catamaran for $1,295 US a night for two persons, not including 10% government tax, with a four night minimum. You can choose your own stops, like the remote Southern Cayes, or opt for the more party-central northern stops like Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.
Moorings is one of the bigger companies that handles multiple destinations. Established in 1969, Moorings travels through the Caribbean, the Americas, the Mediterranean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, and even the Far East.
Moorings offers self-skippered (bareboat) sailing vacations, power boat charters, and all-inclusive crewed charters. If you opt for bareboat, you can choose from over 20 destinations and a huge selection of catamarans. For those looking for the all-inclusive treatment, you'll find options in 15 different destinations. Powerboat charters are available in over 10 destinations and you can choose from a range of powerboats between 37 and 51 feet.
Some destinations have specific requirements for formal certifications to bareboat, especially countries like Croatia, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. Belize has a specific requirement that you must fill out an application to obtain a temporary Certificate of Competency that you must submit with a copy of your passport.
Sample pricing for a Moorings crewed 4 cabin catamaran in the South Pacific is $7,840 US for two passengers for seven nights. Stops in French Polynesia may include Apu Bay, Pointe Raititi, Bora Bora, Haamene Bay, Faaora Bay, and Opoa Bay.
Elite Yacht Charters
If you're after bespoke luxury yachts, consider Elite Yacht Charters. Vessels range in size from 90 feet to over 300 feet. Destinations are available all over the world, from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean. They have hundreds of boats in their fleet, yet they are personally familiar with each and every yacht and crew, along with the best recommended cruising routes.
Based out of Beverly Hills, Elite Yacht Charters only deals with the finest luxury boats in the world. Every detail is customized -- from your wish to enjoy a deserted beach to a six-course gourmet meal on board. The crew to guest ratio is typically 1:1, but it can be 2:1 on some yachts.
Yachts like Serene, which is a 439-foot motor yacht, can accommodate 24 guests and 52 crew. She has 12 cabins, a helicopter hanger, two helipads, a seawater swimming pool, children's playroom with Xbox, and even a climbing wall. If that's not enough, they even have a submarine on order! There is full diving support, compressors, nitrox, sea kayaks, inflatable toys, water skis, wakeboards, deep sea fishing and more.
While it might seem like only the rich and famous get to play on yachts like these, Elite Yachts books a lot of business retreats. There are satellite and cell phones, fax, computers, Internet access, and more, which make the "floating hotels" an ideal spot for a retreat.
Pricing is on inquiry only.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly option, and you have some flexibility in your schedule, consider Late Sail. They compile the best offers and last minute deals from the leading providers. There is even a "name your price" option. Browse boats and dates with prices or contact them directly to discuss a particular boat or have them find a charter that suits your specific requirements.
Vacation Aboard a Floating Hotel
Captain Trejo sums it up best. He said, "A private yacht vacation is basically like a floating hotel. You get to choose your own neighbors and your own views -- if you don't like where you are, you can change your location. Plan ahead and make a detailed itinerary, or just get up, check the weather, and decide where you want to sail today. It's the most stress-free vacation imaginable."