How to Plan and Book a Yacht Charter

Here are the insights into planning and booking a luxury yacht charter

The best way to plan and book a charter

Use the services of a recommended yacht charter broker - if you want to enjoy the perfect holiday, use the services of a recommended yacht charter broker.

He or she will be able to match your needs with the ideal yacht. Crewed charter yachts are usually quite unique in that they are designed and laid out to the requirements of their owners. They generally offer different facilities and cabin layouts. Other factors such as their suitability for holiday activities you’re after, can also be widely contrasting. When it comes to crewed charter yachts, the crew tend to be individual in character so a crew which will suit one charter might not be so compatible for another.

To make sure of booking the right vessel it’s essential to tap into the specialist knowledge that experienced yacht charter brokers have. He or she will have the necessary details of a huge range of yachts. This is usually gained from personally visiting the yachts in his or her portfolio to check onboard facilities, meet the captain and crew, as well as sampling the cuisine. At the end of the day, charter brokering depends on satisfied clients, so established brokers go out of their way to get it right first time.

The ins and outs of chartering - to fully understand the chartering process you have to know the mechanics of crewed chartering. In the vast majority of cases, the owner of each charter yacht usually appoints a Central Agent. This generally involves using the services of a handful of large international brokerage companies which will effectively run the yacht’s programme. They will ensure that all charter brokers are aware of the vessel’s availability, relevant specifications and whereabouts. Think of the central agent as the vital link between a yacht’s owner, captain, as well as retail charter brokers worldwide.

Professional charter brokers generally have two categories of yachts available. These are their own central agencies to which they have a responsibility to fill with bookings along with many other yachts that are tied in a similar fashion to various brokerage firms. Although it’s important to understand that any charter agency can arrange the charter of any vessel, they will have to deal with several central agencies to confirm the availability of yachts to fulfil the needs of clients.

The broker

As in any other industry, some of the 200-worldwide charter-broking firms are better than others. Many others specialise in certain size or category brackets of charter yachts. This is one way to ensure that a broker gets the best possible deal for your money. As a general rule of thumb, it’s probably a good idea to make contact with more than one charter yacht broker so you can compare prices as well as onboard amenities and facilities.

Initial information - expect a recommended yacht charter broker to ask you a number of searching questions. One of the first things he or she will want to know is your budget. What is your yacht preference? Is it a motor yacht, a sailing yacht or an expedition yacht? They want to know the composition of the charter party. A group of friends for instance who are sharing the charter cost will probably need cabins to be of equal size, luxury as well as facilities. A family charter yacht party on the other hand may be happy with a range of cabins in different sizes and tastes.

Alternatively, if your charter is more formal, with entertainment planned for older people or business associates, it may be a good idea to charter a more sophisticated yacht. This could be a vessel furnished with exotic woods, custom carpets and paintings. You may want a crew who are experienced in preparing cocktails, canapes, buffets meals and large dinner parties.

When it comes to guests travelling with young children, a different type of charter yacht is probably more beneficial. To avoid a large bill for damages, you might need a vessel with a more rugged and plain interior. Choose a yacht with multifunctional deck spaces and lots of watersport facilities. If you are more interested in a sailing boat, make it clear to your broker that you would prefer a winch-intensive performance cruiser-racer to fulfill the aspirations of younger sailing enthusiasts. Alternatively, a more sedate vessel with a powerful engine assisted by sails for sailing, takes less exertion.

Whatever type of yacht you’re after and in whichever category your party falls into, an experienced broker will need to know your requirements. This also needs to include your dining preferences, relaxed, formal or whether you’ll be eating exclusively on board the yacht or mainly dine ashore. If your choice is dining ashore, it’s a good idea to charter a yacht with a tender to deliver your party to where you wish to dine.

Have you got your own ideas on a cruising area or do you need advice? With this in mind, dedicated yacht charter brokers can provide info regarding the most convenient airport, the best time of arrival as well as transport options to and from the vessel. Is there a health spa and a professional onboard masseuse on your wish list? Are water toys and watersports of interest to you? If so what tenders, water toys and qualified instructors are needed? Is scuba diving at the top of your agenda? All of these queries and many more are taken care of by seasoned charter yacht brokers.

Does your party contain elderly or disabled members? Individuals might need a yacht with an internal lift or easy access to the water level for swimming or to board a tender. Again, a recommended yacht charter broker will be able to help you. If you need a child-friendly or crew who are used to entertaining children, no problem. You can also expect high speed internet access onboard as well as the very best in entertainment systems.

Your first yacht selection

After the initial consultation with a broker, expect six to a dozen yacht brochures from each company along with detailed information on prices and terms of the charter. You may also receive the first proposal by email. Once you’ve read all the ins and outs, have another chat with your broker to discuss the finer details of a particular yacht. Remember to ask the broker about the vessel’s record of mechanical reliability and request a reference from a previous charterer. One more thing, you should also have it confirmed that the yacht conforms with the internationally recognised MCA safety standards.

It might take a day or so to finally book the vessel. The owner has to be consulted and he or she might not be immediately available.

Charter contracts

After you have chosen a suitable yacht the broker will prepare a charter contract, a legally binding document. Most large yachts are chartered in the Med under a standard agreement put together by MYBA, The Worldwide Yachting Association. The conditions of this agreement are usually signed by four people, the head of the charter party, the owner, a stakeholder and a broker.

You need to be aware that the quoted charter fee is only part of the cost that you could end up paying. There may be additional costs for extra fuel for instance if you decide to dine ashore regularly or you decide to berth in a marina every night. Costs obviously vary quite a bit depending on the destination you sail to. Your broker will be able to advise you on such matters.

Once that contract is signed, the charterer has to deposit 50% of the agreed charter fee with the broker. The remaining 50% plus a provisional fee to pay for things like the required food, needs to be settled one month before you set sail.

Preference Sheets

Once the contract has been sorted out there will be a few questions to answer so you get the best possible service during your vacation. Naturally the crew need to prepare in advance of your arrival so do complete all of the preference sheets, up to 12 pages of detailed enquiries, about your needs. This will cover such topics like dietary requirements, allergies and any guest medical conditions that the crew should be aware of. There are also water sport preferences, sizes for wetsuits and fins along with any special events or anniversaries which might take place during the charter. Smaller details also matter, for instance your newspaper and magazine preferences, your taste in drinks and even music.

Of course, when completing the preference sheets make sure you fully consult with the rest of your party. At the end of the day, it’s their holiday too so they may be a little disappointed if they always have to eat the food you like as well as your preferred drinks. Once the preference sheets are in the hands of the captain, the chef and chief stewardess will then be able to fine-tune all of the arrangements.

The captain will also want to know if you have any particular itinerary in mind or whether you would like him to make any helpful suggestions. It’s a good idea to take his advice. Let’s face it, he will know details like the distances and transit times involved, the prevailing wind directions and local attractions. What’s more, the captain will be able to offer some itinerary flexibility. It can sometimes be all too easy for an inexperienced charterer to turn what should be a relaxing vacation into something of an exhausting race to complete an overcrowded, stressful itinerary.


When it comes to tipping and gratuities, attitudes vary around the world. Europeans tend to think that Americans tip excessively while many Australians consider the whole concept of tipping rather obscene. If you’re a little unsure about gratuities, then ask your broker. As a general rule leave around 10 to 15% of the charter fee for the captain who will distribute the gratuities amongst the crew. Only leave gratuities however if you are happy with the service provided. Crews worked very hard to make the success of a charter, so tipping is a good way for you to say thank you and show your appreciation.

Don’t overlook charter insurance

Be prepared by not overlooking charter insurance. OK no one goes on holiday with misfortune in mind, however things can and sometimes do go wrong. Speak to your broker about the level of charter insurance built into the contract. Check whether the insurance policy covers guests for Third Party Liability for instance, loss of possessions or personal accidents. Any specific items not covered can be insured privately if required.

Cancellation and Curtailment Insurance is also available at a cost of around 2.5% of the charter fee. This covers a possible loss of the charter fee if a vacation has to be cancelled due to any unforeseen circumstances. Any concerns about insurance especially if you are sailing into Third World waters, consult your broker.

Chartering Tips

Your broker should also be more than happy to provide you with chartering tips. These can cover everything from laundry services onboard to suitcase sizes for storage, the non-wearing of ladies’ high heel shoes to sunscreen and sun cream tips. Find out more about smoking rules on the vessel and if you have any problems during the voyage, how to make a complaint. Bottled up grievances can ruin a holiday so have a word with the captain or the chief steward/stewardess to get any underlying problems resolved.

To sum up, brokers will tell you that there are three types of charterer, namely once in a lifetime, occasional and regular. Many guests new to chartering vacations start with the idea that their yacht charter trip will be a once in a lifetime holiday. When properly prepared, it will be. The good news is, many people find the experience so enjoyable that they will soon join the ranks of the yacht charter regulars.

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