Updated 2/2/24 with additional tips
This Superyacht Charter Guide and Tips is for TravelSort clients and readers who are new to chartering, and understandably have questions about the process, pricing, and more. A superyacht can be a superb option for several couples, a family, or extended family, providing the freedom to see some incredible scenery and remote islands and beaches while enjoying first class amenities aboard the yacht, since these yachts come with their own crew, including a chef and sometimes even a masseuse.
What is a Superyacht?
There's no universally agreed upon definition of a superyacht, but generally the smallest superyachts are at least 79 feet (24 meters) in length; the next category up, mega yachts, tend to start at close to 200 feet (60 meters) in length. A true superyacht will be meticulously furnished, often with a master cabin with a king bed, double sinks, rain shower, and one or more VIP cabins with queen or king beds as well as an additional cabin with twin beds, come with the aforementioned permanent crew (captain, chef, chief stewardess, deckhand, and possibly additional stewardess/masseuse, deckhand, etc.) and have several water toys such as sea bobs, jet skis, kayaks, windsurfing and fishing equipment, and ideally a tender/chase boat. Many have an on-deck jacuzzi and some have their own gym and/or exercise equipment or even a massage room with one of the crew doubling as a masseuse.
What Does a Superyacht Cost?
For the better superyachts for a Mediterranean itinerary, expect to pay at least $15,000 per person for a week, plus expenses (we'll get into that below). The charter is for the boat, so especially lovely superyachts that can accommodate 10-12 guests can run $175,000 or more plus expenses for the week. Note that rates can vary by time of year (high season vs. shoulder season or low season) but are standard across channels; if you come across a travel advisor or broker that claims s/he can get you a better deal, you're probably dealing with an disreputable party.
How Do I Find the Ideal Superyacht?
We're best able to help clients that provide plenty of details about what they're looking for: ideal type of vacation, must-haves and nice-to-haves for the yacht, budget range, aesthetic preferences, and allergies, for example.
How Far Ahead Should I Book?
Typically yacht owners will determine their own usage about 9 months to a year in advance, and then release the weeks that they're not personally using the yacht. It's best to plan well in advance, especially if seeking a charter for peak season. In the Mediterranean, absolute peak season tends to be July-August.
When to Sail
For the Mediterranean, we recommend trying to time a charter for mid-September, after the absolute peak season, which is often more enjoyable in terms of less crowded islands to explore. Depending on the area, it can also be more comfortable weather-wise, since August can see extremely hot daytime highs.
Resist the urge to overpack an itinerary. As a rule of thumb, aim to cruise for six hours or less per day, and leave the flexibility to change course as needed, depending on the weather or in case you want to spend more time at a particular location. Build in pre and post cruise land stays for places you know you want to explore more of for their city or historical attractions, and take advantage of the yacht and its tender or chase boat to give you access to remote beaches and coves that you otherwise wouldn't have access to.
What is APA? What is Included in the Charter?
Depending on where you're chartering a superyacht, you may be quoted “all inclusive” (common in the Caribbean) or a charter rate + VAT (value added tax) + APA (advance provisioning allowance). The APA generally amounts to ~35% of the charter rate for a motor rate, but the exact amount comprises the actual expenses the charterer incurs: fuel for the yacht, docking and port fees, cruising taxes, communications, personal laundry, shoreside water and electricity, food and beverage, and consumables. By contrast, the charter rate includes the superyacht and crew hire.
Keep in mind that yachts tend to be based at a particular port, so if the area you want to explore is a fair distance from that port, there can be significant fuel costs. For example, if chartering a yacht that's based in Athens to cruise the Ionian islands, that distance is over 100 nautical miles and will run to many thousands of Euros in fuel costs and 10-12 hours to get there, as well as thousands of Euros to reposition the yacht back to Athens if undertaking a one way cruise, say Athens via Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Ithaca, etc. to Corfu. In these cases it can be worth looking for a yacht that has already been repositioned for a charter prior to your dates, and if your cruise is toward the end of the season, say in September or early October in the Mediterranean, that can be leverage for negotiating the repositioning fee.
What is Appropriate Tipping for a Superyacht?
As elsewhere in the luxury hospitality industry, expect to tip your hardworking crew (crew often work 16 hour days). For the Mediterranean, 10-15% is customary (Caribbean and U.S. gratuities tend towards the 10-20% range), and it should always be given to the captain to divide among the crew. Assuming your charter was with APA, if there's any APA leftover after the actual amount is totaled, that can be used towards the gratuity and supplemented by additional funds as needed.
Travel Insurance: A Must
Some clients even during or post-pandemic opt to “self-insure” and don't purchase any travel insurance, but we advise clients that travel insurance for superyacht charters is a must. Typical payment terms involve a 50% deposit to reserve the charter, with the remaining 50% balance as well as APA and VAT due 45 days prior to the embarkation date, and all amounts paid are entirely non-refundable unless the yacht is rebooked by another party for the same dates. Needless to say, credit cards don't cover anywhere close to the amount that superyacht charters cost, so third party insurance is needed.
Have you chartered a superyacht, and if so, what was your experience?
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