How to Charter a Yacht for a Smooth Sailing

So you’ve decided to charter a yacht. How exciting! 

Chartering a yacht is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a luxurious, stress-free vacation away from it all.  Picture sipping a glass of champagne overlooking the azure waters of the Indian Ocean with the warm breeze in your hair.

If it’s your first time chartering the yacht, it can be confusing to know where to start, which yacht type to select, what to expect from the onboard experience, and how much to budget.

In this guide, I’ll dive into all the ins and outs of chartering a yacht and address all those points. Below is a step-by-step breakdown of how to charter a yacht:

1. Choose a Reputable Charter Broker or Yacht Charter Company

people learning how to charter a yacht in the ocean
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

Before I get into all the nitty-gritty of how to charter a yacht, I’ll cover the basics. 

The most convenient way to charter a yacht is by hiring a broker. A charter broker can assist you in the process of chartering a yacht. Charter brokers are basically intermediaries between you, the client, and the boat owners.

Their job is to match you with suitable yacht options based on your preferences, requirements, and budget. 

If you’re new to the yacht vacationing world, the American Yacht Charter Association is a good place to start browsing approved brokers in the US. Other reputable resources are The Worldwide Yachting Association (MYBA) and the Royal Yachting Association

Charter brokers listed on these platforms have an in-depth knowledge of the yacht charter industry, including yacht types and destinations, so they can give you expert advice to design your dream yacht vacation.

They’re here for you to ensure a smooth charter experience and arrange all the logistics. 

The best part is you don’t pay any extra fees for the charter yacht broker; the yacht owner covers the cost of their services. 

Alternatively, you can charter a yacht directly from a yacht charter company and cut out the middleman. 

Dream Yacht Worldwide is a great platform with a database of 900+ yachts in more than 50 exciting destinations worldwide, including the Caribbean, Bahamas, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Asia, Americas, and Europe. 

2. Design Your Dream Yacht Vacation

people relaxing on yacht with pink floatie
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

The great thing about charting a crewed private yacht is that it’s a fully customizable experience. In a sense, you are the “captain of your voyage.” You can choose your destinations, water toys, itinerary, cuisine, and more.

Once on board, unlike large cruises, you don’t have to robotically follow your itinerary. 

If you decide to switch day one with day three of your itinerary or stay in a specific location for two days instead of one because you love it there so much, it’s all doable. That’s the beauty of a yacht charter.

3. Set Your Yachting Budget

yacht at sunset
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

The important thing is to determine your budget for the yacht charter, taking into account the charter fee and any additional yacht charter costs. 

You can choose between all-inclusive or expense-based charters. 

All-Inclusive

Similar to booking all-inclusive hotels, the all-inclusive yacht charters generally have a set rate and include everything from food and beverages to fuel and entertainment, such as diving and fishing equipment. 

Expense-Based

The expense-based charters have a base charter fee and the so-called advanced provisioning allowance (APA). 

APA is designed and set up to cover your consumables onboard. So basically, anything that you consume is charged separately to your APA account. It could include fuel, food, beverages, dockage, you get the picture.

APA is typically around 25 – 35% of the cost of the charter. You get refunded the remaining sum if you don’t spend all your APA. APA doesn’t include crew tips, so people often allocate the remaining amount of APA towards gratuities. 

Another cost on top of the charter fee and APA is the insurance and local taxes. If you don’t want to pay a tax, the Caribbean is a free port for free tax cruising.

Easy-Crewed

Dream Yacht Worldwide announced its “Easy Crewed” charter initiative, which expands on the success of the company’s popular “Cabin Cruise” getaways designed for singles and couples, presently accessible in over 15 picturesque locations globally. Dream Yacht Worldwide introduced the Cabin Cruise concept to open up sailing vacations to travelers who were new to yacht charters. With the introduction of Easy Crewed, this endeavor naturally progresses, allowing private yachts to be offered for gatherings of up to 10 family members or friends.

By incorporating the British Virgin Islands, Martinique, Tahiti, and Seychelles into the list of Easy Crewed charter destinations, guests now have an even broader range of vacation options. In combination with Greece and Croatia, this provides an exclusive selection of Mediterranean, Caribbean, and exotic locales to choose from. During a one-week charter, guests can explore stunning coastlines, ancient ruins, crystal-clear waters, exceptional local cuisine featuring fresh ingredients, and numerous captivating islands that are accessible only by boat.

Planning a yacht charter vacation is as simple as selecting a destination and the type of boat based on individual preferences and group size. The range of yacht choices includes monohulls and sailing catamarans spanning from 38’ to 54’, all equipped with comfortable private guest cabins featuring ensuite or shared bathrooms.

Easy Crewed Charters include a skilled local skipper and water sports equipment like standup paddle boards and snorkeling gear. Collaborating with guests, the skipper devises a custom itinerary accommodating desired activities, day stops, and evening anchorages. For enhanced comfort, guests have the option to include a hostess/cook, air conditioning, and meal packages encompassing breakfasts, lunches, or even all meals in more remote cruising regions. These meal plans are tailored to meet individual preferences.

Reservations for Easy Crewed Charters are now open for Summer 2023 and beyond. For instance, one-week package rates begin as low as $630 per person for a 47- to 56-foot monohull accommodating 10 guests in Croatia and $1023 per person for a 43- to 47-foot monohull accommodating 10 guests in the British Virgin Islands.

For extra peace of mind, you can opt for trip cancellation or curtailment insurance. That’s an added protection that can cost 5-10% of the charter fee. The main factors determining the cost of a yacht charter are the yacht size, the type of yacht, and the yacht’s reputation. 

The size of the yacht affects the size of the crew you might need, as well as guest capacity. Of course, a fully crewed yacht charter will be more expensive than a bareboat charter. Also, motor yachts burn more fuel and, therefore, tend to be more expensive than catamarans. 

4. Pick Your Yachting Destination

yacht anchored in greece
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

The next step is to decide on the destination for your perfect getaway. Consider factors such as weather, spectacular scenery, activities, and interesting destinations available in that area.

Do you want island hopping in a tropical paradise like the British Virgin Islands or a more culturally rich experience on the European coast? 

The world is your oyster when it comes to yachting. The Mediterranean tends to be the popular summer destination, while the Caribbean is a popular winter escape.

5. Set the Dates

yacht anchored in croatia
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

Most people book a yacht charter for seven nights / eight days. Keep in mind any special events or high season during holidays that may affect availability or pricing.

And, of course, plan around the time of year with good weather conditions in a specific location. 

6. Select the Right Yacht Type

yacht with sails in ocean
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

While you don’t have to be an expert on yacht types to charter a yacht, it might be beneficial to have a basic understanding.  The number of guests joining you on your yachting adventure is a main factor in determining the right yacht type. 

If you have couples or large families, you will most likely need larger rooms with double and single beds. If that’s the case, catamarans and motor yachts are a perfect choice. 

Motor Yachts

If you want to travel fast and cover long distances, a motor yacht is the way to go. Motor yachts are more spacious and have multiple decks, which means more space for larger water toys, like jet skis.

Motor yachts also come with stabilizers, which add to a smoother ride and minimize motion at anchor. There are two main styles of motor yachts:

  • Displacement yachts – designed with a rounded hull, are heavier and more stable but slower, cruising speed: 10-14 knots (12-16 miles per hour, 19-26 kilometers per hour).
  • Planning yachts – designed with a v-shaped hull, which creates lift to ride over the water with less drag, allowing for greater speed. Cruising speed: over 20 knots (23 miles per hour, 37 kilometers per hour).

Pro tip:

Motor yachts burn a large amount of fuel, so be sure to factor in fuel costs in your charter budget. A displacement yacht generally consumes around 200 liters (52.8 gallons) per hour, while a planning yacht burns about 700 liters (185 gallons) per hour.

Catamarans

Catamarans are one of the most popular yacht charters for several reasons—namely stability, spaciousness, increased privacy, and shallow drafts. 

Their two hulls keep the yacht relatively flat in the water to minimize motion sickness, offer multiple areas for lounging, provide separate guest ensuite cabins for extra privacy, and enable anchoring closer to shore in shallow waters, such as the Bahamas.

On top of that, a catamaran has wide steps at the end of each hull, making it easy to get in and out of the water.

You can choose from two types of Catamarans:

  • Sailing cats – the majority of Catamaran are Sailing cats. Although they have engines, they’re powered by the wind as much as possible, averaging 7-10 knots under sail. They’re the most eco-friendly option. 
  • Power cats – typically have more powerful engines, allowing for higher speeds of 15-20 knots. The power cat is generally more fuel-efficient than a motor yacht. However, they’re harder to come by.

Sailing Yachts

Sailing yachts are ideal for you if you want to experience the excitement of sailing. Moreover, they’re generally more economical to charter than a catamaran. All interior is below the waterline. 

Unlike a catamaran, which typically has four queen-size cabins, a sailing yacht, also known as a monohull, usually has a mix of full and twin-berth cabins, some with a shared wall.

Pro tip: Gulets are a popular choice for yacht charters in the eastern Mediterranean, especially in Turkey, where they originated. They are traditionally built wooden yachts that offer a comfortable and spacious interior, with powerful engines making them a great option for sailing and motoring.

7. Specify Your Food & Other Preferences

lunch on yacht
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

Cuisine & Crew

Most people pick a yacht with a captain and a cook. If you have more guests, then the size of the crew could be bigger, including engineers, housekeepers, personal trainers, and more. Before you charter a yacht, you’ll be asked to fill out a preference list.  

This list includes what you’d like to eat and drink and what activities you’d like to do. The crew will customize the menu and itinerary based on your preferences. 

The food onboard is world-class and one of the highlights of the voyage.

Any food allergies and dietary restrictions can be accommodated, and the itinerary is something you can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you want to be.

Usually, people have one or two spots they want to visit, and they’ll leave the rest of it for the crew or broker to fill in the plan. After all, they’re the experts on the specific sailing destination.

They know all the hotspots and hidden gems and can make any adjustments along the way based on the weather.

Amenities & Water Toys

A luxury yacht charter is all about experiencing the beautiful waters and the best places our planet has to offer. Mega yachts can come with a fully equipped gym, spa, bar, cinema room, hot tub, and, of course, water toys!

The water toys add to the sailing experience and make it even more fun.

You can choose from several water toys, from inflatable loungers and paddleboards to water trampolines, e-hydrofoils, sea bobs, jet skis, and more.

8. Review and Sign the Yacht Charter Contract

woman sitting on rails of yacht looking at ocean
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

Before you sign any contract, it pays off to do your due diligence. 

Once you have selected your yacht, carefully review the charter agreement. It outlines the terms and conditions of the charter, including payment terms and cancellation policies. 

The contract also includes pick up and drop off. Beyond that, other destinations are flexible. You’re only constrained by time. Once the contract is completed, you typically have a window to sign it and send a deposit. 

Many large yacht charter companies have a presence on yacht-specific sites such as Charter World, where you can read reviews from prior customers who share their yacht charter experience.

Top Yacht Charter Companies

woman stepping onto a yacht in a red shirt
Image Credit: Pexels.

Regarding top yacht charter companies, there are several reputable options to consider. Here is a list of some of the well-regarded yacht charter companies:

How to Charter a Yacht FAQ 

people on paddleboards while chartering a yacht
Image Credit: Dream Yacht Worldwide

How much does it cost to charter a yacht?

The cost of yacht charters varies greatly. You can expect to pay a charter rate from $6,000 per week on smaller yachts and catamarans up to $150,000+ per week on luxury superyacht charters.

What to expect from the yacht trip?

The crew will often greet you at the airport and bring you with transportation directly to the yacht.

The yachts are designed to cover only short distances. You’re very rarely out of the sight of land. Typically, you only cruise for 2 to 4 hours a day. 

The main point is to change the atmosphere, the island, or the location without sailing to another country or traveling a long distance.

You’re going to unpack your bag once and wake up somewhere new and exciting every day. 

The morning typically starts with a delicious breakfast followed by sailing and fun activities. It could be snorkeling, swimming, or hiking on the island. 

Once you get to your destination, you can either hang out on the boat and take advantage of the water toys, such as a stand-up paddleboard, a kayak, a jet ski, or whatever other features a boat comes with, or explore the cruising grounds. 

The options are countless, from checking out local bars and restaurants to a waterfall hike or some other natural attraction. 

In the Mediterranean, you’re typically docking each night so you can walk off and on the boat as you please. You can enjoy strolls on the cobblestone streets and shops or visit historic sites. Europe is all about cultural experience.

Do yacht charter guests pay for food?

Yes, the charter guests pay for food. Food is deducted from APA (advanced provisioning allowance), which is typically 25-35% of the charter fee and also includes other consumables such as fuel, beverages, marina fees, etc. 

Do you tip on yacht charter?

Yes, in general, it’s customary to tip the crew of your yacht upon completion of the charter, as you would in any other service industry. 

The baseline tip for the crew on board is about 10%. Some people give 15 or 20% if they’re very generous.

A gratuity is an excellent way to show appreciation for a job well done. 

What is yacht etiquette?

A simple rule of thumb when it comes to yacht etiquette is to treat the yacht as you would your own home, keeping it clean and tidy.

Show appreciation to the crew members who work hard to provide you with an excellent yachting service.  

What is the 12-person rule on a yacht?

12 people is the maximum allowed number by international maritime law for a private yacht rental.

What destinations are best suited to first-time charterers?

  • The Caribbean – The Virgin Islands 
  • Croatia 
  • French Riviera 
  • The Whitsunday Islands, South Pacific
  • Florida Keys, USA

There are, of course, many more exciting yachting destinations to choose from. But these are some of the most popular ones among first-time yacht charterers for many reasons.

They have lots of interesting places to explore within a short cruise, sheltered anchorages and marinas with good facilities, calm waters, low winds, a wide range of different activities onboard and ashore, and spectacular scenery.

Yacht Charter Myths

Young female traveler enjoying great view on the harbor with yachts in Monte Carlo in Monaco
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Myth: Sailing is difficult and for experienced sailors only

This is a common misconception but is far from being accurate. If you can enter a boat, you can sail. Sea trips are for everyone, no experience is necessary when you book a skippered charter, which allows travelers to enjoy quality time together and not have to worry about sailing skills. 

Myth: Tight quarters.

Families are typically relieved to know that Dream Yacht Worldwide offers spacious catamarans that fit up to 12-14 people comfortably. Many catamarans have cabins that have their own private bathroom as well.  

Myth: It is all about the sea

The sea is the medium, and you can actually visit many places and discover areas on land that you cannot access without traveling by water. Chartering a boat is an excellent way to discover lesser-known areas. Dream Yacht operates in 52 destinations worldwide, with a fleet of more than 900 monohulls and catamarans. There is something for every type of traveler in destinations across the globe.

Myth: Charter trips are boring

Charter trips can be as exciting and as full of adventure as travelers prefer. It is a unique experience, and it requires a certain adventurer mindset. There are many water sports and team-building activities that groups can participate in, plus plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind on board. It allows travelers to see the world from a different perspective.


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Travel Writer at Savoteur | + posts

Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.