Charter by the Numbers
The advertised rate is usually a baseline. answering these 6 questions will help you calculate the actual cost of a charter vacation.
$ $A base rate is the weekly cost for the yacht and crew—nothing else. Plan to add 25 percent to 35 percent for food, drinks, fuel, dockage, taxes and other extras.
An inclusive rate is the weekly cost for the yacht, crew, food, ship’s bar, fuel, dockage, cruising permits and taxes. Crew gratuity is still extra.
Charter yachts with inclusive rates are most often found in destinations such as the British Virgin Islands, where itineraries are predictable. It’s rare to find inclusiverate charters in the Mediterranean, South Pacific or beyond, where itineraries can be far more personalized and expansive. Rates typically change with the seasons, by about 10 percent to 20 percent. High season means high-demand cruising dates, such as Christmas and New Year’s in the Caribbean and the months of July and August in the Mediterranean. During the Christmas holidays, in addition to paying a high-season rate, you may be required to book for 10 to 14 days. Low season means lower-demand cruising dates, such as February in the Caribbean and September in the Mediterranean. Low season is when you’ll find the best deals on most charter yachts.
Event charters, such as those at the Monaco Grand Prix or Cannes Film Festival, often have a surcharge in addition to high-season rates. That surcharge can include everything from an extra deposit against damage to a requirement that you rent tents, protective carpeting or other necessities for large cocktail parties aboard at the dock. Most often, yacht charter payments are made in stages. There’s a down payment and a balance due date, plus, perhaps, another date when the 25 percent to 35 percent payment is scheduled for extras like food, fuel and dockage. That extra payment is called an APA, or advance provisioning allowance. The crew uses the money to visit the grocery store, wine store and anywhere else needed to stock the yacht exactly the way you want it.
The crew knows what you want on board because your broker helps you fill out a provisioning form. It will ask you about everything from your favorite breakfast beverage to your wish list for chef ’s specialty snacks. The MYBA International guidelines suggest a gratuity range of 5 percent to 15 percent of the yacht’s weekly rate, depending on the service you receive. Some charter guests tip 20 percent for outstanding crew performance. The easiest way to leave the crew gratuity is to have it in your bank account before your charter begins. If you are happy with the service, then you can instruct your charter broker to release whatever percentage of the funds you deem fit. You’ll have no need to carry cash, and the wire transfer can happen the minute you leave the yacht. The charter broker works for you, but the yacht owner pays her commission as thanks for the business. The broker commission should not cost you a single cent out of pocket.
For Ben Dineen, a day at the market is the stuff of wild-eyed fascination. I recall him telling me, when I met him in 2010, how he’d left his Irish homeland to work on 95-foot (29-meter) Sunseeker Molly Malone— and how the yacht wasn’t ultimately what impressed him about the charter lifestyle.
“More than the boat,” he said, “I remember the first time I walked into the market in Antibes. I’d never seen produce like that in my life. I wanted to cook real food, and I wanted people to enjoy real food. I wanted to serve tomatoes that have never once been refrigerated.”
Dineen has experienced a lot in the years since we had that conversation, and his enthusiasm is, if anything, stronger. In 2011, he took over the Exuma Palms Hotel in the Bahamas, bringing it back to life. Then he traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, for training at the famed Blue Elephant restaurant.
“I worked one-on-one with the chef, and we went to the market there together,” he said. “It was a lot of ingredients I’ve never seen before. It was the coolest thing ever. Everything I’d ever cooked before, that I’d thought was good, I’d been doing totally wrong.”
As he recounted this story in late 2015, he had the same childlike energy he’d shown five years earlier. His passion was still evident for finding and preparing the best foods, which he’s now serving in award-winning style to charter guests aboard 142-foot (43.2-meter) Palmer Johnson Lady J. The same week we reconnected, he earned first prize in the Antigua Charter Yacht Show culinary competition—and he couldn’t wait to see what he might find in the markets come morning.
“I think you can get really stale as a chef,” he said. “Some chefs get complacent. Here, with charter, you have to read your guests. It’s exciting.”