Questions & Answers
I've done my research, how do you recommend I narrow the list and Choose a Charter Company?
Try starting with the Charter Advisors Charter Selection Checklist.
The Yacht you want
The package you want (bareboat or crewed)
The length and cost of the trip
Time of year you want to go
Specials offered for additional cruising days
Service The ideal is to combine the best of all of these. This is where you will get the best value.
Charter Advisors Note: Service can trump any one of these except the yacht. If money is not a huge consideration (all yachts being close in price), service should be. We have found that it is ok to pay 10-15% more for good service. You kind of forget you paid a bit more and for good reason. Choosing a charter company can be tough. There are so many to pick from. You have all the ads shouting "fun in the sun!" in the back of your favorite sailing magazine... then you go online. Wow! Who knew so many existed. How could you ever sift though all the options? Well.. you don't. True, the quality of service is very important, but it's the yacht you care about. This is a good place to start. What do we mean? Try this: After you have thumbed though all the magazine ads, make a short list of the charter companies you have interest in, then go online and search these companies out. The quality of the website be dammed! Go straight to the photos of the fleet. Do they have charter yachts from other companies bought through a hand me down sale? Do they have "owner yachts" (they manage and charter for the owner)? Is the age of the yacht you're looking for more than 5 years old? If the answer to any of this is yes... move on.
A good charter company will have a mix and wide selection of good quality and new and new-ish yachts. Four years old to present. They will also have a club fleet of older yachts at reduced prices. A good charter company never blends the "club" yachts with the rest of the charter fleet. Additional locations reveal the larger companies. Larger does not always mean more expensive... but it can. Also be sure that when you're inquiring to be sure that the charter company can meet any specific needs or requests you might have (A/C, TV, sleep aboard, handicap access, etc.) Charter Advisors does not endorse any specific charter company... but there are a few well known that are reliable in the Caribbean. Horizon Yacht Charters, BVI Yacht Charters, The Moorings, Sunsail, Footloose, TMM, Conch Charters, and Voyager Yacht Charters. There are certainly other reliable charter companies than this... but hey, no one is paying us... so deal with it charter company people.
The real question....
What is the right yacht for you?
Before you can pick a charter company you need to find a yacht. Why the yacht first? Because you're not staying at the charter company, you're booking the yacht. And... by searching though the various charter companies looking over fleets, you will become familiar with what companies have the yachts you're interested in. Creating a "short list" for you.
Now for the big decision... Are you a Monohull or Multihull (catamaran) person?
Monohull are sleek and fast and elegant. This is what you see in your mind's eye when you picture a sailboat. Drawback...heeling (the leaning of the yacht to the leeward side), and space. Plus: Fast, value, and ease of handling. Monohull are for the sailing purest or for those who aren't quite ready to tackle a "big cat." These yachts are straight forward and quite a bit of fun to sail. These are recommended for beginners and experts alike. There are a wide Varity of Monohull from stable and roomy to race breed, sparse, speed machines.
Catamaran are twin hulled yachts with a large living area (saloon) connecting the port and starboard hulls. The drawback to these yachts are its size and performance. Oddly enough these are also the positives. Cats are stable, they are harder to maneuver in close spaces, they have a ton of windage (wind pushing on the vertical surfaces of the yacht), and they are safe and spacious. Large parties and families will benefit from the space and stability of a Catamaran (no heeling). Performance is a toss up. Monohull purist sailors will tell you how poorly they perform.. though we regularly charter big Cats and they are a blast to sail! Different than a Monohull for sure, but they are still plenty fast and fun. Just ask the guy in the 40 ft. Monohull we blew past on the way to Spanish Town. He looked pissed.
In the end the choice will be made based on your personal preferences, space needs, and your comfort level. But don't be afraid to try something new... or bigger! For a first charter consider a Monohull in the thirty to low forty-foot range or a thirty-six or thirty eight foot catamaran.
Here is what Charter Advisors suggests to keep in mind when selecting a Charter Company and Charter Yacht.
Don't select your charter company because they have a "good looking website." We have heard time and time again... "We picked them because they had the best looking website, so they must be good." Or, "They came up number one on Google, so they have to be the best." Both are incorrect. The quality of the website has nothing to do with the quality of service or yachts. Neither does a search engine ranking. Research them all, even if they have an ugly website (some of the ugly sites have great yachts!).
Always check out the images of the yacht online (not a factory picture, a picture of the actual yacht you are chartering). Also request additional images. Some will even snap a few digital pictures right then and there and email them to you. If the images are limited online and they have no others they can email, move on to a different yacht or yacht company. There may be good reason the "looks" of the yacht are not showcased.
A few questions to consider... before you get in contact.
Do they have any special offers? Ask even if you know.
Do they have the best value (not price) as compared to their competition for the same Yacht or similar?
What is the transfer from the airport to the charter base like? Can they arrange it for you?
Are they helpful and detailed in responding to your questions?
Do you feel rushed or pressured into a "sale?"
Fuel and water, what's included and what do they charge (will you have to top off the fuel when you return the yacht)?
Provisioning, can they assist you?
What do they include for basic provisions for free?
Are there any additional items that come free with the yacht? (kayak, floats, BBQ grill, etc.)
For the number of people you are brining, how long would they expect the tank water last? (you will need to find marinas to refill... important for knowing where you can go and still have access to water when you need it).
How big are the water tanks? (one 60 gal, two 60 gal, one 80 gal, two 70 gal, etc.)
What should you expect upon arrival? What is the check in procedure? (briefings, yacht orientation, etc.)
What additional will they require of you? (additional security deposits, dinghy insurance, Captain for a day ? if you need some teaching, etc.)
As we mentioned earlier, some of this will be explained to you. But not all. Fill in the gaps with your questions.
Deposits... half now, last half 30-45 days prior to arrival is the norm. Though some charge the final 50% when you arrive. Check the fine print so you don't end up with a surprise charge earlier than you expected.
If you use this checklist your surprises will be minimal and you will be on your way to a very satisfying charter. This means your wife's (or husbands) opportunities for "I told yous" or "Why didn't yous" is also near zero... keep that one in mind my friends! That's satisfying!)
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev