Being out on the open water, soaking up rays and being lulled by the gentle rocking of the waves, all while enjoying upscale food and drinks…it sounds wonderful. A yacht trip is a fantastic thing to put on your bucket list.
Sadly, yacht trips really are a high end luxury. But before you write off the idea that mere mortals could ever enjoy one, read on. There are ways to hit the high seas for a bit of pampering without totally breaking the bank.
Average Weekly Charter Costs
Ok, brace yourselves. The cost for weekly yacht charters varies a lot based on the size and type of the boat as well as where you want to go. But for the sake of providing a baseline, weekly charters on smaller sailing yachts and catamarans start at $10,000. Larger motorized yachts cost $150,000 or more per week to rent.
Those rates generally include the boat and the crew. There are additional expenses, too. You may be presented with an “all inclusive” package that covers the cost of food, drink, and fuel costs, or a “plus expenses” package that itemizes each of those costs. Docking fees and taxes are typically charged separately regardless of the type of package.
How to Save on a Yacht Vacation
If you understand the ins and outs of the yachting industry, you can pinpoint ways to reduce your costs. The following factors influence your final total.
Type of yacht
The older and smaller the boat, the cheaper it will usually be. Most yachts are privately owned, so prices vary a lot between owners as well. Steer clear of a boat with a celebrity owner, as that will significantly inflate the price.
Number of guests
Regardless of the size of the boat you rent, if you can fill it, you’ll pay less per person. Avoid choosing a boat that’s larger than you need to accommodate your group.
Consider sailing in the off-season in order to save money. Winter in the Mediterranean and summer in the Caribbean are slower periods and may cost less.
The more exotic the location, the more expensive the trip is sure to be. Locations like the Galapagos have a smaller infrastructure to support yacht charters and for that reason are quite costly. Heading out to the Caribbean or the Bahamas, on the other hand, is more affordable.
Additional Costs for Yacht Charter
As with many large purchases, the base price is only a jumping off point. Be sure to factor the following costs into your budget for a yacht charter.
Advance Provisioning Allowance
The APA is a fee that is charged for charters arranged on a plus expenses basis. Equal to about 25-35% of the base price for the trip, this money is due before the trip begins and is used by the captain as an expense account during your voyage.
At the end of your trip, make sure you receive a complete accounting of the way that money was used. If there is an overage at any point, due to overruns in food or drink consumption, additional ports of call, or an unexpected hike in fuel prices, you will be asked to replenish the fund mid-voyage.
Taxes and Value Added Tax (VAT)
Local taxes and value added taxes assessed by your destination will add to the cost of your trip. Different locations charge taxes. For example, tax in the Bahamas is 4%, in Italy the VAT is 22% (less if your itinerary includes international waters), but Turkey and Montenegro charge no VAT.
Insurance is not mandatory, but you might consider purchasing a policy to prevent a massive loss in the event that you must cancel or shorten your trip for any reason. Weather is unpredictable, not to mention human health.
The type of policy associated with chartered yachts is called cancellation and curtailment insurance.
Again, gratuities are not mandatory, but you’ll get better service if your crew feels that they will be compensated generously. As with restaurant tipping, the recommended amount is 15-20% of the base charter rate.
The protocol is to hand a gratuity to the ship’s captain at the end of the trip.
An Affordable Compromise
Even if you can’t afford to charter a full week’s trip on a yacht, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some yacht time on your trip. Most coastal communities offer day trips that fit very reasonably into a vacation budget. Whether you book a trip for just 4-6 hours or spend the night on board, the per-person cost is doable.
As a baseline, you can spend 8 hours on a smaller 37 foot yacht for about $300 per person. It can be even cheaper (around $250/person) to spend all day on a larger yacht because more passengers may be accommodated.
Shorter tours of 4 hours are cheaper still. Remember to do your research on the particular ships in use (and their owners) to find a day trip that is both luxurious and affordable.
Just because we can’t all live like kings on a massive yacht for a week or more, doesn’t mean we can’t get a taste of the royal treatment.