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How to charter a yacht: Everything you need to know

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

Looking for pinch-me-I’m-dreaming scenery, historical heritage or that next grand adventure?

Why not charter a yacht?

You may think yacht holidays are only for the rich and famous in tropical playgrounds.

Yacht Holidays: How to charter a yacht

But a yachting vacation doesn’t have to break the bank.

And there are many more places around the world than the Bahamas or Caribbean that are ideal for sailing charters.

How to charter a yacht: Everything you need to know
Caribbean yacht charters are especially popular in winter

Renting a yacht for a week is an intimate way to vacation with your family or friends.

Different from a cruise – even a small ship sailing cruise – a yacht charter vacation allows you to customize your own itinerary, giving you the flexibility to sail where you want, when you want.

Intrigued?

Here’s our guide on how to charter a yacht (and have a very special holiday).

Choose how and where you want to go. Pick your yacht. Pack your swimsuit and Ray-Bans. And venture off on your own unforgettable voyage!

Contents: Guide to chartering a yacht

Crewed vs Bareboat charters

Shared cabin charters

Sailing vs motor yacht

Top yachting destinations

1) British Virgin Islands

2) Eastern Mediterranean

3) Western Mediterannean

Best yacht charter companies and cost

Best luxury yacht charters | The Moorings, Tradewinds, Dream Yacht Charter, Intersailclub and International Yacht Charter Group

Cost to charter a yacht? | All-inclusive yacht charters and “plus expenses” charters

Recommended reading: Want to sail on an uber-deluxe, 10-guest phinisi in Indonesia?

How to charter a yacht

The ultimate guide to chartering a private yacht

Crewed yacht charters vs. bareboat charters

Breakfast on a luxury crewed yacht charter
We were served these delicious egg tarts one morning for breakfast on our Tradewinds sailing trip

Imagine waking up and diving off your boat for a pre-breakfast swim!

Back on board, steaming coffee, omelettes and fresh-baked cheese biscuits await, whipped up by a chef.

Then you discuss with your captain the day’s activities. Snorkeling with turtles? Drinks ashore at a private island resort?

Lobster for lunch on a luxury yacht charter
Perhaps fresh-grilled lobster tails for lunch?

That’s a taste of life on a crewed yacht charter – one we got to experience recently on a Tradewinds catamaran yacht charter in the Caribbean.

Choosing whether to have a crew on your yacht charter is one of the first decisions to make.

Typically, a crewed yacht has several cabins (accommodating 6 to 10 persons) and is staffed by a captain and a cook (often a husband/wife team).

Having fun at a noodle bar in the water with Tradewinds
Guests have fun at the “noodle bar” in the water on a crewed Tradewinds yacht holiday

A bareboat charter, on the other hand, is one where you sail the vessel and tie the bowline yourself.

You’re also responsible for food supplies, cooking your meals and planning where to go. Boats tend to be under 55 feet long; anything larger usually needs its own skipper (and possibly crew).

Bareboat charters are less expensive than crewed yacht charters, but obviously, one or more people in your group will need to know how to sail the boat.

It’s also possible to hire a skipper to sail the boat for the first few days, who gradually hands over the reins until you feel comfortable enough to skipper the boat alone.

Vacation your way; you make the rules…

Related: While scuba diving in the Grenadines, we hunted lionfish (important to help with the lionfish invasion)

Cabin charter

What if you can’t (or don’t want to) rope in friends and family to charter a whole yacht?

Some yacht chartering companies offer the option to book just one cabin – called a “cabin charter.”

Tip:

If interested in a cabin charter, we recommend you only book a crewed cabin charter, where all the work is done for you.

The alternative – trying to sort out who cooks, who cleans and who sails with people you don’t know – doesn’t sound like much of a holiday to us!

Motor yacht charter vs. sailboat charter

Another question to consider is whether you want to go by sail or motor power?

On a sailboat or sailing catamaran, you harness the wind. And there’s no denying the romance of actually sailing the seas!

Some more deluxe combo power-and-sail catamarans have small pools

A power yacht, on the other hand, can go faster and cover more distance in less time.

Also, the design of a motor yacht means it usually has more deck space – there may be room for a jacuzzi in which to sip gin-and-tonics as you zip along.

But motor yachts guzzle fuel, so that will add to the cost of the charter. And they’re less environmentally friendly.

Luxury yacht charters
Maybe a sleek power yacht is more your style?

Top yachting destinations

The number of appealing yacht charter destinations around the globe continues to grow as vacationers and adventurers explore new territories.

They range from the charter-friendly Bahamas and Mediterranean to more remote places like the Indian Ocean and even Antarctica.

The most popular yacht destinations are the British Virgin Islands, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterannean.

Yacht charter holidays
How would you like to do a yacht charter in Croatia?

1) British Virgin Islands (BVIs)

The Caribbean is home to roughly 7,000 islands, cays and islets, all with their own tropical vibe. 

But don’t think just sandy beaches, gin-clear waters and palm fronds waving overhead (though there’s nothing wrong with that).

European colonialism, the African slave trade and native Indian tribes have all played a part in shaping the local architecture, music, food and customs.

So you’re in for a diverse cultural experience as well as a beach escape when you ply the Caribbean waters.

The British Virgin Islands – with over 50 islands spanning 1,000 square miles – probably offer the quintessential tropical island experience in the Caribbean.

Popular for Caribbean yacht charters, they are indeed best explored by private yacht.

Chartering a yacht in the British Virgin Islands
Islands off Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands (Credit: Kansasphoto, Flickr)

Virgin Gorda:

Virgin Gorda is one of the largest of the BVIs.

An island of rolling hills, it’s famous for The Baths.

This collection of cottage-sized granite boulders at the water’s edge has created a wondrous labyrinth of caves and grottos, ideal for snorkeling and rock scrambling.

The Baths, Virgin Gorda
Exploring the grottoes of The Baths is one of the best things to do on Virgin Gorda

Jost Van Dyke:

At tiny Jost Van Dyke, drop into the Soggy Dollar Bar on beautiful White Bay.

You’ll likely wade ashore from your boat’s dinghy. But you’ll be in good company – many people swim ashore to sample the bar’s famous “Painkiller” cocktail.

It’s a wonderful concoction, made from premium dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, orange juice and fresh-grated nutmeg.

We tried it when visiting the Soggy Dollar Bar on a beach excursion from the Viking Sea cruise ship.

Tradewinds anchored in White Bay
Anchored in White Bay

Anegada:

Anegada (“drowned land” in Spanish) is the island of shipwrecks. Over 300 offshore wrecks of Spanish galleons, American privateers and British warships lure scuba divers to discover their nooks and crannies.

And if you love lobster, you’re in for a treat – Anegada lobster is the best in the Caribbean (the island even hosts an annual Anegada Lobster Festival).

Oh, and don’t overlook the pink flamingoes in the salt ponds at the western end of the island.

Anegada is a favorite spot to drop anchor on a yacht holiday
Pink flamingoes are found on Anegada (Credit: Mike’s Birds, Flickr)

So many other islands too:

Other popular spots in the BVIs include Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island (check out the chill Cooper Island Beach Club) and Sandy Spit, an oh-so-perfect uninhabited islet encircled by talc-white sand, off Green Cay.

2) Eastern Mediterranean

Romantic Venice, with its beautiful Grand Canal lined by palaces and baroque churches. Istanbul, with its mosques and bazaars and exotic east-meets-west culture.

These cities are on your travel bucket list, right?

Depending on your itinerary, your eastern Med yacht trip could take you there and to one or more of the following destinations too.

Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece:

You can only reach this extraordinary beach by boat.

The steep limestone cliffs surround some of the clearest water you’ll ever see.

Visiting Navagio Beach, Greece, on a chartered yacht

Climb 600 feet up to a monastery above Navagio Beach for terrific views and great pics

And what’s that striking rusted hulk on the white sand?

The wreck of the freightliner Panagiotis.

It ran aground in 1981 after a chase by the Greek navy, which suspected it of smuggling contraband (cigarettes, and maybe also wine and women).

One of the fun facts about Greece is that Navagio Beach is now probably the most photographed beach in Greece.

For a great travel shot, head up to the Agios Gergio Kremnao monastery 600 feet above the wreck – there’s a viewing platform where many pictures are taken.

Dubrovnik, Croatia:

Dubrovnik
The red rooftops of Dubrovnik…

Croatia’s long coastline is sprinkled with beaches, medieval towns and idyllic islands, and sailing in Croatia has become increasingly popular in recent years.

A great place to start or end a Croatian sailing trip is the historic city of Dubrovnik, which dates back to the 12th century.

Be sure to walk the Dubrovnik city walls surrounding the Old City.

Looking down, you’ll see monasteries, churches, palaces and outdoor cafés, along with children playing soccer, and you can peek through windows of people living in apartments and homes built into the wall.

Also visit the Franciscan Monastery, which has the third oldest pharmacy in Europe. Monks still use the medieval bowls and instruments to make medicines.

Santorini, Greece:

How about visiting Santorini on a chartered yacht?
Sigh… Santorini is just so darn pretty!

Volcanic Santorini is often voted the best island in the world.

Topped with white sugar-cube villages, it looks like a slice of vanilla-frosted chocolate cake with a huge bite taken out. It’s truly one of the most unique places in Greece!

Anchor off the capital of Fira, and you can ride a donkey up the 588 steps to get from the port to the town (or walk or take the cable car).

At sunset, people gather in the fairytale town of Oia to photograph the sky as it turns blood orange.

To stretch out your sea legs, plan to hike from Oia along the rim of the volcanic crater to Fira – stupendous sea views on either side will amply reward you.

Santorini hotel
Hanging out in the hotel pool in Oia…

Want to stay in a stunning cave hotel on Santorini? See our review of Ikies Traditional Houses

3) Western Mediterranean

Sun-drenched beaches, hidden coves and ports-of-call favored by celebrities (hello Beyoncé) – welcome to the western Mediterranean!

Easy to get to from major centers around the world, it’s a much-loved haunt for the super-yacht crowd.

Majorca, Spain:

Many consider Majorca (or Mallorca) the most attractive of the Spanish islands.

Of course, once docked, you must see the Gothic cathedral and its magnificent flying buttresses in the capital, Palma de Majorca.

Palma de Majorca
Palma de Majorca’s imposing Gothic cathedral

And maybe shop for shoes – we counted dozens of shoe stores when we visited the city!

For sights outside Palma, take the vintage narrow-gauge train that clackety-clacks through 13 tunnels on a one-hour scenic ride to the town of Soller.

Further up the north coast, Deia is a charming artists’ village with a sweet swimming cove.

Manarola, Liguria, Italy:

Manarola, Italy

Manarola is the oldest and second smallest of the Cinque Terre villages

One of the most authentic coastal Italian villages, tiny Manarola is part of the Cinque Terre chain along the Italian Riviera.

Rainbow-colored, Genoese-style tower houses cling to the steep rocky coast, all vying for views of the sea below.

There’s a lovely seaside walk (in fact, called the “Love Walk”) from Manarola to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five Cinque Terre villages – only 20 minutes, so no excuses!

And if you want to cool off with a swim, simply dive off the rocks beside the miniature harbor.

top yachting destinations - Manarola Cinque Terre love locks
Love locks in the shape of a heart on the “Love Walk” (Credit: Daniel Stockman, Flickr)

Corsica, France:

Sure, there’s St. Tropez and the French Riviera.

But Corsica is just so picturesque and diverse, it would be a shame to omit it from your yacht trip.

Bonifacio, Corsica
Perched atop limestone cliffs, Bonifacio is a lovely medieval town in Corsica

You’ll recall Napoleon Bonaparte came from Corsica. 

In the seaside capital of Ajaccio, you can visit the house where he was born (in 1769), now a museum.

Also pop into the superb Palais Fesch-Musee des Beaux Arts, established by his uncle, showcasing priceless canvases by Botticelli, Bellini, Titian and Veronese.

And don’t miss cruising by the towering red granite cliffs in the Scandola Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and ospreys.

Luxury yacht in Corsica
You’re sure to see some luxury yachts in Bonifacio!

5 Best luxury yacht charters

There are many yacht companies in the business of yacht charters.

Unless you have a recommendation from a friend or colleague, it’s difficult to know which company to work with though.

The following are some names that we’re familiar with and/or have a good rep in the industry.

1) The Moorings

We’ve seen many Moorings boats in the Caribbean and have friends who’ve personally chartered a catamaran in the BVIs with Moorings.

In business for some 50 years, the Moorings has a charter fleet of more than 400 yachts in 20+ places round the globe, including Thailand, the South Pacific, the Greek Islands and the Seychelles.

Yachts include a variety of styles, from power yachts and mono-hull sailboats to award-winning Robertson & Caine catamarans.

These cats range in size from 37 feet to 57-foot models with six cabins (all with private ensuite bathrooms), air-conditioning, a 46-inch flat screen TV and onboard WiFi.

The Moorings: Website

2) Tradewinds

Tradewinds has some 50 catamarans in French Polynesia, the Caribbean, Tonga, Croatia and Greece available for crewed charters.

Rates are all-inclusive, so you know exactly what your costs are right upfront.

You can choose from three different classes: Classic, Luxury and Flagship, each offering different levels of comfort.

In the top “extra pampering” Flagship category, for example, the catamaran is 70 feet long and wines are superior.

In the Grenadines, we sailed on a Luxury class cat (60 feet long), and were very impressed with the accommodations, food and service.

The master bedroom on one of Tradewinds’ larger crewed yachts. No roughing it here!

Want to share a charter with other couples and rent just one cabin? That option is available too.

And if you do a cabin charter in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you can split your stay between a catamaran and a luxury villa on the island of Mayreau.

Tradewinds: Website

3) Dream Yacht Charter

Found in 2000, Dream Yacht Charter is one of the biggest yacht charter companies in the world, with 1,000+ yachts in over 50 destinations globablly.

Bareboat, crewed and cabin charters are all offered.

(Rates for a crewed 6-person catamaran in the Bahamas start as low as $6,000 for the whole boat.)

Yacht holidays
On a Dream Yacht Charter in Thailand…

Dream Yacht Charter: Website

4) Intersailclub

Intersailclub is a yacht-sharing service offering individual cabin charters in destinations such as Italy’s Aeolian Islands and the Caribbean’s Grenadine islands.

They aim to match you up with like-minded travelers, according to the language you speak and activity interests.

Intersailclub: Website

5) International Yacht Charter Group

This company is a large yacht charter broker that works with privately-owned, crewed yachts around the world.

You tell them the yacht size you’re interested in, where and when you want to go, the number of people sailing and your budget, and they’ll get back to you with choices.

The International Yacht Charter Group offers four classes of vessels: mega yachts (over 101 feet long), motor yachts (less than 100 feet), catamarans and traditional sailing yachts.

Hmmm… That sleek 110-foot Alexia with water skis and all the toys looks like it would be fun for cruising Greece! (Now we just have to come up with a minimum of $60,000!)

International Yacht Charter Group: Website

How much to charter a yacht?

Yachting vacations
While not exactly cheap, a luxury yachting vacation is still within reach for many people

The cost of chartering a yacht depends on many factors – the size of the boat, whether it’s crewed or not, the destination (the Caribbean, which has many charter boats, is cheaper than the Galapagos, for example), whether it’s low season or high season, and so on.

All-inclusive yacht charters

In the Caribbean, rates for crewed catamarans or sailing boats are typically all-inclusive.

The cost includes three meals and snacks a day, all drinks (including wine and liquor), snorkel gear and perhaps onboard watersports equipment like a kayak and SUP board, fuel and cruising permits.

Extra charges on top include such things as tips for the crew, meals taken ashore and scuba diving.

Plus Expenses charters

The other way you may be charged for is on a “plus expenses” basis.

In addition to the yacht charter fee for the boat and crew, you pay for the food and drinks (according to your preferences), fuel, dockage, etc.

You’re asked to pay upfront an Advance Provisioning Allowance (APA), usually 25% to 35% of the base fee, and then pay any extra money (or get a refund) at the end of the trip, based on the actual cost.

Average cost to charter a yacht?

Expect to pay at least $2,000 USD p.p. for a week for a crewed, all-inclusive catamaran charter in the Caribbean, based on 6 guests onboard a catamaran with three guest cabins (minimum $12,000 for the week).

The average is probably closer to $2,500 to $3,300 p.p. for a week ($15,000 to $20,000 total) for a mid-range charter.

Pay more than $3,300 p.p. and you should expect a luxury yacht charter experience.

Additional reading on how to charter a yacht

On Islands.com | “10 Reasons to Consider a Yacht Charter for Your Next Vacation”

On the Telegraph | “The 30 Greatest Sailing Escapes to Experience in Your Lifetime”

On Forbes.com | “How the Moorings is Making Private Yacht Charters a Reality for Many”

On TripSavvy | “How to Charter a Yacht for the Ultimate Caribbean Boating Adventure”

On Conde Nast Traveler | “For the Ultimate Mediterranean Sailing Trip, Ditch the Captain and Crew”


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Yacht Charter Holidays

Photo credits: 4 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 26, 28 Tradewinds | 7 International Yacht Charter Group | 11 and 27 Dream Yacht Charter


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Angela Waterford

Monday 19th of August 2019

Wow, I didn't know that crewed boat charters have a captain and a cook in tow. If I were to choose, I think I'll look into the prices of the charters that are available where I'm going to take my vacation, so that I can make a budget for my planned trip. Maybe there are some companies that even offer discounts, so I'll check those out as well.

Janice and George

Monday 19th of August 2019

We'd expect you could get discounts for shoulder- or off-season charters. We always prefer shoulder season travel anyway :-).

Victoria

Monday 11th of February 2019

These are wonderful photographs guys & a really inspiring post!

Indeed, I have chartered a yacht. Once! In Vietnam.

And it wasn't really our plan to do so, but we wanted to take a trip out to a few of the islands and that was the only thing available. So we did!

Let me just say that having your nails done by not 1 but 6 delightful Vietnamese girls, and being fanned by them, certainly makes your day.

I don't like swimming in the open sea so while my tiny group of friends were leaping into the sea and diving under the turquoise sea, I stayed on board being treated like the Queen of Sheba and drinking champagne!

p.s. We obviously didn't pay a huuuuuge amount of money, but $2,000 USD p.p. for a week for a crewed, all-inclusive catamaran charter in the Caribbean, with a bunch of really good friends or family, would make a great treat!

Janice and George

Monday 11th of February 2019

Sounds like you had an unexpected but fun yacht holiday in Vietnam! And you're right, when you compare costs with other equivalent types of holidays, a private yacht charter in the Caribbean isn't outrageous :-).

Thomas

Friday 23rd of March 2018

Corsica is not so far from Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Saint-Tropez ;-). During a trip you can visit these places too on a yacht. Greetings from Nice! :)

Janice and George

Saturday 24th of March 2018

Welcome to our blog -- and thank you for commenting!

Sam

Wednesday 1st of April 2015

Now this is a fantastic list of top yachting places, the photos are breath taking. Very nice post!

Marilyn Jones

Sunday 8th of February 2015

I am impressed with your photos, the organization of the post and all the glorious destinations you took me to through your words and images. Very well done!!