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How to Charter a Yacht (and the Best Yacht Charters)

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 frolicking in tropical playgrounds.

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

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

How to charter a private yacht
Yacht holidays are a great way for families and couples to vacation together

How to charter a yacht

Chartering a private yacht
Feel the wind in your hair as you sail the salty seas

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

Different from cruises – even small ship sailing cruises – yacht charter vacations allow you to customize your own itinerary, giving you the flexibility to sail where you want, when you want.

Intrigued? Then carry on reading our guide on how to charter a yacht – and have a very special sailing vacation!

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!

Renting a luxury yacht
Fancy splurging on a luxury yacht charter?

Crewed yacht charters vs. bareboat charters

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.

We were served these delicious egg tarts one morning for breakfast on our Tradewinds sailing trip.
We were served these delicious egg tarts one morning for breakfast on our Tradewinds sailing trip

Then you discuss the day’s activities with your captain .

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 the life on a crewed yacht charter – one we got to experience on a Tradewinds catamaran yacht charter in the Caribbean.

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

Crewed charter:

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).

If you’re looking for a luxury yacht vacation, a crewed charter is the way to go.

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

Bareboat charter:

You can charter smaller yachts on a bareboat basis.

A bareboat yacht charter 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. Larger yachts usually need their own skipper (and probably 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…

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

Luxury cabin on a sailboat
Sailboats come in all flavors; some deluxe combo power-and-sail catamarans even have small pools

Another question to consider is the type of boat. Do 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!

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. That can translate into more onboard amenities. There might be room for a hot tub in which to sip gin-and-tonics as you cruise along.

The bigger the motor yacht, the closer it becomes to being a superyacht (discussed in more detail below).

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

Of course, motor yachts guzzle fuel, so that will add to the cost of the charter. (And fuel costs aren’t cheap these days.)

And they’re less environmentally friendly.

Best yacht destinations

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

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 parts of the world like the Indian Ocean and even Antarctica.

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

1) British Virgin Islands (BVIs)

Tortola is a popular yachtie destination in the BVI

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.

A popular destination for Caribbean yacht charters, they are indeed best explored by private yacht.

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

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.

Sailboat 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!

Pretty pink flamingoes on Anegada
Pretty pink flamingoes are found on Anegada

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:

Embracing the Adriatic Sea, Croatia’s long coastline is sprinkled with come-hither beach coves, medieval towns and idyllic islands. There’s a reason 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.

Dubrovnik
The red rooftops of Dubrovnik…

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:

So you’d like to rent a yacht for a week in Greece?

Consider including Santorini in your itinerary. 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!

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

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.

You may even want to extend your stay in Santorini by bunking down in a luxury cave hotel like the stunning Ikies Traditional Houses.

Santorini hotel
Hanging out in the hotel pool in Oia…

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 superyacht crowd.

Majorca, Spain:

Many consider Majorca (or Mallorca) the most attractive of the Spanish islands. One of Spain’s Balearic Islands, it’s another one of the best places for a charter vacation in the summer season.

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

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:

Along the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places in Italy.

And tiny Manarola is one of the most authentic coastal Italian villages there.

Manarola, Italy

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

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.

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 yacht charters and brokers

There are many yacht companies in the business of chartering yachts.

But unless you have a recommendation from a friend or colleague, it’s difficult to know which company to work with to find the right yacht for your trip.

First-time charterers might want to look into getting a broker to help them find the right yacht for their trip (especially for the best charter boats).

For approved brokers, try:

Yacht charter brokers who are members of the above organizations have to meet certain standards, and so they typically offer high quality services.

A couple drink champagne on their yacht charter vacation
A yacht charter vacation always calls for bubbly!

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. They offer some of the best yacht rentals around.

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 come in 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

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

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.

The top “extra pampering” Flagship category offers some of the best luxury yacht charters. Your catamaran is 70 feet long, for example, and you’ll savor superior wines.

In the Grenadines, we sailed on a Luxury class cat (60 feet long), and were very impressed with the accommodations, food and service. (We also had the chance to go scuba diving, where we hunted lionfish, important to help combat the lionfish invasion in the Caribbean.)

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

Yacht holidays
On a Dream Yacht Charter in Thailand…

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

Bareboat, crewed and cabin charters are all offered.

There are also different options for crewed charters.

You can get a skippered charter, where you have a professional captain with you on the boat.

Then there are easy crewed charters in the Greek Islands and Croatia. They include the services of a skipper and hostess, along with breakfast and light lunches. You go ashore for dinners on your own.

Fully crewed charters are the most luxurious option. They include gourmet meals and discreet 5-star service.

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 other water toys looks like it would be fun for cruising Greece! (Now we just have to come up with a minimum of $68,000 USD!)

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

Private yacht charter prices vary greatly.

Factors to consider:

The cost of chartering a yacht depends on many factors, including:

  • The size of the boat
  • The number of guests
  • Whether it’s crewed or not
  • The destination (the Caribbean, which has many charter boats, is cheaper than the Galapagos, for example)
  • The duration of your trip (one week, or longer?)
  • Whether it’s low season or high season (off-season prices may be more affordable than you realize)

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 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 price, and then pay any additional expenses (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 $2,300 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 closer to $3,000 p.p. for a week ($18,000 total) for a mid-range charter.

Pay $4,500 p.p. and up, and you should expect a luxury yacht charter experience.

Don’t forget to add on tips for the crew members!

The standard is around 15% of the base charter rate, which you pay at the end of the charter. So you need to budget for this additional cost too.

Luxury superyacht charters

Luxury superyacht in Greece
Superyachts can’t help but promise a super vacation!

So you’re thinking of something larger? And fancy! A big luxury charter yacht to satisfy the pickiest people in your group.

What’s a super yacht?

Any motor yacht over 80 feet is usually considered a superyacht. They often carry higher-end water toys like jet skis, and you can expect lots of amenities to keep 10 guests very happy, thank you very much.

For the ultimate charter experience, splash out on a yacht over 150 feet long. Eye-popping amenities might include a swimming pool, movie theater, fully equipped gym – possibly even a personal submarine and helicopter landing pad!

Superyacht charter cost:

How much does it cost to charter a superyacht?

What price is the moon? Okay, not quite the price of the moon, but getting there.

Expect to pay up to $150,000 USD a week for a 100-foot mega yacht (though you might luck out and find a luxury yacht charter for as low as $60,000 USD).

That wraps up our guide on how to charter a private yacht!

Private yacht charters are a wonderful way to enjoy a water-focused vacation – and they’re becoming more popular.

Rather than staying put in a hotel, you sail (or motor) to new islands and destinations as the whim moves you. It’s the ultimate in vacation freedom!

In fact, your yacht charter could just end up becoming a trip of a lifetime.

Discover how else to enjoy the world’s oceans and waterways!

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Tall ship sailing | See our Star Clippers review, and find out what it’s like to cruise the Caribbean on the Star Flyer.

Planning your next trip?

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GetYourGuide | Check out the best local guided tours and book skip-the-line tickets to attractions.

Discover Cars | Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

World Nomads | Never travel without insurance! World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.

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Chartering a private yacht
Yacht Charter Holidays

Photo credits: 4 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 5, 6, 9, 16, 27, 29 Tradewinds | 7 International Yacht Charter Group | 28 Dream Yacht Charter


About the authors:

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

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

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!!