While vacationing on a Charter Yacht, you’ll find yourself surrounded by not only new destinations and cultures but also a new variety of terminology, phrasing and protocols that you might not be familiar with prior to yachting. There are onboard practices and etiquettes that we can share with you from the time of initial communication, to booking your charter yacht and arrival on board, that will better prepare you for what we hope will be one of your happiest and most memorable experiences.
When booking your yacht charter, a deposit (50%) is customarily required at the time of your contract signing. The balance is due 30 days prior to the start of your yacht charter vacation. The Advanced Provisioning Allowance (APA) and any additional pre-paid expenses also are due at this time. Throughout your charter, your Captain (or Purser) is responsible for keeping track of all consumable expenses relating to you and your guests, and for the purchase of any incidentals that you require during your time on board. Generally, there is only a slight change between the estimated and actual expenses incurred during a charter; however, your personal taste and preferences will dictate the final expense overall. A full accounting of your expenses will be presented to you at the end of your charter for your review.
Although the whole crew of your charter is there to serve you, it is protocol to direct your requests to the Captain. Please advise your Captain well in advance about logistics of guest arrivals and departures, travel ports, itineraries and desired guest activities while on board.
Soon after boarding your charter yacht, there will be a safety meeting and an introduction of your entire yacht crew. Your Captain will direct his or her Officer-in-Charge and Chief Steward(ess) onboard to explain their duties and share whom best to direct your various questions or requests while on charter. On a larger yacht, a Deckhand or Second Stew may not have the authority to carry out your wishes, which is why an introduction to each crew member’s responsibilities is important for you to learn. This will ultimately make communications most effective with the least complication.
Requests pertaining to the boat’s interior, such as swapping stateroom assignments, special laundry instructions or changes to the menu are the duties of the Chief Stew on a larger yacht, where there is more crew than a Captain plus Cook/Mate. Each yacht is different, so always ask the Captain before attempting to assist the crew with their duties. It is the duty of the crew collectively to make sure your time on board is spent relaxing, with everything as you so desire!
There is one protocol that is almost always followed and that is a “no shoes please” rule while onboard. A basket for shoes by the “gangway” or “passerelle” (the boarding ladder). Dark-soled shoes and boots can make marks and dents in teak decks and floors, no matter how careful you are. Your “street shoes” can track in dust, dirt, mud and things that can potentially stain and or ruin a vessel’s custom flooring and expensive carpeting. Therefore, it is customary for owners and captains to request that guests “leave their shoes at the door,” and bring clean slippers or soft sandals to be used while onboard the yacht. Often these are provided for your use on larger yachts for the duration of your charter.
Many charter yachts are equipped with “tenders” and a variety of water toys that provide you with hours of fun in the beautiful waters of your destinations. When anchored, you might find the “toys” already waiting in the water before you even wake up. Please, always, alert your Captain or the crew member in charge of these toys before using them. For your safety and enjoyment, have a crew member give you a thorough orientation before using. There are usually local regulations that may even require a boating safety session for everyone before they can use the tenders and toys.
You can always inquire of your charter agent regarding these water toys how to obtain U.S. personal watercraft licenses in advance of your charter, if they are a requirement for your destinations.
It is also important to be aware of different rules governing watercraft in different ports around the world. Jet skis are prohibited in many places, as well as water-skiing. Your crew will provide these guidelines and offer alternative activities of interest when this applies. Please communicate in advance with your charter agent if there are particular water toys you desire on your vacation, so she or he can find the yacht with just the right amenities onboard.
On most yachts, the Galley is the closest thing to your own “personal restaurant”. The protocol for entering the Galley is usually “by invitation only”. Your chef for the charter is typically hard at work preparing for your next amazing meal, and may also be cooking for the crew. Respect for the timing and professionalism required of this position is most appreciated. This consideration helps to make sure everything is served to your expectations, and that your crew is fed and functioning as “a well-oiled machine”. Most chefs enjoy welcoming guests into the Galley for a tour when he or she has a few minutes to spare. Some yachts feature a Country Kitchen-style galley, with a table where guests can sit and watch the chef at work. Let your charter agent know whether you prefer more formal food service or whether you like to watch so that they can best present you with the appropriate yacht and chef options for your charter.
Special dietary restrictions, favorite foods and preferred beverages are to be stocked onboard and are noted in the Preference Sheets provided to you by your charter agent. These Preference Sheets are the best way to notify your chef well in advance of your trip, your food and beverage desires. If your itinerary or plans for dining ashore or onboard include celebrating any special occasion, these detailed sheets are the best way to communicate these plans. It is always appreciated if you give the chef as much advanced notice and detail as possible so that they can provision and best assist you with your plans, for the best outcome overall.
On smaller charter vessels, the guests and crew generally enjoy a more casual relationship, dining and sharing daily activities. This is part of the overall experience of these types of charters. Getting to know your crew and having them as your experienced port area guides, ambassadors and instructors for new experiences, can add to the most memorable parts of your charter.
On larger yachts, the relationship between guests and crew members is typically more formal. Unless there is a special celebration, the crew does not eat with the charter guests. There is a greater separation of sleeping and dining quarters with likely separate entrances from the guest accommodations providing the most privacy for everyone aboard the yacht. It is up to you, the guest charterer, to communicate your comfort level to ensure the greatest satisfaction for all. Dining with the Captain, who can provide more insight to the overall experience, is always encouraged!
There are many onshore activities while on charter. There are pristine beaches for exploring and sunbathing, water-sports, marine life exploration, shopping and experiencing all the cultural nuances each new port offers. While you are ashore, the interior crew will make use of that time to ensure you return to a freshly cleaned and prepared yacht by making up your cabins and common spaces, preparing meals and, most often, work on creating that perfect signature cocktail for you to enjoy on your return! Your Captain and crew are your most important connection to knowing how to make the most of your time ashore. Please do not hesitate to inquire about attractions and sights to see for each destination you visit. Also, be sure to have a plan with your yacht crew for two-way communication: for your return to the yacht, possible changes of plans, and for any unforeseen need for assistance while ashore.
It’s customary within the charter industry (as for most service industries), to give your Captain and crew a gratuity at the end of your charter vacation for exceptional services rendered. The charter industry standard for the crew gratuity is 10 to 20 percent of the basic charter rate. Of course, this amount is always at your discretion, and can be scaled up or down depending on your satisfaction with the crew’s service for your stay on board. There often can be crew members aboard with whom you don’t interact or see as often as others, but they are working equally hard to make your vacation a success. The gratuity should be given to the Captain to be distributed evenly among the crew, unless you specify otherwise. Please make the Captain aware of any special services provided to you or your guests by any particular crew member, should that be the case.