In recent years, upmarket travelers have gravitated to small-ship ocean and river cruising, both of which offer the sought-after combination of relative intimacy, personalized service, gourmet, prepared-to-order cuisine and soft adventure excursions. Along with per-diem fares that typically range from $700 to $1,000 per day, these voyages come with their own set of high expectations.
But with a near-total cruise industry shutdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, private yacht charters are conveniently filling that luxe niche, offering guests a mix of exploration and relaxation, with the added safety and security of a private yacht. Social distancing is, in essence, inherent to yachting.
And while yachts can’t offer all of the public areas and features found on small, ocean-going or river cruise vessels, they do present – after months of isolation – a viable option for families and friends to “quaranteam” by traveling together and reconnecting aboard these safe sanctuaries at sea. Vessel capacity varies by company, but the yachts typically accommodate from 8 to 12 guests on worldwide voyages ranging from 3 to 15 days.
All of the operators below are following current health and safety procedures to mitigate the coronavirus threat, and are sanitizing all high-touch surfaces before and after charters. And although many operate in several regions around the world, the current focus is mostly on sailings in Mexico, the Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands, bowing to the realities of destinations now open to US travelers. Some of the industry’s leading players in the luxury yacht charter niche follow.
“The Club” offers weeklong, private itineraries for up to 8 travelers. Fall dates for the 7-day excursions to the Bahamas or Virgin Islands begin in November 2020 and run through summer 2021. And since the club’s yachts sail in warm waters year-round, off-the-boat options include swimming, snorkeling, diving, hiking and day visits to remote beaches. A minimum 2-day turnaround between each trip guarantees that the yachts are cleaned and sanitized prior to the arrival of the next group.
Exclusive Resorts is a members-only vacation club that accepts only 100 new families per year. Weeklong yacht charters range from $65,000 to $75,000 and are truly all-inclusive, encompassing even crew gratuities, which typically comprise 10 to 20 percent of the charter fee. Once a reservation is made, members work with a dedicated Yacht Concierge – at no extra cost – to assist them with every aspect of their vacation, from menu customization to planning private island excursions with off-the-beaten-path exclusivity.
Dream Yacht Charter
Building on 20 years of experience, Dream Yacht Charter now offers a portfolio in excess of 1,250 yachts sailing in over 60 worldwide destinations, representing a wide range of voyage options in multiple budget ranges. Travelers can choose from bareboat (you crew and stock provisions), skippered (hire a skipper), by-the-cabin (reserve a private cabin on a guaranteed departure with other guests), crewed (full professional crew, customized menu and itinerary) or sabbatical (sail for a few months – or up to a year).
The company’s yachts sail in the warm waters of the Bahamas, Tahiti, the Caribbean and Central America, as well as close-to-home destinations served from ports in Annapolis, MD, and Ft. Lauderdale. And for those looking for a true getaway once travel restrictions are lifted, the Greek Isles, Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, the Indian Ocean and South Pacific beckon.
The company’s flagship all-inclusive, private crewed charters accommodate up to 10 guests and are priced between $25,550 – $49,410 per week, depending on date and destination.
VINE Yacht Charters
Contrary to popular belief, yacht charters and affordable luxury aren’t mutually exclusive concepts, as evidenced by VINE Yacht Charters’ luxury catamarans sailing in New England, the Bahamas and Caribbean. Featuring a mix of sailing and power catamarans, the company’s boats sleep from 6 to 10 guests in modern, queen-bedded cabins. For those who need to work while underway, the skipper can sail near islands with solid connectivity. But when it’s time to relax, it’s bye-bye WiFi.
While in the warm waters of the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, VINE’s guests can commune with nature’s beautiful coral reefs and marine life just off the boat using provided snorkel and scuba gear.
Onboard chefs may tempt the taste buds at breakfast with Caribbean French toast topped with fried bananas and coconut, or go classic with smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels. A typical lunch menu might feature sautéed scallops and crispy prosciutto with roasted tomatoes over white beans, while dinner fare teases the palate with dishes like confit duck ravioli with sage and hazelnut butter. Irish cream tiramisu offers a finishing touch.
VINE’s pricing is all-inclusive, encompassing crew costs, cuisine, the ship’s bar, taxes, fees and use of all water toys and equipment. Seven-day itineraries range from $20,000 to $62,000.
Yacht Charters International
Despite the common perception, all meetings and incentive events haven’t completely gone virtual; some have just evolved more creatively. Whether it’s a team building event, an award function or a work retreat, Yacht Charters International is ready to fill the need with a fleet of luxury catamarans, power yachts, mega yachts and even super yachts sailing from Mexico, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
For added security during these unsure times, each yacht goes through a complete sanitization process prior to and directly following each charter, and crew members perform temperature checks regularly.
With a diverse collection of modern yachts situated in alluring worldwide destinations, The Moorings portfolio sails in exotic locales like the Seychelles, Tahiti and Thailand. Right now, however, due to current COVID-19 realities, the company’s yachts are hosting US groups primarily in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Tahiti and Central America.
Fully crewed charters on the company’s sail or power catamarans accommodate up to 10 guests and are staffed with a captain and chef (plus steward/stewardess on larger vessels). Fares include all meals, snacks and beverages; fully-stocked bar with beer, wine, liquor, soft drinks and water; WiFi where available; Ralph Lauren linens; and double staterooms with private lavatory and shower.
The Moorings’ custom-built catamarans feature forward seating areas, electric swim platforms and raised fly bridges with wrap-around seating.
Tropic Ocean Airways
Considering the time, money and logistics spent in arranging a private yacht charter, flying your group via a commercial airline to the port of embarkation could defeat the mission’s original objective of a safe, secure vacation. That’s where Tropic Ocean Airways comes in.
The company’s fleet of 13 Cessna Caravans (all crewed with 2 pilots), based in Fort Lauderdale, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Antigua and New York, are ready to fly up to 8 guests to meet yachts in the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
To ease the air-yacht transfer, 11 of Tropic’s Cessnas are amphibious, allowing them to land at sea just yards from the yacht, where tenders then ferry the guests aboard. Alternatively, where available, guests may deplane right onto the yacht’s aft platform. And pre-clearance of Bahamian immigration can be facilitated by the company’s staff in Florida, making the journey that much easier.
One-way rates start at $1,300 (per group) and rise commensurate with flight time/distance flown. Tropic Ocean Airways will also work with clients coming from farther points to arrange commercial or charter air.