Chartering a large yacht or superyacht is a luxurious and unforgettable experience, but it's important to be aware of the proper etiquette and behavior expected on board. Whether you are new to chartering, or if you have been invited on board as a guest, here are some detailed tips and advice to ensure you have a smooth and enjoyable time on board.
Most people have grown up with parental principles and even dogma about what we should and shouldn’t do and how we should and shouldn’t behave. However, when on vacation, it’s easy to let things slip. Sometimes it has been observed that the meaning of vacation implies that guests might throw off traditional, social behaviors, with occasionally deleterious results.
Monaco yacht broker, Christopher Craven of Super Yachts Monaco, and Kate Kalamaga of Tropicalboat Luxury Yacht Charters recently provided insightful feedback regarding proper etiquette and advice for those who wish to charter large yachts. These vessels can range between tens of thousands to over $300,000 and up, a week. Do these amounts of money infer that guests can do what they want? Not really.
Chris and Kate and their teams share their knowledge and insights and answer some of the typical and a few more nuanced questions. Their experience of yachts, crews, and destinations along with acute attention to details usually result in a perfected charter experience, especially when guests attend to yacht etiquette.
What are the rules around shoes on the yacht?
“Almost all yachts have a “no shoes” or “bare feet” policy. During events where carpets and protection are laid to protect the teak and interior carpets, shoes are sometimes approved, but heels and teak are not the best of friends, so guests are strongly guided away from such footwear.”
What about smoking or vaping on a yacht?
“In principle, smoking and vaping is never allowed in the interior of the yacht and guests are generally requested to smoke outside on the decks. If you do smoke, then ensure the doors are closed to the interior.”
May a pet come on board with you?
“Yes, but you should always check the yacht owner’s policy on pets. There are plenty of owners that bring their own dogs onboard, but for charters, the usual process is to ask for permission. You must detail the breed and weight of your dog for example, and often, be prepared to pay a refundable security deposit of anything from 20,000-50,000 Euro.”
“Also, the crew are not expected to walk dogs, but dogs are often keen to get off the yacht for a stroll, so the crew might very well offer, but in most cases the owner of the dog takes them ashore.”
How much should you tip?
“Tips and their size are a complicated topic, as it varies so much based on personal preference. The general rule within the yachting community is to provide a tip of 10% of the charter fee (not the total cost including VAT and APA) to the crew. APA is an acronym for the Advanced Provising Allowance, sailing yachts have APA at around 20-25% on top of their charter price. Motor yachts tend to use more fuel, so they will usually be on the higher end of the bracket: between 30% and 40% of their charter price.
The tip can come from the excess APA left at the end of the charter or is often sent directly to the yacht crew by wire transfer the week following the charter if the client wishes to leave more than what remains in the APA. Cash is seen far less now and so these two methods are the general norm.”
Guests are expected to take safety protocols very seriously
“Surrounded by stunning interiors or seated on the aft deck of the yacht, at a calm anchorage with a glass of champagne in your hand, one can easily underestimate the importance of the safety brief on ‘Hour One’ of the charter at embarkation. However, when things go wrong at sea, they generally go wrong very quickly and with very serious consequences, normally at night for some reason!
Whilst the general feel onboard a yacht is that the crew are there to look after you, and they certainly always make you feel special, they are principally there for your safety. The safety training provided, and the strict guidelines followed by the flag state under which you are sailing, mean that you have exceptionally competent and well-trained crew there to guide you to safety, and to respect this is paramount of any yacht charterer. Despite how young and inexperienced they might appear to be in some cases, they know their way around the yacht in all circumstances and you must take what they say when it comes to safety seriously.
Guests love to jump off yachts from different levels or hop in for a swim off the back of the yacht. Letting a crew member know about your activity is vital, so they will radio the whole crew to let them know that guests are in the water.
They also often assume that as the yacht comes with water toys, and you can use them all, but be aware that licenses may be required for jet skis and some other toys, so ask well in advance. Training can either be arranged onboard by the crew, or through a short course pre-charter to allow you full access to everything onboard (apart from the tenders.)”
Are there any rules on bringing uninvited guests?
“Generally, yacht captains are very flexible with who comes onto the yacht if they have prior permission from their owner, the charterer, or there is a scheduled meeting. All yachts have their limitation of how many passengers they can have at sea, so if this is respected, all is well. Superyachts attract all sorts of attention; thus, all lines of ‘defense’ are taken very seriously. Tight communication with the captain and/or chief stewardess as to any new guests is very important.”
Are there any other general interior rules that should be followed?
“The bottom line is to have basic respect for someone else's property. Walking through the yacht with wet swimming trunks, bringing red wine into the salon where there is a white carpet, children ‘handling’ chocolate, are all not tolerated. The list goes on, but it all comes back to respect and understanding.
I know of yachts that indeed do not allow red wine inside the main salon, do not allow clients to sit on certain sofas with sun cream on, and some where jean studs are frowned upon, due to the amount of varnished wood. As a backup, owners can often request a security deposit to cover accidental damage and charterers can take out liability insurance so all bases can be covered on both sides.”
What type of luggage should you bring on board?
“When chartering a smaller sailing yacht or production boat, foldable/squashable soft luggage is always better for the crew, especially if you have a full yacht of guests as storage is often not very good.”
Free products, on a yacht?
“If the guest like the products the owner has offered in the bathrooms or any sun creams that have been supplied on your trip, you can always ask the chief stewardess if you can take some extras with you at the end of the charter. Do not simply presume you can sweep them all up like you might in a hotel. Sometimes, the crew will even give you branded gifts, such as towels to remember the stay, but it is always better to ask first.
Discretionary behaviors and privacy
On the other side of the Atlantic lies Miami, Florida, home to Kate Kalamaga the founder and owner of Tropicalboat Luxury Yacht Charters, and Rentals. Kate discussed another dimension of proper behavior on luxury yachts, focusing on discretionary behaviors. She illustrated the concept of invaded privacy and its consequences, sub texturally defining the need for exceptional security requirements, especially regarding celebrities and ultra-high net worth (UHNW) clients. Kate explained:
“Many luxury yacht owners and charter guests take their privacy onboard very seriously, to the extent that many staff and crew are required to sign comprehensive non-disclosure agreements (NDAs.) The penalty for breaking the terms of an NDA can be severe, including legal liability, monetary fines, or criminal charges.
In addition, it is every staff and crew member's responsibility to safeguard sensitive and personal information in the interest of safety and security, as stated by standard clauses in mandatory seafarer employment agreements (SEAs.) It is also generally accepted as poor, and inexcusable behavior to expose personal details about a guest’s lifestyle or family, especially on social media.
One incident is where Jay-Z's yacht gangway was mobbed by fans during a holiday because of a seemingly innocent tweet. Posting content on social media could mean geo-locating tags can pinpoint the location of the yacht. This is also an obvious safety concern, especially when family members and children are involved. For example, the Beckhams shared in their new documentary their receipt of kidnap threats from the very day their first son was born. But it is also an opportunity for overzealous fans and paparazzi to find them and crash an otherwise peaceful holiday.”
And for a few more words of advice:
Plan in advance
Book your yacht well in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure the best options. For instance, refer to the note below to consider pre-assigning cabins.
Clearly communicate your preferences for itinerary, activities, cuisine, and any special requests to the charter company or captain beforehand. This will help the crew tailor your experience to your preferences. Be specific about your food and beverage preferences, activities you'd like to enjoy, and any dietary restrictions.
Yachts have different cabins. Some have multiple state rooms, others may have just one or two principal cabins. The lead charterer needs to think through the personalities who will be onboard, and should decide cabin allocations for all guests in advance to avoid any tensions prior to going onboard. These sorts of situations are important to discuss upfront with your charter broker so that they can find a yacht that will keep everyone happy.
Consider bringing a nanny if you have small kids
A yacht can provide a fun adventure for kids, but don’t expect the crew to be your babysitters. If you are bringing small children expect to look after them yourself or bring a nanny.
Don’t do anything illegal
There is zero tolerance aboard yachts for any illegal or illicit activities. A captain and crew risk losing their license and therefore their livelihood if they accept any such behavior, and the yacht itself could be seized and impounded. Depending on the country and activity people could also face time in jail. So simply don’t engage in illegal activities, including bringing illegal drugs or weapons onboard.
Respect crew privacy
Don’t enter the private crew areas without a specific invitation. Simply respect their privacy. And aboard some yachts the galley may be a private area that you should leave to the chef unless invited.
These issues of etiquette, discretion, and thoughtfulness are not new, but have taken on more relevance, especially as social media can now minimize privacy. The idea of discretion in all matters was used as a lesson in Shakespeare in the 1500’s, long before super yachts, extreme wealth, or fame. One of Shakespeare’s characters (Falstaff in Henry IV) said, “Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor.”
As usual, he was ahead of his time.