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  • Writer's pictureCaptain Newport

You Might be Surprised How Much it Costs to Charter a Yacht Right Now


With the cruising industry in tatters and the desire for remote travel greater than ever, chartering a yacht can sound appealing.

But what does it cost? And will rates decrease during the coronavirus pandemic? Yachting has long been the terrain of the ultra-wealthy — and yes, some charter prices are akin to a down payment on a house. But for others, charters can be cheaper than a week on a cruise ship for a family of four. 

First things first: What exactly is a yacht?

Understanding what makes a boat a yacht isn’t as simple as it sounds.

“This is a never-ending discussion,” said Daniel Ziriakus, president and chief operating officer of Northrop & Johnson, a luxury charter and superyacht broker headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “In the 80s, a 100-plus-foot vessel was considered a top-of-the-market superyacht, stretching yacht engineering to its max capacity. Today, a yacht this size is considered to be on the ‘smaller’ side.”

While there’s no universal agreement, a “yacht” connotes a boat that is large enough that passengers can comfortably spend a significant amount of time on it. Aesthetics count too, of course. Massive, luxury vessels easily fit the label — like the 590-foot Azzam, one of the largest yachts in the world — but boats on the smaller end are harder to define.

Some say yachts start at 33 feet, though others in the yachting world believe they must be bigger.

“Generally, a yacht is anything larger than 24 meters or 78 feet,” said Ziriakus. Jay Gustin, a boat owner and captain who spent 28 years chartering vessels in Alaska, Panama and Mexico, agrees. “A yacht is like a mansion; it’s anything you want it to be — it’s a perspective,” he said. “But 33 feet is too small.”

Boats have progressively gotten larger over the decades, which has blurred the definition of what constitutes a “yacht.” Andrea Perocchi / EyeEm

Yachting terms for larger boats are equally difficult to pin down. To Ziriakus, superyachts are 120 feet or longer, megayachts top 200 feet or more, and gigayachts represent a newer breed of yacht that spans 400 feet or more, though he notes these definitions are “open for interpretation” among the industry.

As to one other bit of semantics, why do you rent a boat and charter a yacht? Boat rentals describe the practice of taking smaller vessels for a short period of time — an afternoon or the day. You are the captain, there is no crew and you are responsible for bringing along all supplies.

Chartering a yacht, on the other hand, entails taking possession of a larger boat for a longer period of time. There are three types of charters to consider, which greatly affect the price:

  1. Bareboat: Similar to a boat rental, you get only the boat. You hire the crew (or captain the boat yourself, if you’re licensed to do so) and pay for fuel, food and all other expenses.

  2. Cabin: You charter only a room, not the entire boat. It’s the yachting version of a small group tour and ideal for the socially inclined who lack the funds or travel companions to charter an entire yacht.

  3. Crewed: This full-service option comes with all crew and provisions supplied. This is the scenario that is most often sold in movies and music videos as the ultimate in solo luxury travel.

Factors that affect a charter price 

The yacht itself The single most important determinant of cost is the yacht, specifically its size, design and — to a lesser extent — age. Research conducted by Northrop & Johnson found that the number of cabins and guest capacity followed by the reputation of the yacht affect the price of more expensive yacht charters the most. 

The type of yacht you book can affect the cost too. There are sportfishing, sailing, motor, open (high performance) and expedition yachts, as well as multi-hulled catamarans, gullet yachts (motor-sail hybrids) and classic yachts (those built between the 1920s and 1970s). Motor yachts are, by far, the most popular type of chartered yacht, followed by sailing yachts — and they tend to be slightly more expensive too.

The cost to charter a private yacht

Bareboat charters are the least expensive option. Yachtico, an international booking platform, has yacht charters in places like the Bahamas, Greece and Thailand for well under $5,000 for a week. Bareboat charters are also popular in the U.S. Pacific Northwest in places like Anacortes, Washington — known as the gateway to the state’s San Juan Islands — where 64-foot boats can be chartered for around $1,600 per night, depending on the season. Cabin charters can be even less expensive, though these are priced per person. Dream Yacht Charter has week-long cabin charters in places like the British Virgin Islands, Mauritius and Bali for as low as $1,200 per person.

Are prices negotiable in light of the coronavirus?

Discounting is uncommon in the charter yacht industry, said Ziriakus. In fact, negotiations can sometimes work the other way around.

“One can always try to negotiate a couple of percentage points, but especially during high season, there’s very little chance as demand outweighs supply by quite a bit,” he said. “We’re seeing more people offering more money to get a particular vessel.”

Furthermore, the owners of superyachts and higher are very wealthy individuals that generally don’t need the income generated from the charter, he added.

What do the rates include?

There are two categories of charters: all-inclusive or separated charges.  All-inclusive charters have a set rate and usually include food, beverages, fuel and entertainment such as diving and fishing equipment.

Charters that itemize expenses charge a base price for the boat and crew and then pay for all other charges through an Advance Provisioning Allowance, or an APA. This amount is paid before the trip and is typically around 30% of the yacht’s rate.

Extra costs to consider

It depends on your agreement but docking fees (which may be several hundred to several thousand dollars per night in places like Capri and Sardinia), insurance and taxes (which can range from 4% in the Bahamas to 21% in Spain) may not be included in the charter fee. Fuel, which on larger yachts can top $1,000 an hour, is another point to consider.

Crew gratuity likely isn’t included either. It can range from 15% to 20% of the base fee, depending on the accepted standards in the charter destination. Tips in the U.S. are on the higher end.

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