The Yacht, the Crew, and You: Yacht Charter Etiquette
for Smooth Sailing
How exciting! You’ve come up with the perfect way
to celebrate an upcoming birthday or holiday – or you’ve just decided a day
(or several days!) on the water is the perfect remedy to clear out the
mental cobwebs. You’re booking a private yacht charter – because you deserve
You’ve done your homework to arrange the perfect
day. You’ve worked with a reputable charter broker to find the crème de la
crème of luxury sport yachts right for you, calculated the finances and
payments, figured out the route and invited your guests. But there is one
more preparation step needed to ensure a great trip.
Charter Etiquette 101. Yes, there may be some
things you don’t know about how to conduct yourself on a yacht. You may not
be used to traveling with crew to take care of your every need, and you may
not be used to the yacht environment. Before you depart, it’s best to “get
on board” with yacht etiquette that will keep you and your guests happy,
make your crew happy, and will create a smooth charter for all.
well. The luxury rental yacht will be your home for the
next few hours or days, depending on your charter. Well, it is not exactly
your home…it belongs to an owner, a real person who keeps it in tip top
shape for you and who cares if it is kept clean and intact. As soon as you
set foot onboard, you will appreciate the gorgeous furnishings, pristinely
clean staterooms and that “I’m on vacation” feeling. Appreciate it.
Try not to scratch the furniture or spill your red wine.
safety briefings. And actually listen. The captain and crew
are there to serve you, but also to keep you safe. Their pointers on how to
disembark, communication and equipment instructions are there for you. You
will enjoy your trip more knowing you’ll know what to do “just in case.”
rules…or not. Most luxury yacht owners allow smoking
on the exterior levels and decks, but not inside. This is not designed to
limit your enjoyment, but these days, these rules are the norm. It will
ensure that the next charterer can enjoy a smoke-free environment.
your shoes. If you are attending a party on a rental yacht,
or inviting guests to your own party, it might be nice if you let everyone
know that once they arrive, you are all going barefoot. Upon boarding, there
will be a shoe basket for all of the shoes. This is to protect the carpet
and decks from not only sand and dirt but stilettos. (Not to mention that
once the cruise begins, the crew doesn’t want you to fall during a big
the water toys. Jet skis, tenders and water skis – what a
blast! Yet with a few key communication rules in place, your experience will
be a lot safer. Listen to the crew’s recommendations on navigation, speed,
signals, no alcohol rules and more. And respect their decision when it is
not the best time or place to use the toys. Sometimes in strong winds and
rough seas, it is not safe to use the water toys, and they will advise you
of this. Also some toys (like jet skis) can only be used in designated
areas. The crew will always do their best to make sure you have a great
time, but safety and staying within the law come first.
“route” of way. Have a desire to see a certain site during your
Did you do some navigational research and would like to stop for a swim in a
calm, serene cove? Feel free to discuss your route preferences and ideas
with the yacht's crew. Most likely they can accommodate you if they know ahead
of time. Or, if it won’t fit into your rental timeframe, they are happy to
make suggestions about your route and stops. For a term (multi-day) charter,
you’ll be asked to fill out a preference sheet. This lets you list
destinations you’d like to visit during your charter. Armed with this, the
yacht's crew will create a perfect itinerary just for you.
their space. The crew is there to serve you, but they need
privacy just like you do. Please don’t enter their quarters. The galley is
also off limits – after all – you won’t need to worry about cooking, so
there’s no need to enter the kitchen! If you are on a term rental, the food
is prepared on board by experienced chefs who are proud of their craft and
cuisine. Let them delight you.
do their work. To keep your luxury charter running like clockwork,
the crew does a lot of behind-the-scenes work. They have housekeeping to do,
and cooking, and navigating. While you are relaxing in the sun, they are
working hard to be sure your dream trip is exactly as you’d hoped. Let them
do their work so that you don’t have to lift a finger!
your babysitter. As much as the yacht's crew will enjoy your
children, they are too busy to babysit while you disembark and go shopping
or dining. You’ll need to make provisions. Either take your children with
you for a family time, or bring a babysitter with you on the charter for
when you want some adult time.
on board. The crew enjoys the charter and having you on
board. They will be friendly and knowledgeable. But please don’t expect them
to disembark with your party to go explore the port. Be fine leaving them
onboard. They will stay and clean up, rest, or plan the next day.
Go to the
captain. If you have any questions for the crew, first go
to the yacht's captain. If you have a request, ask the captain first. It’s just the
best way for the hierarchy to work, and most likely the best way for your
need to be met.
for dinner guests. If you book a day charter, the boat
provides soda, water and ice. You may bring your own food, or even stop at a
waterfront restaurant for a meal. If you are on an extended rental, your
chef has provisioned to prepare meals for only the number of guests that you
chartered for. Should you have a great time in town and want to bring your
new best friends back on board, bring them for a drink, but please don’t
surprise your chef by inviting the new folks to dinner. If you would like to
invite them, discuss it with the crew ahead of time so that plans can be
made for the best presentation.
soft luggage. Duffle bags and totes fit the storage
cabinets better. They won’t scratch the furniture. And they are typically
lighter. Enough said.
the guest count. When you signed the contract with your
charter broker, you gave a guest count. For a term charter, the food has
been provisioned for this count. The staterooms are prepared based on your
guest count. And, the yacht is limited to 13 guests so they do not violate
the Coast Guard regulations for a private charter. Do not try to include
someone new at the last minute. Plan ahead.
sheets are a good thing! Chartering for several days?
You’ll have some paperwork to fill out prior to your term charter and
part of it will be called preference sheets. Yes, more to fill out, but the
information you log into these sheets will help tailor your luxury charter to you
and your guests. You’ll get to specify foods you like or can’t eat,
allergies, dietary requirements, food brands, preferred meal times, and
more. It’s best to get together with your entire charter party to fill these
out, so that everyone’s food preferences will be recorded. There will also
be a bar preference list (very important!) and even a kids’ preference
section. You’ll be asked to fill out all of your party’s names, ages,
addresses and whether or not they are a US citizen. Your flight information
will also be requested, as well as your chartering experience, medical
conditions and more. Fill these preference sheets out as completely as
possible…you’ll be glad you did.
If you bring souvenirs onboard your rental yacht, be sure the yacht's crew knows. If you bring shells
or driftwood, let crew rinse them off. They’ll be happy to do so to keep the
sand out of your stateroom.
only. Bring nothing illegal on board. No drugs, period. You can
be arrested on the water, and your crew has every right to turn back around for
home and cancel your rental if it is discovered that you have
illegal items on board. You are putting their license at risk. Check your
contract – disallowed items will be outlined in detail.
correctly. You are expected to tip the yachting industry
standard rate, between 10 to 20% of the charter total before tax to your
crew, based on your satisfaction, at the end of the charter. It is best (and
most easily) handled in cash. You may give it in a lump sum to the captain
for distribution or you may hand it around to the entire crew individually.
Please be generous.
Hopefully these charter rental “to do’s” and “to don’ts”
were helpful! Of course your goal, and the goals of the crew for you, is
total freedom, a wonderful, memorable time, and relaxation during your luxury
yacht cruise. You can always
trust your charter broker to answer any other questions about your upcoming
time on the water. Being aware of and following these etiquette tips will
help your charter sail smoothly into the sunset!