DIFFERENCES CARIBBEAN CHARTERERS NEED TO KNOW WHEN BOOKING A CHARTER IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.
For both Bareboat and Crewed Charters.
A successful vacation is all about expectations, and this is especially so with yacht charters. A key philosophy of Ed Hamilton & Co is to offer every customer all of our expertise and above all, to take the appropriate time to assess their expectations before recommending any boats. Understanding what an individual client envisions as the perfect yachting vacation is critical. A 'tired' bareboat for one customer is a great value for another, and a crew who goes overboard with a more formal style of service isn't going to please the guests looking for a relaxing, casual experience.
We've devoted this May issue of the Charter Connection to other good summer destinations to consider. For several years now, we've seen a rapidly increasing interest from our North American customers in particularly the Mediterranean. To those who are comfortable with the Caribbean, there some notable differences when chartering, either bareboat or crewed, in the Med.
As Ed touched upon in his article on chartering in the Med, the cost of chartering is definitely higher than the Caribbean. This is particularly so when a North American customer factors in flight costs. Part of the added cost of the yachts is the seasonality of the destination. For bareboat companies and crewed yachts that remain in the Med year-round, there are a limited number of weeks that they can reasonably expect to fill their fleets. They therefore charge higher rates, particularly in July and August, to offset the carrying costs of a boat that can't be chartered during the winter months.
Some crewed yachts get the benefit of two peak seasons by chartering in the Caribbean in the winter, and crossing to the Med in the summer. One would think, intuitively, that this would even out their pricing. The reality is that the direct costs of crossing the Atlantic, the enormous but somewhat hidden cost of added depreciation, and the downtime for the boat while repositioning and refitting after balance out the advantages of chartering during both high seasons.
The terms of charters in the Mediterranean also differ greatly from the Caribbean. Most crewed yachts in the Caribbean are priced to include at least meals, and in the Virgin Islands, typically bar is included as well. The variability of exchange rates, costs of provisions from port to port, and dockage dictate that most crewed yachts in the Med include the yacht, crew, and insurance, but all other expenses are additional. Charterers should be prepared to add from 20%-35% to the charter fee for the cost of provisions, dockage, and fuel. This is typically covered in an 'Advance Provisioning Allowance' in the contract that's paid 2-4 weeks before the charter embarks. One notable exception to this is generally large power yachts, which are priced exclusively on both the Caribbean and the Mediterreanean - so one can look at these as a relative bargain!
For bareboaters used to noon to noon charters embarking any day they like, the Med brings a bit of a surprise. Again to make the most of a limited season, bareboats in the Mediterranean generally embark in the late afternoon to early evening, and disembark in the morning on the final day of charter. Many operators require that bareboats must be at base for the final night by 5pm, so the last night is in effect a sleepaboard. Some companies also specify that charters must start and end on weekends, and be booked in 7 day increments.
There is perhaps no more important expectation to set than the level of service, and this too can vary in the Med. There are many, many bareboat operators in the Med, both small and large, and standards can vary enormously. Caribbean bareboaters have gotten accustomed to cabbies who carry their bags to check-in, detailed chart and boat briefings, and chase-boat service guarantees with a few hours as the standard, (although these things are beginning to change). In the Med, bareboats are much more about personal responsibility with less of a service atmosphere. That's not to say Mediterranean bareboat companies don't provide a good service, it's more that they focus on providing a well-found and functioning boat, and expect the charter guests to be true sailors and look after themselves beyond that.
For crewed yachts, particularly the larger ones that transit between the Caribbean and the Med, the level of service is the same, if not higher due to the better availability of goods and services in European locales. When it comes to smaller crewed yachts, especially in the 50-65 foot range, there are firstly fewer options than in the Caribbean, and there is much less of an emphasis on crew. There are some wonderful crews on smaller boats, but as the crews change more often, it is more difficult to match guests with the right crew for them, and despite how good the crew is, this is clearly a service consideration.
Those are the primary differences in chartering between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. There are host of other nuances and things to consider, primarily for bareboaters, such as licenses being required in some countries, but if you're interested in sailing an new area, let us know what you have in mind and we can help you overcome any concerns. After all, it's all about expectations, and we're here to listen to yours and to recommend the right charter for you.
Tell us your plans and we would be happy to suggest some options. We know all the best places, yachts and crews!
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