Yacht Etiquette for Beginners

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By Geoff Moore for A Luxury Travel Blog

Chartering a yacht is one of the most exclusive holidays available. Offering facilities that would rival that of a five-star hotel, complete privacy for you and your guests and a dedicated crew who will ensure your every requirement is met, it’s easy to understand why so many people are now choosing yacht charter as their holiday of choice.

However, stepping on board can also be quite daunting for those who have never chartered a yacht before. People often don’t know what to expect and the etiquette at sea can be very different to that of a normal hotel or cruise liner.

Here’s our top ten yacht etiquette tips for beginners.

Treat the yacht as if it’s yours

The one benefit of a luxury yacht is that your five-star accommodation is also your transport, providing the ultimate opportunity for you to relax and enjoy your time on board. Your Captain and crew will always want you to feel at home and treat the yacht as if it’s yours, however do always remember that a luxury yacht will be decorated to an extremely high standard so care should also be taken when on board as you may be charged for any breakages or damage!

Provide as much information as possible on your preference sheet

Prior to your arrival you will receive a preference sheet. This is a document where you can provide the crew with as much information as possible about everything from your party’s dietary requirements to sleeping arrangements. Your Captain will always appreciate as much information as possible to allow them to fully to prepare for your trip, so don’t ever be afraid to share anything that you feel is important and will enhance your stay.

Treat the crew with respect

The crew are there to ensure the ultimate holiday experience for you and your guests, however it is important to treat them with respect and ensure that your requests are reasonable and achievable. Rest assured, they will always ensure that they accommodate these wherever possible, but making any requests in a fair and polite manner will always be greatly appreciated.

Factor a tip into your budget

It is customary to tip your crew between 10 – 15% of the charter fee in recognition of a high standard of service. Any gratuity should be presented to the Captain at the end of your trip to ensure that tips are divided equally amongst the crew, including those who are essential but not always client-facing.

Respect the crew’s personal space

Although you will have the full run of most of your yacht, your crew will also have their own designated area where they can sleep and undertake their day-to-day duties. It’s important you respect these areas and don’t enter unless specifically invited. This also includes the galley (or kitchen for those who are new to yachting terms), where your chef will spend a lot of time preparing meals and drinks.

Should you want any refreshments at any point of your charter, a quick call to one of your stewards will ensure you have everything you need.

Be prepared to go barefoot

Due to the bespoke nature of a yacht, and the fact that many vessels boast custom carpets or exotic floor coverings, many Captains will impose a barefoot rule meaning shoes cannot be worn in parts, or often all, of the yacht. This will be communicated upon your arrival and should be respected at all times.

There will always be a clean and secure place provided to put your shoes, however if you are really uncomfortable about walking around barefoot it is advisable to speak to your Captain prior to your trip to see if he will allow some clean slippers or soft sandals to be worn once you are on board.

Check your yacht’s watersports policy

Depending on your yacht and the waters you are sailing in, different regulations may apply to the water sports toys available on board. Although in most instances many will be fine for you to use under the supervision of your crew, more specialist equipment such as jet skis or fishing gear may require tuition or even a licence to use. Should this apply, your crew will be able to arrange for any relevant paperwork or training, however it’s best to bring this up with your charter broker prior to embarking to ensure the necessary arrangements can be made in advance.

Always report any issues to the Captain

In the unlikely event that you have any issues throughout your trip, raise these to your Captain instead of taking matters in to your own hands. Whilst on board, your captain is the only person with authority and they will ensure any matters are dealt with appropriately and promptly.

Do not break the law

Yachts operate a zero-tolerance policy for anything illegal or illicit and the Captain will pass any matters over to the relevant authorities if anything was to happen on board. In most countries, this will be treated very seriously and could involve jail time or hefty fines.

Ensure you’re aware of all of the costs

In most instances the cost of charter is solely to cover the use of the yacht, crew, insurances and use of any water toys (as specified). There is also often an APA (advanced provisioning allowance) applicable on top of your charter fee which covers any additional expenses, for example fuel, food, drinks, harbour and marina dues (other than those of the yacht’s home port). The APA is usually budgeted at around 25-30% of the charter cost, however you will only pay cost price for what you use. Any funds not required will be returned to you at the end of your trip. Likewise, should you go over this you will be asked to make a payment to cover your additional expenses.

Geoff Moore is Managing Director at West Nautical.