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Charter Booking Tips And Getting The Best Possible Deal

bbCatamaran Guru has put together some information on how to navigate the charter booking process. The main objective is for you to have fun on your dream yachting vacation however, to make it as smooth as possible there are some important things to consider when making The booking. We have been on both the "charter yacht owner" and "charter operator" side of things so we understand the pitfalls. Hopefully this will help you understand the process better to make intelligent decisions and not leave anything to chance.

Once you have decided the location of your charter, your vacation dates and the yacht of your choice, you are ready to either book directly with a charter company or book with a charter broker. (BTW it cost you nothing extra to book through a charter broker however, booking directly sometimes has it's advantages like getting an extra thrown in as an incentive for a new client etc.)

Inquire About All Current Promotions

Typically you will find the following discounts available

    • Last-minute bookings - 15 days or fewer from charter start date - discounts of 25 to 40 percent. 
    • Early booking discounts - six months to a year in advance - 10 to 20 percent. 
    • Off-season charters allow free days of sailing - 10 days for the price 7 - (summer in Caribbean, May and  October in the Med.)
    • Repeat charterers with the same company - 5 to 10 percent discount.Company boat show specials (charter booked at the boat show booth) range from 10 to 20 percent.
    • Group discounts - 5 to 10 percent discount, depending the number of boats are booked in the group.

Read Your Final Documents Carefully

Once your booking dates, boat and location are finalized, you will receive a package of contractual documents online or by mail. Read everything and make sure that you understand the following

    • You will recieve the contract, explaining the general terms and conditions of the charter agreement, your responsibilities, insurance clauses, etc. 
    • You will also get your Invoice. Charter companies will place a hold on the charter for your party for a few days at which point a 25% deposit is required to confirm your reservation. 60 days before departure the balance is due. Note: You can usually pay by credit card or check but some companies will give you up to 2.5% discount for a check payment to avoid credit card charges. However if you pay all your charges with a major credit card, you could back-charge for services billed but not rendered and most credit cards give you travel benefits (life insurance, luggage loss etc.).
    • Check the status of your transportation from the airport to the base and back. Most charter companies will arrange your pickup for a fee, advisable when you get in late at night. Alternately you could just get a taxi at the airport to the base. Find out the approx. local rate from your booking agent.
    • Sailing experience resume and crew list. This is to determine if you can safely handle the boat you have chartered, with questions like: What kind of sailing have you done: coastal, inland, offshore? Do you own a boat? etc. For security and safety reasons you should provide an accurate crew list.
    • Provisioning: You can order your provisions from the charter company or do the provisioning yourself. The former is less effort and more money, typically $50 -$60 per day per person - the latter more effort and complications but less expensive. If you are a first timer, or going to a location for the first time, the charter company provisioning deal may be better or at least partial provisioning. If you are more experienced and have been to the location before, by all means, do it yourself. Charter companies offer several kinds of provisioning packages: full, all-meals provisioning, or minimal basic and everything in between including complete "à la carte" provisioning. 

Issues to Consider More Closely

    • Cancellation policy. Charter companies' policies differ greatly but generally, if you have to cancel over 90 days before departure, you will get your money back, usually less a minor cancellation fee. Anywhere between 60 and 90 days before departure date, you will probably lose whatever deposit you paid. If you cancel within 60 days, you definitely lose your money. However, charter companies offer cancellation insurance coverage. 
    • Insurance. You should be sure about what you are potentially liable for. Typically, charter companies will provide an insurance policy that is included in your charter price. However, check in the contract if you are liable for the deductible if any damage is done to the boat. Also, you want to fully understand what is not covered. Example: what happens if you damage the boat and are deemed to have been extremely negligent? Or if you have sailed in an area that was clearly designed as off-limits at the chart briefing and on the charts provided to you?
    • Some companies offer medical insurance, good if your current medical coverage plan does not include foreign occurrences.
    • What happens if the boat is having problems with no fault to you? Some companies guarantee you will be assisted within 4 hours. If not, how are you compensated for lost charter time? 
    • Security deposit: Charter companies require you to give a security deposit for potential damage to the boat and/or the equipment like the dinghy. Usually done at the base, it can run anywhere between $500 to $12,000 depending on the of the size of the boat. It depends on whether you pay a yacht damage waiver insurance (YDW - from $39-$69/day depending on the size of the boat) in which case the security deposit gets reduced. Make sure to note what the maximum amount is, and how / when it is refunded to you.

Other things to consider

    • Take advantage of the 'sleep aboard' a.k.a. '5PM early start', at 50% of the daily rate. For a party with 3 or 4 couples, it is much cheaper than paying for 3 or 4 hotel rooms. Besides, including all the pre-charter chores, you are on your way at 10:30AM at the latest. So by paying for only an extra half-day for the sleep aboard, you gain an entire sailing day.
    • Arrive 1 day before your charter starts. It is not a good idea to cast off on an unfamiliar boat in unfamiliar waters after a 10-hour trip to your location. Plus it gives you time to provision and have a relaxed chart/boat briefing.

Things to check if included or not in your charter price to avoid surprises

 Ask specific questions to charter companies about all extras

    • Transfers to/from the base 
    • Boat fuel / dinghy gasoline
    • Snorkeling gear available? 
    • Windscoops on board?
    • Beach "toys": Kayak, windsurf, etc.
    • Yacht cleaning at the end of the charter - if you leave it a mess, they may (rightfully) charge an extra fee for cleaning
    • Sales Taxes or VAT in Europe or other local taxes
    • Beach towels 
    • Cruising permits, Marine Park fees
    • Moorings fees, marina fees
    • Airport / departure taxes
    • Basic starter kit: paper towels, dish soap, toilet paper, garbage bags, etc. supplied?
    • Policy regarding emergency service / chase boat in case of a problem.

This is a broad overview of the booking process but we have covered most of the "sticky" issues. If you follow this list, you will pretty much cover all the bases. Happy sailing!

Mention CATGURU and get your special 5% charter discount when you book a charter at Dream Yacht Charter.

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