There is absolutely nothing like relaxing and exploring on board a luxurious superyacht. Just as posh as your favorite five-star resort—with hot tubs, gyms, a masseuse, yoga, gourmet personalized meals, top-notch service, and much, much more—this getaway destination is also a journey. From the deck of your private yacht, you can watch the sun set over the islands of the Bahamas, whales breaching in the Pacific, icebergs berthing in Antarctica, and revelers celebrating in the South of France. Have a crew member take you ashore via the yacht’s tender or tow you for a waterskiing session in the middle of nowhere; explore a tucked-away cove via stand-up paddleboard or the yacht’s Jet Ski; snorkel in the world’s most remote waters; or do your morning yoga on the foredeck while the sun rises above the distant horizon. The possibilities are almost endless. And once you get a taste of the serenity and multitude of exploration and entertainment options, no other vacation will measure up.
But before you take the vacation of a lifetime, there are multiple approaches to consider. Below, we walk you through how to charter, buy, and build your own yacht, with some advice from the experts.
Start with a Charter Trip
Us Weekly and TMZ have provided all of us with images of the glam life aboard a crewed superyacht—but how do you even get on board one of these floating palaces?
Chartering (or renting) larger and newer yachts run around $1 million per week, minus expenses such as food, drink, fuel, taxes, and gratuity for the crew. For the sake of comparison, Monaco-based Y.CO recently announced a 20-percent-off deal on 202-foot Calypso, currently cruising the Mediterranean. The yacht usually goes for €325,000 per week (roughly $360,600), excluding taxes, expenses, and gratuity (usually 15 percent, given to the captain to disperse at the end of the trip). Twenty percent off a four-day charter would mean about €148,600 (or $164,900). And what do you get for that $164,900? Calypso (built in 2003 and refit in 2017) accommodates 12 guests in seven staterooms and includes a massage room and masseuse, yoga, a personal trainer, hot tub, full gym, outdoor cinema, dive instructor, top-notch chef, and all kinds of tenders and toys, such as wakeboards, towables, and more. A crew of 15 will tend to your every need, such as setting up and hosting a beach party or a treasure hunt for any children chartering with you.
Where to Begin?
First, where do you want to go? And when? Maybe between awards season and spring training? Are you hoping for a fitness and wellness charter such as the one offered by Worth Avenue Yachts aboard TCB (think yoga, clean eating, massage, and acupuncture)? Or are you envisioning an informative trip through history as you explore UNESCO World Heritage sites along Croatia in the Adriatic Sea? Or perhaps it’s a more adventurous trip to explore the penguins and seals of Antarctica.
Pick a Place
Different yachts are based in different locales and change locations throughout the year. Many stick to the Mediterranean in the summer and head to the Caribbean in the winter. That said, there are plenty of yachts ready for you in Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Northern Europe, New England, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Who’s Going With You?
Once you’ve established where you’re headed and when you’re going, you need to decide how many people you’ll be cruising with. A few couples? Your partner and your kids? Three generations of family? Most charter yachts are certified to carry 12 guests plus crew. If you’re picturing next year’s big family reunion taking place on board, you will need a PYC- or SOLAS-class yacht, which is licensed for as many as 36 passengers. For whichever class of yacht, many vessels have staterooms designed for kids bunking together, with either actual bunkbeds or a couple of twin beds and maybe a Pullman bed that folds out. Don’t forget to count your security guard, personal assistant, or nanny among your guests.
Call in the Professionals
Next, contact a charter broker, who will review all possible options with you (destination, size, type, amenities, etc.) and can steer you toward yachts that may be more private; toward crews that excel with families; or to the chef who specializes in your favorite gourmet fare. You can find a listing of charter brokers and companies that adhere to global guidelines at the Mediterranean Yacht Broker’s Association (MYBA)—the yachting industry’s technical and ethics source—or the International Yacht Brokers Association.
Charter brokers can also help you choose a yacht based on the number and type of crew. Some crew members can give cooking classes, teach yoga, or cut your hair, while others may make the meanest ceviche on the aft deck right after they teach you how to dive—and bring up a conch shell. Skills and level of service vary with each and every yacht.
Make It Official
Be sure to sign a contract, which your broker will walk you through. Most use the one drawn up by the MYBA. For digitally savvy charter-goers, several new apps allow you to explore amenities and book your yacht. Be sure you connect with a live human at some point, though, just in case something goes wrong while you’re on board. Another option is OceanScape Yachts, which, like business-jet charter memberships, presents tiered memberships for chartering yachts offered by its partners.
“My advice would be to place your trust in a seasoned professional and work closely with them in order to arrange an unforgettable, trouble-free experience,” advises MYBA president Gaye Joyeau-Bourgeois.
Time to Commit
Okay, so you’ve chartered a few times and are ready to think about buying a yacht. By now, you know what you like in terms of type (motor or sailing yacht/monohull or catamaran), style (contemporary or classic), size (86 feet versus 300), configuration (main-deck master and four staterooms belowdecks), features (for sure a water-level beach club and a hot tub up top), draft (shorter for Bahamas cruising, bigger for elsewhere)—you get the idea.
Pick a Broker
If you trust the charter broker you’ve used for your most satisfying charters, perhaps you should have them connect you to the brokerage side of the business with someone they trust. Your new broker can help you really determine what you’re after and might suggest attending a boat show or two with him or her to get on board yachts that are actually for sale—kind of like the weekly real estate caravan or open-house Saturdays where you troop around a handful of houses.
I Want It Now
One of the benefits of buying an already-built/pre-owned yacht is that you cut out the build time (18 months to four years). You’re basically just waiting on escrow to close before you hop on board your new-to-you yacht. This could be anywhere between a few weeks or a few months depending on where the yacht is located and other details that your broker will help you maneuver.
This same broker will help you with the whole process, including what to look for in the yacht, how much to offer, whether to sea-trial and survey it (like having your mechanic get under the hood of your new-to-you car), and how to rename it and redecorate it once the yacht is yours.
Don’t forget to get it and everything on board insured (the broker will help), and choose a yacht-management company (perhaps the same as your broker) to hire, fire, and manage the crew, maybe set up charter parameters, and oversee any issues that may come up with anything on the yacht.
Time to Build Your Own
Welcome to the big league. You’ve done the charter thing, and you’ve perhaps owned a yacht built to someone else’s specs. How do you know when it’s really time to build and not buy something already on the market and ready to cruise?
“Bear in mind that nearly all clients building yachts have a good degree of knowledge as to their own requirements, having owned or chartered for many years,” says Dominic Millman, partner and senior new-construction and sales broker at global yachting company Burgess. “Although some clients can be market driven, by a shortened delivery or perhaps with a shipyard keen for business, essentially they start the process when they understand the limitations of their current vessel, either in size, capability, or aspirations,” he says. “Clients keep a close eye on the brokerage market throughout, but often their specific requirements and the desire to build wholly ‘their own’ yacht wins out.”
If you can see yourself getting to this point, there are some questions you should ask when your interest in building your very own superyacht has peaked.
We asked Sean Bianchi, naval architect and head of construction at Burgess, the kinds of questions he asks when someone thinks they’re ready.
“This is very dependent on the client’s prior knowledge and experience of yachting. If a client has owned a yacht previously or undertaken a number of charters, he or she will have a good understanding of what works and does not work from a personal perspective; this knowledge can guide the new-construction team in generating a preliminary outlined specification and general arrangement drawing for discussion and development with the client,” he says. “This will then follow on with refinement by interior and exterior designers and the shipyard.”
What if you skipped the charter and owning-a-yacht part? Would it be best to rule out a new-build project? “If a client is new to the industry, the new-construction team can assist him or her by developing a technical specification based on industry best practice and incorporating all our experience and knowledge from the entire Burgess team, including future sales consideration, charter appeal, reduced maintenance and operating costs, and retention of good crew, to name but a few,” says Bianchi.
Is Building a New Yacht Worth It?
There are some advantages to building your own personal superyacht and not buying a pre-built vessel. “Building as opposed to purchasing a pre-built vessel allows the client to tailor the yacht to his/her exacting requirements,” says Bianchi. “No two yachts are identical, and this is testament to the fact that everyone is different. If a client is prepared to invest the time in developing a yacht from a blank sheet of paper (approximately a four-year process), then he or she will benefit from developing a product that will meet all his or her requirements.” He points out that building a yacht is much like choosing to build a house instead of buying an existing one: “You can position, size, and equip all the key features you want in exactly the right way for you.”
It’s Not the Destination; It’s the Journey
For those who love a good project, the process of building a yacht can be exciting, allowing all levels of involvement. “Many of our new-construction clients are interested and enjoy the process,” says Bianchi. “We regularly become one of their top ‘speed dial’ contacts.” He notes that yachts will increase in value as they approach completion, which will benefit you if you loved the process, sell high, and move on to the next project.
The Devil Is in the Details
Special features run the gamut. We asked Bianchi what the most-often requested feature is. For example, do you want a hot tub on every deck? Or a private gym for the master suite and another for your guests? A galley that is built for hanging out in? Or…?
“Many clients are keen to try and do their part in looking after the environment, so eco credentials for the yacht are important to them,” says Bianchi. “Economical speed and operational costs can also be important, as these will ultimately dictate operation from delivery until the end of life of the yacht.”
“Dependent on the size of a yacht, clients are keen to optimize exterior space for outside living. They generally enjoy the option of large outdoor swimming pools,” says Bianchi. “Owner and guest accommodation is important, and locating these to best effect (i.e. large windows and views) is also a key requirement.”
Don’t forget what travels with the yacht: “Tenders and toys are high on a client’s list of requirements as well as electronics systems such as audiovisual, IT, and communications,” says Bianchi. “Many clients are also interested in the engineering systems on board and have specific heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) requirements.” Not surprisingly, low noise and vibration is something that he discusses with clients while developing the contract and also throughout the design and build process.
Since we are personalizing these amazing machines, no special request could possibly be too out there. We asked about some of the more unusual features that Bianchi has encountered. “We have been asked to fit stabilized snooker and pool tables, IMAX cinemas, snow/ice rooms, and underwater viewing rooms,” he shares. “Some clients are very keen on security, and there are many yachts operating with complicated and unique security systems.”
Bianchi assures us that “over the last 15-plus years of new-construction experience, we have learned that each request from a client, however unusual, has some thought and requirement behind it,” he says. “It is our role to take that request and to develop it into a sound, safe, and workable engineering solution. This is where we feel we excel in pushing design to its boundaries in favor of a client’s request.”
Feel ready for the ultimate vacation?