Type “best sailing destinations in the Caribbean” in your internet search engine and the British Virgin Islands is the very first option. And when many think of BVI sailing, you may think of bareboat charters and beaches, but what about luxury yachts?

A recent BBC article on luxury describes it as “Luxury has evolved beyond people, places and things in ways that fill our lives with fascination, pleasure and meaning.”

This updated definition of luxury, moving away from what we understand as glitz and glamour, offers a new focus on how good that luxurious thing or experience makes us feel. This feeling is exactly what makes guests choose luxury yachts, according to Sarah Jones of Voyage Charters .

The Voyage slogan is: “Your vacation, your yacht, your voyage.”

“The BVI is ideal for luxury yachting, well set-up and very attractive to high-end clients. Yes, certain aspects are challenging, but it’s part of the charm of being here,” says Sarah Jones, Marketing and Crew Manager for VOYAGE charters. 

Jones describes VOYAGE as providing excellence from stem to stern. A professional luxury charter company with a highly qualified team means that much of the luxury experience is attributed to the company’s superior service and how VOYAGE maintains a very high standard for the upkeep of the yachts.

She also says that VOYAGE has maintained a specific fleet size so that clients can experience a personal touch, stating: “Our intention is to continue offering excellence within a more boutique company style. We believe that VOYAGE is an outstanding brand and we always endeavour to deliver our slogan each and every time: Your Vacation.  Your Yacht. Your VOYAGE.

VOYAGE charters is based out of the beautiful BVI destination of Soper’s Hole on Tortola. Currently, there is much excitement as the company is celebrating 25 years of operation! Sarah is the daughter of the company’s founders and directors Robin and Jo-Ann Downing. The couple moved from South Africa to the BVI with one VOYAGE boat. All VOYAGE yachts are designed and manufactured by the VOYAGE Yacht Factory in South Africa. On completion of each yacht, their delivery captain sails the yacht across the Atlantic all the way to the BVI, which normally takes between 35 and 40 days. The boats are owned by private investors who equally love the lifestyle and the whole VOYAGE team.

Sarah came to BVI in 1996 and now works in the family business with her husband, the Yacht Sales Manager; her older brother the Base Manager and sister-in-law, Charter Coordinator, as well as many long-serving employees. The team of 40 employees, Sarah says, is just like our own family. 

Why choose VOYAGE?

According to Jones, “Our attention to detail in the charter industry is unmatched. The luxury is in all the details, down to the bed linens. This is not just a job, this is our family’s legacy, so we take it very seriously.”

VOYAGE clients arrive as friends and leave as family. They become like family because the company offers warm, friendly service that develops into a great relationship. Many guests have been chartering with VOYAGE for over 20 years with one client enjoying his VOYAGE Yacht since 1997. The brand has a strong repeat client base with very loyal clients.

In fact, so loyal that after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, one client told Jones:  “If you have a raft, we will come charter with you.”

Before the hurricanes, the fleet was 30, but currently stands 17 strong with many more luxury yachts joining the fleet in 2021 and 2022. Because every single boat was damaged, some VOYAGE owners purchased new yachts. Fortunately, VOYAGE was able to repair more than 12 vessels at their adjacent West End Boatyard.

Unfortunately, the hurricane recovery for the luxury yachts, and many other industries, was interrupted by COVID-19. 

Jones says that while the situation is “extremely trying”, there is still lots of hope and excitement for the future. Not only did VOYAGE manage to keep all its employees, but the reservations team in the USA are also working hard with the many enquiries and bookings now coming in.

“People are so looking forward to getting to the British Virgin Islands because there are still so many things to do, see and enjoy while sailing on Your luxury VOYAGE yacht,” said Jones.

This is especially true due to the quarantine or what Jones calls the ‘Q-days’. 

BVI’s current protocols for all visitors involve a negative COVID-19 test three to five days before travelling, then another test upon arrival, then guests proceed to their four-day quarantine aboard the vessel. After four days, once they receive a negative test result, guests are cleared to leave the vessel and move around the Territory freely.

Jones assures the process is smooth and is only getting better with time. She says that the VOYAGE full-time concierge, Nicola, helps guests in planning new experiences in BVI, of which there are many.

VOYAGE guests (and crew who will join the ‘safety bubble’) spend Q-days on one of the fully equipped yachts, visiting anchorages that are less frequented, having fun at water activities like snorkelling and diving, and eating gourmet meals made by Michelin Chef Kenetha Ashton. If you are on a crewed charter, you really don’t need to go ashore. Everything is on board.

Jones assures that guests will be in a safe environment, the crew is regularly tested, continue to wear personal protective equipment, and practice social distancing; which is all very possible on vessels like the 590, a large, luxury yacht which she says “guests will never feel crowded on”. 

The 59’ yacht has a fly-bridge, aft and forward cockpits, seven refrigerators, six spacious identical walk-around cabins for up to 12 guests and two en-suite crew cabins, along with a galley with two dishwashers, an induction stove, AC, and electric ovens. One special feature is the electric VOYAGE window made by Lewmar, designed especially for the 590. The window is lifted by a switch to let air into the galley. Some of the 59’ are electric catamarans. Jones proudly explained that VOYAGE is the first to introduce an electric charter boat to the BVI luxury yacht industry, the “Electrified 48”.

Aside from the engine being super quiet, Jones says electric yachts are the future of the industry, adding, “Minimising our footprint with this new technology is a wonderful thing. The industry will change and move in that direction. We’re not afraid of cutting that path. When we first came to BVI, we were the first to charter catamarans at a  time when it was mainly monohulls. We are used to paving the way.”

VOYAGE currently has six more 590s on the way. Some are electric, and some are hybrid with diesel engines and a battery system. The boat was designed and built specifically for luxury charter in the BVI. The smallest VOYAGE charter boat is 48’ and has four cabins plus two V-Berths, which can be used for crew or kids bunks. They also have 50-, 52- and 58-foot vessels. 

Jones is very optimistic about the future and advises guests to book their luxury yacht now, adding, “We are preparing for a much brighter future. When things change, the flood gates are going to open. Now is a good time to come to the BVI, because things will be busy soon.”