For Booking a Crewed Yacht Charter in the British Virgin Islands
By Claire Shefchik

So you are all ready to book your dream vacation experience – a crewed yacht charter experience in the British Virgin Islands, ready to enjoy all the luxuries of a first-class voyage in one of the most beautiful and adventurous destinations in the Caribbean.

But as you’ll soon find out, even the most expertly planned charters can be filled with hidden surprises. Everything from unrealistic expectations to mismanaged menus to unexpected costs can sink your trip.

Luckily, most of these issues can be avoided by making the most informed choices right from the moment of booking. We talked to a few members of the BVI Charter Yacht Society — charter crews who have seen it all over their countless years of experience — to get their best advice on how to book the best charter for you. Avoid some common pitfalls, and you can be sure to sit back, relax, and enjoying the luxury, beauty and adventure of a BVI charter.

1 Research & Compare Brokers

When it comes to booking a crewed yacht charter in the Caribbean, it pays to do your homework and research potential brokers. Avoid big, generic websites with hundreds of vessels and crews listed. Individual charter yacht brokers — such as members of the Charter Yacht Brokers Association are the best option to not only offer you great deals on trips but for finding the perfect boat for your personalized needs. Make sure to look at reviews, ask for referrals, and even check references. Many brokers have been working with BVI vessels for years and have developed personal connections with the crews they book. These brokers are the best resource to make sure you’re happy and confident with the crew and vessel you select. Just let them know!

“If your group likes to stay up super late, let them know and they can guide you towards a boat with three crew or crew that are night owls!” one crew member advised. “If you want to learn how to sail, dive, or kite, there are boats that can accommodate that. Not every boat is one size fits all.”

2 Be Realistic About Your Itinerary

The key when booking a crewed yacht charter is to keep your expectations for the itinerary realistic. Make sure you have a clear plan for the itinerary. Discuss it with the captain ahead of time. They’ll help you understand any potential delays or limitations so you aren’t disappointed. “By all means take onboard what your friends/family/dog walker/hairdresser has to recommend about the BVI, but listen to your captain,” one crewmember said. “A recommendation of a must-go-to bar from 20 years ago could be a bad recommendation now.”

3 Research the Crew

Even if you’ve done your research, spoken to experts, spent hours browsing the Internet, and feel confident in the yacht and crew you’ve selected, you’ll still want to get to know the crew. Asking questions about the captain, chef, deckhands, stewardesses, and everyone else onboard who will be responsible for making sure you have an amazing charter can give you a better understanding of not only their experience, qualifications, and role onboard, as well as their personalities. After all, you’re going to be spending days or weeks at a time with them in close quarters. When you arrive, a good crew will be ready and willing to give you a grand tour of the boat and answer your questions. They want you to feel comfortable!

4 Notify your Captain of Special Requests

Even if the broker or vessel is aware of your special requests ahead of time, make sure to notify the captain and crew as soon as you get onboard. This will ensure that everyone is prepared and that the boat is stocked up properly for your trip.

5 Consider Dietary Restrictions

When planning your trip, make sure to consider the dietary restrictions of everyone on board. Whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, or gluten-free, let the chef know. They can accommodate just about any request, but only if you tell them! “Be thorough and honest with your food preference sheet,” advised one crew member. “If someone in your party doesn’t eat a certain food, don’t be afraid to mention it because you think that means nobody will be served that item, as this is not the case. It’s important the chef knows so they can purchase an alternative for that particular guest and ensure everyone is happy with their meals.”

6 Clear Communication

benches under cabana umbrellas on a white sand beach in Anegada, British Virgin Islands

Crews can’t stress this enough: “Communicate! Before, during and after. If something is going well; say so! If something isn’t how you’d planned let the crew know,” one said. Make sure you discuss the preferred methods of communication, the frequency of contact, and any potential restrictions on technology — you don’t want to count on using your cellphone to call the crew from an outer island where there’s no service available. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page.

7 Find out the Charter Company’s Cancellation & Refund Policies

Before booking your charter, make sure to ask about the company’s cancellation and refund policies. Understand the terms and conditions of the trip, as well as any additional fees or charges that may apply in the event of a cancellation. This way, you can avoid disappointment — and lost money — should anything unexpected occur.

8 Plan Ahead for Emergencies

Even on the most well-prepared charters with the most well-trained crews, emergencies can happen. After all, the ocean is unpredictable. Make sure to discuss a plan for medical emergencies, weather-related issues and other potential problems before setting sail. A proper vessel should have a first aid kit and other up-to-date safety gear onboard. Also, ask about insurance procedures to ensure they are properly covered in case of any accidents while onboard.

9 Be Prepared for Unexpected Expenses

Unexpected expenses can crop up on any trip. Although fuel, food and other supplies are generally included in the cost of a crewed charter, make sure to allow for any additional fees you may end up incurring due to special requests or travel expenses. One crew member reminds guests: “Water taxis or direct flights carry a premium, and you won’t want to skimp out on crew gratuity just because you didn’t factor in every cost.” Remember that tipping is customary on crewed charters — 10 to 20 percent of the cost — and you’ll want to show the crew your appreciation for a job well done.

10 Be Flexible

Make sure to factor in time to use all the onboard amenities that come with a crewed yacht charter. Whether it’s a water toy, a massage or a daily yoga class, take advantage of all the luxury services that come with the package. After all, you’re paying for it. If you’re not sure something is available, just ask. Avoid over scheduling yourself — allow for flexibility in your plans. Your captain may have suggestions for what to do that you’ve never even thought about. “The BVI has so many options that having a long list of must-dos means you will be scheduled down to the minute with zero flexibility,” one crew member said. “Pick a few target things and use your crew’s experience to your advantage – they can guide you towards what they think you’ll enjoy most.”
A crewed charter in the BVI isn’t just a vacation — it’s an incredible adventure, one that you’ll never forget.
With careful planning and communication between you, your broker and the crew, you can make sure your charter is memorable in all the right ways.

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