Chartering a multimillion dollar sports cruiser or motor yacht for your corporation or executives can be a daunting affair, but with a little prior knowledge, it can be easier than you think. Roderick Eime spoke to the experts for their advice.
Imagine this: the call comes through from head office in Geneva. The global CEO and chairman are arriving for a lightning visit and you have two days to organise something. Three hours on the harbour should keep them occupied and out of the office. A nightmare scenario? Perhaps? But one you can deal with.
Chartering a luxury vessel need not be a make-or-break ordeal. Follow our advice and you’ll enjoy a trouble-free experience and keep your job as well.
Locating a Boat
Flip open the yellow pages and you are presented with a bewildering array of vessels: small and large, fast and slow, cheap and nasty. But which is which?
The result of our investigations turned up something that may not surprise you, but even boat owners and skippers recommend using an agency. Why? They do it every day. They know the boats and their capabilities intimately and they follow through. Catering, crewing, itineraries and add-on entertainment can all be handled with a single call. It’s not much cheaper, if at all, than dealing direct and you have the added reassurance of a dedicated person handling your needs. Skippers and boat owners can get distracted and drop the ball. It happens.
But before you call, arm yourself with some basic information to get the process rolling quickly.
• What is the event? Business meeting, dining occasion, party or sightseeing?
• What is your budget? Consider an overall, fully-inclusive budget for boat, catering and entertainment.
• How many passengers? Sounds like a no-brainer, but this is critical.
• Lock dates in early, especially at short notice. Don’t miss out on the best boat because you dilly-dallied.
• Pay your deposit at time of booking. These are usually non-refundable.
• Most charters are for three of four hours. Three hours is a common minimum.
• 30 to 40 passengers are the most common numbers catered for, but smaller groups are easier still.
• Fully catered charters are typically $150 to $300 per person on quality vessels. However, you’ll be looking at around $1000 per person for elite vessels
• If you’re considering a chef with gourmet catering, discuss this carefully with the agent. Choice of boat is important.
Make Your Job Easier
As a charter client, prepare yourself with these tips from the experts.
• View the vessel beforehand. Sight unseen is inviting trouble, even if your agent believes he or she has the perfect boat for you. Most can be “virtually” inspected on their respective web sites.
• 10 per cent no-show is the norm for groups.
• Don’t over invite. You don’t want to turn people away at the wharf and skippers cannot “just squeeze one more on”. Vessel numbers are strictly limited.
• Check the boat for weather ability. Is there shelter for all guests? It can rain any day of the year.
• Have a ‘Plan B’ for latecomers. Because of demand for berths, skippers cannot return to collect even your VIP guest if late. Water taxi is the easiest solution.
Following this process will quickly cover the most daunting aspects. Once you’ve secured your vessel and dates, you can start looking at the trimmings.
Entertainment and activities
Most people will be happy with the vessel’s own onboard entertainment systems. Don’t be afraid to specify music styles. If the Swiss CEO is a Wagner or yodelling fan, they’ll get it. Check out the large screen TV if you’re watching a televised event. Are there satellite facilities for the New York teleconference?
Catering: The vast majority of regular charter cruises will be by cocktail menu, but your European delegation need not be limited by that. Gourmet finger food is possible, but you’ll probably want to go the extra for Herr Strudelmeister. Consider a buffet for longer (four hour) cruises or even a chef.
Readers of Ocean will certainly have seen our very enticing “Chefs on Board” features. This is a wonderful and very satisfying option, especially for your visiting dignitaries. These events take preparation and not all boats have sufficient galley capacity for such a gala affair. Discuss this carefully with your agent and you’ll find several vessels and talented chefs familiar with this form of exclusive catering.
Beyond the negotiating, eating and drinking, numerous exciting add-ons are available to lighten the mood. Consider these for your charter.
Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting. A great team activity. Competitive, safe and fun. Use real shotguns shooting harmless laser beams at real clays.
Golf. Whack a bucket of floating balls into the harbour.
Jet Boat. Guests can jump aboard any of the exhilarating, high speed jet boats for a half hour heart-starter.
Entertainers. Jugglers, singers, comedians and dancers are all frequently aboard charter boats. Your agent will have a roster. Just consider your audience!
Post cruise relax. You may be in a hurry for the airport or the next meeting, but why not consider a drop off at a local point of interest like Sydney Opera House, Watsons Bay or Rose Bay for a relaxing stroll or coffee.
A small percentage of clients enquire about overnight charters and an even smaller percentage proceed.
This option is for your big end of town but holds the greatest potential for disappointment if mishandled. Not every yacht, even a multimillion dollar luxury cruiser, is always a five star hotel. All boats, even the few with active stabilisation, will rock slightly at anchor. Some bathroom facilities can be cramped and there will always be some noise from the generators.
If your international guests have their hearts set on this activity, there is little room for compromise. The ultra-prestige vessels in this category will be harder to arrange on short notice, but coupled with private aircraft transfers, clients can be aboard in the Whitsundays in just a few hours from any eastern seaboard capital city.
The Good The Bad and the Ugly
Sometimes we can have a good laugh afterwards, but our blood runs cold at the thought. Boating in any form is a safety conscious business and all skippers are acutely aware of the dangers to their passengers and vessel. Here are some things to keep in mind.
• High Heels, especially stilettos are not welcome on most boats. They are difficult to walk around in and quickly damage soft wood decks like teak.
• Avoid incendiaries, candles and sparklers. Sure to make your captain bite his nails to the elbow.
• Disabled Access. Most boats can do this, but please give notice beforehand.
• Overdoing it. All professional vessels are bound by liquor laws and captains must stop serving intoxicated persons. It’s the law.
Here are a few sample ideas put together by the crew here at Ocean. We don’t mess about.
Seafaris – Ocean Safari
In our January edition we featured this brand new supreme luxury vessel based in Far North Queensland, but capable of operating throughout the South Pacific.
This is serious “movie star” luxury. Seafaris is 41 metres of world class maritime indulgence. Whether your passion is for diving, relaxing, adventure or just cruising, Seafaris is designed to meet the expectations of the most discerning client.
Imagine anchoring in crystal clear water above a reef teeming with tropical fish and bursting with brightly coloured coral while enjoying a lunch of almond crusted barramundi fillets served with Tasmanian scallops.
Transport and entertain ten guests in absolute luxury for any custom itinerary in the region.
For further information on Seafaris, call Cameron at Grant Torrens International Marine on 07 5577 2299 or visit www.granttorrensmarine.com.au
In September last year, Anthony was treated to dinner on board this luxury 84 foot Italian motor cruiser. It was certainly a dinner to remember because it’s not every day you have celebrity chef Serge Dansereau from the acclaimed Bathers Pavilion cook you poached King George whiting with parsnip brandade.
The two year old Oceanos II spends most of her time in and around Sydney Harbour and is one of the few beautifully appointed vessels capable of staging such a feast.
With a little imagination and flair, any dinner occasion can be transformed beyond the ordinary to capitalise on the superb Sydney Harbour.
For further information on Oceanos II, call Mel or Vicky on 02 9555 4599 or visit www.oceanos.com.au
Ocean Dynamics’s Pilatus and Maritimo Escape
If the idea of the exclusive corporate charter plane to a tropical island appeals, then consider climbing aboard Ocean Dynamics’s private Pilatus from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane and flying to the Great Barrier Reef haven of Hamilton Island. There you can indulge yourself aboard any of Ocean Dynamics three vessels, but you’ll probably want to choose either the superb Riviera 47 Gen 2 or Maritomo 60 for overnight and cruising options.
For further information on Ocean Dynamics vessels or aircraft, call 07 3268 4074 or visit www.oceandynamics.com.au