Many people who are interested in booking sailing holidays for the first time ask me that or assume it is like that.
Renting a boat, mostly called a private charter since it will be your own very people you chose to sail with, although comes with some standard rental policies that you come across while booking a hotel (availability, down payment and balance payment, cancellation policies etc), is in its hardcore everything but like booking a hotel!
Let’s take it one step at a time for what is considered a standard procedure before, during and after your reservation. To make things simple we will present them as follows.
- Search online for a hotel directly or via a platform like booking.com or Airbnb etc.
- Decide the destination and check for availabilities on your dates
- Check for provided services (i.e. amenities, parking, transfers)
- Check locations on the maps and what points of interest in the area are provided
- Book the hotel room. You will need a credit or debit card to confirm the reservation and you will need to provide the names of the guests
- Check the confirmation and make sure all information is correct.
- Arrival day: You check-in according to hotels check-in times policy. All payments have already been done or you pay upon arrival. You pick up your keys, get to your room and decide what to do next or not.
- During your staying something might go wrong or not in the room but usually, this is handled easily by the reception and a technician
- Departure day: You collect a deposit (if any) you had left, settle minibars or other consumption bills, drop the keys and leave
- Often a platform or the hotel itself will follow up with a small survey on how they did it in order to upgrade or maintain their product
- Decide what kind of boat rental suits you best. Bareboat, Skippered or Crewed and the kind of yacht that suits your needs best (use the links to see the differences).
- Search online for a boat directly with the owner or fleet operator if you happen to know and trust them or via a platform like www.ionianbreeze.gr
- Decide the destination or ask for an operator to advice/inspire you and check for availabilities on your dates
- Check for provided services in both obligatory extras (i.e. end cleaning fee, towels etc) and optional extras (i.e transfers, skipper, hostess etc)
- Check for bases that are available in your country of interest and possible itineraries for a week or two
- Put an option on the boat of interest and proceed with bank transfer or pay via a credit or debit card to confirm the reservation within 5 days. If the reservation is made more than 30 days prior to departure you will be asked to transfer or pay a down payment usually of 30-50% of the yacht fee and a balance payment should be made the latest 31days prior to your departure. You will be sent then a crew list to fill-ups and provide the base with information regarding your flight or time of arrival and information (full names, passports/IDs, dates of birth and nationality)
- Check the confirmation and make sure all information is correct
- One week prior to your arrival date the latest you will need to have the base informed on any changes that might have occurred on the crew list or arrival day
- Arrival day: Usually it will be a Saturday or Sunday but some companies now offer check-in any day of the week. The standard check-in time is 17:00 onwards but some operators might check you in earlier if possible or if you paid extra (where provided) for such a service.
- In case you will have the boat booked without a skipper or a crew, you will be requested to go through a thorough check of the yacht and her equipment that can take up to 2 hours. Do not consider this time as loss, consider it as an investment. You will be shown through a complete inventory list and sign at the end that the boat is in top condition. For safety reasons, you will be requested also to leave a refundable guarantee deposit or damage waiver depending on the bases’ policy. Once you sign that, there is no way for your agent or platform to support you if things prove different later. As a licensed skipper yourself, you are expected to examine thoroughly and take full responsibility of the yacht at all times so if something is not in a good condition and prompt to go wrong, break etc, you shouldn’t accept it or you should clearly state it on the inventory list.
- Once check and paperwork are done, you will be allowed to get onboard and suit yourselves. In between, base personnel will be headed to local port police to get your contract and boat papers stamped and will get them back to you once this is done. Then you can leave the base, or just relax and enjoy the area for the first night. Steps 11 and 12 are much more simplified and done in advance in case you have chosen skippered or crewed charter. Often, in skippered and crewed charters you are ready to go upon arrival.
- You set sails! You will be out in nature and picturesque seaside villages and harbors or marinas for the next week at least. If something goes wrong with the boat (things can break as the sea environment is pretty hostile to sensitive pieces of equipment or often yachts are mistreated) you will contact your base manager and take it from there with him/her. If not, you will just keep enjoying every day and sunset and your awesome tanning.
- You will be requested to enter the base for check-out the previous afternoon before sunset. The reason is that the base needs to make sure that all is working good with the boat and if there are spare parts that need to be replaced etc the base needs to have the time to do so before the next guests come onboard the following day. After the boat has been checked and no damages or losses have occurred you will be fully refunded on your guarantee deposit.
- You will have to check out the latest by 09:00 at most bases. This is not a sadist choice of base managers, this is only a practical way to maintain the boat properly and clean her properly and in time for the next guests to arrive. Remember, it was the previous guests of your boat who did the same so you would face no discomfort. Pass it on with a smile!
- Usually a few days later, making sure you had enough time to acclimatize back home, your charter agent will contact you to discuss your experience and get an insight on things you liked or not in order to be able to offer you a better or as good of an experience the next time you will want to sail.
As you can see for yourselves, renting a boat is far more complicated than booking a hotel room.
There are way more people involved (yacht agent, yacht owner, fleet operator, base manager, transfer professionals, and yacht crews) to make sure that you take in good condition your service and that your overall experience is satisfying and fulfilling.
The yachting world is extremely trained in dealing with different conditions, different needs, and different requirements and therefore usually ready to provide you with an exquisite experience that truth is said, one gets to appreciate and comprehend only once has experienced it.