Chartering a luxury yacht is one of the most immersive vacations one can take. Unflappable service, ultimate privacy and the beauty of the open sea in a dreamy location; no wonder the industry is seeing a huge rise in interest. After unprecedented demand in both 2020 and 2021, this coming yacht charter season is once again set to be busier than ever, so understanding the yachting industry jargon is essential – especially for first-time charterers.
To help you secure the perfect charter yacht in the perfect place, Elite Traveler breaks down exactly how long each yacht charter season lasts, the difference between high and low season and what industry insiders mean by ‘shoulder season’, as well as the best places to travel are during different times of the year.
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Yacht charter seasons explained
If you’ve never chartered a yacht before, deciphering the seasons can be tricky. There are actually two primary types of ‘season’: winter vs summer, and high vs low. Winter/summer seasons each last around six months and refer to both location and time of the year; summer yacht charter season spans from around April/May through October, while the winter season starts in November and runs through April.
The summer/winter seasons are dictated by the weather and water conditions, with areas such as Northern Europe and the Mediterranean most popular during the summer season, while destinations in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Florida dominate the winter yacht charter season.
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High/low season (also known as peak/off-peak season), on the other hand, refers to the busier and quieter times the yachting calendar, with peaks in both the summer and winter seasons. During the winter, Christmas and New Year are the peak yacht charter periods, with July and August being the busiest in the summer season. During these times yacht availability tends to be more limited and prices are often higher.
Peak vs off-peak yacht charter costs
As with any vacation, booking a yacht charter during peak season will inevitably be more expensive. For example, the ultra-luxe Secret superyacht (who features a swimming pool, separate Jacuzzi, cinema room and fully equipped gym) is available to charter for €840,000 (approximately $990,000) during low season, whereas during both the winter and summer high seasons weekly costs begin at €875,000 ($1.29m).
You’ll also find that local events, such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, will impact yacht availability and weekly chartering costs throughout both high and low seasons.
Can you charter a yacht out of season?
Given that different parts of the world have different peak seasons, you’ll find that at pretty much any given time of the year, you will be able to charter a luxury yacht. However, bear in mind that the summer/winter seasons are primarily in place due to weather; while many luxury yachts are impressively durable, with explorer yachts designed to handle all weathers, yachting is generally best enjoyed in warmer climates and calmer seas.
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So, while it may be possible to charter a yacht in Northern Europe during winter, you may be disappointed to find significantly higher rainfall and lower temperatures. Equally, while the Caribbean and Florida are both known for enjoying generally good weather all year round, don’t disregard the threat of hurricane season, which tends to be from June to November.
You may also find that your preferred yacht is only available in certain destinations at certain times of the year. For example, leading yacht charter company Burgess only offers the hybrid yacht Home for cruising in the Mediterranean during the summer season and in the Caribbean during winter. Ultimately individual yacht availability is dictated by her owner; if they want to enjoy their vessel for themselves during certain months of the year, she won’t be available to charter.
The best way to secure both your desired vessel and ensure a smooth, comfortable cruising experience is to enlist the help of a yacht broker, who will be able to advise you on the best time of year to visit certain destinations as well as use their industry connections to find the best yacht for your needs.
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When looking into chartering a yacht you will also hear of shoulder seasons, which refer to the periods that sit either side of the peak seasons, running from April – May, and September – October. For many, the shoulder seasons are the most preferable time to book a yacht charter: demand for boats, berths and anchorages tends to be far lower and crowds onshore will be smaller. For many, the weather is also more agreeable during shoulder seasons with a light breeze cutting through the heat of the sun.
How long is an individual charter?
In addition to understanding the length and meaning of different yacht charter seasons, you should also consider how long you want to be on board. Most charter companies tend to operate in week-long blocks, but the average is about ten days – again, a yacht broker will be able to negotiate your desired charter length.
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However, while most people tend to charter for one or two weeks, those with time on their hands sometimes opt to charter for extended periods, with some even staying on board for an entire season. On larger vessels, onboard amenities will typically include office spaces (if not full conference rooms) and WiFi connections allowing for business to continue as usual during long-term yacht charters.
When to book a yacht charter
According to yacht charter company Northrop & Johnson, if you want to vacation during the peak seasons you should reach out to a broker no later than ten months in advance to ensure your first choice of boat and berths, with many yachts booked up a year in advance. However, three to six months ahead of time will usually be suitable for off-season yacht charters.