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Superyachts on a Shoestring

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Now there’s a phrase that’s never been written before

Contributed by: Jo Morgan

And up until now, that’s no wonder: private luxury yachts have been exclusively for the super-rich, costing many millions to buy and run and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to charter out by the week.

Yet as the global yacht fleet grows, the secret is getting out that you can actually charter a smaller superyacht for about the same price as you’d expect to pay for a luxury hotel on the French Riviera or on a Caribbean island.

So what’s changed, and why is it such a great time to take your first superyacht vacation?

The last 15 years have seen extraordinary changes sweep through the private yacht industry, with an explosion in the number of superyachts on the water, and a change in perception by those who own them.  These work in your favour, opening up the luxury yachting experience to you and your family.

How so?

15 years ago, a 150 foot yacht was considered a very large yacht; anything over 200 feet was simply enormous. Yet as luxury yachting became the most prestigious pastime on earth, a race began between the billionaires to own the biggest yacht. As a result, a 150 yacht is no longer considered a big yacht, and the largest private yacht in the world, Azzam, is a staggering 590 foot long!

Recently, I was on a 150 foot yacht when a much larger yacht came in ‘next door’.  The yacht owner, visibly annoyed, went to the captain and told him, ‘I want to buy a bigger yacht. This is too small.’ He then insisted that the captain immediately move to another anchorage.

Amusing, yes. But the point of the story is that what impressed a billionaire in terms of luxury 10 years ago rarely impresses them now. This, of course, works in your favour.

The market has been flooded with bigger and bigger yachts, meaning that the smaller superyacht range (from 79ft to 100 ft) is no longer as popular with the upper end of the market and has become more accessible. So much has the perception changed on the size of superyachts, that the industry is seriously considering changing the very definition of superyacht to being a yacht over 98 ft.

All industries evolve, and in this case it’s in your favour.

How did the GFC bring more yachts onto the charter market?

When the Global Financial Crisis hit, the superyacht industry was riding an extraordinary wave, with huge luxury yachts being ordered faster than shipyards could build them. Yet with the recession, things slowed down, and the public perception of owning yachts became less popular in times of austerity.

Yacht owners started worrying about how they could utilise these assets rather than have them tied up on a dock for much of the year.  They still loved their yachts and wanted to keep them, but wanted to use them more effectively. This ties in with a stronger worldwide trend for people to put their assets to work for them- whether their cars (Uber) or accommodation (Airbnb).

In the yachting industry, of course, owners started offering their yachts on the charter market, to offset the high costs of owning them.

So here we are now, in the delightful position of having a global fleet of charter yachts, which are more affordable than ever before.

Why are the smaller superyachts so great to charter?

The yachts in question at this smaller end of the range are still extraordinary: remember, these are the very same superyachts that were considered the height of indulgence and luxury by the richest people on earth just over a decade ago.

They even sleep the same number of people as the bigger yachts. You might think that as yachts got bigger they’d take more and more guests- but for the most part, yachts still accommodate only up to 12 guests due to licensing restrictions.

There are also huge advantages of chartering these smaller yachts that go way beyond the lower charter cost.

Smaller superyachts can easily find spaces in ports and shallow anchorages, where the very big yachts often struggle to find ports and anchorages big enough to accommodate them. In addition, the smaller yachts also deliver a more authentic holiday experience-they’re big, but not so big that your family and friends don’t spend quality time together as a group. On smaller luxury yachts, your  crew are a small group of discreet and friendly professionals who get to know you and your group over the week- whereas on bigger yachts there can be 20, 50, or even over 100 crew! As it turns out, size isn’t everything- in fact with superyacht charters it can work against your enjoyment when yachts get too big. (Just don’t tell that yacht owner who’s off to order a bigger yacht!)

So what’s the fly in the ointment? Any hidden costs?

Well, yes, there often are on yachting holidays- and that’s where first-time charterers often get tripped up and overspend. But here’s where OceanScape Yachts really comes into its own. Charter rates on private yachts normally don’t include food, fuel, tips or berthing fees- and believe me, these can really add up! But with OceanScape Yachts, all-inclusive packages can be designed to include these things, unless of course you want to ‘push the boat out’ on particular luxury items, or if your itinerary requires extra fuel.  Either way, the team at OceanScape Yachts is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the cost of a superyacht vacation, and can help ensure that yours is fairly priced.

So, is this superyachts for the masses?

Never. It will always be for the well-to-do, as superyachts are still the ultimate in luxury holidays. In truth, it will never be ‘superyachts on a shoestring’- unless of course the shoelace in question comes from a pair of Armani brogues. But the definition of ‘the superyacht set’ certainly just got a lot wider. Today, a lot more of us who are on good incomes or have a sizeable nest egg, can enjoy a more luxurious, more exciting and more glamorous holiday than ever before.