Those of us who book vacations aboard chartered yachts obviously do so because we enjoy being aboard boats and on the water. But just how much do we like that feeling? The novelty of life on the water would wear off quickly if the experience were akin to sleeping adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge off-ramp-noise, extra movement and distractions have little or no place aboard a chartered yacht.
The extent to which a yacht can deliver a smooth, quiet experience varies, as does the extent to which a yacht's crew can accommodate a charter party's needs. If you want to take these wants to an extreme and walk away not just satisfied, but impressed, a worthy yacht is the 194-foot Senses. I found this out for myself during a stay aboard her in the French Riviera.
Senses is an ironic name for her, since the idea behind the refit of this Schweers was to deliver an experience that involved being more or less absent of your Senses while aboard. As Captain Paul Deeth put it, "Senses is about the lack of Senses: no noise, not seeing crew, not needing anything."
And in an environment where at any given moment you could be dealing with big engines, large swells and noisy anchor chains, Senses and her crew succeed in leaving you with only a sense of contentment.
Stepping aboard, you'll first notice the décor-a balance of dark woods, white walls and white furniture. On some yachts, such tones mix and disappear into an uninspirational palate, but on Senses, splashes of color, by way of throw pillows, blankets and artwork, pull it all together. Once you discover Philippe Starck handled the interior design, the décor, well, makes sense. Much of the artwork comprises pieces created by the owner's sister, and the photographs-stark black-and-white images shot from unique perspectives and hung along the foyers and in the saloons-are the work of the owner.
Among all the creature comforts of Senses' plush interior, the large settees were a favorite of guests during the time I was aboard. Found on the afterdeck and in some of the saloons, each is the size of a day bed and covered with white pillows so large, your average toddler might mistake them for a mattress. At first, no one knew exactly what to do with these mammoth perches. Balanced on the edge as if awaiting a posture check from the head steward, we sipped our watermelon daiquiris and got to know each other. By the end of that first night, though, we sprawled across them, more comfortable than we are in our own living rooms.
The exceptional comfort of the accommodations shouldn't be overlooked, either. The theme aboard the common areas was carried through to the staterooms, resulting in a plush, seamless experience between day and night. It helped that there was never an instance when any of the guests could hear the anchor chain, never a time when we awoke to the motors starting up to take us to our next destination.
What helped most, though, was the crew. Simply put, the crew on Senses put on a clinic during our time aboard. Crewmembers anticipated our needs, fulfilled our dietary requests-and delivered them creatively-and always seemed to know where we were aboard, even though we rarely glimpsed them. One couldn't help but wonder if the wine glasses were bugged.
Of all the destinations handpicked by our captain during our trip, two stand out for showing off the capabilities of Senses, her crew and why this yacht is so fit for charter.
After a day in Cannes, we headed toward the small archipelago of Lerins, a cruise of just a few hours. Passing by the larger of the two islands, Sainte Marguerite, we dropped anchor just off Saint-Honorat, the smaller island. We took the Halmatic RIB to this lush island and disembarked, a crewmember joining us for the hike around the area. Noticing the monastery, the island's biggest draw, we casually inquired whether it was still active.
"Paul, Paul," the mate called to the captain, still aboard Senses, "the ladies are wondering whether the monastery is still active."
"Stand by," Deeth replied.
After a moment or two, the radio crackled.
"Please tell the ladies yes, it's still active," Deeth said. Ours was a rhetorical question quickly answered-a nice, unexpected touch. It's exactly the type of service guests consistently receive aboard Senses.
We continued walking the trails, admiring the work of the Cistercian monks who founded the monastery in the early fifth century. The island is small-less than a mile long and not even a half-mile wide-but it provides a seamless day trip between life in France and life aboard Senses.
Making our way along the coast, we visited St. Jean Cap Ferrat, a village set on a peninsula that juts into the Mediterranean between Nice and Monaco. Though the area is heavily residential, there are cafés along the port for those who choose to go ashore. A visit to St. Jean Cap Ferrat, however, is really about making the most of Senses and the scenery.
In the bay, we were able to launch a variety of her toys. I was happy to sail the classic 8.5-meter Herreshoff sloop I had been eyeing since stepping aboard. Others took advantage of the WaveRunners, Hobie Cat and snorkel gear, all deployed at a moment's notice. No matter the diverse interests of the guests, Senses carries enough toys and, more important, enough crew to make using them hassle-free.
Deeth agreed, and pointed out his favorite aspect of Senses. "It's the boat's versatility," he said. "There are enough toys and tenders, and the boat can stay under way while the guests are sailing or swimming."
Needless to say, after a day of playing on the water, we were ready for some low-energy relaxation. We boarded the yacht and headed straight for the jacuzzi, where we were met quickly with snacks and drinks. The chef was able, without question, to accommodate our last-minute guest, and as the afternoon waned, we settled into a long, savory meal of roasted duck with a red-wine reduction, sweet-potato mash and wilted spinach. But first, there was a toast:
"To Senses," a fellow guest said.
To Senses, indeed.
Contact: Camper & Nicholsons International, (011) 377 97 97 77 00; email@example.com; www.cnconnect.com, or any charter broker. Senses accommodates charters for $240,000 per week, plus expenses, for 12 guests. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877; www.yachtingnet.com/yachting/productinfo.