Be A Good Charter Guest

Your behavior aboard might affect which boat you can book next time.

Be A Good Charter Guest

Charter yachts can have a funny effect on people. The lack of society’s prying eyes, and a quest to achieve ultimate relaxation, set some folks so free of inhibitions that they resemble feral cats, or wild boars. Crew say that maybe one in 20 guests fit this description, but boy, is that one guest a doozy. I’ve heard stories about everything from bathtubs used as toilets to bath towels used as toilet paper. And don’t even get me started on the places where stewardesses say they discover used prophylactics.

Sometimes, good charter guests go bad because of excitement overload. One stewardess tells the story of a movie star whose young daughters, slathered in sunscreen, ran into the main salon and directly onto a suede sofa. Adults can succumb too. That usually happens in the wee hours, when Mr. Personality is still standing on the top deck, half naked, demanding that someone bring him yet another drink before he does a swan dive into the bay.

Other times, charter guests are simply ugly human beings. “It’s not my boat,” they sniff as they drop cigar ashes on a handmade rug. “Don’t you come with the boat?” they leer as they grope a stewardess.

What most guests don’t know is that such stories will follow them like a shadow. Yes, you feel shrouded in privacy aboard a charter yacht, but there is always someone watching — usually the poor crew member who gets stuck cleaning up after you. His story finds the ear of the captain, who tells the yacht’s owner, who talks with his friends and his broker, and your broker too. Inside of a week, you’re a pariah across the industry.

If you’re a jerk, there’s no advice that will save you from this scenario. But if you’re like the majority of charter guests — good people just trying to have fun — then the following tips will help you avoid unfortunate incidents, and mitigate the damage should an accident occur.

Respect the Yacht
One of the most common sales pitches in yacht charter is: "It's your boat for the week. You can do whatever you want."

That’s true in terms of making itinerary or menu changes, but you don’t actually own the boat. If you ignore the crew’s instructions and dance in stiletto heels on a teak deck, the indents you leave behind can require entire planks to be replaced — work that not only costs the owner money, but also shipyard time that jeopardizes future charters and associated income.

A good general rule is to treat the yacht the way you treat your home. If you wouldn’t eat sauce-drenched barbecue ribs while standing on your own ivory carpeting, then don’t do it on board.

Basic manners solve most problems, and crew will politely let you know if you’re inadvertently doing something wrong. It’s OK to loosen up on charter. Just try not to lose your grip entirely.

Respect the Crew
The thing about Mr. Personality demanding a drink at 4 a.m. is that he's not just making an ass of himself. He's also requiring the attention of a stewardess who has been on duty since noon, and who has to begin brewing coffee at dawn for the other guests.

If you look at the crew-to-guest ratios aboard most charter yachts, you see numbers along the lines of three crew for eight guests, or six crew for 10 guests. The average number of sleeping hours per night for a crew on charter — even with easygoing guests — is four to six. Even the most diligent, hardworking crew will falter if your antics cut into their rest.

As with respecting the yacht, basic manners show respect for the crew. If all but two guests have long gone to bed, tell the sleepy stewardess that you’ll take the bottle of wine and refill your own glasses. If the deckhand just pulled your sons around on water skis for three hours, give him a minute to grab a snack before you demand to use the Jet Skis.

Most crew want to make you happy. The best guests let them do so without adding pressure.

Apologize Appropriately
The stewardess who told me about the sunscreen and the suede sofa wasn't upset with the kids — excited kids do things without thinking. What upset her — and the yacht's owner — is that the father shrugged his shoulders as if to say "Do your job and clean it up." There was no apology or offer to pay for the damage. Accidents will happen. Apologize, and usually, that will be enough. If you find yourself in a situation where severe damage has been done, then offer to pay for repairs. You may not end up shelling out the cash, but making the gesture will keep you in good graces, all across the industry.