Child's Play: Chartering with Kids

Throw away the Game Boys and show your kids how to have real fun on these select yachts.

Charter

childsplay1.jpg

Chartering with children.Yachting

I wish I were a kid today. When I was young, Disneyland was the ultimate family outing. Today, many charter yachts can duplicate that experience and even go one better.

Not every yacht is "kid-friendly," but some have gone to great lengths to develop reputations for being "pro-kid." To find out what makes these yachts special, we talked to three captains whose yachts are well known to charter brokers for welcoming children.

For Capt. Peter Vazquez aboard Island Time, a 110-foot stocked with pre-teen movies, but the entire crew works to come up with innovative ideas for stimulating and entertaining the youngsters aboard.

Passion
Chartering with children.Yachting

| | |

At the other end of the scale, when Passion, a 173-foot Swedeship, was refitted for an owner with several children, a 300-game video arcade was installed on the boat deck. "We also have an air hockey table, every possible board and XBox game, plus things like a chocolate fountain for desserts," says Capt. Neil Emmott. "But the yacht has maintained its sophisticated décor, so we can have a dozen guests for a gourmet cruise and they don't feel like they're in a nursery."

Da Bubba, a 100-foot Hargrave, has gone the extra mile when it comes to kid safety, says Capt. Taylor Lawson. The yacht is equipped with baby gates on most doors, pocket doors to protect kids from stairwells, and the crew adds safety nets or doors around the decks for full protection when children are aboard.

A common starting point for each yacht is with the crew. "We carry a large crew of as many as 15," says Emmott, "and I make it a point to hire those who like kids. Most of our crew are in their 20s, so they are thinking about families of their own, and they have a natural character set to stimulate kids…to do the extra to motivate them."

Though the crews of Island Time and Da Bubba are smaller, they also have the same genuine enjoyment of youngsters. Says Lawson, "During the interview, I ask them point blank: Do you like kids?"

Passion, thanks to her size, naturally wins when it comes to toys, but all the yachts have exceptional collections of board games, books, movies, and even the likes of genuine "slurpee" machines and karaoke players.

To make sure the youngsters fully enjoy the charter experience, Vazquez "confiscates" the ubiquitous electronic games that kids bring aboard, telling them they interfere with the navigational equipment just like on airliners. As a replacement, Island Time keeps children fully engaged with "Adventure Tours:" snorkeling, shell-hunting, and riding Jet Skis or water toys. Vazquez and his crew also provide an educational side, pointing out details about the islands and sea life that become the key to evening trivia contests at dinnertime.

Guests aboard Da Bubba might discover a bottle on a beach, complete with an "ancient" treasure map. Miraculously, the map seems to match a nearby island, sending the kids on a five-stepsnorth-of-the-bent-palm-tree search that ends with a treasure chest filled with doubloons of chocolate.

For youngsters aboard Passion, the crew stages Jet Ski races and Laser regattas, and an evening might be dedicated to a murder mystery to be solved. "We get them away from their iPods and encourage them to have real fun," says Emmott.

When it comes to meals, these yachts also go out of their way to focus on youngsters. Jacquie, the chef aboard Island Time, knows that kids enjoy the galley, so she dresses them up in sous-chef outfits and has them help prepare meals for which they can take credit. Taylor notes that kids aboard charter yachts tend to have fairly sophisticated palates, but they all want extra dessert. For Passion, it's a matter of checking beforehand so the chef has the favorite cookie dough, plus treats like sours or Milk Duds or Tootsie Rolls. Emmott adds, "We even check to see if there is a special baby food or formula, and we'll have it flown in."

The three crews also clearly understand that the parents may crave some private time of their own, whether it's to walk on a beach by themselves, curl up with a book, or disappear behind, ahem, closed doors. Aboard Island Time, that's when some of the crew will take the youngsters on an adventure, leaving the adults alone. Capt. Taylor on Da Bubba makes it clear the crew "are not babysitters. They all have jobs and housekeeping to do. But we also understand that it's important to give the parents an afternoon off, so we plan kid-specific diversions."

The crews of all three yachts also have a strong sense of "play" that adds to the fun for the youngsters. On Da Bubba, the crew might serve dinner in pirate outfits, complete with plastic parrots on their shoulders, to celebrate the discovery of the "buried treasure." Island Time crewmembers compose a special poem about the guests and events during their charter, with a focus on the kids, and this is accompanied by a DVD movie from photos taken that week.

Yes, kids have it better than ever aboard charter yachts: Chocolate fountains, treasure hunts, Jet Ski races…it sounds like a lot of fun. And it is...for everyone. So, does all this creative play encourage the grownups on board to unwind?

As Capt. Emmott confides, "After the kids have gone to bed, I'm never surprised to find the adults playing with the video games!"

Da Bubba, Island Time, and Passion are all available for charter through your favorite charter broker.