There is some good news from the Bahamas when it comes to crewed-yacht charter, which all but ground to a halt worldwide when the COVID-19 pandemic struck this past spring. Charters have resumed in the aquamarine paradise within cruising distance of South Florida, albeit with some fits and starts that are likely to continue throughout this fall and winter. As long as clients are willing to be flexible about the charter experience, a getaway can still happen.
A little recent history makes clear why charter is resuming—and why it isn’t quite the same as most fans of the Bahamas may remember it. The Bahamas first closed itself off from the world in late March, with an announcement of four cases in its capital city of Nassau. To protect the local hospitals from being overrun by a big virus spread, the islands stayed closed until July 1. Then the Bahamas reopened for what turned out to be just three weeks. Americans were once again mostly banned, including from commercial flights. By the end of July, the Bahamas was welcoming Americans who arrived on private boats—as long as they used the boats as a quarantine location for 14 days (or less, if the boat was only in the Bahamas for, say, a week).
That last change to the regulations made it possible for crewed-yacht charter to resume. A month later, at the end of August, there were no reports of charter guests infecting locals with the novel coronavirus, so the option of chartering while quarantining remained in place.
The start-stop-start nature of changing regulations is just a fact of life as the pandemic continues, but with most charter-yacht contracts now including COVID-19 addenda for such scenarios, brokers are telling clients they can book with confidence. More charter yachts are also offering Bahamas bookings that start in South Florida, sometimes with a free day thrown in for the cruise from Miami or Fort Lauderdale over to the islands. That type of itinerary eliminates the headache of trying to figure out commercial or private airfare.
Under the current regulations, Bahamas yacht charter is a scenario of “the yacht with the most toys wins.” Because the restaurants ashore remain closed for everything but takeout, and because visitors are required to quarantine on the yachts and visit sandspits where nobody else is sitting, booking a charter aboard a boat with a ton of toys is the best bet.
The 143-foot Benetti HOM, part of the Camper & Nicholsons International fleet, just got all-new toys and a beach setup as part of a refit. Lady Cope, a 98-foot Princess that charters through Ocean Independence, has a waterslide among its offerings. Intervention, a 100-foot Azimut in the Churchill Yacht Partners fleet, has a Flyboard along with stand-up paddleboards and fishing gear. Marybelle, an 82-foot Viking in the Fraser fleet, charters with not only a 24-foot Intrepid tender but also a 15-foot Dragonfly for flats fishing; this yacht’s paddleboards also have rod holders.
With arsenals of toys like these for private excursions and playtime all day long, a Bahamas charter can be a true respite even without the typical beach-bar singalongs and conch fritters served ashore. This winter’s Bahamaian yacht charters will feel different and may technically be an onboard quarantine, but they still can be great fun—something we all could use a hefty dose of this winter.
Bahamas Entry Requirement
It’s important to note that the Bahamian government reserves the right to change its entry requirements at any time. As of this writing, charter clients will need a negative covid-19 test taken no more than five days prior to entry, along with a travel health visa that can be accessed online. A place to quarantine for 14 days after entering is also required, but the Bahamian government says a boat qualifies, so the charter can happen simultaneously.