Caribbean Charter Season: Same as Last Year?

16 November 2010 By Leigh Ellis

The mood on the docks at this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was upbeat as charter agents reported a steady flow of visitors to the charter boats on display. Of course, new launches like Cakewalk, the 281-foot superyacht delivered by Derecktor Shipyards this summer, with its million dollar-per-week charter rate, attracted a large share of the attention as the crew gave back-to-back tours during the show. Whether the buzz at FLIBS will translate into increased charter bookings for this Caribbean winter season versus the 2009/2010 season remains to be seen, however.

“Though we had a good ‘run’ on pre-booking for the holidays, there are still many yachts of all sizes that are still open, not only in the Sacks/IYC fleet, but overall in all the fleets,” said Jennifer M. Saia, executive director of Luxury Yacht Vacation Division for International Yacht Collection, which recently merged with The Sacks Group. “I think now that FLIBS is over and we are fast approaching Thanksgiving, there will be a rush of charter bookings for the holidays and beyond. I am seeing some good inquiries through the spring and many clients and prospective clients from FLIBS are very positive about booking in 2011.”

“Anything under the $100,000 range is doing well. The mid-range yachts are booked for the holidays. What’s still open are the big boats.” reported Barbara Dawson, charter broker for Camper & Nicholsons International in Palm Beach, Florida. “I think we’ll have a good selection of yachts down there [in the Caribbean]; it won’t be too much different than previous years. I’m hoping we’ll see an upturn, but we’ll pretty much have to wait and see.”

The recent trend toward charter clients delaying their decision to book a charter yacht vacation in hopes of getting a better deal appears to be continuing this season. “My feeling is that [bookings are] pretty last-minute,” agreed Natalie Ashworth, a charter broker who recently joined the team at Peter Insull’s Yacht Marketing. She added that the yachts in Peter Insull’s charter fleet headed to the Caribbean have received some advanced bookings for the season, however; especially the 246-foot Leander.

The Caribbean “milk runs” to the BVI, St. Martin/St. Barths and Antigua continue to receive the majority of the charter inquiries, brokers confirm. But interest is growing in less-travelled routes. “I’ve gotten quite a few calls for the Grenadines,” Dawson said.

The Moorings opened a new base at Port Louis Marina in St. George’s, Grenada, on October 1, which will serve as a gateway to the Grenadines for its bareboat and crewed charter fleets. The Moorings offers luxury crewed yacht charters on 40-foot through 51-foot sailing cats and monohulls in Grenada, but the facilities at Camper & Nicholsons’ Port Louis Marina, which has 30 slips for boats up to 300 feet in length, are sure to draw superyachts this season as well.

One of the biggest changes in store for the Caribbean charter fleet this December is the lack of a St. Maarten Charter Yacht Show, which was canceled after the MYBA decided not to renew its relationship with the show. The Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting, scheduled for December 6-11, already is benefiting from the absence of a rival show with overlapping dates, which forced brokers to “island hop” from St. Martin to Antigua. As of November 10, more than 115 yachts were registered in advance for the 2010 edition of the Antigua charter show, while a total of 93 yachts attended in 2009.