Vacation: All You've Ever Wanted?

31 July 2009 By Janine Ketterer

In a recent blog, Mike French touched on the topic of standardized holiday time for crew, which piqued our interest. Just how do crew feel about their yachts’ holiday policies?

Most of crew we queried say they receive 30 days holiday a year. First Mate Rob of M/Y Bossy Boots thinks that the 30-day policy is more than generous. “I think that we get plenty of vacation time considering what other people get, especially anyone working in America. My first year on board I didn’t even take all of my days.”

How one accrues these days, however, seems to differ from boat to boat. Deckhand Andy of M/Y Katharine says he earns 2.5 days for every month he is on board. “It’s in our contract, so after a year we’ve earned four weeks off.”

“After six months, I got my two weeks off and went home for a wedding. I can’t take a day here or a day there because I’m from Australia; I have to take them in weeks,” says Deckhand Steve of M/Y Man of Steel.

In the cruise industry, there is a strict, regulated policy on time off to avoid burnout and optimize safety for all on board. The yachting industry does not adhere to such standardization and crew without contracts are not guaranteed vacation time at all.

“There is no standard for time off,” says Rupert Connor of Luxury Yacht Group. “You can refer to the STCW for hours worked per day, but how can you regulate vacation time in an industry when some boats sit in marinas for months on end while others have non-stop charter programs. Some programs don’t constitute lots of time off.”

Deckhand Andy disagrees. “I think [the month vacation time] is sufficient, but in regards to employment, there should be a minimum of vacation time standard through the industry.”

So how far in advance should you plan for your trip and who’s footing the bill? Deckhand Steve says that the owners of his yacht give at least two months’ notice as to when they will be on board. “As long as the owner’s aren’t on, we can have off.” However, on one occasion, the owners plans changed – as is their prerogative, “it’s their boat after all” – and they came on early. “I had to re-book my flight, but the boat paid for the extra charges,” says Steve.

Other boats are not as generous. First Mate Rob ran into the same issue one Caribbean season. “I had to get back to St. Maarten quickly and shelled an extra $300 out of my own pocket for the flights.”

Both crewmembers say that their captains are flexible about taking time off, as long as enough notice is given. Connor says the same applies to captains, “Suitable notice [of vacation time] is important so crew can make the most of their time.”

Tim Davey, president of Global Marine Travel (GMT), says when crew have time off they want to get as much accomplished as possible. “It’s all about time management,” he says.

He says advanced planning and a set budget are all keys to making the most of your holiday time. “Right now, in this environment, there are deals to be had. Do your homework and use a travel agent.” GMT offers marine airfares, which are as adaptable as your plans, so in the event of change, you won’t be throwing your money away on penalty fees.

In previous years, owners footed their crew’s travel expenses as added incentive to stay on board. Today’s market sees crew paying their own way, but if you do your research, trips are affordable, says Davey.

“Vacation time is very important,” says Connor. “Paid time off should be part of your contract because there is a basic human need to be home with one’s family and that is something missing within the yachting industry.”

Do you feel you get enough time off? Do you think there should be more regulation when it comes to holidays for crew?