Jennifer M. Saia, executive director for the Luxury Yacht Vacation Division at International Yacht Collection, was recently a guest of Camper and Nicholsons International aboard the 132-foot Amels motoryacht Monte Carlo. She cruised from St. Lucia to Mustique, in the Grenadines, during the month of August—which is traditionally the “off-season” in the Caribbean.
Following is what Saia told me about her experience aboard Monte Carlo. All of the photos in this post were taken by her, as well.
Monte Carlo is a 1988 build that was refit in 2008. How did she look to you?
I thought she looked terrific. And not only that, her crew are exceptional. This yacht had every quality necessary to help me feel calm and relaxed the moment I stepped onboard. I was greeted at the airport by the yacht’s personal driver, and two smiling stewardesses welcomed me to the yacht itself with chilled lavender towels. From the very start, Monte Carlo and her crew impressed me.
Eight guests are truly spoiled by the amount of space throughout the yacht, including her salon, aft deck, sky lounge, and flybridge. My room particularly felt like the “master suite” though it is considered the VIP.
Most people think of the Caribbean as a winter charter destination. How was the weather in August?
During the few days that I was onboard, the weather was abnormal with patches of rain and wind. But in general, we had plenty of sunshine and the temperature was in the mid-80s. I was perfectly comfortable swimming, using the paddle boards, and scuba diving with the crew.
Monte Carlo is one of the rare charter yachts that offers scuba right from the boat, instead of through a rendezvous company. Did you do some diving to check out their operation?
I did. They have a 32-foot Intrepid tender that is fantastic for taking people and gear to nearby dive sites. Capt. Vince Lauro and deckhand Ariane Graf ar
e both PADI-certified dive instructors, and engineer Craig Norton is a PADI-certified dive master, so I felt that I was in good hands. It had been more than six years since my last dive, so Ariane and Vince arranged a refresher dive in shallow water where all of the guests could feel comfortable in their gear. Then we did serious dives in the Tobago Cays and Mustique, where the reefs were quite colorful and alive with fish and coral. Everything about the boat’s dive operation was first-rate, including all of the gear that they provided.
What did the other guests do while the divers enjoyed some scuba?
That’s one of the great things about Monte Carlo—there are lots of options for everybody. The crew took the time to set up a private beach cabana ashore (see the photograph at right) with lots of water toys, coolers full of snacks and drinks, fresh towels, chairs in the shade, and blankets in the sun. Guests who wanted to enjoy a day at the beach had everything they could want, including kayaks and paddle boards.
Or, guests could stay aboard with stewardess Nedra Walker, who is a massage therapist. She does the lomilomi style of massage for charter clients when time is available, and it really is a treat. I had a massage during my stay, and I found it completely energizing. It was a serious deep-tissue experience.
Chef Patrick Roney is someone I’ve written about quite a bit on CharterWave, as he is a frequent winner of culinary competitions. How was the food he prepared aboard Monte Carlo?
I’ll tell you—he’s truly a nice person, and he really did cater to our group of all ladies by preparing petit portions of local and flavorful foods at every meal. He was also sensitive to my allergies and created great substitutions for me so that I never once felt like I was missing out on what the other guests were eating (though it all looked fantastic.)
I think it’s also important to mention the wine pairings and table settings (that’s one from the aft deck in the photograph below). Patrick’s wife, Heather Roney, is the chief stewardess, and they work exceptionally well together to create an all-encompassing dining experience. We had terrific ambience at every meal, printed copies of each menu to take home, and terrific wines that made us all feel as though we were dining at the best restaurant in the world.
So overall, would you recommend Monte Carlo as a charter yacht?
Absolutely, and without hesitation. I’d recommend our itinerary, too, going one-way from St. Lucia to Mustique if you have only four days, as I did. If you have a longer period of time, you can go from St. Lucia to Grenada or the reverse. A lot of clients think they can only go round-trip on charter, but when yo
u cruise one-way, you get to see a lot more of the islands. In the Grenadines, that’s a great thing. We had
no trouble catching a quick flight from Mustique back to St. Lucia’s international airport. There are other islands in the Grenadines that offer similar short hops, or you can return home directly via Grenada’s international airport.
On our last day, the crew asked us to gather in the main salon and played a video that they’d made of our trip. It was so great that it brought tears to my eyes. They gave us each a copy to take home, too. I’ve been showing it to my colleagues, and many of them are actually jealous. I really do highly recommend this yacht and crew.
Monte Carlo is part of the charter fleet at Camper and Nicholsons International. She takes eight guests with seven crew at a lowest weekly base rate of $70,000 in the summer or $75,000 during the winter months. You can contact Jennifer M. Saia through the IYC website to learn more about her experience or book a week onboard.