Virgin Islands-based charter broker
Date interviewed: May 2008
Kathleen is blogging now on her CharterWave sponsored page with tips, news, and ideas for crewed charters around the globe.
How did you get started as a charter broker?
I sailed down to the islands on a boat. I was working on boats as a chef and mate. I did trips north and south to New England and back to the Caribbean, and finally, when deciding to get off working on boats, I had an opportunity to work with a boat owner in a Caribbean business. Eventually, I bought the business Regency Yacht Vacations. That was in 1983, and I’ve been booking yacht charters ever since.
In the past few years, the charter boats are getting bigger. So I created a division called Regency Mega Yachts for large-yacht charter bookings, and in 2007 I signed on to work as a Northrop & Johnson office serving the Caribbean for yacht sales as well.
What kinds of boats do you typically book?
Crewed yachts of all sizes.
We have the most experience in the Caribbean. I’ve sailed from the Virgin Islands down to Grenada. But I also do the European boat shows, so we book charters in the Mediterranean as well.
What are some of the best charter destinations you’ve personally visited?
The Virgin Islands are a great place for beginners. I also like to send people from Antigua down to Dominique, but that’s not a trip I recommend for first-time charterers.
Thailand, too, I really love. It’s a gorgeous area and the people are friendly.
I love Italy as well, but you have to have a bit of a budget. Chartering outside of the Caribbean is more expensive. It can catch people off-guard when they want to go to Thailand or Greece or anywhere in Europe. You have to have a budget when you travel internationally.
What is the first thing you ask a new charter client?
The first thing I talk to them about is whether they have a time of year in mind. That will determine some of where they go. If it’s February, we’re not going to talk about the Mediterranean. We might start in the Virgin Islands because the waters are calm that time of year and nobody’s going to get seasick.
From there, it’s a question of what’s important about their charter. Is it the cuisine? Do they want to go scuba diving? Is it a multigenerational trip with grandparents, kids, and grandkids, which we seem to have a lot of lately? Then we can start to talk about boats.
Describe your ideal charter client.
The ideal client has some flexibility. The one thing I can say about these boats is that it's a customized vacation, and that the way charter works can be hard for control freaks to understand. If you can go with the flow, and if you can let the crew guide you about what opportunities are out there, your vacation is going to be far more enjoyable.
You may have planned to go to Norman Island, but the crew may know that whales are being sighted on the north side of Tortola, so if you’re open to changes, you stand to have a lot better experience.
In past years, we had guests who had a chance to sit on the beach and hear Jimmy Buffett play because he happened to be in the area on his boat. It’s not a planned thing. It just happened. If that’s going on, you want to take advantage of that. You have to stay flexible.
Describe your nightmare charter client.
It’s great to have a budget and a parameter of what you’re comfortable with, and we can work with almost any budget. But it’s got to be a win-win. Trying to beat up a boat on price, or get them to haggle, especially if it’s an all-inclusive boat, they’re going to cut corners.
You don’t want to be so concerned with getting the best deal of your life that you destroy the vacation in the process. If you get people below the price that they can afford to do the trip at, then the quality of your vacation is going to suffer.
Describe a previous booking where you worked “above and beyond” to help a client.
I did a charter for a client who wanted to do an offshore passage. He was getting older, and we found a boat that was willing to take him so that he could have that memory.
We also had a cruise for an older woman who needed emergency medical options, and we found a local doctor and made sure we had all the medical files so that if there was a problem, everything would be ready to go. We had a water taxi on standby to make sure it was available if something happened. We were lucky in that she didn’t have an emergency, but we were ready if she did.
What are a few of your favorite charter yachts, and why?
I think it depends upon your background. There are so many great yachts for different reasons and for different size groups.
I tend to like sailing boats, the sleeker, stylish ones, because it’s what I enjoy doing. But the catamarans are so much fun when you have a family group and you try to get people out and have fun.
Who are a few of your favorite yacht crew, and why?
Flexibility is key. They have to have a can-do attitude.
For instance, a client fills the preference sheet out, and that’s great. But maybe Mom forgot to mention that pizza is the kids’ favorite thing. So the chef realizing that it’s not part of the menu, and that they’re all having withdrawals, that’s important. A good chef will make it for them even though it’s not part of the original plan.
When the crew aren’t willing to be spontaneous or to be creative, that’s when you run into trouble.
What makes you different from other charter brokers?
I think what makes us different from many charter brokers is location. We’re in the Virgin Islands, and that gives us local knowledge.
We get a chance to be face-to-face with these crews. We know them. Other brokers might view a boat at a boat show, and that gives them 10 minutes with the crew. We see them on a regular basis, so we get to know them better.
What else should CharterWave readers know about you and Regency Yacht Vacations?
We’ve been here, and we’ve been very consistent, for a very long time. We know the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t, so we can give clients the benefits of that experience.
How can CharterWave readers contact you?
Our phone number is (888) 459-2441, and my e-mail is
. You can also read my blog here on CharterWave, which I update regularly.