How did you get started as a charter broker? I did international marketing for about 20 years for a Fortune 500 company. After traveling to 70 or 80 countries and being on the road all the time, I bought a yacht charter company. It was a day charter company that did cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway. I did that for a few years and then sold it, and got into the charter business that I’m in now, Paradise Yacht Charters.
It gave me the opportunity to combine my international travel and experience with the yachting business. This is planning an adventure, planning an experience for my clients. They’re staying for a week, two weeks, up to a month. I actually had one charter that lasted six months.
What kinds of boats do you typically book? Paradise Yacht Charters focuses on the crewed motoryachts. Occasionally we will do the sailing yachts—there are a few that we really like—but our primary emphasis is crewed charter yachts starting around $20,000 and up to $1 million a week.
What are some of the best charter destinations you’ve personally visited? Because of my years of international marketing, I’ve been to so many countries. My favorite destinations are the Greek Isles and the southern Caribbean.
When I say the Greek Islands, I love the little ones like Hydra and Spetses, the ones that the cruise ships and the thousands and thousands of tourists are not going to, the ones where you can meet the Greek people, taste the Greek food, experience the Greek culture, walk along the beaches—those are the places that I really like to visit. And the waters of the Greek Isles are just so incredibly blue.
The Caribbean, St. Bart’s can’t be beat for shopping, and the French culture there is just awesome, but I love to go down to the southern Caribbean. Mustique is a unique little island, Bequia is awesome, Mayreaux is a great little island—all the way down to Trinidad and Tobago. Those are the unexplored, unchartered Caribbean islands, and they’re just incredible.
What is the first thing you ask a new charter client? One of the things you just have to get to is budget. People call and they have great ideas and great expectations, but they really haven’t thought about how much it costs. If they call me and say, “I need a 150-foot yacht with six staterooms” and their budget is $5,000, we’re on two different planets.
If they don’t know, I get their criteria and send them six yachts and say, “Take a look at these and tell me what you think.” One will be a little older, maybe $40,000 or $50,000, and maybe another will be in the $200,000 or $300,000 range. When they say, “We really like this boat,” then I know their budget and can go out and find the best boat for them.
Describe your ideal charter client. My ideal client is one that is willing to work with me and trust me. If they’ve never chartered before, it’s really important that they take my advice.
Let me give you an example. I had a first-time charter client this summer. He wanted to pick up a yacht in Venice and cruise through Croatia to the Greek Isles and end in Turkey. When I asked him how many days he’d planned for his trip, he said one week.
So I said, this isn’t feasible. If you were on your private jet you couldn’t do this trip in a week. We narrowed it down and narrowed it down, and he ended up doing the Amalfi Coast. It turned out awesome. He’s already booked again for next year.
Describe your nightmare charter client. The worst client is one that has no respect for me or, more importantly, for the crew. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, I have awesome clients who respect that the crew is working hard, but once in a while you get one who has no respect for the crew, and that to me is the nightmare client. His reputation will spread quickly, that he has unrealistic expectations, and you’ll never be able to find that client a boat willing to take him again.
The crew is there to help and serve, and I’m there to help and serve. You just have to respect us.
Describe a previous booking where you worked “above and beyond” to help a client. I just had a charter in Greece, and that client wanted swimming noodles. Well, nobody in Greece knew what I was talking about, so I went to the store here in Fort Lauderdale, bought them swimming noodles, and sent them by Fed Ex to Greece so they would have them. Things like that are just standard procedure.
One of my most memorable charters that required a lot of extra planning was a family reunion, and the mother got so ill that they had to almost cancel the charter. We had to charter a private plane that would allow oxygen onboard to get the mother to the charter. We had two large yachts, each six-stateroom, that we had to bring together. We had lots of babies, so we had cribs that we put onboard in Fort Lauderdale and sent them with the boats to the Bahamas. We had to make arrangements to have oxygen on both boats in case the mother wanted to go to the other boat for dinner.
It all came off brilliantly, and it was very memorable.
What are a few of your favorite charter yachts, and why? I don’t like to name names, but I have one hard, true, fast requirement: a can-do crew. One of the reasons I go to all the charter shows is to meet the captain and the crew. What if you have a client who wants this? What if you have a client who wants that? If they say, “Well, we can’t do that,” we put a big X through that boat. We’ll never charter it.
We want a crew that says, “Yeah, we’ll find a way to do that.” That’s a can-do crew, and that’s what I want to hear. Make it happen. That’s the key.
What makes you different from other charter brokers? I think the one thing that sets Paradise Yacht Charters and Rebecca Riley apart is that I am always accessible to my clients—much to the chagrin of some of my friends who have to go to dinner with me and listen to my cell phone ringing and my Blackberry buzzing in my pocket. The only time I don’t answer my phone is perhaps in the middle of the ni
ght, or when I’m on an airplane where they don’t allow cell phones. I had a man who called me one time at 10 or 11 o’clock on a Saturday night. I’d never worked with the man. He was with one of my clients, and he said, “I’d love to find a boat for this weekend, but I’ll never find one because nobody works on the weekend.” My client said, “My broker does.” They made a wager, and the friend bet that I wouldn't answer the phone.
So he called—he was the owner of a major NFL football team—and I answered the phone, and he said, “Oh, man! I just lost my bet! I swore that you wouldn’t answer the phone.” And it was done.
What else should CharterWave readers know about you and Paradise Yacht Charters? I’ve been in business more than 16 years. I’ve been to dozens of countries—I’ve lost count. I make a point to go to all the yacht shows. I try to meet the crews. And I am always accessible. I will get back to you. You will never go 24 hours without getting an answer for me, and I think that is the thing that keeps bringing my clients back again and again.