|How to Be a Good Charter Guest|
Charter yachts can have a funny effect on people. The lack of society’s prying eyes, when combined with a quest to achieve ultimate relaxation, sets some folks so free of inhibitions that they resemble feral cats, or wild boars. Crew say that maybe one in twenty guests fit this description, but boy, is that one guy a doozy. I’ve heard stories about everything from bathtubs used as toilets to bath towels used as toilet paper. And don’t even get me started on the places where stewardesses say they discover used prophylactics.
Sometimes, good charter guests go bad because of excitement overload. One stewardess tells the story of a movie star whose young daughters, slathered in sunscreen, ran into the main salon and directly onto a suede sofa. Adults can succumb, too. That usually happens in the wee hours, when Mr. Personality is still standing on the top deck, half naked, demanding that someone bring him yet another drink before he does a swan dive into the bay.
Other times, charter guests are simply ugly human beings. “It’s not my boat,” they sniff as they embed the burning end of a cigar into a handcrafted mahogany wall. “Don’t you come with the boat?” they sneer as they grope a stewardess.
What most guests don’t know is that such stories will follow them like a dark shadow. Yes, you feel shrouded in privacy aboard a charter yacht, but there is always someone watching—usually the poor crew member who gets stuck cleaning up after you. His story finds the ear of the captain, who tells the yacht’s owner, who talks with his friends and his broker, and your broker, too. Inside of a week, you’re a pariah across the industry.
If you’re a jerk, there’s no advice to help you avoid this scenario. But if you’re like the majority of charter guests—good people just trying to have fun—then the following tips will help you avoid unfortunate incidents, and mitigate the damage should an accident occur.
Respect the Yacht
One of the most common sales pitches in yacht charter is: “It’s your boat for the week. You can do whatever you want.”
That’s true in terms of making itinerary or menu changes, but you don’t actually own the boat. If you ignore the crew’s instructions and dance in stiletto heels on a teak deck, the dents you leave behind can require entire boards to be replaced—work that not only costs the owner money, but whose shipyard time can jeopardize future charters and their associated income.
A good general rule is to treat the yacht the way you treat your home. If you wouldn’t eat sauce-drenched barbecue ribs while standing on your own ivory carpeting, then don’t do it onboard.
Basic manners solve most problems, and crew will politely let you know if you’re inadvertently doing something wrong. It’s okay to loosen up on charter. Just try not to lose your grip entirely.
Respect the Crew
The thing about Mr. Personality demanding a drink at 4 a.m. is that he’s not just making an ass of himself. He’s also requiring the attention of a stewardess who has been on duty since noon, and who has to begin brewing coffee at dawn for the other guests.
If you look at the crew-to-guest ratios aboard most charter yachts, you see numbers along the lines of three crew for eight guests, or six crew for 10 guests. The average number of sleeping hours per night for a crew on charter—even with easygoing guests—is four to six. Even the most diligent, hardworking crew will falter if your antics cut into their much-needed rest.
As with respecting the yacht, basic manners show respect for the crew. If all but two guests are long gone to bed, tell the sleepy stewardess that you’ll take the bottle of wine and refill your own glasses. If the deckhand just pulled your sons around on water skis for three hours, give him a minute to grab a snack before you demand to use the Jet Skis.
Most crew want to make you happy. The best guests let them do so without adding pressure.
The stewardess who told me about the sunscreen and the suede sofa wasn’t actually upset about the kids. They were excited, she said, and excited kids do stupid things. Instead, what upset her—and the yacht’s owner—is that the father shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Do your job and clean it up.” There was no apology, no admonishing the tykes, and no offer to pay for a replacement sofa if needed.
Accidents will happen. All you can do is apologize, and usually, that will be enough.
If you find yourself in a situation where severe damage has been done (say, an inflatable water toy has popped or artwork has been marred), then it is appropriate to offer to pay for repairs. You may not end up shelling out the cash in the long run, but having made the offer will keep you in most people’s good graces, all across the industry.