Wondrous turquoise seas, white sand beaches and warm trade winds. These natural attributes, plus welcoming people, are the heart and soul of a Caribbean crewed charter yacht vacation. These distinctive characteristics remain virtually unchanged in the wake of devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria, according to the Charter Yacht Brokers Association International (CYBA). CYBA members, many of whom are in touch with fellow island-based industry professionals, want to let current and prospective clients know that crewed yacht charters to the Caribbean are open for business and bookings.
“Our hearts go out to the people of the Caribbean that were lashed by Irma and Maria last month,” says Trish Cronan, CYBA president and president of Ocean Getaways Yacht Charters, in Ft. Denaud. Florida. “The news footage highlights the devastation yet it does not paint the entire picture. The islands still shimmer with exquisite natural beauty – even Mother Nature cannot strip them of that.”
The resilience of Caribbean’s crewed charter yacht industry is inherent in its nature. Yachts are self-contained, with their own crews, generators, air conditioning, gourmet cuisine, water toys and much more.
Minimal Losses to Fleets, Marina Facilities Open in Hardest Hit Islands
Southern Caribbean islands such as Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, were spared from storms. However, there was damage to the Northern Caribbean islands of St. Maarten/St. Martin and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Even so, over 80 percent of private crewed fleet will be fully operational by season’s start. In fact, both the BVI Charter Yacht Society and VI Professional Charter Association will host fall charter yacht shows in November. This provides brokers, the sales force of crewed charter yacht vacations, to see the fleets for themselves.
Marinas in the Northern Caribbean are open for business as well.
“Yacht Club at Isle de Sol and Simpson Bay Marina, both in St. Maarten, can accommodate charter guests this season,” says Tom Mukamal, chief executive officer of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-headquartered IGY Marinas. “Additionally, The Marina at Yacht Haven Grande and American Yacht Harbor, in St. Thomas, are open and prepared to welcome charter guests. Many restaurants and bars, retail shops, provisioners and other businesses have re-opened. Ground transportation on both St. Maarten and St. Thomas is also available.”
Shoreside accommodations may remain a challenge, with a shift from hotels and resorts to VRBO or Air BnB accommodations. Some yachts are offering sleep-aboards the night before and possibly night after a charter, if needed.
An Incredible Experience Awaits
By December, especially the peak Christmas and New Year’s holidays, charter guests shouldn’t experience hurricane-related disruptions, says Kathleen Mullen, a charter and yacht sales broker for Regency Yacht Vacations, in the BVI. “Supermarkets are well stocked so cuisine onboard should be fabulous. Several dive operators are open for rendezvous dives and many reefs are undamaged. Many of the open-air beach bars made of plywood are already serving customers.”
CYBA recently hired a high-speed yacht and captain, who with CYBA member Heather Woods of Regency Yacht Vacations, checked out some of the iconic BVI haunts. On Jost Van Dyke, Foxy’s plans to open in November and host its Old Year’s Night event on December 31. Hendo’s Hideout, Coco Locos, and Seddy’s in White Bay also plan on November openings. Pirates Bight on Norman Island should open in December.
“Island experiences this season may be more in line with the Virgin Islands that first captured everyone’s hearts in the 70s and 80s,” says Emily Mack, manager and broker of Virgin Island Sailing – Seven Seas Group, based in Nokomis, FL.
How to Help
Book a charter. Tourism represents 60 to 80 percent of Caribbean island’s economy and people there need the business now more than ever. Visit cyba.net to contact a yacht charter broker.
Photo: Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI in early October 2017, the greenery is growing back and islands as beautiful as ever. Credit: Steve Simonsen.