When you step aboard a crewed yacht for your vacation, it might help to think of your captain and crew as your hosts. In essence, you are spending your vacation in their "home," and professional crews will do their utmost to make you feel welcome. Yes, you are paying for the privilege, but you should behave with the same level of courtesy aboard a crewed yacht as would if you were guests in someone’s vacation home.
First and foremost, treat your crew with respect. They’re usually educated professionals who love the sea, sailing, and interacting with people; they should not be treated as servants. Most are friendly, well-informed about the area, and happy to share their local knowledge with guests. Here are some specific hints for happiness afloat.
it’s polite to ask permission to board. Your crew will be waiting to greet you and may beat you to it, but it’s still polite to ask.
Most yachts have dedicated shoe baskets or lockers near the boarding area so street shoes can be deposited until it’s time to go ashore again. Keep only one pair of shoes per person in the basket, not your entire collection of Manolos. Aboard the boat you can go barefoot, wear clean socks, or wear a pair of slippers or clean, light-soled shoes that aren’t used as street wear.
Captains and crews will give you a complete briefing on ship’s safety procedures before you leave port. Pay close attention. These rules are in place for your comfort and ultimate safety, so abide by them.
Toilets: Marine toilets (called "heads" on boats) are not always flushed or operated in the same way as household toilets. Follow the crew’s instructions on how to use them correctly. If you’re in doubt, ask before use.
Electrical outlets: Unless a yacht is plugged into shore power, electricity for appliances is provided either by a generator or inverter. Certain outlets may not be able to handle high-voltage appliances like hair dryers and may be only for charging items like cameras and computer batteries. Your crew will explain which outlets can be used for what. DO NOT break this rule, or major damage to the ship’s systems could result.
Lights: Locations in cabins and heads will be pointed out to you. On all boats, when not plugged into shore power, lights are run from the ship’s battery banks. The rule of thumb is to use them as you need them, but be conservative, and always turn lights off when not in use.
Water and Showers: Most charter yachts carry plenty of fresh water for both cooking consumption and daily showers, plus rinse-offs on the stern after swimming. Your crew will explain how to use marine faucets and showers. Always use water conservatively by not letting the tap run continuously while you're lathering up in the shower, washing your face, or brushing your teeth.
keep in mind that professional crews are not babysitters – they have many other daily jobs to do. This is spelled out in many charter contracts. Most crews, however, are kid-friendly, and may offer to entertain your children for a certain amount of time during the charter. If they offer you can graciously accept, but don't abuse the privilege or expect them to do it full-time.
be courteous of crews on neighboring boats when socializing in the cockpit early in the morning or late at night. Keep noise to a minimum before 8 a.m. and after 11 p.m. Music and lively conversation carry easily over the water.
that the saloon, or main living area, of the boat is community space. Keep personal items such as clothing, towels, hats, sunglasses, and toiletries (including suntan lotion) in your cabin or in a small day pack with you on deck.
usually have designated areas where "help yourself" snacks and drinks are kept. Your cook will point these out to you. Don't help yourself to anything in the main galley fridge or lockers without first asking the cook – he or she likely has plans for it. During meal preparation, some cooks welcome help in the galley if guests are so inclined; others do not. If you ask and are politely refused, respect the cook's wishes, kick back, relax, and stay out of the galley.
If weather conditions or other safety or time constraints prevent sailing to a given area, don't argue the point. The captain and crew want to provide you the best vacation possible and, within reason, cater to your every wish – but they are also ultimately responsible for your safety and the safety of the yacht.
This is entirely optional and of course depends on the size of the ship's crew, but they will appreciate the gesture.
the crew a gratuity of between five and 15 percent of the charter fee, based on your satisfaction with the service rendered. Good crews will not make it obvious how hard they're working to take care of your every need, but they do work very hard, often from sunrise to the wee hours. Keep that in mind when determining how much to tip (see Luxury Yacht Charter: How to Leave a Crew Gratuity for more information).
Finally, remember that you're on vacation. Try to relax, and stay loose and flexible, especially about your itinerary. Slow down. Don't rush. Leave stringent deadlines behind. If weather makes a certain destination risky, discover the pleasures of a totally unexpected alternative locale – or simply kick back and enjoy a delicious meal or cocktail as you lounge aboard your beautiful yacht in paradise.
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