Yes, I know the calendar says mid-summer. Yes, I know it’s awfully hot outside to be thinking about Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But when I see a trend emerging that includes a staggering €100,000 discount for one of the world’s most talked-about superyachts, I know it’s time to start discussing the upcoming Caribbean charter season.
Samar is a 254-foot jaw-dropper that has 10-foot ceilings, multiple elevators, and no fewer than 25 crew for just 12 charter guests. The yacht is part of the fleet at Edmiston and Company, who tells me that anyone who books before August 31 for winter charter dates will receive a 15-percent discount. That means Christmas and New Year’s charters, regularly priced at €675,000, are now €573,750. The base rate for other weeks during the winter season drops from €650,000 to €552,500.
This offer is significant not only because of its sheer value in euro, but also because it appears to be the greatest evidence yet that megayacht charter will continue to be a buyer’s market going into the winter 2010-11 season.
Before the global economic crisis began in mid-2008, charter yachts of Samar’s caliber in the popular Northern Caribbean cruising grounds were booked as much as a year in advance, and almost always at a premium rate. At this time in 2009, when the economic downturn had become a stark reality, yacht owners were still hoping for a market recovery for winter 2009-10. They refused to publicly announce discount offers until the absolute last minute, if at all.
By contrast, as we pass the halfway point for the year 2010, high-quality yachts like Samar are publicly announcing early-booking discounts a full five months before the winter season begins. Fraser Yachts Worldwide recently stated quite publicly that while brokerage sales are beginning to recover from the economic downturn, yacht charter is “still feeling the pinch”—and causing yacht owners to change their attitudes.
“Most yacht owners started off by adding value to the charter price, such as including relocation fees or other onboard services,” Fraser announced in early July. “In recent weeks, as the [summer 2010] season marches on, we’ve seen straight discounts being offered, sometimes up to 35 percent off the standard rates.”
Longtime charter broker Shannon Webster ofShannon Webster Yacht Charters says she is seeing similar attitudes emerging among yacht owners who want to ensure that the upcoming Caribbean season is stronger than last year’s, instead of waiting to see if an economic recovery materializes in time.
“It appears that some yachts are going to be more reasonable about their minimum number of days,” she says, alluding to 14-day minimums that some yachts used to require for any charterer who wanted to be aboard Christmas morning. “And some yachts are holding their regular Caribbean rates with no premiums added for the holiday period.”
Will we see multi-week booking discounts of as much as 50 percent in the Caribbean, as has been the case this summer in the Mediterranean? It’s obviously too soon to tell, but it’s definitely not too soon to make a smart deal for a winter charter.
Editor's Note: Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of six books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine www.CharterWave.com, and writes the blog at www.BrokerageBoss.com.