You Can Still Find a Deal
If you're still casting about for a sailing vacation, chances are you're like some other sailors who want a break from the cold in winter 2007 but have yet to take the plunge toward a charter.
As this issue of CW went to press, companies reported that reservations for the upcoming season were coming in at a healthy clip, but lots of empty weeks still exist outside the holidays and school vacations. Generally, bookings for the January-to-April period do come in later than they did in pre-9/11 winter seasons. But it's best to book early, says Joann Higgins of The Catamaran Company, and clients who know what they want still do, usually six to nine months ahead of time.
While many vacationing sailors still act early to make sure they get the boat they want, nearly every charter company offers some sort of discount or incentive for late and last-minute bookings.
Whether the booking is for a Caribbean destination or the Med, where the season doesn't begin until springtime, there's a downside to procrastinating. Says Mark Wakeman of Kiriacoulis Mediterranean: "I suggest that Americans get their bookings for the peak periods in the Med made by the end of December, before the Europeans take up all the good boats. Europeans make a lot of bookings at the big boat shows in Paris, London, and Düsseldorf," which are scheduled for the months of December 2006 and January 2007.
Those comments notwithstanding, charterers can still get to a boat and the water, whether it's Down Under or in Florida or, yes, in the Caribbean.
"December isn't too late to book for the high season," says Barb Hansen of Southwest Florida Yachts. "The Florida weather will be good, and the cruising is excellent, with plenty of private anchorages. We enjoy chatting with sailors and do our best to get them squared away to cruise even if they call at the 11th hour."
Says Suzette Pelt of Queensland Yacht Charters: "The summer months in Australia's tropical Whitsunday Islands are some of the best-value sailing months on the calendar. From October to March the trade winds ease off, making for 'gin-and-tonic' boating conditions.
Like the Caribbean, it will be hot and humid, but there are uncrowded anchorages, plenty of public moorings available, and as the tropical rains come and go, there are a myriad of waterfalls to explore."
Dawdlers beholden to Caribbean destinations, take heart. "Some do book later, as in a couple of months before the charter," says Cindy Chestnut of Conch Charters in Tortola, B.V.I.
Says Josephine Williams, brand manager of Footloose Sailing Charters: "It's fairly typical for Footloose customers to book quite late, looking out for deals and airfares." The company, the budget division of The Moorings, has bases in Tortola, St. Vincent, the Kingdom of Tonga, and in New Zealand.
There's even hope for the worst procrastinators: sailors who book 30 days or fewer in advance. "I even get 'I'll be there tomorrow,'" says Gene Pemrich of Pro Valor Charters on Tortola. "And they are."
At times, tardiness carries a price.
Says broker Ed Hamilton, who books bare and crewed yachts: "I can get a boat for anyone with a week's notice. It's not going to be as good as if you book ahead."
"It's a compromise," says Narendra "Seth" Sethia of Barefoot Yacht Charters in St. Vincent. "The desired choice of yacht may not be available, but on the other hand, the charter price may well be lower than the published rate. Then again, the cost of air travel also needs to be taken into account and if you're booking last-minute, the flight cost may be high."
But . . . but . . . the dog ate the to-do list. Is there no hope for a last-minute sailor looking for a decent bareboat in high season?
"Absolutely. They just need to be flexible," says Williams of Footloose.
DEALS AND DISCOUNTS
Barecat Charters (www.barecat.com): Sail eight days for the price of seven from January 6 to 31, 2007. Charters of eight days or longer receive a 10-percent discount. Discounts are given on bookings made within 30 days of charter.
Barefoot Yacht Charters (www.barefoot.com): Sail nine days for the price of seven from January 6-31, 2007. Two-week charters receive a 5-percent discount; three-week charters are discounted 10 percent; four-to-eight-week charters receive discounts of up to 35 percent. Repeat customers and American Sailing Association members receive 10-percent discounts. Barefoot's website also offers deals.
The Catamaran Company (www.catamarans.com): Repeat clients get a 10-percent discount on charters of seven days or longer from December 21, 2006, to January 6, 2007, and from January 25 to April 7, 2007. Repeat charterers get either eight days for the price of seven plus a 5-percent discount, or a 10-percent discount on seven-day charters. First-time charterers get eight days for the price of seven or a 5-percent discount on seven-day charters from January 7 to January 24, 2007, and from April 8 to May 19, 2007.
Conch Charters (www.conchcharters.com): Sail nine days for the price of seven from January 6 to 31, 2007. Sail 10 days for the price of one high-season week April 1-30, 2007; sail 10 days for the price of one mid-season week May 1 to 31. Last-minute deals are posted on the company's website.
CYOA (www.cyoacharters.com): Sail from January 10, 2007, to February 11, 2007, and save from 11 to 15 percent over peak holiday rates. Sail a new 40-foot Fontaine Pajot Lavezzi catamaran at a 10-percent discount during any high-season week. Sail the Belize 43 catamaran at new, lower rates any week. CYOA occasionally offers web deals.
Destination St. Lucia Yachting (DSL) (www.dsl-yachting.com): Deals are available on late bookings.
Footloose Sailing Charters (www.footloosecharters.com): "Free Days" specials: Book a six-day charter for January 5 to February 17, 2007, from Tortola or St. Vincent by December 15, 2006, and get the seventh day free. Book an eight-day charter and get two days free. Book an 11-day charter and sail for 14 days with three days free. Footloose also offers a 5-percent discount when a client books six months ahead; this offer includes high-season dates.
Horizon Yacht Charters (www.horizonyachtcharters.com): Repeat clients get a 10-percent discount year-round. Discounts on late bookings are offered on Horizon's website.
Kiriacoulis Mediterranean (www.kiriacoulis.com): Book before the end of 2006 and get 15-percent discount throughout 2007 from the company's Caribbean bases or bases in Greece, Turkey, and France. Get 10 to 15 percent off any charter in 2007 that leaves from the company's Italian bases. Get a 10-percent discount throughout 2007 for charters in Croatia and Malta. Book within 15 days of any charter and receive a 25-percent discount.
Maine Cat (www.mecat.com): The company offers 10-percent discounts on all Maine Cat 41 charters out of Hope Town, on Abaco Island in the Bahamas. Incentives are posted on Maine Cat's website.
The Moorings (www.moorings.com): New clients get 10 percent off of all Caribbean charters from January 5, 2007, to February 17, 2007. New clients get 10 percent off of Tortola charters from April 21 to May 19, 2007. Book these by January 31, 2007.
Pro Valor Charters (www.provalorcharters.com): From January through March 2007, receive one free day on a 10-day charter. Repeat customers get a 10-percent discount from December 16, 2006, to the end of March 2007.
Queensland Yacht Charters (www.yachtcharters.com.au): Last-minute offers and web-only deals are available through the company's newsletter; consult the website for details.
Sailshare Yacht Charters (www.sailshare.com): This company offers web deals on late bookings as well as monthly deals.
Sea Explorers Maritime Training Centers (www.theseaexplorers.com): For its Florida and Caribbean fleets, Sea Explorers offers a 15-percent discount on all charters and sailing classes booked before December 31, 2006.
Southwest Florida Yachts (www.swfyachts.com): Repeat clients get one extra sailing day for free.
Sunsail Sailing Vacations (www.sunsail.com): Sail during designated "Reef Weeks" throughout the year, including winter, and save from 10 to 20 percent. Consult Sunsail's website for details.
TMM (sailtmm.com): Discounts are offered on bookings made within 30 days of the start of the charter.
Voyage Charters International (www.voyagecharters. com): Sail 10 days or more and receive up to a 15-percent discount. Deals on late bookings are available.
Elaine Lembo is CW's managing editor.