By Kim Kavin
The website ads pop up all the time. “We’ll help you book a yacht charter!” “Organize your dream charter with us!” “Call now for the cruising vacation of a lifetime!”
The problem, of course, is that not all websites advertising yacht charter are legitimate. For many years, there have been scam artists out on the docks with cell phones making promises that turn out to be false. The Internet gives these con men a bigger platform and a better chance of turning you into their next victim.
Fortunately, the international yacht charter community has created some ways to discern the reputable brokers from the fly-by-nighters. Whether you are booking a crewed yacht or a bareboat, there are things you can look for to determine legitimacy.
For crewed yacht charters, look for a broker who is a member of the American Yacht Charter Association, CYBA International , MYBA, or the Florida Yacht Brokers Association. These four professional organizations have membership criteria that include years of experience as well as personal references, and brokers who fail to live up to the associations’ codes of ethics are summarily dismissed.
Beyond looking for professional affiliations, a commonsense way to tell if a crewed yacht charter broker is legitimate is to verify that an escrow account is being used for funds. This is a “best business practice” in the industry. When you make your initial deposit or your advance provisioning payment, your money should go into an escrow account and not into the broker’s general operating fund.
With bareboats, you can book through a broker who is a member of one of the aforementioned organizations, or you can book directly through the company that controls the bareboat fleet. Some of the largest and most reputable bareboat companies include Sunsail and The Moorings, which offer bareboats worldwide and are members of Europe’s TUI Travel group.
Smaller companies that let you book bareboats direct are often members their local Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, or the regional equivalent. Some commonsense ways to tell if a bareboat company is reputable include the use of written contracts, a requirement that you have some type of training or bareboat license, and references from previous customers.
Photo courtesy Neil Rabinowitz