by Kim Kavin
It seems simple enough. Your charter yacht crew did a great job, and you want to leave them a tip.
But it can all go so very wrong, so very fast.
So often, clients want to reward crew members they feel have performed “above and beyond” regular duty. More often than not this means a stewardess who poured drinks late into the wee hours or a deckhand who spent extra time teaching a child how to water ski. It’s a natural inclination to want to reward the people you see working hard for you, and many charter clients succumb to it—thinking that they are being extra generous and kind.
In reality, though, leaving a gratuity this way is like a slap in the face to the crew members you don’t realize are working just as hard. For instance, the reason you could see the stewardess pouring the drinks at 2 a.m. is that the lights were all working, which is thanks to the engineer toiling unseen in a sweatbox of belowdecks machinery. The reason the deckhand had so much time to help your child water ski is because the yacht’s first mate pulled an all-nighter on anchor watch, leaving the deckhand to rest in anticipation of the next day’s activities.
Much of what makes a charter vacation special happens behind the scenes and remains forever unknown. Some charter yachts have stewardesses whose sole job is to stand day after day in a windowless room ironing everything from bed sheets to dinner napkins. Other charter yachts have sous chefs who cook for the crew so the head chef has time to prepare incredible creations for the guests. There are support members in place with every charter yacht crew, and most often, they are unrecognized. They deserve a fair share of the gratuity just like the crew members who are “on stage” with you all day.
The best way to leave a truly fair gratuity—which is customarily 5 percent to 15 percent of the yacht’s weekly base rate, according to the MYBA Tipping Guidelines—is to hand the total amount in an envelope to the yacht’s captain just before the charter ends, perhaps when luggage is being off-loaded en route to the airport. Include a personal note or card if you’d like. Say a few kind words about something special that each crew member did to make your vacation memorable.
But leave it to the captain divvy up the money long after you’re gone, thus ensuring that every crew member gets his and her due—even if you only saw them once during the week.
Editor's Note: Photos courtesy Neil Rabinowitz