Both Antigua and Sint Maarten have international airports with direct flights to the United States and Europe, so most charter itineraries begin on one of those islands and incorporate the other two during a seven-day itinerary.
Embarking from Antigua is a great way to begin because the island itself offers quite a bit to see and do. The hub of yachting activity is in the southeast, where Falmouth Harbour, English Harbour, and Nelson’s Dockyard are within easy walking distance of one another. All three locations have marinas where charter yachts are based and where guests can find historic museums, local shops, dance clubs, gourmet restaurants, and crew bars. Walking through Nelson’s Dockyard is like walking through history, with centuries-old buildings like the Admiral’s Inn, which was once home to Royal Navy legend Horatio Nelson himself. This part of Antigua is also home to Shirley Heights, which offers exceptional views of the surrounding sea as well as a steel-drum-and-rum-punch dance party every Sunday night at sundown.
There are 365 beaches along Antigua’s coastline—more than enough for two days’ worth of exploring—and plenty of them are far from the regular routes where cruise ships operate. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming are favorite activities here, allowing charterers to relax and enjoy the Caribbean lifestyle immediately upon departure from port. Once a yacht leaves the primary marinas, most nights are spent at anchor away from the crowds. The atmosphere is quiet, secluded, and much as nature created it. Dinner under the stars is a ritual in relaxation, as is sailing by day with views of the aquamarine waters and palm tree-lined shores.
Cruising into St. Barth’s offers a different type of experience—one that combines a fun Caribbean scene with the fineries of civilization. Most charter yachts make Gustavia Harbour their home base for two or three days, using it as a nighttime anchorage within easy cruising distance of various beaches and sailing stretches around the island. This is where kite surfing, paddle boarding, and all the latest water sports are on display. Charter yacht guests often swim and snorkel right from their own swim platforms, using the yacht’s tenders and other toys for water skiing, wake boarding, and the like.
The quay at Gustavia Harbour, meanwhile, offers respite by way of retail therapy. Chanel, Hermes, and other high-fashion brands have storefronts within steps of the megayacht dock. Caribbean chic is on display, too, with local dress makers providing options for anyone attending beach parties at the world-famous Eden Roc hotel. Restaurants advertise the day’s menu in Parisian chalkboard style, with plenty of fois gras and caviar along with local lobster and conch.
On Sint Maarten, itineraries can include an array of different experiences. The island is divided in half—Sint Maarten is the Dutch side, while St. Martin is the French side—and the cultures on either side blend Caribbean history with the European nation of choice. Many of the megayacht marinas are on the Dutch side, while most of the gourmet restaurants are on the French side (along with the nude beaches).
Sint Maarten also offers a golf course, a casino, and lots of shopping for anyone who wants to dip a toe back into civilization. You can also play just offshore at Tintamarre, a small island to the northeast of Sint Maarten that makes a terrific spot for extra swimming, snorkeling, and sailing. It’s close enough to the big island that you can play in the water all morning and still make it to the airport in time for an early-afternoon flight back home.
Yacht charter itineraries in this part of the Caribbean can also incorporate the islands of Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts, and Nevis, depending on how many days are scheduled and how fast the charter yacht can cruise. In general, a week spent in Sint Maarten, St. Barth’s, and Antigua is leisurely and fun-filled, while 10 days to two weeks is enough time to work in some of the other islands. During regattas such as the Heineken Cup at Sint Maarten and Antigua Race Week, and holidays such as the New Year’s Eve yacht hop on St. Barth’s, 10 days to two weeks on charter can allow you to include major events along with scenic cruising. The biggest ports tend to be a bit crowded with charter yachts on those occasions, but the northern Caribbean remains large enough for yacht captains to find secluded anchorages within a single day’s sailing, just about any time of year.