April 12, 2024

How to behave on a yacht

For superyacht owners, privacy is often the most valuable thing money can buy. It’s one of the reasons why centimillionaires and billionaires pay eight or nine figures for a palace at sea, far from the prying eyes of land dwellers.

Even the most gossipy crew members have to keep quiet about the name of a former owner or charter guest, and many brokers are reluctant to answer good-natured questions.

This means that, apart from basic safety guidelines, most superyacht regulations are unwritten. The few they need to know – there are only about 5,800 yachts longer than 30 meters at sea, according to SuperYacht Times – already know them.

But if you happen to be a lucky guest at a party on a billionaire’s $500 million ship, or you’re partaking in a $1 million-a-week vacation, there are a few things you need to know.

After four days of touring superyachts that sell for as much as $75 million and talking to the people who buy, sell and work on them at the Palm Beach International Boat Show, Business Insider collected a few key edicts. Given the discreet nature of the industry, almost all the people we spoke to requested anonymity to protect their working relationships, but here’s what they had to say.


Triumph yacht interior

With white carpets and smooth decks, shoes are not allowed on most superyachts.

Rasmedia/Azimut Benetti



Take off your shoes.

While it is a basic rule for anyone in water sports, it may come as a surprise to an outsider that no matter how rich you are or how expensive your heels are, in the vast majority of cases you are not allowed to wear shoes on board.

Partly for safety (you don’t want anyone to slip on a wet deck), but partly to keep the yacht clean. So expect to see billionaires barefoot, and if you forgot a pedicure, bring a pair of special boat shoes.

Don’t make assumptions about money, but know the signals.

In the world of superyachts, it’s safe to assume that almost everyone you meet is very, very wealthy, and many brokers and builders say you can’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to potential clients.

“It has nothing to do with how they are dressed,” one real estate agent told BI. “It’s the biggest mistake you can make because a totally sloppy-looking man or couple could be a multi-billionaire.”

However, there are some clues. Watches are one thing; new footwear is another.

“Rich people always have new shoes,” said one superyacht expert. Although, as we mentioned above, this tip probably only applies when they are on land.


massage room Victorious superyacht

The massage room on the Victorious superyacht. The boat costs from $862,900 per week to charter.

Thanks to Fraser Yachts



Book your massage early.

Wellness areas, including spa rooms with a massage bed or two and a professional facial machine, are becoming must-haves on superyachts. Most have a custom spa menu and a crew member who doubles as a trained masseuse or beautician – and they’re usually in high demand.

One captain said he has implemented a booking system to ensure people aren’t fighting for the same spots. A real estate agent said that masseuses are sometimes so busy won’t leave the small spa cabin for hours.

So if you want to make sure you get the most out of your relaxing time on board, book your pampering moment as soon as you get your welcome cocktail.

Pirates are more real than you might think, and many superyachts have hidden safe rooms.

While you might dress up as a fake pirate for a theme party on board, there are still very real dangers (and other perils) on the high seas.

In certain areas, including parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aiden, pirates are a concern. In the Red Sea, owners are concerned about the Houthis.

Superyachts can be equipped with sonic weapons, lockdown systems and drone protection. Builders are even designing safe rooms – which are apparently just as luxurious as the rest of the ship.

The longer the boat, the closer to $1 billion.

While you can’t judge a buyer based on appearance, you can can judge them by the length of their boat.

One rule of thumb: if someone has a brand new 50-meter ship, chances are he or she has $1 billion to their name. If it is more than 100 meters, expect the owner to have at least $2 billion. And a boat bigger than that – like Jeff Bezos’ 127-metre megayacht Koru – would require many, many billions.


Triumph yacht

The price to charter Triumph, a 65-metre superyacht, starts at $650,000 per week.

Rasmedia/Azimut Benetti



Money can’t buy everything.

The largest and most expensive yachts in the world are completely custom built by shipyards that produce only a handful of boats per year.

But no matter how many tens of millions of dollars customers spend, there are still things builders won’t say yes to.

“At the end of the day, the boat has our name,” an executive at one of the world’s largest shipyards told BI.

They remembered a customer who requested a yellow fuselage to match his Lamborgini. The shipyard refused and sent the customer in another direction.

“If I don’t like it, I don’t build it. I complete two or three contracts a year,” said another builder. “If anyone can say your ship is ugly, my reputation is bad.”

Yacht crews are trained to make the impossible possible. A guest requests fresh caviar flown to the middle of the Caribbean? No problem. Fresh flowers at sea every day? It will cost you something, but it is possible.

But they can’t time travel, and captains and crew members say the thing that causes the most friction is when a customer or owner wants to get from point A to point B – right now.

“The hardest request is when they want the boat in a place – yesterday,” said one captain.

The best person to know? A friend with a superyacht.

Superyachts are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. According to the industry standard, owning a superyacht costs 10% of the new build price annually. For a $100 million yacht, that’s at least $10 million a year for crew, regular maintenance, insurance, fuel and docking fees.

Chartering is also expensive. In addition to the list price, which can amount to hundreds of thousands per week, guests must pay for provisions, which is set at 35% of the charter price, and an expected tip of between 10% and 20%.

So basically the most important unspoken rule of superyachts is that the only thing better than owning a superyacht is knowing someone otherwise Who does. And who you invite, of course.

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