Yacht Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts When On a Yacht

Few vacation experiences can match that which can be found aboard a yacht. It is simply the pinnacle of luxury travel, and, to our mind, absolutely nothing comes close. Of course, yachts present an entirely different social surrounding to what one might be used to on land, so there are a few things to remember when onboard. They are by no means difficult to adhere to, and they don’t require expressing inordinate amounts of piety to your hosts. They are simply unspoken rules—simple dos and don’ts—for those with little experience in the yacht chartering scene, and we can assure you that sticking to them will make your yacht vacation experience more enjoyable.

Treat the Crew with Respect

Indeed, treat them like you would your most valued employees. They’re there to make sure your vacation goes well, after all, and hopefully even exceeds your expectations, so refrain from strutting around like an entitled maladroit and respect their rest time. This necessarily also means that some areas of the yacht which are reserved for the crew should remain off-limits to guests—like the crew quarters, the gallery, and the kitchen.

Remember, the crew have an extremely hectic job as it is, from catering to your needs to making sure the yacht is in working order. So always remember to always be polite, and help the crew in ways that you can so everyone can have a memorable experience.

Take the Safety Briefing to Heart

Of course, the primary responsibility of the captain and crew is your safety. So remember to take the safety briefing that will be discussed with you before the charter begins to heart. The briefing will be about the various safety protocols that you, as a guest, will need to be aware of, and follow through with, in the event of an emergency, and they will entail information about life jackets and life rafts, so make sure you digest the information and, again, take them to heart.

Plan in Advance

Among the great things about chartering your own private yacht is the opportunity to entertain as well as impress your friends. So, while inviting a few friends to enjoy a cocktail on board is all well and fine, it won’t be ok to arrive with a dozen individuals you’ve just met at a party onshore expecting the chef to whip up an impromptu midnight snack for everyone. In fact, it would be a good idea to clear everything up with the captain before inviting more than a few extra guests on board just so no food or drink shortages occur during the rest of your trip.

Give Courtesy to Other Yachts in your Vicinity

It’s just basic etiquette to give courtesy to the other yachts in and around your vicinity. So no loud music. Or, at least, keep the volume down. Also, be sensible when you’re using the various toys that come with your chartered yacht, like the jet ski or what have you. It might be tempting to go near other yachts and check out the goodies their guests have that you don’t, but that’s a bad idea and can be seen as intrusive. Remember, guests at other yachts likely want privacy, too.

The “Bare Foot Rule”

Wearing pumps or stilettos onboard can damage or leave an unsightly dent on a yacht’s teak deck, so always go in barefoot and deposit any footwear in the shoe crate provided by the crew. Most yacht crews will leave a container by the gangway for guests to leave their shoes in, and we suggest you make use of it because most yachts will have a bare feet policy. Even if you’ve not been told about it, well, we’re telling you now. There are certain kinds of shoes—the ones with soft soles, like boat shoes—that are allowed in some yachts, however, but be sure to confirm with the captain before you take them aboard.

Crew Members are Not Nannies

So refrain from treating them as such. Because while most yachts will encourage you to bring your kids, you shouldn’t expect the crew to babysit and change nappies. If you brought kids, be sure to bring in help or handle them yourself. Some yachts can arrange a spare cabin for a guests’ nanny, so if you require such accommodations, be sure to communicate your wishes in advance.

Don’t Do Anything Illegal

I suppose this should go without saying, but it’s worth noting that the penalty a yacht owner will face should the local authorities catch one of his guests red-handed can be the seizure of his boat, as well as the cancellation of his license to operate. So, don’t expect the captain or crew to tolerate illegal behavior—indeed, you can fully expect them to turn you in should you be found engaging in any. 

Keep the Fur Balls at Home

Well, unless you’ve been explicitly made aware that they are allowed onboard. Because most yachts don’t allow pets, and it will be a bad idea to surprise the captain and crew that you’re bringing one. Of course, some charters will allow pets, provided they are sufficiently manageable and trained. But even if a charter allows pets, you really shouldn’t bring one whose yacht-readiness makes you feel the least bit of concern. Because you might just end up ruining your vacation and adding to the crew’s burden.

Don’t be a Cheapskate

Some brokers say it’s customary to treat the captain and crew to dinner ashore during the last night of your charter. This is, of course, not a requirement, but definitely a little gratuity can go a long way. Some will refuse, and you needn’t be offended if they do—neither should you continue to insist they come along after the third refusal—but what’s certain is that you need to tip them when everything is over. How much will depend on your satisfaction with their service, but we strongly suggest nothing below 5% of the overall charter fee.