Differences far outweigh similarities in comparing a yacht vs. cruise ship charter, but nonetheless the query comes up from time to time. In our opinion, a yacht charter attracts a very different type of vacationer than a cruise ship.
Yacht charters and cruise ships both involve being on the water, but the similarity ends there with a thud, or rather, a splash. On a yacht, you are actually in touch with your natural surroundings, skimming crystal clear turquoise waters from just a few feet above the surface. A yacht charter is a private, exclusive getaway experience that is custom designed just for you and your family and friends.
Yachts pride themselves on offering a leisurely pace. You can laze about, take the helm, learn to sail, have a swim, fish for your own dinner, or jump overboard for a snorkeling lesson.
A modern cruise ship resembles a skyscraper afloat, with an astonishing capacity to carry hundreds or thousands of people. You can join in the group activities or find your own; there are as many distractions as in a small city. So much for peace and quiet! From deckspace that's several stories above the sea, you'll get a view, but there's no sense of being upclose and personal with Mother Nature. In fact, there are cruise ships measuring 124 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower!
Instead of pouring over a cruise catalog offering set departure dates and destinations, you can pick your own dates, beginning any day of the week for as few as three days. In addition to flexibility to suit your calendar, it's important to discuss ports of call.
Clearly, due to its size, a cruise ship has far fewer destination options, maneuvering in and out of one port per day. Passengers are at a real disadvantage to make onshore excursions, without even considering those lengthy queues and security checks for just getting off and on the ship. There's little, if any, opportunity to experience nightlife ashore, as the ship is underway 50-60 percent of the time.
With a yacht charter, you sail among a cluster of neighboring islands, cays, and reefs, in calm, protected waters, always within sight of land. You'll be calling on tucked away ports that can only be accessed by yachts, anchoring in a quaint or protected harbor each night.
We are underway 10-15 percent of the time and may only sail about 5 to 10 miles each day, typically enjoying two stops per day.
Most cruise ship ports of call are busy, deep water ports where guests have easy access to downtown or port shopping, yet have to take taxis or take escorted tours to reach beaches, watersports, and sightseeing. If ships are able to anchor in a beach-type setting, they'll do so quite far from shore, meaning that guests must transfer ashore via tenders.
Scheduled shore activities are conducted for groups, frequently involving buses for standard tours hosted by destination management companies hired to act as local guides.
On the other hand, everybody loves a palm tree-dotted, pristine, deserted island with secluded coves, where your footprints are the first ones in the sand. On a yacht charter, stops are selected for their natural beauty or shoreside interest with activities within walking distance.
Your small group of family or friends has its own private tender with captain, always on call to go exactly where you want to go, whenever you want to go. You have a crew member who is a "local knowledge" expert to serve as your shoreside guide.
Larger capacity ships don't carry watersports gear. A handful of the smaller cruise ships have a couple of instructors and gear that's shared by the entire group being tendered ashore. A few of the smaller cruise ships may have a swim platform.
On a private yacht charter, you can swim at your whim right off the yacht...glorious beaches are 25 breaststrokes away. Private scuba diving is available for certified divers. Each guest has personal snorkel gear and there's a watersports instructor for waterskis, tubes, wakeboard, wave runners, and kayaks.
Meal service is quite different on a yacht vs. a cruise ship. Your yacht charter gourmet chef personalizes the menu and the time of service to your preferences. There's no such thing as a bad table, since they only come with stunning views. Special requests, spontaneous suggestions, and catch of the day are all par for the course.
On a cruise ship, the service is very much like a restaurant with either a buffet or menu and scheduled seatings. Only a few tables are at the window. Service and quality are compromised as a function of sheer numbers.
On a yacht, you can dress it up or just put on a clean t-shirt. You can go days without make-up or worrying about a bad hair day. It’s your yacht and your choice. Everything is personalized to your preferences.
Although we are biased and clearly feel that a yacht vacation is superior, it really depends on what’s important to you in a vacation.