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How to charter a cruise ship

Cruise Advice

If you've ever chartered a yacht, you will know it is a complex, expensive and unpredictable experience. The basic charter cost is just the start of it, with delivery fees, taxes, fuel, food, crewing, drinks and incidentals, not to mention gratuities and insurance still to come.

Chartering a cruise ship, on the other hand, is far more straightforward. The price you are quoted will usually cover everything that is included in the ship's normal operation; so if you are chartering a vessel which usually includes all drinks, meals and gratuities, that is what will be included in your charter price. It takes away the hassle and the uncertainty, and also represents extraordinary value for money.

So if you are thinking about a major celebration or get-together in the future, here are our top tips to help you secure the perfect cruise ship charter...

1. Book early

Cruise operators put their programmes on sale up to two or three years in advance. Once they are on sale, they will be reluctant to displace booked passengers to accommodate a charter. Even if they consider it, they will look to the charterer to compensate the inconvenienced guests accordingly, and the compensation will be added to the charter cost. Also, if the cruises on either side of the one you are chartering are on sale, no changes can be made to them either, in terms of embarkation and disembarkation ports, duration of the charter and so forth.

Socialising on board SeaDream Yacht Club

2. Appoint an agent

Paragraph 1 should have made it abundantly clear why you need an agent at the earliest opportunity. Their job is to find the perfect ship, negotiate on your behalf, flag details that you would not think of, arrange how your guests are going to get to and from the ship, look after baggage handling and coach transfers, create special events and enhancements, ensure you don't spend your whole celebration worrying about the detail, and go into bat on your behalf should anything go wrong. The cost of the agent will be included in your charter price.

Cathy Ellis - Mundy Cruising

3. Decide on numbers

In order to select the perfect ship, you need to set parameters: how many people are you going to invite, what is the mix (families, some with children, what ages, singles) and what are their interests, passions and preferences. The more information you can give your agent at this stage, the better they will be able to select the perfect ship for you. Throw in dates at the same time if you have particular limitations, need to avoid school holidays or similar. If you invite your guests early enough, they will clear their diary for you whatever date you choose!

Family group on board Crystal Cruises

4. Location / Itinerary

If you have your heart set on a Caribbean cruise, you need to flag that up front. It is much easier, though, if you can give a general brief such as 'I want sunshine and deserted beaches' or 'let's go to some really adventurous destinations' or 'I like lots of culture' or 'my guests are very well-travelled, I want to take them somewhere extraordinary'.

SeaDream Yacht Club in the Caribbean - A great small ship charter option

5. Procedure

Once you have selected the ship for you, agreed on a date/itinerary and price, the cruise line will generate a contract which you should check very carefully before signing. The contract will include a payment schedule, with additional deposits triggered at specific dates. The likelihood is that at the time of booking, or within a few months of booking, you will make a final commitment which means that whether you go ahead or not, the full payment will be due. You should discuss this with your insurer, or decide to self-insure. You will probably be required to place an irrevocable Letter of Credit, or similar payment method.

Your agent can then take charge of everything: invitations, reservations, flights, conversations with your guests, dietary requirements, visa needs and so forth. And in partnership with you, they can also discuss the exact ways you want to make this trip into the perfect occasion for you, creating lifetime memories that everyone will treasure.

Lunch on board Crystal Esprit

So what are you waiting for? Call Mundy Cruising now to start planning the ultimate celebration!

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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