Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen docks his yacht in Cannes in May. Spain’s King Carlos has been known to sail his yacht near Mallorca in August. And Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud stores his watercraft in Antibes. But globe-trotting via yacht can be for anyone. Do you want to get in on the fun?
There are many considerations—and even a few conventions—when deciding your sailing schedule. Generally one summers in the Mediterranean and winters in the Caribbean. Of course, sometimes half the fun is breaking the rules, so don’t be too fast to scoot out of the Mediterranean come fall. “One of my favorite times of year in the Med is September,” advises Robin O’Brien of Fraser Yachts, a Fort Lauderdale- and Monaco-based company that offers a variety of yacht charter and sales services. In recent years, with the crowding of the western Mediterranean, the eastern side has grown in popularity, and the favored ports are expanding beyond the Greek islands into Montenegro, Croatia and beyond.
There are also plenty of opportunities to extend the Caribbean season. For instance, because Grenada and St. Lucia lie south of the hurricane belt, they generally don’t get hit by the summer storms. That means after Christmas in St. Barths (if you can snag a coveted berth in Gustavia harbor), you may find yourself enjoying fine weather in the Caribbean through the spring and into summer. Then again, that yachting schedule means you’ll forfeit months of old-world western-Mediterranean glamour in Monaco for the Grand Prix and Cannes for the film festival. Hey, you have a yacht, so you of all people should understand opportunity cost.
Aside from how much you’re willing to spend purchasing or chartering a yacht, where you want to dock is one of the primary considerations. Some of the older Mediterranean ports are not equipped to harbor the superyachts that measure hundreds of feet. And the ones that are may be limited. Until the construction of superyacht berths catches up with the demand, be prepared to drop anchor a few hundred feet offshore, going back and forth between the yacht and shore in a smaller craft or tender. Sound like a headache? Fear not: Herewith, a guide to the world’s finest ports, with advice from industry experts.