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What's the Difference Between a Yacht and a Superyacht?

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Photography by Charl van Rooy


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The various classifications of yacht can be altogether confusing. There are yachts, superyachts, and mega yachts. And while we at Departures are all for superlatives—particularly when describing aquatic vehicles meant to whisk us around the Mediterranean or the waters of French Polynesia—it’s difficult to keep it all straight.

The beauty of a yacht vacation is that it comes with a lot of the same perks you’d find when renting out an entire luxury villa. You have the whole space to yourself when chartering a yacht or superyacht, which allows you to really take ownership of your vessel for the duration of your vacation. That means tailoring the staff to your needs (want an onboard massage therapist and a lifeguard?), handpicking the chef and bartender for your vacation, and putting any specific protocols (for example, cleaning or hygiene practices) in place. It also allows for you to curate a fully customizable vacation—from ensuring there’s a sommelier onboard to tailoring the ports of call on your itinerary.

Whether you’re renting the yacht for a family reunion while sailing the Greek isles, or for a diving trip in the South Pacific, here’s what you need to know about the differences between a yacht and a superyacht when selecting your perfect vacation vessel:

The Difference Between a Yacht and a Superyacht

A superyacht doesn’t have a specific size distinction, but the term most often refers to yachts that are at least 80 feet (or 24 meters) in length. Superyachts can usually accommodate at least six passengers, but are likely to host more than 10 people, in addition to an ample crew. As the yachts get larger and more superfluous, some may start referring to them as megayachts, while others would just refer to a 150 to 200-foot yacht a superyacht.

Perhaps more important than the length of the yacht is the amenities, because that’s really what sets a superyacht or megayacht apart from the rest. These super and megayachts will have multiple pools and hot tubs, decks, gyms, over-the-top suites, and even offices. They might also include a luxurious spa (think: Turkish baths or hammams, saunas, steam rooms, and even treatment therapists) and multiple bars and dining areas. The service and excursions will match the heightened amenities on a superyacht—and of course the charterer is empowered to add crew members, ports of call, and anything else that will make their vacation legendary.

Motorized Yachts vs. Sailing Yachts

Are you chartering a sailing yacht or a motorized yacht? A motor yacht has a powerful engine but no sails. It’s typically at least 60 feet in length. A sailing yacht, predictably, has sails. Sailing yachts tend to be more intimate—they’d be characterized as “yachts” rather than “superyachts.” Sailing yachts will generally have no more than three decks and the experience is more subject to changes because of weather patterns (sailing yachts cannot sail as directly to destinations as motor yachts can). If the sailing yacht has one hull, it’s called a monohull. With two hulls, it’s usually referred to as a catamaran.

Is There a Difference Between a Superyacht and a Megayacht?

Technically, no, there is not. The term megayacht and superyacht are very much used interchangeably. And the luxury travel community has yet to agree on the exact dimensions of a superyacht or a megayacht. Many would say a megayacht is at least 200 feet (or 60 meters) in length and might host 12 to 15 people. However, those who would argue there’s no real difference between a superyacht and a megayacht might say the qualifier of “super” or “mega” refers to vessels 100 to 200 feet in length. Nonetheless, both a superyacht and a megayacht will be motor yachts (rather than sailing yachts) and feature exceptional amenities.


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