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Tipping on a private boat charter is slightly more nuanced than ocean cruise tipping. While cruise tipping is often included in the upfront price or charged automatically, gratuity on a yacht charter, catamaran experience, or private charter boat of any kind is unlikely to be.
First off, how does tipping work on a days-long private vacation charter boat? For the captain, sailing a private yacht for a charterer’s entire vacation is a completely different service than sailing a half-day private catamaran tour. On a private yacht vacation, the charterer is essentially curating their own vacation—which the captain must then execute. Whether you’re chartering an Antarctica superyacht with Pelorus, or sailing the Tahitian islands for the week with your immediate family, that’s asking a lot of the captain.
Because tipping felt so ambiguous on these private yacht vacations—some travelers tipped 5% while other charterers gave upwards of 25%—the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association (MYBA) regulated yacht tipping. According to the MYBA, yacht tips should run 5% to 15%. You’ll give the tip directly to the captain—either via cash, check, or even a wire transfer if you don’t want to carry a substantial amount of cash on your vacation. Often you can go through your charter broker to wire gratuity to the captain.
As for tipping the crew on a private yacht charter, it’s generally expected that you will send gratuity directly to the captain, who can then tip out the crew as he or she sees fit. In terms of the 5% to 15% directive, that MYBA rule of thumb applies primarily to the European yacht market. On a domestic or Carribean charter, 15% to 20% gratuity is closer to the norm. If you have further questions on tipping your charter boat captain, consult your charter broker, who should be able to advise.
For a few-hour or one-day yacht or catamaran charter, gratuity works a little differently. When celebrities rent yachts in Miami for the evening during Art Basel, or you take an island-hopping day sail around the Caribbean islands, the captain’s role differs from when he or she helms a private 10-day Indonesian voyage. Unfortunately, there are less specific tipping standards for a day charter. Often the captain is doing an impressive amount of leg-work on day charters, from route planning and navigation to welcoming the passengers and preparing the ship for guests ahead of time. Tip between 10% and 20%, based on how long your charter is, your itinerary, and how well it’s executed.
Finally, when chartering a boat for a private event, you’ll want to tip the captain as well as the event staff. Unlike a vacation charter boat, wherein the captain will likely distribute gratuity to the crew accordingly, for a private event on a boat, event personnel and the captain are often completely separate entities. It’s likely that the captain is focused only on route and navigation, rather than the guests’ experience. For a private charter boat event, you’ll have to tip your event coordinator and pay gratuity to your bartenders and servers (an 18% service charge is often included when planning an event). Therefore, 5% to 15% should be fine for the captain.
When deciding how much to tip a charter boat captain, you’ll of course want to consider the x-factor of actual interaction with your captain. If his or her sheer presence, commentary, and recommendations made your vacation exponentially better, factor that into your gratuity. On the other hand, if the bulk of the private cruise coordination and hospitality was done by other staff or crew members, that could mean skewing more conservative with the captain’s gratuity.