What to expect
MAKE YOUR CHARTER IN THE ISLANDS SMOOTH SAILING.
Life in the Virgin Islands is laid back – and that’s part of the pleasure! The idea is to relax and not let inconveniences upset you. For example, if you fly to St. Thomas or Tortola via San Juan, Puerto Rico, your luggage may not arrive on the same shuttle flight because of weight considerations on the aircraft. So carry valuables toiletries and a swimsuit in your hand luggage. Your checked bags WILL arrive eventually and your captain will have them delivered to the yacht. The best way to avoid this situation all together is to bring carry on luggage only.
At St. Thomas airport you will find that you deplane directly onto the runway tarmac and then have to walk about 100 yards to the airport entrance and baggage area. Right outside the baggage claim you will see many taxi vans parked and the blue-shirted drivers standing by. There is a desk there with a dispatcher and the rates for each location posted. Let the dispatcher know your destination and he will assign you to a taxi and tell you the rate. The taxis hold around 15 passengers, so you will find yourself traveling with other newly arrived visitors. It is a fun ride with exited guests ready to start their vacations. The taxi may stop at a hotel or resort before bringing you to your final destination.
If you arrive a day or so earlier than your charter and are staying at a hotel remember that you should board no earlier than noon of the day your charter starts unless you have made other arrangements. The crew is often busy getting things ship-shape from the last charter and may not want you to see the yacht in it’s pre-charter state!
What to Pack
Space is limited on a boat, so bring soft-sided luggage or duffle bags which the crew can stow easily. T-shirts and shorts are the usual uniform of the day when you’re not in swimwear. Hard soles won’t be allowed on deck, so bring tennis-type shoes and sandals and rubber flip flops plus some comfortable, cool walking shoes for jaunts ashore. By the way, the people of the islands will appreciate it if you don’t come to town in your bathing togs or other abbreviated wear. Evening dress is about as casual as daytime dress. But if you go to an elegant dinner spot, a button down shirt and khakis for the men and a sundress for the women is appropriate. Bring more than one bathing suit, as you’re likely to spend more time in them than anything else.
The tropical sun can be very damaging to skin, so bring a protective lotion that does not stain towels, sheets, cockpit cushions and decks. Ask your crew whether you need to bring sunscreen, and what kind they prefer you bring (Please do not bring spray lotions). Usually the boat has PLENTY for every skin type. A long-sleeved light cover up and a wide-brimmed hat or visor will help keep the sun off, and also keep you comfortable if you do get sunburned. Evenings can be cool, especially out on the water, so a light sweater or windbreaker will come in handy.
Relaxing on Board
Most yachts have IPOD hook-ups now, so definitely bring along your favorite music. WIFI is usually available, too, so you will not be completely out of touch with the world if you want to bring your laptop or tablet. Do not, however, bring illicit drugs. Your captain has too much to lose to permit the use on the yacht and can terminate the charter without refund if you bring them aboard. You needn’t pack towels or snorkeling and fishing gear, as these will be available on the boat.
Passports and Currency
If you will be visiting the British Virgins or any other non-US islands, a passport is required. Your captain will clear you into customs upon your first day in the BVI – usually at West End, Soper’s Hole Tortola, or at Jost Van Dyke. On the morning of your last day aboard, the captain will usually bring you to Cruz Bay, St. John where you will check back into the US. Another customs office is located on the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie. The currency in the US and British Virgin Islands is the US Dollar. Down island you will find it is the EC (Eastern Caribbean) and you will have to exchange your currency.
When you first step aboard, you’ll be shown to your cabin and given some time to get settled, usually with a welcome-aboard cocktail in hand! At lunch the captain will explain some do’s and dont’s and the use of systems such as the marine heads and showers. The types of marine heads vary from boat to boat and some are more sensitive than others.
Your captain will be happy to arrange for activities on shore, including recreational sports and dining out. Such excursions are, of course, at your own expense. If you invite your crew to join you for dinner ashore as your guests, they will be delighted to do so, but if you prefer to dine without them, they will not be slighted in the least.
Your Captain and Chef/Mate may be a married couple or working partners. They may own the yacht or operate it for someone else. In any case, remember that you are guests in their home. You’ll savour your own quiet time staring up at the starry night sky or reading a good book. The crew will appreciate being allowed such times, too – after all they will probably be the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to bed at night working hard to please you. If you come to think of the crew as friends (and you probably will), tipping may seem awkward at the charter’s end. But tips usually constitute a major part of the crew’s working capital, so if you’ve enjoyed their efforts, they’ll appreciate your letting them know in this way. Most guests are comfortable with a tip of 15 to 20 percent of the charter fee, but the decision, of course, is up to you. Putting your gratuity envelope with a note of thanks is a nice way to avoid any awkwardness.