Once you’ve sorted out what you want to book, it helps to know the process. So here’s the low down on options, deposits, balances, crew lists, tickets, yacht insurance and so on.
If you are booking your own flights, first secure your yacht but don’t book it. You do this by asking for an Option on the yacht, effectively a reservation. The supplier will hold the yacht for at least a day or two, usually longer, whilst you sort out your flights. If you do it the other way around and book the yacht first, sods law says the flights will either rocket in price or disappear altogether whilst your doing it!
Options can also be useful if you’re booking a package, giving you time to check with your crew that they’re happy with your choice.
Yachts and packages can usually be secured with a deposit, usually between 10% and 50%, (flotillas are often at the lower end, bareboats at the higher end) with the balance due 4-10 weeks before departure time. If you are booking flights separately, they usually have to be paid in full, and this may also be the case if you are booking a package for which the supplier is having to book flights specifically for you, rather than using his own stock (or allocation) of bulk buy seats. Of course if you are booking close to the departure date you may have to pay in full.
Arrangements for paying additional charges and insurance deposits also vary. These tend to be payable in the UK for flotilla packages but on arrival at the base for bareboat and skippered charters, or for flotillas booked without flights.
With many bareboat charters, you will be asked to submit a booking form with your initial payment or very shortly thereafter, as the yacht suppliers may wish to verify that you have the necessary certification and experience before confirming your booking. If you think there may be an issue with this, it is obviously well worth clarifying before you book your flights.
The booking form will include space for you to provide details of your crew. It’s not imperative for the yacht suppliers to have this information until close to the charter but it does help them prepare the necessary charter paperwork so if they don’t have full details until you arrive you may find your deparure delayed.
Some charter companies are now offering an on line booking form to save you posting. At the other extreme, if you are booking through a tour operator (or through an agent who is using a tour operator) you may sometimes have to fill in two booking forms.
Once you have paid your initial deposit you should receive a booking confirmation either by post or email, which if you have booked an ATOL protected package should state this. From October 2012 you should get one of the new ATOL certificates confirming you are covered by the scheme.
You should check the confirmation carefully as if there is any subsequent dispute as to what has been booked, this will generally be used as the defining statement. Check the spelling of passenger names too as subsequent corrections may be charged for. This is particularly true with airlines, some of whom find this a valuable form of earning some extra income.
As soon as you have booked your flights and boat, make sure you buy some travel insurance (if you are not already covered by an existing policy such as you may get with your credit card). It is a condition of most package bookings that you have travel insurance as the tour operator does not want to end up having to pay for your repatriation in the event of an emergency.
Approaches to collecting the balance of payment vary, with some suppliers issuing reminders and others not. If you paid the deposit by credit or debit card you may find the balance is automatically collected but again this is often not the case, especially as some companies are at last starting to worry about keeping large number of credit card details written down in their offices.
Close to departure, you will receive tickets and joining instructions by email or post – again these should be checked.
Don’t be surprised if flight tickets aren’t the slim multicopy tickets of old – many flights these days are e-ticketed and what is important is the booking reference rather than what it’s printed on. Paper tickets provide little more than a feel good factor and you may not even be asked to produce anything at the check in desk other than your passport. If you’re on the airline’s flight manifest you’ll probably get on even if you’ve forgotten your e-ticket, but the same doesn’t apply to your passport!
Make sure you also check flight check in and departure times which may have change since you originally booked. This should be clearly pointed out but not all companies like to make to much of a song and dance over a change that may or may not be to your liking.
If you’re doing a self sail holiday or a skippered charter, then somewhere down the line you will have to provide some form of yacht security deposit or waiver. This is to cover damage to or loss of the yacht or its equipment. It is usually still levied on skippered charters, albeit often at a reduced rate as although you are not fully responsible for the yacht you could still damage it.
These days security deposits are usually held by taking an authorisation on a credit or debit card. This blocks funds to the value of the deposit (usually between 1000€ and 3000€) though doesn’t charge anything, provided you bring the yacht back complete and undamaged!
Some yeas ago a smart flotilla operator came up with an alternative to the secuity deposit, a damage waiver. This differs from the security deposit in that it is not refundable. You pay a fixed fee which you don’t get back but barring any wilful damage, is the limit of your liability for any damage or loss.
However, clients haven’t always entered in to the spirit of the damage waiver. They were supposed to bring the yachts back without damage leaving the tour operator with a nice little earner.
Instead, dinghies drifted away, anchors were cast to the depths, outboards drowned and it seemed some clients couldn’t care less! So the security deposit often now excludes such items which still require a separate security deposit, albeit at a reduced level. On the other hand there must still be some money in the approach as one or two of the bareboat suppliers have started similar schemes!