Except for the still super-rich, who will just go on chartering mega-yachts at $125,000 a week (plus fuel), or those who have solid employment security (like civil servants), the rest of us have to be ready to adjust our vacation plans to our means and prospects. For those who love breaking away on a crewed charter boat, in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, the Mediterranean, or, why not?, the Gulf of Thailand or the Seychelles, what factors should we take into account?
Let me suggest that the primary factor to be considered is the ownership of the yacht. There are three kinds of ownership structure: the owner/operator; the professional captain on a privately owned yacht; and the fleet charters with optional professional captains.
Let's start with the fleet charters. These are well known - the Sunsails and Moorings -with fleets now just about anywhere you may want to charter. They finance their fleets through huge bank loans, to buy spanking new production boats for three years or so, when they flip them into the private yacht market. With the economy in a tailspin, with banks nervous and clients canceling left and right, these firms must have their backs against the proverbial seawalls. Expect offers of knock-down prices. Ditto for the captains, most of whom the only asset they have is their mariner's certificate.
The next category is the professional captain on a privately owned yacht. These are mostly mega-yachts, multi-(tens of)-millions of dollar vessels, wintering in the Caribbean, summering in the Med, with staffs of four to ten. The owners hope to cover most if not all the operating costs of their toys through charters, with their crews slaving away joyfully to the charters' delight. There is a glut of these mega-yachts on the market currently, although most yacht brokerages are very discreet in order to protect their clients' financial reputations. The costs of chartering one of these is quite inflexible as the owner's choice is between dry-docking, sans crew, or chartering, where the operating costs are very high.
The third category - owner/operator - is quite simple: the owner of the yacht is also the charter captain. His motivations are quite transparent: he charters because he likes having others around some of the time and he needs to finance his cherished lifestyle. But, with the world financial crisis, we must divide this category into those who own their yachts outright and those who have a mortgage. Those who own their yachts outright are in the enviable position of being able to be flexible in pricing; those who share ownership with a bank have less flexibility in relation to their indebtedness. You can expect much more bang-for-your-buck from those who are free-and-clear.