Heading into 2021 our attitudes to travel have changed and we’re all trying to figure out how we are going to continue our lives in a safer environment.
Luckily for us at diYachting, we rent and sell yachts which, among all this chaos, has actually turned out to be something incredibly safe that can operate in a controlled environment.
What I can reassure you is all the yachts we promote are thoroughly sanitised between charters, and crews are taking regular tests and daily temperature checks to ensure both their guests and themselves stay healthy. The best thing about a yacht is there is no one else onboard that isn’t part of you charter party or crew; the chances of that random meeting with a person at breakfast doesn’t exist. The sea is your pool, and no other yacht at anchor is going to be within 2 meters so you are already winning at social distancing.
The travel industry’s greatest issue at present, however, are the quarantine obligations upon arrival in winter sun destinations and then again upon your arrival home. I could tell you where you could go today but that may not be the case tomorrow due to the ever evolving list of rules and requirements. This has presented a whole new element to the charter industry with an influx of last minute bookings, while, in normal circumstances, yacht charter is something people normally plan months in advance and I spend long periods of time discussing itineraries, preferences, crews, yachts, but suddenly it’s more “what’s available here, great, I’ll take it! We’ll fly this weekend!”
Caribbean Winter Sun
If I was to recommend somewhere in the Caribbean today, St Maarten is best for those travelling from Europe, and maybe The Bahamas or the United States Virgin Islands if you are coming from the States. You will, however, need a negative test result within 7 days of departure for the island and evidence of this test upon arrival. Once there, you must socially distance and wear masks in all public places. Currently, on arrival or upon your return home to the UK you must have evidence of a negative test taken before arrival followed by a period of self-isolation- but by the time you receive this copy of SWM that may have changed!
Having spent 12 years working on yachts, and 7 winters based in the Caribbean, at this time of year I reminisce about the sea, sun, rum and palm trees. Here are some of my favourite places to visit while in the Caribbean:
Antigua is one of the biggest Super Yacht hubs in the Caribbean. The island, which includes Barbuda, has 365 beaches so plenty of anchorages to stop for swimming, snorkelling and lunch. You can even circumnavigate the island in a day or, for the more adventurous, head up to Barbuda where one of the beaches stretches 10 miles long. My favourite lunch spot has to be Catherine’s Cafe on Pigeon Beach by Falmouth Harbour, that hosts a relaxed beach front setting with good food and wine.
If I was heading to St Maarten today, my food diary would consist of breakfast at Zeebest for cappuccinos and their homemade french toast, followed by lunch at Kontiki on Orient Bay for sushi and rose and I would finish the day at Jimbos in Simpson Bay with margaritas and fajitas. Obviously between all this eating you’ll want to get out on the water; for the most amazing beaches you must go across to Anguilla and out to islands, turquoise waters, turtles, and white sand beaches- it truly is paradise. You could also visit St Barths if you are in search of great beach clubs, amazing shopping boutiques, french food and it’s where all the beautiful people go.
For the more rustic Caribbean you need to go south to the Grenadines. This is the Caribbean you imagine from the Disney films “Pirates of the Caribbean”. As smaller islands with fewer tourists it is vastly different from St Maarten. I don’t have a favourite breakfast hangout as it’s not that sort of place; instead you’d go for an early morning swim, most likely be the only people there, watch the pelicans diving for food, picnic on the beach and ride around the island on a Moke. Some of the more famous islands of the Grenadines include: Mustique, Petit St Vincent and Canouan, where there are some fantastic resorts and boutique hotels: The Firefly & The Cotton House on Mustique, Sandy Land Resort on Canouan, Palm Island Resort. What’s more, Virgin Atlantic is expecting to start flying from London Heathrow to St Vincent and the Grenadines from June 2021.
Looking to the Mediterranean now and the season here usually starts slowly in April and by June is in full swing, peaking in July and dropping off mid August.
Ibiza is still so popular and there are lots of yachts available for charter. From Ibiza you can take a trip across to the island of Formentera where people go to simply relax, enjoy the strikingly beautiful beaches and bath in the sparkling sea. Book lunch at Juan y Andrea or Es Moli de Sal then head back to Ibiza for the evening.
Mallorca, the largest island in the Balearics, is a big yachting hub and for years has topped Europe’s summer holiday charts, offering some wonderful sandy beaches. Es Trenc is my favourite- it seems to soothe the soul with it’s tranquility. A favourite lunch restaurant is Ca’s Patro March, which was featured in Hugh Laurie’s The Night Manager TV show. This restaurant is best reached by sea, with views over the bay and seafood cooked to perfection.
Moving across to France now, and ideally placed on the French Rivier, Cannes is a vibrant city packed with busy casinos, and bustling bars and beach clubs. The islands off Cannes are also a popular place to spend sitting at anchor. You could visit the likes of St Tropez, Antibes, St Jean Cap Ferrat, or Monaco; again, there are plenty of options for day charters to take you up and down the coast of the original playground of the rich and famous. Pampelonne Beach by St Tropez is home to some of the most famous beach clubs in the world.
Corsica is between the mainland French Riviera and Sardinia and is perfect for a quieter life, and with lovely towns to visit like Calvi, Ajaccio, Porto Vecchio & Bonifacio, there are also some beautiful anchorages and National Parks to explore by yacht. The private and exclusive island of Cavallo in the south is the Mustique of the Mediterranean. My favourite port is Bonifacio. Here, the entrance is nestled in the towering cliffs, you wind yourself in and it then opens up into the port. The old town rests on the edge of these cliffs and you can walk up from the port to enjoy the magnificent views across the Bonifacio Straits from which you can see Sardinia.
Porto Cervo, Sardinia, is another playground you need to see! The northern tip of Sardinia is absolutely stunning with a group of islands forming the Maddalena National Park. You really could spend a month here and never anchor at the same place twice- there is so much to see and explore! In the evening you’ll enjoy anchoring off Phi Beach, an open air restaurant and club with VIP area, nestled in the boulders on the waters edge.
Croatia is also on a lot of people’s wishlist, and it is great to charter there as you can island hop each day from Dubrovnik or Split. From Split most people head to the island of Hvar, know as the Saint-Tropez of the Adriatic. Hvar offers a small town with beach clubs, bars, restaurants and, of course, stunning views- what more do you need!
Greece, whether the mainland or one of the many islands, provides limitless choices, with endless numbers of beaches, and the Ionian Sea with Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Paxos, Meganissi, Zakynthos, to name just a few, are all great for cruising. These islands tend to be less windy than the rest of Greece. Then heading out to the Cyclades Islands, you have Myknos, Santorini, Paros. These islands don’t need an introduction and with Santorini named the most instagrammed place in the world, this might not be your first choice if you’re looking to escape the crowds! Athens is home to about 7 marinas so there are many yachts available from there that will take you on a cruise through the islands.
So, what makes a yachting holiday so special? Well, you are welcomed by a different view each morning, a different swim spot every afternoon, your own private chef providing meals with local ingredients and based on your pre holiday questionnaire. The yacht is like a hotel with cabins being cleaned each day, the captain will discuss the itinerary each morning or the evening before so you can pick where you’d like to go next – your charter is completely bespoke to you and your dreams.