From coastal France and lively Ibiza, to the idyllic islands in Greece, Croatia and Italy – all known for their beautiful landscape, friendly people, enchanting views and authentic culture – the vast Mediterranean is unlike any other place on earth. Boasting everything from golden sand beaches, rocky cliffs and sapphire blue waters, to traditional architecture, delicious fare and warm, welcoming people, the sunny coastal cities of the greater Mediterranean are some of the world’s best yacht charter destinations; one just waiting for you to come and dig it up.
Bear in mind, however that the Mediterranean is a summer destination and gets cold in winter. Best cruising months are from late May to September. July and August gets pretty crowded when it seems like all of Europe is vacationing on the water.
If we were to do a quick and dirty poll among our loyal clients and fellow yachting and sailing enthusiasts, I think you’d find that there are certain Mediterranean locations and itineraries that keep on coming up as the most popular. By popular, we don’t mean crowded (you ALWAYS have to choose your month for crowded or non-crowded) Here’s are the results of OUR unofficial popularity poll:
1. The Greek Islands, especially the run from Athens to the Cyclades islands of Mykonos and Santorini, these are usually one way charters because the distances are greater than you think. Do NOT do this in July or August or you may get blown all the way to Egypt….. Plan B from Athens if the winds are blowing, include Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses in the Saronic Gulf.
2. Croatia, Split to Dubrovnik or vice versa. Many crewed yachts need to pick up in Montenegro which is next-door due to Croatian regulations. Hundreds of little islands and great people and great food are Croatia’s hallmarks.
3. Turkey, From Marmaris or Bodrum toward Gocek and maybe even Castellorizo. Bouncing back and forth between the Greek Islands of the Dodecanese and the actual Turkish coast. Marvelous little towns and villages and monuments above and below water, remnants of ancient civilizations and biblical connotations.
4. Sicily, is a larger island than you think and the seas can get a bit uncomfortable depending on the month and the wind direction. Two favorite itineraries: Trapani -Trapani on the West coast, and Milazzo North to the Aeolian Islands of Lipari, Panarea, and the volcano of Stromboli.
5. Corsica and Sardinia, offer some great sailing and cruising. The East coast of both islands is more inviting due to the prevailing winds. Olbia is a great pick-up location in Sardinia and close to the famous Maddalena archipelago with stop-offs at Porto Redondo and Porto Cervo. Corsica’s Macinaggio provides a good starting point for crossing over to Italy’s mainland via Capraia and the island of Elba.
6. The Cinque Terre in Italy, is an amazing coastwise journey that can start in Liguria’s Genoa or Portofino and end in or close to La Spezia.
7. The French Riviera. What can you say? Smart impeccable, classy and very expensive even by European standards. Home of the Mega-Yachts and the rich and famous. If you’ve got the loot, go for it. Dock in Monaco for Grand Prix week….. for starters.
Let us Choose the Right Boat for You
If you’d like to relax in the lap of luxury and cover a lot of water and visit lots of places in a relatively short period of time, a motor-yacht is for you. The Med has some of the most extraordinary, well designed and modern yachts on the planet. Most, if not all of these large motor yachts are stabilized and can navigate choppy waters and provide a nice smooth ride for their guests. Look for one that is equipped with what is called “zero-speed stabilizers’ that keep an even keel even when the yacht is at anchor.
Mediterranean yacht charters have many cruising options. The most popular destinations include those with the following universal characteristics: Protected Waters, interesting little islands to visit, small villages with ports and anchorages or docks large enough to accommodate a yacht, Interesting things to see, do and EAT while ashore, visitor-friendly locals.
Within these general principals, the following destinations meet the requirements from West to East:
There is a great selection of both sailing and motor yachts in the Caribbean, but not all are created equal. We represent and recommend only crewed yachts and bareboat companies that have developed a reputation for reliability and good service and, especially in the case of bareboats, that offer newer models and good support and that are reasonably priced.
Although the Caribbean is great any time of year, there are distinct seasons: In Summer, it get’s really, hot and often rains. In winter the temperatures are more reasonable still warm by most people’s standards and it’s drier. The most protected waters for great sailing and exploring are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) The Leeward Islands and the Windward’s are better in summer since the Atlantic waters are largely settled and you don’t get the big rollers coming in from the East.
This charter destination can start in San Remo, Genoa or Portofino, Santa Margharita Ligure or La Spezia. This itinerary would include the Cinque-Terre region and all the little ports and villages on the coast. You can choose to disembark in Civittavecchia (Rome) or Naples (Napoli).
This is a favorite spot for charterers, yachts generally pick up in Napoli and cruise the Amalfi and the islands of Ischia and Capri all the way to Salerno. If it is a larger faster yacht you can include Sicily in this equation although this is usually a stand-alone charter destination.
These Mediterranean destinations are another favorite for yachting. Your yacht will usually pick up in either Napoli, or Reggio di Calabria which has an airport close by and of course on Sicily proper in Palermo. Sicily is delightful with quaint little villages scattered all around the coast. Good food, nice people. The Aeolian Islands include Stromboli with its famous volcano, other than that the Aeolian is quite dry and uninteresting except for Lipari.
This relatively new destination for charter yachts, has the most beautiful islands along the Dalmatian Coast and of course the historic city of Dubrovnik. Very popular with the “bareboat” crowd. You can board in Split and disembark in Dubrovnik, both of which have good airports.
This will take a little longer so bear with me here: Greece and Turkey are some of our favorite places and we offer the following tips for first time charterers. Most people relate Greek Islands cruising to the classic destinations of Mykonos and Santorini. The truth is that there are more than 700 islands in Greece and every one offers a fantastic and different cultural and gastronomical experience. The easiest way to think about the Greek islands is to classify them into groups:
- The Cyclades (keek-lah-dess) that include Mykonos, Santorini, Syros and others. Not good in July/August due to possibility of Meltemi Wind
- The Saronic (Sah-ron-ik) Gulf and Peloponnese Islands that include Aegina, Poros, Spetses and Hydra.
- The Ionian (Eye-ohn-yan) Group of Islands, on the West coast of the Greek mainland that include Corfu and Cephalonia (home of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” fame).
- The Dodecanese (Doh-dek-ahn-ease) Group, is in the far Eastern waters of the Greek Archipielago that border with Turkey. These include Samos, Kos, Kalimnos and Rhodes. Cruising these waters can give you a wonderful experience of both Greek and Turkish cultures and foods and include a visit to Ephesus, famous for its ancient Biblical history, architecture and monuments
- The Sporades (Spor-ah-des) Group, North of Athens are quite different and very green and agricultural. Generally calmer waters and less wind, a favorite for fair weather sailors
- You can also add the island of Crete to these Groups, Crete is a unique place and a bit off the beaten track and should be a “stand-alone” destination.
When you fly into Athens, you can start your Mediterranean yacht charter at the Port closest to Athens which is Piraeus or Alimos. From Piraeus you have three choices: East to the Cyclades, South to the Saronic and the islands of Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses OR West, through the Corinth canal to the Gulf of Corinth and to the Ionian islands of Cephalonia and Corfu. This latter is a longer trip more suitable for 2 week charters.
If you choose the Dodecanese, you should fly on a local airline (Aegean Air is very good) to either Samos or to Rhodes and pick up your yacht in either location. In June July and August which are “Meltemi” wind months, the Meltemi blows from the North West, It’s better to fly in to Samos, pick up the yacht there, and travel South East with the wind behind you making for a smoother ride and a more pleasant trip. Here is a great Turkish / Greek sample charter itinerary that you should look at.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you can use aTurkish yacht, maybe even a Turkish Gulet which are marvelous, comfortable and well-maintained boats, made entirely by hand out of wood grown in the Turkish highlands, that can be chartered from Samos, Rhodes or even better, from Bodrum or Marmaris on the Turkish side. The Turkish Lira has a much more favorable exchange rate with the US$ than the Euro so everything, including hotels and restaurants, is relatively less expensive.
- good food and friendly locals
- Yachts need a special Spanish cruising license to pick up and drop-off paying guests thus making it difficuly for non-Spanish yachts to do business there
- Some of the commercially licensed vessels are exempt from this requirement but most part-time charter vessels do not have this certificate and this drives the price up
- The distance between the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza and the mainland is quite large and that takes time and fuel
- This destination would normally be a “stand-alone” destination since it is pretty far away from the French Riviera
The Mediterranean menus dining culture and diet is generally healthy with fresh ingredients and plenty of seafood and olive oil. Charterers in this area have two major and very difficult choices – they can be described succinctly as follows: do I eat incredibly great food aboard my charter yacht or do I eat incredibly great food ashore?
For Bareboaters, the choice is clear, since they will be doing their own meal prep. Most of our bareboat clients opt to have their breakfasts and lunches on board and take their evening meals ashore at the myriad little restaurants, trattorias and tavernas that dot the coastal villages along their chosen route. In this way they only have to provision for breakfasts, lunches (sandwiches) and snacks to munch along with a healthy supply of their favorite beverage. Watch out for the Greek Ouso and Retsina that can cause serious “morning-after” brain damage.
For crewed yacht aficionados, whether these be motor yachts or sailing boats and catamarans, the choice is not so clear. The chefs on board many of these lovely fully crewed yachts are usually 5 star gourmet chefs that are capable of producing incredible culinary experiences right on board the yacht. What a trade off…!! Maybe the best idea is to split the experience – eat some evening meals on the yacht and others ashore. Depending on your route or itinerary, you can discuss this matter of high importance with your captain before you embark.
Mediterranean food reflects the climate and therefore the crops that are grown. If you add the great seafood, add some lamb, and you have a really healthy diet
Your yacht charter broker is or should be a wealth of experience on this topic. Talk to the broker, s/he’s probably been there and done that..!!
Booking Your Airfare
For the Virgin Islands it’s usually best to fly into St. Thomas (STT) in the US Virgin Islands that has an international airport that is serviced by many of the major US carriers like American Airlines, Delta, Spirit Air and others. There is also a small airport in Tortola in the BVI called Beef Island airport (EIS) that is serviced by SeaBourne airlines and Cape Air out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
For the Leeward Islands, you should fly in to St. Martin (SXM) that has a large international airport that is serviced by both US and European carriers. Antigua is a possibility for the Leeward Islands but it’s a little out of the way.
If your charter includes the Grenadines, you should plan to fly into St. Lucia (SLU) that has an International airport and then onward to St. Vincent although some Grenadines charters can start directly from St. Lucia.