For a perfectly tailored charter, first tailor the preference sheet to the yacht

Oct 14, 2021 by Chris Caswell

Make sure the broker’s preference sheet fits your boat before the client gets it.

Whether they are charter guests or old friends of the owner, it’s up to you to ask the right questions long before they arrive. Do they love Milk Duds and hate Snickers? Prefer Tuscan reds and never, ever touch Chablis? All these—and many other—questions need to be resolved long before your guests touch down at the airport.

Your starting point is The Questionaire. Every charter broker sends out their version of a profile to find out what the clients love, hate, and are in-between-iffy. These should also be sent to the owner’s guests, if only to impress both owner and his friends. These laundry lists can range from a casual one-pager about food preferences to something resembling a federal witness cross-examination.

Mark Elliott was a captain long before he became a charter broker at International Yacht Collection, so he is extremely detail oriented. It’s no surprise that he sends out a 15-pager covering everything from favorite breads (ciabatta to focaccia) to preferred videos (comedy? mystery?). Don’t forget to ask about relaxation: games, cards, etc. The result is a seamlessly tailored charter from start to finish.

Missy Johnson, a veteran charter broker with Northrop & Johnson Yacht Charters, sends a four-pager just to cover food alone because, as she says, “It’s extraordinary how differently people eat, who all think they eat ‘normally.’ ” One specific question she asks guests is about allergies, and that can make or break a charter.

On a charter from a nameless broker, the crew didn’t know that one of the guests was dreadfully allergic to the smell of paint and, of course, they had just finished painting large sections of interior bulkheads. Uh-oh! Another had a gorgeous arrangement of chrysanthemums to greet the guests and, you guessed it, they quickly found that those flowers are highly allergenic. The rash, apparently, was colorful.

Carrie Freeman, who works with Elliott at IYC, notes that one recent charter required vegan cuisine. They paired the guests with a yacht that had a chef who grew up vegan, so the guests were delighted with his creativity and weren’t stuck with a boring salad every day.

But to really make sure that you’re giving 110%, you need to have your charter broker send you a copy of what they send out to clients. Sit down with your entire crew and let them go through the questions and requests with a fine-tooth comb. Do this not only to please your guests, but also to keep from disappointing them. Those are two entirely different things.

On one charter, the guest had checked a box saying he liked waterskiing—and was not happy to find later that the yacht didn’t even offer waterskiing. Remove that box!

The bottom line is that one form can’t possibly cover every yacht (and every guest!). See what your guests are seeing, modify it to fit, and you’re sure to have clients that return over and over.

Chris Caswell is an award-winning freelance writer and contributing editor at Triton.