What About Gratuities

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Introduction

After purchasing Top Shelf in Yalikavak, Turkey, we departed for a 6-week Mediterranean cruise. Cruising Turkey was a trip of a lifetime, and we had no problems having friends join us for parts of the cruise.

Our guests were blown away by the service level a professional yacht crew provides. The concept of being waited on hand and foot is never more real than with a great yacht crew.

Our casual conversations naturally led to our guests asking us about a gratuity for the crew. Should they be tipped individually or as a team? How much is appropriate for this level of service? I did not have an answer for them, so we did some research.

Hilton Head Yacht Charter's Crew serving a gourmet luncheon

Charter Yacht Crew vs. Private Yacht Crew

There are two types of crew in the yachting industry. The charter crew is motivated to provide exceptional service in return for higher compensation. This compensation is in the form of charter guest tipping. The private yacht crew’s main job is to maintain the yacht asset. The private yacht owner may only be on board a few weeks out of the year, and the captain may hire an additional hospitality crew for the times they are on board.

In contrast to private yacht crews, charter crews have what I call the “Hospitality Gene.” These folks find great satisfaction in making sure you and your guests have the best possible experience while onboard. They work very hard. A stewardess on a 7-day charter may rise at 7 am and go to bed after midnight for seven days straight while guests are on board.

Hilton Head Yacht Charter's Chef Jen

Our Research on Yacht Charter Crew Gratuity

Back 20 years ago, the Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association (MYBA)  published tipping guides for European cruisers. According to Dennison Yachts, a sizeable USA-based yacht charter company, this standard was acceptable in Europe, but not for the Caribbean or USA-based charters. “The MBYA rule of thumb applies primarily to the European yacht market as those travelers tend to tip less than those in the United States or the Caribbean, where 15% to 20% gratuity is closer to the norm.

Worldwide Boat says, “Tipping rules change by destination. As a general rule, a 10% to 15% tip is customary when chartering in the Mediterranean, while a 15% to 20% gratuity is more common in the US and Caribbean.”

There’s no specific guideline for tipping on day trips, as our charters range from 3.5 to 7.5 hours. The captain and crew work as they would on a term-charters by preparing the vessel, piloting the route, managing the water sports toys, and hosting charter guests while ensuring everyone’s safety on board. It’s customary to tip between 15% and 20% of the day charter’s base rate, and your gratuity should acknowledge your satisfaction, the crew’s hard work, and a job well done.

Hilton Head Yacht Charter's Captain Michael on the Grille

Tipping Etiquette

The next question our guests had was who should receive the tip? On Top Shelf, we advised our guest to give the crew gratuity in cash to the captain at the end of the charter. After returning to the dock, the entire crew will be astern to help you and your guest disembark. We found this was a great time to present your gratuity to the captain.

Having been on board after guests tip the crew and depart as well as tipping the crew myself at the end of our 6-week cruise, I know firsthand how much our crew appreciates your gratuity. I can also report that on Top Shelf, our full-time team will share your tip equally.

Conclusion

I know this was an awkward subject to discuss with our Turkish yacht guests, so I thought this post might provide some helpful advice for our new charter guests. Please comment below with your thoughts on our crew’s performance or past experiences with yacht crew gratuities.

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