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Small Cruise Ship Charters That Won't Break Your Bank

Janice Wald Henderson

Last updated
Jan 7, 2021

Read time
6 min read

Longing to cruise again? Join the club. How we yearn to return to sea. While waiting for traditional cruising to safely resume, we've got another option: How fun would it be to charter a small crewed boat and or ship following COVID-19 protocols with your travel bubble?

Happily, megabuck bank accounts aren't necessary. Imagine sailing where you want, with whom you want, be it family or friends -- you can even host a safe destination wedding. Here, a guide to budget-minded charters beckoning from all corners of our beautiful world.

Dream Yacht Charter

This company offers both skippered monohulls and catamarans, and crewed yacht charters, to more than 60 destinations. >Dream Yacht Charter describes the latter ships as private floating five-star villas, with a gourmet chef and crew at your service; custom amenities, like the latest water toys, are add-ons. For skippered boats, you pick the vessel and destination, and Dream Yacht Charter handpicks a skilled captain.

Dream Yacht Charter follows stringent COVID-19 sanitizing measures for the fleet and bases. For each charter, a sanitized galley inventory set is placed in a sealed bag on the saloon table, and sanitized linens are in a sealed bag for beds. Crew, provided with masks and gloves, will observe social distancing guidelines. Guests must wear masks and frequently sanitize hands. Snorkeling equipment is currently not provided for hygiene reasons. This company also offers flexible rescheduling.

Check out this Caribbean option: A seven-night 40-foot catamaran cruise sleeping eight -- replete with a saloon and plentiful deck space -- sails roundtrip St. Thomas, begin at $6,870. (Note that the skipper's accommodations come from the three onboard cabins.)

Island Windjammers

Island Windjammers offers two fully crewed Caribbean vessels; the classic clipper Vela hosting 26 guests, and 10-passenger schooner Diamant. Take your smaller travel bubble to board the 101-foot Diamant schooner, sailing the stunning windward Caribbean isles. This charmer sails to Bequia and Tobago Cays, among picturesque destinations. Expect a casual laidback sail, with music playing on deck, and guests gathering nightly for stargazing and dancing. The impromptu aquarium, courtesy of underwater lights attracting marine life, serves as a showstopper.

Book the Diamant, too, for a destination wedding, which the captain officiates. Among the crew of five, the chef highlights the region's splendid produce and seafood, and can even prepare vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine. Passengers are encouraged to pack light as the well-outfitted cabins sport limited storage space. But really, what might you need besides swimsuits, tees, shorts, and sunscreen? Snorkel gear is complimentary.

Note that Island Windjammers has suspended operations until islands open up and vaccines are widespread. Then their normal high standards of cleanliness will apply and their crew must be vaccinated as a condition of employment. It's highly possible that inbound tourists must be vaccinated, as well. Six-night charters, sailing roundtrip Grenada, begin at $24,900.

Maine Windjammer Association

Turn to Maine Windjammer Association for a New England destination wedding bubble at-sea, or at ports ashore. All boat captains belonging to this association are licensed to perform the ceremony. Plan a themed wedding -- pirates, anyone? -- or just find the right windjammer, say, with a honeymoon suite.

Among the association's numerous standouts, note Windjammer Angelique, a 95-footer with seven crew members, offering 15 cabins for up to 30 passengers. Built in 1980, the charming New England vessel was modeled after those of the late 19th century, including a deckhouse saloon and cabins with bunk or double beds. Work with Captain Dennis (his wife, Candace, runs the Camden, Maine office) to set the itinerary, and plan menus with the chef to create the cuisine you crave. Multi-gen families are welcome; just think, if the kids get noisy, no outsiders are around to complain. (Note that all passengers must be able to climb ladders and step up and down a rise of 11 inches.) As you cruise along the Maine coast, learn to furl a sail or take the helm. Chill on deck, reading books, birdwatching, or simply gazing at the ever-changing shoreline. Jump off the rail for a swim, standup paddleboard, or take Angelique's rowboat out for a spin. Ashore, explore quiet coast villages.

The Maine Windjammer Association operates under both the Coast Guard and Maine governor's "Keep Maine Healthy" requirements. Commitment to guests' safety includes pre-screening and testing, enhanced cabin sanitation between trips, multiple hand sanitization stations, providing PPE, and daily multiple disinfections in below deck common areas.  Charters, sailing six-nights roundtrip Camden, Maine, begin at $25,000.

The Moorings

The Moorings showcases custom-designed, crewed yacht catamarans, ranging in size from 45 to 57 feet. Chockful of modern amenities and sporting luxe private yacht vibes, these vessels sail the Caribbean, Americas, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Far East, and South Pacific. Expect spacious decks, smooth rides, and an attentive crew (captain, gourmet chef, and steward) keen on personalizing your yachting experience. Meals, snacks and beverages, fully stocked bar, WIFI, watersports equipment, housekeeping, and flat screen TVs/DVDs are among the inclusions.

All yachts are cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected prior to the next boarding. Other COVID-19 safety protocols include galley inventory packs and linens provided in a verified CSD (clean, sanitize, disinfect) sealed box, and guests receive a welcome pack inclusive of disinfectant spray, hand wipes and sanitizing products. Staff adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and are required to wear PPE when necessary and as directed by local government policy. They also receive enhanced health checks between charters.

Dreaming of French Polynesia and the iconic lures of Bora Bora? Charter 48 1/2-foot Moorings 4800, named "Boat of the Year" by Cruising World Magazine, offering three spacious cabins with en-suite baths for six passengers. Five-night charters, sailing roundtrip Raiatea, begin at $10,999. Seeking to sail closer to home? The British Virgin Islands in the northeast Caribbean lure with secluded powdery white sand beaches dotted with swaying palms. Charterers choose where the 45-foot Moorings 4500 cruises, perhaps including Anegada and Virgin Gorda, and blending great beaches and snorkeling sites with stops at bays touting artisan shopping and lively beachside bars. Five night charters, sailing roundtrip Tortola, begin at $12,161.


Florida-based Yachtico rents boats, yachts, and catamarans nearly around the world -- from Oceania and the Caribbean, to Asia and South America -- and makes it so simple to book online. Say you dream of sailing the Greek isles. Check out the 50-foot Cat Lagoon 52; built in 2018, this catamaran cruises with up to 10 passengers. Hire a skipper only, or add a cook/hostess, who purchase groceries, cooks Greek specialties (or whatever you want, such as sushi or vegetarian), serves, and cleans up. (Note: You provide crew staterooms from the five cabins onboard, and host their meals.)

Yachtico uses established COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including repeated crew testing, disinfection of vessels between charters, providing PPE and social distancing.

Consider Cat Lagoon 52 quite the beauty, awash in rich dark wood, with indoor and outdoor dining, and bask-in-the-sun lounge chairs. The boat provides all the basics, such as bed linens, towels, snorkeling equipment, and dinghy. Seven-night charters, sailing roundtrip Athens, begin at $7,000. If Spain beckons and Ibiza is on your bucket list, look at Cat Lagoon 42, a 10-passenger, four-berth catamaran, striking with light wood furnishings, comfy beds, and an inviting galley. Optional extras include Wi-Fi, kayak, and airport transfers. Seven-night charters, roundtrip Ibiza, Spain, begin at $4,900.

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