Snagging a coveted spot for a superyacht in an exclusive European harbor is no easy feat—regardless of your net worth.
If you’re a billionaire, a prime place to be in summer is cruising the Mediterranean, making what’s been dubbed “the milk run” of Europe’s chicest ports. ”It is still–by a long way—the top destination for superyachts in the world,” says Nicolas Benazeth, charter director at CharterWorld, a London-based international yacht charter company. But that means key berths in the most coveted harbors can be hard to come by—no matter what your net worth. “Waiting lists are full months in advance in many cases, and yachts rival in ingenuity and local contacts to try to get ahead. Other berths can be hard to secure due to more specific reasons–the larger the superyacht, the less physically accessible berths there are to choose from, especially in historic ports, so if you miss out on the one place you can dock, there is no second chance,” says Benazeth.
Michele Gavino, CEO of Baglietto, the luxury yacht builder based on the Italian Riviera, sees the situation close at hand. “In Italy we have a lot of small ports that do not allow berths for megayachts like those built by Baglietto.” So where do the big boats want to go and why? Benazeth and Gavino share their insights.
The most popular and sought-after marinas: “The favorites remain St. Tropez in France, Porto Cervo and Capri in Italy,” says Benazeth. “A slightly more recent addition is Ibiza, which has always been of interest to superyachts, but was held back by strict regulations on cruising in Spain. Since these were relaxed a few years ago, Ibiza has joined the other three at the top of the wish list for superyacht charterers.”
The hardest berths to get: Gavino notes that Portofino is a very small marina [there are only 16 slots], “so it’s not very easy to find an available berth. However, even bigger ports like Porto Cervo or Capri may be very difficult to approach during the summer season.” And like locking in the best table at the hottest restaurant, it’s not only about getting a mooring, but snagging the most coveted ones, too. “The holy grail for a charter on the French Riviera in summer is a berth along the inside of the old port of St. Tropez by the famous ice cream shop, Barbarac, or the Café de Paris,” says Benazeth. “Likewise for a berth in Ibiza near Lio restaurant, or getting a large superyacht into the Marina Grande in Capri, or the Old Port of Porto Cervo.”
And the most expensive ones: Not surprisingly you pay a premium if you land one of those coveted spots, but what’s a few thousand euros a night when your yacht’s price runs to the hundreds of millions? For prime and many other berths in these exclusive harbors expect to pay hefty fees. “In Italy, Capri, Porto Cervo and Portofino would be the most costly; in France, St. Tropez, Monaco and Cannes; in Spain, Ibiza, Marbella and Formentera top the list,” says Gavino.
Port fees depends on the season, the size of the yacht and the exact location, explains Benazeth. “To give you a general idea, a night in Porto Cervo for a 60-meter yacht is around €4800 without extra services like divers (for raising the anchor), electricity and water and line handler tips. Capri and St Tropez would be around €3000 to €3500; Ibiza runs about €5000 euros; Cannes €1300 to €1800 and Monaco €1500 to €2000. These are list prices and total costs tend to drift up quite quickly with the various add-ons such as necessary services, tips and gratuities (important if you ever want to come back), and port agent fees, as it is now pretty much obligatory to use an agent for all these bookings.”
Too big to dock? “Yachts are getting larger and larger every year, and what was a 50-meter megayacht a few years back is very much one of many in the main part of the standard charter fleet these days, with some yachts cruising the Mediterranean above 100 meters and a fair few charter options above 80 meters,” says Benazeth. “Anything above 60 meters in length will be limited to a few berths in many ports, however the infrastructure has been developed in parallel with the increase in size of yachts, so even the largest vessels tend to have some berthing solutions in the western Mediterranean nowadays.”
Where the megas go: “There are marinas such as the IYCA in Antibes, which was the first to be designed specifically for very large yachts, and this remains a favorite for its ease of access and location,” says Benazeth. “The development of cruise ship facilities in many ports has also allowed these docks to be used for the largest megayachts, as is the case in places like Monaco or Nice. Even the yachts with the deepest drafts, sailing megayachts such as the Maltese Falcon (88 meters) or Vertigo (67 meters), can get into a few of the main ports thanks to continued development.”
Will smaller be bigger? “[With megayachts] forced to berth where the cruise ships are, we believe that in the future the size of yachts will be mostly around 50 and 70 meters,” says Gavino.
Hot new spots: “The areas that have seen the most increase in megayacht visits in recent years have been the Balearic Islands and the Adriatic,” says Benazeth. “While Ibiza and Mallorca have long been known as charter destinations, as soon as the strict legal restrictions for yachts cruising in Spain were relaxed, there was a huge surge in megayachts, both private and for charter, visiting the Balearic Islands. This is growing every summer.”
Gavino, who says “Italy is still one of the best locations to sail ever,” sees harbors in Naples (Mergellina), the Aeolian Islands and Ponza gaining in popularity, but farther afield cites the growth in “port organization for big yachts in Croatia and Montenegro, as well as in Greece and the south of Turkey.”
How to live the billionaire yachting life without being a billionaire. Yacht charter prices vary depending on the season, with the most affordable options usually “sailing yachts chartered in the early or late summer, probably starting from around €15,000 per week (excluding cruising expenses),” says Benazeth. And it is possible to charter for less than a week in many areas “as long as dates fit well into the yacht’s existing booking calendar,” he notes. “Some locations are more suitable for shorter charters. We see more long weekend trips, for example, in the St. Tropez or Ibiza areas in summer.”
But there are more options than ever for big spenders. In addition to the new ports of call, there are more yachts to charter as well. “Yachts that in the past would have been kept private are increasingly considering chartering,” says Benazeth. “Some of the largest and highest profile megayachts have recently started accepting select charters due to potential clients specifically requesting availability.”