Expedition yachts, also known as explorer yachts, are one of the fastest growing sectors of the superyacht charter market, allowing guests to explore some of the wildest and remote parts of the planet in complete luxury. For charter broker Anthony Huck of Bluewater, organising explorer yacht charters is the most exciting part of his job, throwing up incredible experiences for his charter clients, as well as presenting their own logistical challenges.
I sat down with Anthony, whose role as a charter broker has seen him cruising up the Norwegian fjords and down the mighty Amazon River. (All for charter research, you understand.) What’s exciting about organising expedition yacht charters? Organising a charter in a really remote destination means going out of my “comfort zone” as a charter broker. Just like the client, I’m excited about this type of charter because I love travelling and I like the challenge of it — it’s a new experience I want to be a part of. I get a thrill out of it! Completing a successful charter in a remote location gives me a huge sense of satisfaction, and it really builds both my skills as a broker and my network.
There is so much more preparation and logistics involved, and so many unknown factors that I must anticipate and prepare for. Charter brokers always need to think on their feet, but organising explorer charters takes this to the next level. In traditional yachting destinations like the Mediterranean and Caribbean, it’s all very familiar to us as brokers — we know the yachts very well, the local regulations, the activities, and we’ve generally experienced the area ourselves. But when we go ‘off-grid’ to a remote cruising area, we almost start from nothing — with yachts we’ve never had opportunities to visit, crew we’ve never met, places we’ve never heard about, and regulations we must familiarise ourselves with. There’s a lot to learn in order to deliver an exceptional charter.
In yachting, your network is everything. In the case of a remote charter, we find cruising and logistical support on the ground via local yacht agents, who are generally local people with a yachting background. They are very well connected with local suppliers for fuelling, provisioning, or spare parts, they recommend local experiences that really make a charter, and they assist with local administration for local tax, clearances, and other paperwork. Local agents are invaluable. But we also rely on others, like captains, crew, and brokers —even if they are competitors! It is important to understand the yachting industry is a very small world, we often see each other during yachting events across the globe, and even if we are competitors, we are all aware of the importance of working together. If a broker wants to offer a destination to a client that he or she isn’t familiar with, then it is very common to request insight from another broker, a captain or a yachting agent — who will be happy to help because he or she knows that one day the role will be reversed. This is how it works in yachting, and we can be proud of this system because it serves the interests of everyone. Do you ever try to visit these remote places yourself? Yes! Absolutely. Whenever possible. No matter how much help I get from local agents, there’s no substitute for me going to a place myself, so that I can have a good dig around, visit the yacht, explore the area, and really start forming a picture in my mind of which of my charter clients would really get a kick out of visiting this place. In that respect, explorer charters take a bit more finesse in matching client to destination: the French Riviera for example is a great all-round destination for everyone, but more remote destinations aren’t going to have the Michelin starred restaurants and shopping some guests require. Some might not even have a phone signal. The Amazon is a really great example of a destination that won’t appeal to everyone, and while I knew that in theory, going there was the only way that I could really see what was on offer. Yes, tell us about the Amazon!
I was fortunate to be invited on a ‘fam trip’ (familiarisation trip) on the ARIA AMAZON, an Amazon river yacht near Iquitos in Peru. The Amazon is certainly the wildest destination I have experienced, and in my opinion not a destination that would appeal to everyone. But for those wanting to try something new, exotic and different, I would strongly recommend it. Clients must be prepared for an environment with very little infrastructure ashore and sometimes no signal at all. It will be just you and the crew, the yacht and the jungle. So, if you are happy to cut yourself off from the rest of the world and be a spectator of the Amazon’s abundant fauna and flora, this destination is for you. The ARIA AMAZON is a custom-made river cruise ship, not as luxurious as you could expect on a superyacht but still very comfortable. It’s nicely designed and has all the amenities you would expect, such as a jacuzzi, sunbeds, gym and massage room. One of the most wonderful features of the yacht is the large floor to ceiling windows in each cabin, giving the sensation of being in the jungle while remaining in your bed. What activities did you do on your Amazon cruise? Daily excursions are organised by the experienced local crew, guides and experts. You head off on river adventures on powerful skiff tenders, and early in the morning you witness the awakening of the jungle, with many animals to see and hear including sloths, monkeys, pink dolphins, giant anaconda, turtles and much more. Just imagine yourself cruising silently in a small skiff in the middle of the Amazon river surrounded by rainforest, ready to draw the binoculars at any noise, ready to catch the moment as it happens. For me, the most impressive experience was the bird life — even if you’re not an expert you will be amazed by the diversity and the cacophony of birdsong; you’ll even be able to communicate with them thanks to bird calls sent into the jungle through the speakers on the skiff. An unforgettable experience. In the afternoons we had the choice of excursions including piranha fishing, a visit to a local Amazonian village, hiking in the rainforest, kayaking, and even a night excursion when the fauna is the most active. Onboard activities include fauna and flora presentations, a Peruvian cocktail competition, a culinary course on how to prepare a Peruvian ceviche, and massages.
I think luxury tourism has evolved enormously in recent years. While yachting has long been considered as the ultimate elite vacation experience, we’ve seen competitors arise at the top end of the market, such as safari lodges and ski chalets offering outstanding experiences. As such, it was vital for yachting to extend their offering and access remote destinations to stay ahead. After all, the first functionality of a boat is that it can move- and this is something that other types of luxury vacations can’t match. A yacht doesn’t have to be in the same place every year, it can change, it can adapt, it can take guests to incredible new places. Most of our clients have been pretty much everywhere and some almost struggle to discover new destinations. Thanks to this new trend in yachting of expedition yacht charters, we are again able to surprise them.