Ever since hurricanes Irma and Maria unleashed their wrath across the Caribbean, the region has been rallying to reinstate itself as the popular charter destination it once was. Showing remarkable progress in the space of just one year, the Caribbean has now declared its crystal-clear cruising grounds open for business; here’s what you can expect from a charter vacation in the area over the 2018/2019 season.
In the calm after the storm, the Caribbean has been working hard to be ready for the upcoming winter charter season. With governments, charities and local businesses aiding the recovery process, it’s hoped that this year will see throngs of yacht-owners and charterers flocking back to the region’s sandy shores for a dose of tropical sun and colourful Caribbean culture.
If you are considering heading back to the area via superyacht, we have developed a forecast for what you can expect from the islands; from the most hurricane-damaged to the ones which escaped the worst of the weather.
The islands hit the hardest
The Virgin Islands, St Maartin and St Barts were among the worst hit when the hurricanes tore a straight course through the region. But in a fitting testament to the spirit and strength of the islanders, many of the marinas and a large number of yachts from the local charter fleet were back up and running within three months’ of Irma making landfall. Between now and then, the islands have come a long way in their recovery, with roads cleared, houses rebuilt and infrastructure repaired.
Visitors can expect the vast majority of restaurants and bars to be open in full swing across the islands, with new establishments popping up amongst old favourites. Beachfront bars will welcome you with open arms, inviting you to sit down and enjoy a coconut cocktail while soaking up the vistas over the glittering blue sea.
Lining the streets, many shops and cafes have undergone refurbishments in the wake of the hurricanes, lending them a brand new look. Almost all of them are open, so charterers need not worry when they visit the island; all their needs are covered. The atmosphere is also said to be lively and jovial as islanders and businesses get back on their feet.
An ongoing recovery
As charterers will see as they approach the islands, the landscape is still in the process of healing its wounds. Although much of the greenery has grown back since Irma and Maria, the terrain is still scarred, with brown and barren pockets where foliage used to grow. On the more remote parts of the islands, piles of rubble, downed trees and skeletons of buildings covered by tarpaulin can still be stumbled upon.
Most beachfront resorts and hotels are fully functional again, although there are some which are undergoing the final stages of repair. There are a few attractions, including popular eateries and spas like Saba Rock, which are not yet open to the public due to hurricane damage. In the town centre, visitors will still find the occasional shop boarded up. Across the islands, repair work is still underway in plenty of locations, with building sites peppering the land.
Ready for visitors
In spite of any residual damage, the Caribbean is expected to be busy this season. Charter guests and yacht-owners who were unable to visit their favourite hotspots last year are expected to flock back to the region, with a high demand for charter yachts already reported by the industry.
In the Virgin Islands, marine life has managed to escape virtually unscathed by the storm, ensuring the islands’ reputation for incredible dive sites remains intact. Coral gardens are still thriving metropolises below the surface of the sea, and flamingos can still be found inhabiting the northern tip of the BVI.
Over on St Maarten, long swathes of powder-sand beaches await invitingly, and visitors will find plenty of spots to lie back and bask in the sun. Charterers can enjoy secluded anchorages and peaceful bays, coupled with signature Caribbean charm on land. The airport on the island is now accepting flights from around the globe, although it's worth noting that a large-scale refurbishment has meant it's still not looking its best.
Famed for its New Year’s Eve celebrations, St Barts was welcoming tourists back as early as November 2017. This year promises to be no different, with star-studded beach parties, firework displays and performances from world-renowned DJs at some of the hottest venues on the island.
The status of marinas
Most marinas in the Caribbean are now open for business, with the same superb service available that’s come to be expected of marinas in the region. Parts and provisions are on hand to ensure peace of mind, and a luxury experience awaits when guests disembark.
However, yacht-goers will be disappointed to find that several marinas are still in process of recuperating. The famous, family-owned Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI is still undergoing a refurbishment after being battered by the storm. Similarly, the Rosewood Little Dix Bay and Peter Island Resort are closed for repairs- although it’s hoped that both might be finished in time for part of the winter charter season.
There are plenty of marinas still open in the region, many of which are offering new and improved facilities in the wake of the hurricanes. Scrub Island on the BVI has recently finished development on its upgraded marina and new docks, and Christophe Harbour in St Kitts has unveiled new berths for superyachts measuring up to 122 metres. Charter guests and yacht-owners will find their yachts are well-catered for when they make their return to the Caribbean.
The islands which escaped the worst of the storm
The islands which managed to avoid the brunt of the hurricanes enjoyed a significant increase in charter bookings last year - and the same is expected this year. Destinations on the charter itinerary which aren’t usually as well-traversed are now being discovered by charterers who are falling in love with their whimsical charm and untouched beauty.
Among them are the Windward Islands, which offer up a different side to the Caribbean. The idyllic paradise has preserved its pristine beaches, awe-inspiring waterfalls and secluded beaches for a truly memorable yacht charter vacation. The archipelago is off the beaten path, with a focus on sustainable, eco-friendly tourism which has ensured the tropical jungles and coral reefs are still as breathtaking as they were hundreds of years ago. One of the favourites in the island chain is St Lucia, with its powdery beaches, sophisticated eateries and luxury marinas primed to entice the discerning charter guest.
Charter yachts returning
In a fitting testament to the region’s revival, there is a stand-out selection of superyachts available for charter in the area this winter. Among them are the 81m/267ft motor yacht ‘Alfa Nero’ from Oceanco, an iconic megayacht which boasts a large infinity pool which transforms into a helipad. Primed for celebrations, she has an entertainment set-up on the sun deck that's sure to impress, as well as an on-board beauty salon.
Lurssen’s 95m/313ft superyacht KISMET is also heading to the region for winter after a successful summer charter season hosting notable guests including Beyonce and Jay-Z. Coming in as the 54th largest superyacht in the world, she is home to a winter garden deck and multi-level pool, with luxurious ‘Champagne & Caviar’ themed interiors. A truly stand-out charter option, guests will have to act quickly if they want to get on board this winter.
For those looking for a truly unique charter yacht to host them in the Caribbean, the 99m/325ft superyacht ‘Christina O’ will be available as well. The yacht's resident Michelin chef will be on hand to serve up mouthwatering delicacies, and a spacious, bronze-edged swimming pool heightens the feeling of on-board luxury. The historically renowned superyacht is equipped with 17 spacious cabins and an opulent spa, for the ultimate pampering experience.
Last December, the Antigua Charter Yacht Show went ahead, bringing with it a dazzling fleet of superyachts for charter. This year will be no different, with another superb line-up on display for industry professionals to enjoy. The waters around Antigua's Falmouth Harbour will come alive with luxury yachts, ensuring an impressive selection to choose from when you book your next charter vacation in the region.
With recovery shaping the landscape, it's hoped that an influx of superyachts will breathe life back into the Caribbean's local economy. The region relies heavily on nautical tourism, and a successful charter season will act as the final push the Caribbean needs to get back on its feet.
Although charterers may notice some after-effects of the last year's hurricanes, the people in the yachting community remain the same; friendly, accommodating and eager to welcome you back.
In order to find out more about chartering in the Caribbean this winter, please get in touch with your preferred charter broker.
Alternatively, view all luxury yachts for charter in the Caribbean.