Ask any charter broker, and they will tell you the success of a charter yacht largely depends on the yacht's crew. With this in mind, we recently sat down with Natasja Janssens, the chief sterwardess of superyacht Snowbird, a highly succesful 39 metre charteryacht, built at Hakvoort in The Netherlands in 2010. The yacht is currently back at the yard, for a small refit, and will re-enter the charter market in time for the summer season. We asked Belgium born Natasja a couple of questions, about her recent charter experiences.
Snowbird covered quite a lot of miles last summer: we started by sailing the yacht from Imperia to Athens. We did some island-hopping in the Saronic Gulf, along the Cyclades, all the way up to Turkey.
After this, Snowbird headed to the more secluded beaches and anchorages along the Adriatic coast. We cruised between Kotor (Montenegro) and Pula (Croatia) for about 8 weeks, before heading to Monaco where we attended the Yacht Show.
Beginning of October we cruised around the Mediterranean for an owner's trip, and the last trip of the season was the delivery of the yacht to a Dutch shipyard for a winter refit.
What were your favourite places to visit, and why?
This would be Montenegro, and then especially the bay of Kotor, for its jaw dropping scenery. The moment you arrive you will be mesmerized by the glittering sapphire seas and the green mountains. Kotor is set on southern Europe’s deepest fjord and truly is one of the most spectacular natural harbours.
As for Croatia exploring the lunar landscape of the Kornati Islands National Park is a must. Also high on the list are the waterfalls of Skradin and the unspoilt islands of the Sibenik archipelago which offer great tranquility. For the best local fish head there’s the charming restaurant Paradiso on Kakan Island waiting to be discovered.
What sets Snowbird apart?
For its size Snowbird feels very spacious and has a practical and tasteful modern interior that joins effortlessly with the vast outside decks. The exterior dining areas are well protected and from the forward sun pad guests can enjoy the passing scenery while cruising.
Snowbird has apart from an array of water toys also a 36ft open solid tender which makes cocktail cruises along the islands and pick-ups from the shore very comfortable and safe. The zero speed stabilizers not only guarantee a stable platform when at anchor but also make sure the overnight cruise between islands passes unnoticed. We obviously also have a fantastic crew that can cater to any charterer’s needs.
One of our guests recently commented: "I can't think of a better way to feel like royalty than to charter a beautiful yacht! From the moment I step on board, I am treated like a queen. I unpack one time only and then the world awaits me with the finest concierge service to take care of my every need and desire. I love sitting down at an elegant table to be served exquisite Michelin quality cuisine".
Another one said "The crew is special and makes every passenger feel special. Every wish and whim is fulfilled before you knew you wanted something. Best restaurant in Europe is on Snowbird. The boat is filled with spectacular art and every water toy known to exist. And there are so many wonderful spaces onboard to be with friends. And special places to sit by yourself to read or to just watch the shoreline unfold before your dazzled eyes". Tears fill my eyes at the end of my royal voyage; I do not want to say good bye. These memories are priceless!"
What does a typical day on board Snowbird look like for the guests?
The early birds will go for a swim or kayak adventure before sitting down with the rest of the company to enjoy a lovely breakfast. As the guests linger over homemade bread rolls, fruit platters and freshly squeezed juices, the captain gives them an update on the weather and presents them the various options to make it another memorable day.
In the meanwhile the cabins are getting refreshed with crisp sheets and the deck crew are preparing the water toys for a fun and active morning. Some of the guests will be taking a jet ski course on board, whilst the others are keen divers and ready to explore a nearby wreck with a local guide.
Upon returning to the yacht, they take a nice hot shower on the swim platform where a basket with fluffy towels and exclusive toiletries are waiting for them, next to some iced beverages and salty snacks. The crew stows the toys again and off we go at comfortable pace to another anchorage. The guests enjoy the views and wave at yachts passing by over an alfresco lunch sipping some chilled rose. After a fabulous meal, the adults escape to the sundeck, to rest in the jacuzzi and work on their tan, whilst the children are playing a game, getting towed on the banana boat or entertained by the chef who shows them how to make his signature vanilla cakes.
In the afternoon the guests go for a stroll in town and when the crew picks them up with the tender, they find the stewardess on board with cool hand towels and champagne, as they go for a sunset cruise around the island. Back on board all guests head to their staterooms for a shower and meet up with one another in the salon for cocktails before sitting down to an elegantly set table with shiny silver and crystal where another 5 star meal will be served.
After dinner, the crew bring out their bowties, shiny hats, and in minutes the yacht looks like a proper casino. The guests enjoy a game of roulette, poker and black jack under a lovely full moon sky. Some of the guests retire to their cabin where all has been prepared for a good night’s sleep whilst the late night owls are getting run to the shore to enjoy an exclusive party in one of the famous clubs.
What’s your advice to first time charter clients?
First step would be to choose an area that can fulfil the needs of the guests on board. A family with children or an elderly ensemble would be better off in a tranquil environment like Croatia and Montenegro while a group of party people would be better off in the French Riviera. Sardinia offers both but can be very windy during the summer months so might not be ideal for people that are prone to seasickness.
Next step would be to find a yacht that offers enough space to accommodate the group dynamics. When yachts are marketed as sleeping 10 guests they start to feel crowded with 8 on board.
Once the clients have carefully chosen their yacht they should short list the places they would like to visit and discuss distances with the charter broker and captain. Key is to set realistic goals where there is enough time to enjoy a relaxing holiday and not to be cruising day and night.
Now that the itinerary is decided upon they should take their time to complete the preference sheet: activities, dining preferences, medical conditions and allergies, any anniversaries during the trip etc. This information should cover the whole group and not only the principal charterer. The more information the crew has about the clients, the easier to create a memorable holiday and cater to their utmost standards. As soon as the charterers get on board the luxury yacht, the crew will give them a safety briefing. Safety at sea is taken very serious, so they should ensure all the information given is well understood. In general, it’s important to let the crew know if something is (not) to their liking. We take pride in our job and we want for the ‘once in a lifetime’ charterers to become regulars.
If it was up to you, and you could take Snowbird anywhere in the world, where would you take her?
Baltics, Asia and Alaska!
Superyacht Snowbird will be available again for charter this summer. Ask your charter broker for more information.