It’s not every week that the SuperYacht Times team are treated to a real onboard experience, but 2018 kicked off to a fantastic start with a taste of the superyacht lifestyle with Belgian owner, Hugo Verlinden. Invited to spend a couple of days sampling the very best of what charter guests can expect to enjoy on the 2017-built Sanlorenzo superyacht Seven Sins, it didn’t take much convincing for Charl van Rooy and myself to pack our bags and jump on a plane to the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
Arriving to Hewanorra airport from the frosty New Year temperatures of Amsterdam and stepping into the balmy climes of the Caribbean, the 52-metre Seven Sins awaited us at Rodney Bay Marina, just an hour-long drive through the twisting mountainous roads of the island. We were quickly assisted by the helpful marina staff and, avoiding tropical showers, it wasn’t long before Seven Sins’ tender picked us up at the docks and we were helped on board by the smiling crew.
Stepping into the immediately impressive, modern beach club - and with a sneak peek at the sauna, steam room and gym - first stew Nel gave us a quick and comprehensive tour of some of the key areas. Generous spaces welcomed us, with large windows, comfortably elegant furnishings and a neutral, soothing colour palette. Leading down the beautiful staircase that connects the lower to upper decks, Nel opened the door to the VIP suite where our suitcases were already neatly waiting. A his/hers bathroom, large windows to lap up the on-water views, and all the amenities one could need - it was easy to feel immediately relaxed and at home.
That night we joined Mr Verlinden and his close friend for our first Seven Sins dining experience on the upper deck. An expertly laid out table awaited us, with flowing wine and a truly delectable four-course menu prepared for us by the new chef on board - another fellow Belgian who, though only 23 years old, had already been working in one of Belgium’s best 2 Michelin Star restaurants for several years. “I used to choose the menu myself,” Hugo told us. “But now I only interfere when we’re having lobster!”
The conversation quickly turns to what exactly makes Seven Sins the perfect yacht, with Verlinden himself actively involved in all aspects of running the boat. “My wife tells me I work too much - I’m 75 now and semi-retired from my insurance company, but I am constantly doing one thing or another with Seven Sins… whether it’s being involved in the charter operations over the season, making sure we get a new tender in good time and for a good price or making sure my crew are happy and working hard. But I don’t see it as work. I love the boat. I had a fantastic experience building her with Sanlorenzo, and I love chartering her, so for me managing the boat in many ways is just a hobby that I genuinely enjoy.”
As the night progressed we heard many of Hugo’s favourite charter stories, with Karel, the fantastic Chief Stew who has been working with Verlinden for some years now, lightheartedly adding to our conversation as he expertly lead us from course to course, with anecdotes and even more great charter stories. From cruising the fjords of Norway, discovering an underwater paradise in Tahiti, or revisiting his favourite spots along the Mediterranean coast, it was immediately clear that Verlinden was not your average owner. Well-travelled the world over, his passion for yachting was palpable, and as the night drew to an end we were already excited to sample some of the superyacht lifestyle which Hugo had made us hungry for.
The next day didn’t disappoint. Taking advice from the boat's biggest fan himself, I started my day with a quick blast in the gym - making working out that little bit easier when presented with a glistening vista of the Caribbean ahead. Followed by a session in the steam room and sauna - and all by 8.30 am - coffee, fruit juice and a delicious breakfast awaited us again on the upper deck. “I never eat inside,” Hugo told us over croissants and the crispiest bacon I’d ever tasted. “Why would you? When you’re on the boat you want to be outside, and here on the upper deck with the shade over us and the shelter from the elements, it’s perfect. I think we’ve actually only eaten inside three times this season...”
After breakfast, it was easy to fit in a couple of hours of work using the speedy wifi, lounging in the shade on the huge sundeck whilst we cruised to our next anchorage spot, and then it was time to make the most of the toys we had spotted upon our arrival. With the crew immediately on hand to help - and reassure - even the most inexperienced of guests, there can truly be few afternoons better spent than jumping on and off the seabobs, jet skis and snorkelling in the crystal waters, even when the inevitable tropical rains paid us a visit.
In fact, the infamous rains of the Caribbean made the trip all the more special in parts, particularly when swimming in the amazing bottomless swimming pool on the main deck aft, sipping on a freshly prepared cocktail as the sun set. Surrounded only by the sounds of the sea, it was certainly a hard moment to beat.
Our final evening meal featured not one but two lobster courses, both of which Hugo had, indeed, briefed the chef on. Bought from a local fisherman earlier that day, it is no exaggeration to say that that meal, rounded off with homemade ice cream and a melt-in-your-mouth sweet almond pastry tart and combined with the impeccable service of the experienced crew, was one of the best I’ve ever had. “The crew are important in creating the perfect charter experience,” Hugo notes as I tell him just that. “The food and the crew. They are what make a trip like this unforgettable. It’s why I really take care of my crew, and Karel and Nel are excellent. They’ve been with me for years and set high standards for the rest, which is so important, and which has helped to really solidify the Seven Sins name on the charter market. We’re well known wherever we go for this, and it’s why I myself spend as much time on board as I can.”
It was with a heavy heart that we departed our superyacht experience on board Seven Sins, and as we hopped on the tender with Hugo to take us to shore and we chatted about our fantastic mini-charter, Hugo smiled and said that we’re not the only ones who will remember our time on board forever: “I’ve had guests over the years - from family to friends to business associates - that still come up to me 10, 20 or even 30 years later to tell me that the time they’ve spent chartering on my boats is still the most memorable and unbeatable vacation they’ve ever taken. The freedom, the service, and the beauty of being on the water… you really can’t beat it.”
To experience Seven Sins for yourself, book a charter experience with YPI in the Caribbean for the remainder of the winter season, or in the Mediterranean this summer and check out the Seven Sins vlog from SuperYacht Times here.
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