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Marion wrote: I am a sea lover. Seems to be an interesting cruise. david martin Abrahams would love to travel on it.


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Matching Client to Yacht
Whether chartering or buying, rely on a broker who knows the marketplace

Merle Wood and Peter Croke, of Merle Wood & Associates, specialize in yachts in excess of 120 feet. With cumulative sales in excess of $4 billion, the company is internationally recognized as the premier yacht brokerage firm in the world. They deal exclusively in the construction, sale, purchase, and charter of large motoryachts.

Advertisements for Merle Wood & Associates read "Paradise Is Only a Charter Away," a promise they aim to fulfill for every client, whether they're looking for a week-long charter in the Bahamas or a trial run on a 200ft megayacht they plan to buy and take across the Atlantic.

While charter vacations can vary anywhere from $40,000-420,000 per week for the base fee (expenses and gratuities usually run an additional third), the company continues to see a steady increase in clients. And not only are people chartering more often, but the yachts they're seeking are much larger than in the past.

"People are becoming more adventurous with their travel," says Peter Croke, managing director of Merle Wood. "They want to visit more remote places."

Most of the charters the company books are for families; some are for business. As there are generally up to 12 people in the guest's party and the same number (or more) of crew, people want more space and privacy, so the yachts need to be large. And Croke says that as the economy improves, people are happy to spend larger sums of money on the perfect vacation.

In fact, he recently booked his most expensive charter ever - a nine-week charter in the Mediterranean for a repeat client - at $3.2 million! The yacht will cruise around the south of France and Italy. It has 10 staterooms and a crew of 28.

The Ultimate Luxury
 According to Croke, more people are being introduced to yachting as the ultimate luxury/indulgence. The majority of their clients are prominent figures in entertainment, sports, and business, so charters offer a great alternative to a resort vacation - there's so much more privacy. The service is 5+ stars as are the accommodations, food, and drink. Unlike resort vacations where you are stuck in one place, a luxury yacht is the resort, but it can move to different locations. What's more, itineraries can be customized to satisfy any desire.

To achieve the best match between client and yacht, whether chartering or purchasing, Croke emphasizes that the relationship between broker and client is critical. This is especially true for first-time charterers, and the reason his company receives so many referrals and repeat business.

"At Merle Wood & Associates," he says, "each member of our staff focuses on a particular segment of the market, so the client is looked after by a salesman who's an expert in the area of the market that the client wishes to purchase/charter in. By specializing in a particular size or type of vessel, the salesman has intimate knowledge of the entire marketplace for that type of yacht and can inform the client of all options. In this way, we can then guide him to the best deal for charter and/or purchase and ultimate resale.

"If you're new to the market and want to educate yourself, chartering is the perfect way to find out exactly what you want in a yacht. Whether your intent is to purchase an existing yacht or build a new one, chartering is a great way to learn," adds Croke.

Booking a Charter
To book a charter, the first step is to contact a yacht broker and be as explicit as possible about your yacht charter vacation plans: area of the world, dates, budget, etc. The broker will then propose a number of yachts to suit your needs. Not only is the right boat critical, but the right captain and crew are also key to creating a memorable experience.

"Once we narrow down the choices," says Croke, "we work with the client to come up with an itinerary that will provide everything he wants on his vacation. This goes right down to getting him into the top restaurants and nightclubs, finding impossible-to-find wines, etc. To plan the perfect vacation, we get very close to the charterer or his assistant and make sure that everything works like a Swiss watch."

Merle Wood, the president of the company, emphasizes the importance of perfection: "When you charter a yacht, your experience has to be absolutely picture perfect. Your yacht vacation has to be a dream experience from the moment you step on board until you disembark. You should never be aware of any worries, problems, or issues. The crew needs to do everything to create an unmatched experience. It's very similar to your expectations when you go out to eat at a restaurant. You don't want to know every little problem in the kitchen. You just want to eat a good meal and enjoy it."

True to Wood's word, from the moment a client steps on board a Merle Wood & Associates charter yacht, he or she is aware of little except being indulged. Each charter party is greeted with some Dom Perignon and flowers to set the mood.

When the Work Is Done
How do Croke and Wood relax when they're not arranging the perfect charter or sale for a customer? Why, they board their own yachts of course. Both men are avid boaters. Merle owns two yachts: one is for pleasure and the other is a 106ft charter yacht!

Where do they find their particular paradise? While Croke travels the distance to cruise the Great Barrier Reef in his homeland of Australia, Wood remains more local because he prefers the Bahamas.

To have one of the experts from Merle Wood & Associates plan your dream charter or provide information on sales, please call: 954 525-5111 or e-mail: pcroke@merlewood.com.

About Jamie Matusow
Jamie Matusow is a freelance writer based in New York. She was the long time managing editor of legendary Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine. Jamie traveled extensively throughout Mediterranean, Caribean, and the Bahamas where she filed many of her charter stories.

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