“Some clients are excellent at filling in preference sheets; others, not so much. Some fill it in and then except something different upon arrival,” says David Price, charter and yacht manager at Hill Robinson.
For repeat clients, the broker can play an important role. “If it is a repeat client with a particular charter broker, the broker should have all the details and will give all to the crew,” Price tells The Superyacht Owner. “Remember, that broker is looking to keep their client. The more organised they are, the better the charter.”
Price adds that lack of detail in preference sheets can force the crew to improvise and “hope for the best". Captain Carl Sputh of busy charter motoryacht Starfire, however, disagrees.
“We evaluate from day one,” says Captain Sputh, even when repeat clients come on board. “All those [repeat clients’] tastes change, so your crew has to be ready to evaluate from the start. They can’t be static with these people – everything’s moving all the time.”
In many ways, preference sheets simply take off a level of pressure – they won’t necessarily change the framework of a charter. “If people want to do watersports or have a beach party, that doesn’t matter,” says Captain Sputh. “You don’t prepare for that in advance, do you? It’s part of our job. For the crews that have worked together for a long time and know how to do it, and for the captains who are flexible, this kind of stuff doesn’t really matter.
- Captain Carl Sputh, M/Y Starfire
“Everybody has breakfast, everybody has lunch and everybody has dinner,” he adds. “You just evaluate it and go through the day. They [may] want certain types of food we weren’t prepared form but a good chef can cook well. If you get a guest on board who you didn’t know wanted raw food the chef is kind of disappointed, because raw food takes a while to prepare, so that can be a bit of a shocker, but we make it happen. We stock the boat the same way every trip. We have nice wines on board. If you don’t tell us, you get what you get, but what you get is nice.”
There are a few areas where charter guests can be forgetful, which does make things trickier for the crew, according to Price. “Many forget the allergies, which can prove to be difficult if unknown, or the mysterious vegan who spoils the beach barbecue. Special events like a birthday can be forgotten,” adds Price, “which can increase the stress level a little past what is normal.”
One criticism of preference sheets is that they actually limit the opportunities a charter presents, and can even become a frustration for the guests. John Brendmoe, owner of 25m charter yacht Alexandra V, is for abolishing preference sheets altogether. “I don’t like the standard prayer list; I don’t like it at all. The people who get these things three or four weeks before the charter, they think it’s a pain; they don’t want to see it. Why don’t they want to see it? They want to be surprised.”
When filled out, preference sheets present a chance for the crew to be better prepared. But should we be doing more with them? Perhaps not. “I feel like the brokers push the preference sheets has hard as I can. I will call them and say we haven’t got a preference sheet yet, and they’re like, ‘I know, I just can’t get them to do it’, and it doesn’t matter,” concludes Captain Sputh. “There are people who obviously don’t want to take the time to do it, and they’re not concerned about it, so there’s no point bugging them about their vacation.”
Read the full interview with John Bredmoe, owner of Alexandra V, in issue 14 of The Superyacht Owner.