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Island hopping with a luxury yacht charter

Video transcript

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Hello, everyone, Lucjan Zaborowski Here I am here with Robyn McCarty from Chillaxing’ Charters. We are very happy to have Robyn with us and just to talk to us about her business and her experiences over the 2020. So Robyn, tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

Robyn McCarty:

Sure, well, my business is Chillaxing Charters. And it is a kind of a boutique Travel Concierge program that I run specializing mainly in booking luxury crewed charter guides for my clients. I do it all across the Caribbean, basically. So the yacht start ranging from 45 feet in with a captain and a chef, all the way up to 200 feet, yachts, the super yachts, with multiple crew. The destinations that I specialize in are across the Caribbean, most of the bookings are typically in the British Virgin Islands and the USVI and then we do a lot of the Bahamas as well. And then any Caribbean destination you can envision we can typically get a boat there, if you need to relocate it. St. Barts and St. Maarten are very popular, typically around the new year’s time, as well. And then down to the Grenadines and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia. So that’s all over and just a luxury type vacation on a boat for a week with the crew.

Lucjan Zaborowski

Robyn, another question I have for you is if you can tell us more about the offering. Let’s dig a little bit more into it in terms of, charting, about what comes with it? What are the kinds of activities and things that people really get to or that they can really enjoy when they work with you, and they get a charter?

Robyn McCarty:

Well, my favourite part of a charter vacation is that your crew is there. And they are your host and your guide to the islands. So you never really have to think about what to do because they are always offering their ideas. Each day is customized to what you decide. So if you wake up and you think you have a plan, and you change your mind you get to. So the crew will put out snorkeling gear for you and take you to the best snorkeling sites around the island. Many of the boats have crews that have a dive master. So if you’re scuba certified or looking to get scuba certified, we can put you on a boat that will offer a couple of dives in as well. All the boats come stacked with water toys so the sea is your playground. You can wake up and literally hop into your playground. And they’ll have floats, they’ll have towables so you can water ski, you can wakeboard, there’s some all different kinds of like a scuba depends on the boat, what kind of toys they have. But again, your playland is right there. Seabobs are one of my favourites, that you can just get down and you end up being like your own little dolphin peeking in and out of the water. And my daughter always likes to try to do that and find a sea turtle and kind of go swim with the sea turtles. Each day is an adventure and the boat is fully stocked with plenty of activities for you to do and then the crew also there to host you if you want to explore anything on land as well.

Lucjan Zaborowski

It’s like your own little theme park so that’s is incredible and I can imagine you really have the freedom to have fun and, and that’s what it’s all about. So that that does sound amazing for sure.

So what would be your typical client? Who would you say is your target audience? Would you say its mostly US customer base? Do you get a lot of people from other parts of the world?

Robyn McCarty:

I do. there are a lot of people from across the world who come to the Caribbean as well, because it’s a beautiful destination. So um, most of my clients tend to be families looking for, kind of a quote, unquote, bucket list vacation to spend a week on a yacht with a crew. It is an amazing opportunity.

And what I find is, a lot of times, after a family does it, they are hooked. And it becomes a multiple bucket lists, you’re gonna want to do it again in the same destination and see more of that destination or try a different Caribbean destination. And then if it’s not families, I often have couples and traveling as groups. So celebrating a milestone, birthday or anniversary, or just couples who like to travel together. That’s a nice way to take a couples trip.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

It does sound amazing! Tell me tell me about this year in particular and I’m sure it’s been different than any year you’ve been doing this. I guess it’s the same for all of us and it started about March time. I assume it hasn’t changed all that much since but, but just tell us about your journey and this year, and I guess the evolution of the situation for you.

Robyn McCarty:

Yeah, well COVID hit hard for sure. And things slowed down for the travel industry. When March came it was really difficult because as charter brokers we all were anticipating and looking forward to sending our families and couples off for spring break trips. And they all got cancelled. So that was a big scramble in the beginning because we had to work with the boat owners and the clients and come to fair terms for what was the cancellation policy going to be. COVID wasn’t covered in anybody’s contracts. So the travel industry really had to react and allow re bookings. It depended on the boat and the owners what they allowed, but a lot of the boats did allow re bookings and within a year so those clients do still have something to look forward to and still get their vacation.

And then of course new bookings were not happening for the charter industry because of the fear of traveling. So it was very slow. I think most I and many other charter brokers just tried to continue to stay positive and, and promote the destinations when it’s safe to travel. And of course, as things slowly started to reopen, promoting safe travel. So being very respectful of each islands protocols, the British Virgin Islands still has very strict protocols for coming back. They are allowing tours now. But you have to have a COVID test before and then you have to have COVID test when you’re there. So by the time you have your seven day long trip, you may have had to have been quarantined for a while. So it’s, it’s certainly different travel for the clients. We are really trying to kind of push and promote the USVI right now, because they are open and clients can get there and still have a seven day vacation and see some beautiful islands as well.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Sure, do you think there’s been also, I guess, a unique selling point for you in the sense of just the fact that, to some extent, you offer privacy as well, with your offering, so the experience is a little bit different. You’re not necessarily in groups of people as large and you have more control over your vacation. Do you think that that’s something you can potentially use or have been able to use to your advantage?

Robyn McCarty:

Absolutely. Of course, the industry is utilizing private air travel a lot to get to the destination. So clients can even eliminate having to be on a commercial flight, if they have the means. Of course, not everyone has that means but air travel is pretty safe right now, with the way the planes have been cleaning and that they’ve stepped up their game. So just getting to the destination, then as you said, when you’re on your boat, you are with the people that you are around anyway, and it’s a safe vacation.

Typically for a charter vacation, there’s a lot on and off the boat, and there’s beach bar hopping, there’s Island exploring. And so really, we’re letting clients know, you may not be beach bar hopping as much right now. But that’s okay, take advantage of the yacht and the crew, and the opportunity to Island hop and just be at a different Island and enjoy the water nature activities around you a little bit more than beach bars this year.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Makes sense. Well, you’ve talked a bit about your experience and your business. I wonder what you’ve seen out there in terms other businesses in the Caribbean that I’m sure you interact a lot with in the region. What do they say? What’s the general impact on the region that you kind of see? And, and how significant do you think it is?

Robyn McCarty:

Well, the biggest hard hit was when everything shut down. These small islands thrive off of tourists and tourism. And when people can’t come they their business has to shut down. So that has been devastating for the livelihood of many small business owners.

But I do think that the Islanders are resilient. They have proven time and time again after like after  Hurricane Irma 2017. When things got wiped out, they are resilient. And when they know how to get it, they know how to be patient, and they’re ready when it’s safe to have tours back and welcome visitors with open arms.

There will be some businesses that don’t make it. But there are plenty that will rebuild and are ready to host and welcome people back.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Of course, and so o that leads us into kind of 2021 and your thoughts about what are plans for it? I mean, do you take it day by day or do you really try to make some medium to long term plans? Is that even possible given that it’s just so uncertain with the number of cases and the different spikes in cases and all the restrictions, of course that follow. So how do you approach it?

Robyn McCarty:

Yeah, it’s tough because it is forever changing. The islands that are open now could shut back down if the cases continued to escalate. And they have to do that for their own safety as they are limited In medical supplies in hospitals, some they might not even have it in the first place. So I’m trying to be respectful of the smaller islands, and make sure that they’re safe, first of all, but at the same time, we do want to promote the industry as people just want some version of normal again. And I think it is safe to go to certain locations and islands and there is a luxury vacation that you can have. And I think in 2021 people are looking to do just that.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Yes, I’ve actually read recently we expect to have this effect when everything kind of reopens that people try to compensate for the times they’ve missed and the fact that they were not able to do all these social interactions and be out there. So actually a lot of the researchers expect that there will be a certain spike in people wanting to go out and travel. And so it may be actually a very good year and if not 2021, then hopefully 2022 that actually is great for the travel industry. So at least there should be that silver lining to all of this.

Robyn McCarty:

Absolutely, yes. Well, and the other part of the silver lining is while the islands were kind of shut down, the nature and the beauty of everything really did replenish without the traffic.

I’m hearing a lot of crews who are back in the area now saying, they’ve never seen so many dolphin pods. And when they’re scuba and snorkeling, things are vibrant again. So it did kind of allow the nature to replenish itself without a little a lot of traffic. So that’s another silver lining that we can take away from this too.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Amazing. Yeah, that’s true nature. And , we’ve all kind of seen the pictures of animals on the streets during the lockdowns and just kind of nature taking over, during the time when people just had to kind of stay put. So I guess I guess my last question is just about your your personal kind of favourites about the Caribbean – what do you love about the islands and I mean, there’s so much love of course, right? But you personally, what inspires you and what, what really makes you going and excites you about the islands and, and everything that’s out there?

Robyn McCarty:

Yes. Um, I love so much about the islands. First off has to be the beautiful turquoise waters that welcome you. I mean, there’s nothing like it, you can see to the bottom and see the white sandy floor everywhere. So the beauty of the turquoise waters is inviting. First and foremost.

I also love the consistent weather. Being from Chicago, everybody needs to escape the cold. And the weather there year round, you just can’t go wrong with it. And I also really love the welcome of the islanders themselves, the personalities. It’s always, come on in and have a seat and they’ve got a story to tell. So what I find when vacationing personally in the islands is you just warp to Island time immediately and life slows down and you can kind of appreciate the people you’re with a little bit more and nature around you. It’s just nothing is better than Island time. And I think that the people there really help you get on Island time quicker than anything.

Lucjan Zaborowski:

Well, I’m based in Boston so I have similar feelings and then we actually have probably a foot of snow so actually yes, I can imagine it is nice. Somewhere like Magens Bay maybe nice right now. I think we all love the aspects you mentioned that are of course amazing and I  would agree about those and so many more that we could go on for a while about. Of course every island has hundreds of things that are just incredible about it.

But for now I really appreciate your time and the fact that you were able to just spend these last 15 minutes with me and just talk about yourself and the business and the Caribbean as well. And for that, thank you so much.

Written by Lucjan Zaborowski

Lucjan has traveled to 22 Caribbean islands and is a keen explorer of history, culture and traditions of the region. He is former track athlete and boasts of many friendships with Caribbean track stars who have been happy to show him some of the most fascinating places on their islands.

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