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Yachting: Article

Hollywood's A-List Celebs Choose Yacht Charters for Total Escape

There's no better way to attain privacy and avoid the paparazzi

YV&C International Yacht Vacations & Charters Magazine reports:

Vacations are all about rest, relaxation, and, of course, indulgence. And when it comes to Hollywood's biggest stars, you can count on them to take it up a notch by spending time in exotic locales, on some of the world's most luxurious yachts.

Christina O
Since the '50s, Christina O has attracted a primarily European clientele, but has also hosted many Hollywood celebrities. Recent charters have been enjoyed by Madonna, Johnny Depp, Tommy Hilfiger, and Oliver Stone. The famed megayacht charters for $600,000 a week.

As morning's light broke over the horizon, Russell Crowe stood at the bow of the ship, gazing out to sea. Another day of mystery and adventure lay ahead for Crowe and the crew... . If this sounds like a scene from Crowe's latest film, "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," it's not. It's actually the beginning of a typical day on a celebrity yacht charter!

 After their wedding in April 2003, Crowe and his new bride, Danielle Spencer, set off to explore the Kimberley region of Australia's northwest coast aboard the 110ft luxury yacht Mustique. "Russell enjoyed being away from the glitz of Hollywood," says Mark Buckingham, the yacht's manager. "Spending time on a private yacht, far from the paparazzi, made this a unique honeymoon. They loved the wilderness itinerary, and our crew of six attended to their every need." 

The Allure of Privacy
While stars continue to splurge on traditional vacations in resorts and rental villas, the allure of a yachting holiday is more appealing than ever. "Villas are great, but the minute the stars try to leave the property, their privacy is compromised," according to Hansel Sneed of Sneed Tropical Yacht Charters. "On board a yacht, the celebrity is normally out of the public's eye. The yacht crews are very discreet, and usually no one even knows the stars were on board until the charter has ended."


This heightened privacy, combined with 5-star service and over-the-top onboard amenities are hard to resist, especially for today's A-list luminaries. The proliferation of private air charter companies makes it easier than ever for stars to jet off to an exotic destination, where a chartered yacht lies at anchor and a crew awaits their arrival.

"The yachts are magnificent - it's as if you rented a floating mansion or villa," reports Phil Zerillo, a rental booking agent for many celebrities, "and the chefs are on par with the chefs you find in gourmet restaurants."

 But like a moth inexorably drawn to a flame, the magnet that continues to draw the stars to yachting is the chance to escape the pressures of the limelight. "You finally get a chance to let down your hair and be yourself," explains Zerillo. "You can take your kids for a ride on a jet ski or go snorkeling in a small cove near a deserted island - that type of privacy for a celeb is priceless."

Priceless? Hardly. Forget your gold card - the price for privacy and luxury at sea is pure platinum. A typical fee for a 120ft luxury yacht is $75,000/week. Factor in some greenbacks for your fuel, favorite munchies, the requisite case of Cristal (and of course a gratuity for your superb crew), and you're tipping the scales at about $100K.

Hot Destinations
Once aboard, where do the celebrities head to enjoy their high-priced privacy? In the summertime, Hollywood and Gotham power-players flock to the Mediterranean. Considered the original destination of the "jet set," yachting along the Riviera and beyond first gained attention in the 1950s as Aristotle Onassis (pre-Jackie Kennedy) regularly hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Greta Garbo on board his 325ft yacht, Christina. Today, this great yacht (now renamed Christina O) still panders to the glitterati, along with dozens of newer superyachts frequenting the Côte d'Azur.

The Balearic Islands are a favorite enclave for super-couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas enjoyed a royal romp on the island of Majorca. Their charter yacht once belonged to Spain's King Juan Carlos, who joined the lovebirds for dinner. Out to sea near the island of Sardinia were rocker Jon Bon Jovi, rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, and Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington taking the plunge.

To escape the winter blues, A-listers frolic with friends and bodyguards in the balmy warmth of the Caribbean. Like the Ferraris and Bentleys parked in front of Morton's on Melrose Avenue, the largest, most expensive yachts are docked side-by-side along the quai (main dock) in Gustavia, St. Barts, where the stars gather to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks show and yacht regatta. Brit imports Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Mick Jagger join the likes of Tinseltown's Tom Cruise, Robert DeNiro, and John Travolta in making the Caribbean the most popular charter destination in the world.

Mariah Carey - One of Yachting's Biggest Fans
For whom in the world of entertainment's elite does the siren song of the sea call the loudest? When it comes to charter savvy, two frequent floaters stand out from the pack: Mariah Carey and P. Diddy. Forget Stella and her groove, these two have dropped anchor from SoBe to Saint Tropez.

 Anyone who reads the tabloids while on line at the supermarket can tell you that the multi-octave Carey has had her ups and downs, both personally and professionally. Her film, "Glitter", was a dud, and her hectic workload put her in the repair shop for a physical and emotional tune-up. Through it all, the pop diva's prescription for keeping it real has been fresh sea air and the creature comforts of private yachts. Indeed, wherever and whenever possible, this chart-topper has opted out of hotel stays and used yachts as overnight respites during concert tours.

"When her schedule permits, Mariah loves to get away on boats," claims her travel coordinator, G. Kates. "She feels the warm, salty air is good for her vocal health." According to Kates, Mariah especially loves yachts with on-deck Jacuzzis. "Who wouldn't love relaxing in a warm hot tub, gazing at the stars, with nary a paparazzo in sight?" he asks rhetorically.

Ever the explorer, Mariah has enjoyed both weekend getaways and multiweek retreats on yachts in South Florida, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. This two-time Grammy winner has logged more nautical miles than most ships' captains!

The self-indulgent Carey has even been known to combine the best of two great holidays, by renting both a shoreside villa and a luxury yacht at the same time. As one Hollywood insider reports, "You can host a bash in your villa then slip away with your 'real' friends out the back door and onto your boat."

Mariah has even been known to request yachts that will allow her to bring along her two beloved pet pooches. Ah, la dolce vita!

P-Diddy Chooses Yachts for Entertaining
Once considered "persona non grata" by some in the charter industry, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs continues to display a passion for the yachting lifestyle, arranging charters for both himself and his A-list friends. Last year, when rumors linked 40-something actress Demi Moore with teen heartthrob Ashton Kutcher, it was P. Diddy who invited the couple to escape the pursuit of South Beach paparazzi for a few days of yachting in the Bahamas.

 Combs's unlikely stature as a poster boy for the charter industry had to first overcome an earlier reputation as a hip-hop "gangsta."

"I remember contacting a dozen yacht owners on behalf of Mr. Combs," recalls Jana Sheeder, owner of SailAway Yacht Charter Consultants. "Many yacht owners grew up in a different generation and could not relate to the urban music and culture surrounding hip-hop," she says.

Adding to the problem was an incident that had occurred on a yacht where associates of Combs (whose urban moniker at the time was "Puff Daddy") had caused some damage to the vessel. Combs was not even on board when the incident occurred; nevertheless, the word spread in the charter industry as one of hip hop's original "bad boyz" found himself on the outside, looking in.

Fortunately, Sheeder was able to convince an owner to take a chance on Combs. "On behalf of Puffy, we gave the yacht owner a very substantial security deposit as a sign of good faith," recalls Sheeder. Combs spent a week in the Caribbean with friends and family - without incident. "From then on," Sheeder recounts, "we had very little trouble securing yachts for other hip-hop stars like Jay-Z and Queen Latifah."

Smiling, Sheeder says, "Now you flip on Letterman and there's P. Diddy showing off pictures of his latest two-week charter vacation on a 150ft megayacht in Europe!" Boyz will be boyz!

More Stories By Jim Araiza

Recognizing a unique niche and opportunity, Jim Araiza elected to combine his business and finance background with his passion for yachting. Jim and his partner, Jana Sheeder, decided to remold their CPA practice into a yacht charter consulting firm. They purchased the assets of their accounting client, SailAway Yacht Charters, and in 1989, relaunched the company as SailAway Yacht Charter Consultants, Inc., with Jana serving as company president. By viewing upscale yacht vacations as an asset, Jim and a team of white-collar professionals handle every aspect of a charter, from contract negotiations, to insurance protection, to arranging escrowed charter deposits. SailAway's unique approach caught the attention of entertainment lawyers and agents, eager to protect their celebrity clients. SailAway quickly developed a solid reputation in the entertainment industry, and parlayed their role as charter consultants into marine technical advisers for commercials, films, and music videos. Jim is a former Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner.

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