Now that 2016 Summer Yacht Week bookings are open for the daring and thirsty, I thought I'd share what my experience was like last summer sailing through the Adriatic Sea on Croatia's Red Route. Here are some key pieces of advice I wish I had researched more thoroughly before attending.
1) DO rent the biggest boat you can find.
My friends and I rented a Catamaran, which fits 12 people total, including the skipper. We were at full capacity with 11 people- all of which were pretty good friends- and by the 2nd day, we were already getting annoyed just from being in such close quarters with each other.
Leave some extra spots in your boat and bite the extra costs; it's worth it.
They claim the boat fits 12 people "comfortably" but it really does not. In fact, nothing on Yacht Week is "comfortable." You will feel claustrophobic all week- from the parties at overcrowded bars, to your tiny beds at night- so the best thing you can do is drink to calm your nerves.
2) DO hire a skipper.
My group hired a skipper named Jorge, who was arguably the coolest (and most attractive, Spanish Ryan Gosling doppleganger) skipper we could've ever asked for. I don't think any other boats on our route actually sailed without a skipper, but if you are thinking about it, just don't do it. It is so much more convenient and efficient to have a skipper who knows what he/she is doing. Not to mention, they occasionally function as the sober-ish chaperone when people get too drunk to perform basic tasks.
Plus you get to make friends with other boats because all the skippers have their own social cliques and tend to line up their yachts with their friends! Here is a pic of our alliance boats nicknamed 'Spanada.'
(Note: girl on right is not from our boat).
3) DO hire a hostess and get a food package for the week.
This was probably my group's biggest regret. You will spend way more money on gross, super processed food if you think the upfront cost of the food package is too expensive.
I was one of four people that went grocery shopping at a local grocery store in Split a few hours before we loaded on our boats, and it was not successful. We bought five carts filled with bread, Nutella, bananas, chips, paper towels, trash bags, sun screen, alcohol, and bottled water. We spent nearly $1500 upfront, and that amount barely lasted us 3 days. Other boats with hostesses were having "gourmet" meals with eggs, pastas and chicken parm, while we were eating Nutella sandwiches because peanut butter does not exist in Europe.
Remember that you only have one mini fridge for the entire yacht, and alcohol tends to take priority- so unless you want to be eating dry, tiny European bread with limited amounts of cheese and cold cuts for a week- get a food package. And hire someone that can cook and clean while you recover from your daily hangover, because your boat will get very dirty, very fast.
4) DON'T pack more than a small duffle and a backpack.
Seriously, don't. Everyone gets really stubborn and tries to sneak in all this extra stuff with "duffle bags" that are actually massive backpacking bags. They really mean it when they say THERE IS LITERALLY NO SPACE FOR YOUR STUFF.
I somehow roomed with the one other person on our boat who packed not one, but two suitcases (to be fair, she was studying abroad for two months before and moving to Spain right after Yacht Week so we'll give her a pass). I had no excuse. I am simply an avid overpacker and I justified my medium-sized suitcase with "I was traveling for a week before Yacht Week." IT DOESN'T MATTER.
We slept with the suitcases at our feet, and jumped over them to change. Just to get in the bathroom or physically fit in the room, we had to put the suitcases on the bed. I ended up using maybe half of the stuff in my bag. At least if you pack a soft duffle, you'll be able to squeeze the bag in the micro cubbies provided to you in your room. Otherwise, you'll find random items that slip down those nooks throughout the week.
5) DO bring some travel wipes and hand sanitizer.
I bought some multi-purpose wipes from the travel section at Target and they were phenomenal. Your feet will get questionably dirty every night you come 'home', and if you are a germaphobe about feet like me, than you will understand how great these handy dandy wipes are. I used it to wipe the mud and dirt off my feet every night before passing out. Also came very useful to wipe up sticky, gross messes.
6) DON'T flush the toilets on the boat. Warning: bring Febreeze.
There is no such thing as "flushing" on the boat. You will have to get rid of whatever gross body fluids you release into the toilet by physically pumping it out. There is a handle that you raise up and down and it slowly pushes the waste out into the sea. Oh, but here's the trick: you are not allowed to pump toilet paper out. You must throw it away in a trash bin that stays in your bathroom and stinks up the entire place, making the bathroom the most foul place to visit during the entire week, and therefore, simultaneously scaring you away from showering.
7) So... DON'T expect to shower every day.
The showers in the boat are actually just the detachable sink heads that you hang on a hook in the wall of your bathroom, which is literally the same size as an airplane bathroom. It was way too small to have an enjoyable shower, but the main problem for me personally, was the smell. Showering standing next to a stinky trash can filled with used toilet paper isn't very fun.
I recommend showering on the front of the boat, with the refreshing Croatian sea breeze, or just jumping into the salty Adriatic and call it a day. The boats will dock at a marina for up to 2 days in the middle of the week, and public showers will be available at the ports there. Take advantage of this. It will feel like you're showering at a Four Seasons even though the water is ice cold.
People have compared Yacht Week to camping, except personally, I think it's worse because at least when you camp, you don't eat, shit, shower, and sleep in the same places.
8) DON'T spend money on expensive or "cute" floaties.
They will fly off your yacht if you forget to tie them down. I bought a kids floatie for $1.99 at Wal Mart and watched my floatie get left behind. I wasn't exactly sad when that happened, but I can't say the same for some people who lost their Simpson donut floaties which cost them $20 at Urban Outfitters.
There was a hilarious boat that brought massive duck floaties and duck flags, but by the 3rd or 4th day, every other yacht had one duck floatie they had stolen from the "Duck Boat."
9) DO bring a cool, unique flag to fly on your yacht.
Our group (aka the boys) failed to bring a flag and we were the only boat without one. Thank goodness our skipper had one, because flags are literally the only way to distinguish which boat is yours when you take a water taxi back to your yacht after a night of partying.
10) DO bring Christmas lights.
Hanging some lights on your boat while you are still sober and functional is probably a good team-bonding activity to do the first night before dinner. It provides some mood lighting, as well as prevent randos from mistakenly crawling onto your boat in the middle of the night.
11) DON'T bother packing kewt shoes or a ton of makeup.
Your shoes will get ruined on day 1. I bought a new pair of white Sperry's and they are essentially unwearable now because they are so dirty, even after two washes and bleach.
Ladies, you will be jumping in and out of water taxis, scaling boats, and walking in sand and slippery surfaces every day and night, so to avoid some seriously questionable bruises, leave the heels and wedges at home. You will never wear them.
Insufficient lighting inside the boat makes it very difficult to put on a full face makeup, so I'd stick to the basics-- concealer, mascara, chapstick. Or you could get eyelash extensions before your trip, and go makeup free all week to make life easier.
12) DO prepare for theme days.
Outfit planning is key to packing light on yacht week. Know specifically what you will wear each day, and plan on repeating basic stuff like jhorts and coverups more than once.
Most Yacht Weeks will host several themed parties. For example, we had an 'All-White' day party, 'America Day' for 4th of July, a neon party and tropical luau party. There's also a day where boats can create their own theme. We once again, failed as a group to plan that, but some boats were dressed as Native Americans, cats, and one boat even hosted an entire wedding with bridesmaids and groomsmen.
13) DON'T bring a camera unless it's a Go Pro or waterproof & shatterproof.
They will have professional photographers at every event. Go Pros take high quality, wide-angle pictures and videos, and you can even bring it in the water with you for some sweet underwater pics. iPhone cameras will suffice for your group pics to post on Instagram.
14) DO invest in a solar charger.
Your phone will likely be dead for majority of the week. The charging dock on our boat rarely worked. One guy on our boat brought a solar charger and it actually worked wonders.
15) DON'T bring an iPad or computer.
Unless you don't care about losing it or possibly damaging it. I am cringing just thinking about it. PLUS WHY ARE YOU READING YOU'RE ON YACHT WEEK?? Go make friends!
16) But... DO bring an iPod equipped with long playlists.
Our boat came with wifi but it pretty much never worked. You will be off the grid for majority of the time, with the exception of the wifi available at restaurants. So don't rely on Spotify to save any of your playlists, even if they are available offline. You will most likely need wifi to load the songs first. Find an old school iPod that's fully charged, and let the music run.
17) DO come prepared with seasickness meds.
Someone brought prescribed patches that you can stick behind your ear, and they worked wonders for my friend who needed something a little stronger than off-the-counter pills. Non-drowsy Dramamine seemed to work just fine for majority of people though.
18) DO get a travel credit card and debit card.
Find a credit card and debit card that has no foreign transaction fees, or you will come home to find that you were charged out the ass with that little 3% fee everytime you put in a card for dinner or withdraw money from the ATM.
19) DON'T expect more than 3-4 hours of sleep a night.
Coming prepared with instant coffee is not a bad idea.
As the week progresses, you may get grumpy and frustrated with the lack of basic amenities, brutal hangovers, constant loud noises, and annoying boat mates; but waking up to this view every morning will make all your worries and struggles and well worth it.