How to Survive Yacht Week Croatia
Yacht Week was not originally on my radar when I set off on my trip. However, when I soon realized I’d be in Europe (more specifically Croatia) in the early summer, I was hard pressed to find a reason not to go! While I had a good idea what I was getting into thanks to reading a few other helpful blogs, I decided to compile a post detailing tips that I’d wish I’d known ahead of time. Yacht Week was truly an insane week, and I’m glad I did it. I would be open to doing it again if I find myself back in Europe during the summertime (as I’m not sure I can justify the round trip flight from the U.S. solely for Yacht Week).
How to pick a route
New to Yacht Week? You can’t go wrong with the original set in Croatia. In fact, this route is so popular that during the high season (July and August), they also run the route in reverse order allowing for double the number of yachts! Sailing in the bold blue Adriatic sea and stopping at various Croatian islands, there is much to see and do! As the original and poster child for the franchise, Croatia is the most party-oriented of all the locations.
Already been to Croatia or it doesn’t tickle your fancy? Greece comes in a close second. Already well-known around the world as a popular vacation destination, the Greek islands are stunning in their own right, but this route is also known for its wild parties.
Other options include Italy, and the BVIs and Thailand. The BVIs and Thailand route are done at different times in the year, in accordance with the best weather conditions in these areas. New in 2017 are routes in Spain and Montenegro. While each of these sound exciting in their own way, don’t go on the newer routes and expect the large fleets (up to 50 yachts) and crazy parties that Croatia boasts.
How to pick a crew (and yacht!)
Now I’m not the best person to talk about the reservation process for a yacht, since I joined a crew later on, but I do know that if your heart is set on living a week in luxury on one of the expansive catamarans, you need to book it the day reservations open. Each route only has a limited number of these “cats”, and they go fast! The cats are always the envy of most of the other boats, with their double deck, higher ceiling bedrooms, and don’t forget the net in the front of the boat where you can relax in style and comfort!
Throughout the week, people tend to gravitate to the cats as they have more space to move around and are a blast to party on. Be sure to bring your A+ game if you book one of these for the week, as the rest of the fleet will be looking to you to set the bar high!
If you’re going during one of the later weeks in the summer, I’d highly recommend booking a yacht with A/C. I went during mid/late June last year (June 18th-25), and while the temperatures weren’t too hot, it definitely became uncomfortable to be below deck once the sun was up.
Now if you’re lucky enough to have a big group of friends that are all able to go, go ahead and book your own yacht. Yacht Week maintains strict gender ratios. They only allow a few all male boats, so if your group of friends happens to be all male, you need to book early! When you do book a boat, there is a specified gender ratio that you must adhere to.
Many people are not able to completely fill up their boat and need to recruit others to fill the open spaces. Fear not, you won’t have trouble filling those remaining spots. There are a few options which I’ll detail below.
- Recruit any friends of friends-while you may not know these people directly, if they’re friends of your friends, it’s safe to say you’ll probably get along
- Join the Facebook group. There’s a Crew Finder Facebook group that is extremely popular, with nearly 5,000 members. Here people either are looking to fill their open spots, or join an existing crew. This group is extremely active, especially in the months/weeks leading up to Yacht Week. This option gives you more insight in the group you are joining or the people you are adding to your boat. This is also the way I found my crew (more later).
- Go on the Yacht Week website, and post on the crew finder message board. These message board have minimal activity compared to the Facebook group. As this option is less personal than Facebook, it is harder to gauge the personalities of your potential future crewmates.
- If you are two people, the Yacht Week allows you to book a cabin on a random boat. This way you ensure your own bedroom, but you have no choice whatsoever on the boat or crew with whom you are placed. As this is 100% random, I do not recommend this at all.
As I mentioned before, I went with option #2. I tried in vain to message a few friends to come over to Europe to join me, but they were unfortunately unable to do so. I thus set my sights on the Facebook group. As I was a male with only 3 weeks of availability, it was a bit harder for me to find a yacht than for a solo female available the whole summer. I was lucky enough to join a 7 person yacht (plus skipper), which turned out to be a mix of different nationalities. We had two British girls returning to Yacht Week for their second time, a French/Argentinian couple and their Argentinian friend, and two American solo guys (one of which was me). Our skipper was Polish, so we had quite the diverse crew!
Joining a mixed crew like I did had a few pros and cons. The pros were that I didn’t feel like an outsider joining a group of 10 best friends, as everybody was just getting to know each other. It was cool to sail and get to know people from all over the world. A con was that as the week went on, friction developed between people, as some personalities butted heads. If I would do it again, I’d make sure I could round up a group of my friends. If not, I’d try to join a yacht of a group of friends with personalities that I’d mesh well with, as the Yacht Week is all about socialization and having fun!
What to Bring
If I had to describe Yacht Week in a few words it would be “camping on a boat”. The term “yacht’ is used loosely at the Yacht Week, with the largest vessels topping out at 55 feet, and the smallest at 36 (coincidentally our boat haha). Couple the small boat sizes with crews ranging from 7-13 people, there is not a lot of space to go around.
I highly suggest packing in a bag small enough to carry on a plane. I used my 30 liter day pack and was able to fit everything I needed (with the exception of my floats and water toys). There is no room, I repeat NO room to fit an 80 liter backpack or large wheeled suitcase on the boat. You’ll end up having to sleep with it on your lap. If you are on a longer trip, and do happen to have luggage that is this size, there are lockers available in Split to store your luggage for the week. Or you can do what I did, and store your backpack at the accommodation you are using before and after Yacht Week.
Here is a list of things I brought. Keep in mind ladies, that you should adjust your packing list accordingly.
- small bag of toiletries
- sun tan lotion (a lot)
- beach towel
- 3 pairs of swimming trunks
- baseball cap
- sailor’s hat (when in Rome…)
- 3 casual tank tops
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of shorts
- 3 short sleeve button downs
- 1 polo shirt
- flip flops
- pair of nice shoes
- 2 floats
- a couple of water guns
As you can see, you don’t need much, especially since you’ll spend a majority of time in your swim trunks anyways. And you’ll be thankful for having room on your boat to walk around the cabin without tripping over unwieldy baggage.
Other things that people in my group brought for the boat included flags for each of our nationalities (flags are a must for Yacht Week, the more the better), and a pair of UE speakers to blast tunes with. Floats and water toys are highly encouraged as well, as you don’t want to be the lame people without any floats for the fleet-wide circle raft party. Water guns and other water toys add to the fun. There is a small marketplace in Split that sells a wide variety of floats and water toys so you can pick some up the day before you depart. If you have an eye on a super specific float, I recommend that you bring it from home as they only have the basic models here.
The Yacht Week parties are insane. I repeat, the Yacht Week parties. are. insane.
Never have I gone to such a string of wild and outrageous parties set in killer locations within such a short period of time. A majority (and the best) parties are for participants in the Yacht Week only, so don’t think that you can tag along and sneak in, as it seems like there are always a few people who think they can do so and avoid paying for the Yacht Week’s fees.
Some of the more memorable parties include the White Party at Carpe Diem on the island of Hvar,the Yacht Week signature party at the abandoned Fort George. Yes it’s a party in a fort, now owned by the Yacht Week. And yes, it’s as cool as you imagine. And you can’t forget the fleet-wide circle raft party for which Yacht Week is famous.
The White Party started in late afternoon, and was so crazy that there were tourists on the pier who stopped to watch us and take pictures. Never have I seen so many 5 liter bottle of Grey Goose and there was even a giant bottle of Moet that was squirted on the crowd. As I’m not normally into the club scene, I’ve never been surrounded with as many people with seemingly bottomless wallets. The shenanigans that were going on were crazy and I even stopped to observe things once in a while.
The Yacht Week signature event is the weekly party at Fort George. Set on the island of Vis, the Yacht Week purchased it solely to host their wild parties. As 2016 happened to be the 10th anniversary of Yacht Week, it was that much more crazy. The inside of the fort has tiered levels leading down to the bottom which served as a giant dance floor. At the designated time, fireworks dotted the sky as the crowd set off endless champagne showers. Another crazy night.
Perhaps the most unique to Yacht Week, is the Circle Raft party. This is where all of the boats connect to each other in the middle of the sea in a giant circle. A massive party is then held on the floats in the middle as well as on the boats. Unfortunately is was too windy to maneuver the boats in a circle the day of the Circle Raft Party, but they were able to make two massive lines. This was probably the best darty I’ve ever been to. There were so many cool rafts and water toys and everybody was having a blast!
On the final morning, a “Regatta” is held on the way back to Split. Not only is there a prize for the fastest, but everybody decks out in costumes. While I had heard a lot about this, I found it very overrated. First of all, not all of the boats left at the same time, as some were slower leaving the port (as it happens when you party all night). It was very hard to see many of the boats from far away let alone the different themes and costumes that the crew had. Maybe others have had better experiences with this, but it’s best to keep your expectations low with this.
- Make friends with the other boats early. Even though some boats might be full of groups of best friends, everybody is eager to get to know one another. Early on in the week, everybody is much more receptive to meeting new people, so be sure to strike up conversations with the boats docked next to you the first night. If they don’t seem to friendly, grab a bottle of your liquor of choice and hop aboard a boat that is-they’ll be sure to welcome you aboard!
- Experience some of the culture of your host country. Take advantage of your afternoons and tour some of the islands. Don’t spend everyday hungover lying in the sun. I was lucky enough to have 3 weeks in Croatia prior to the Yacht Week where I was able to appreciate the beauty of Croatia and its kind people.
- Treat the locals with respect. Don’t be too obnoxious when interacting with them, and respect the noise rules of the ports. Don’t give the Yacht Week a bad reputation and ruin it for others in future years.
- Pregame. Seriously do this. Since all of the Yacht Week parties are sanctioned, the drink prices are very expensive, akin to what you’d expect at a club in the U.S. or Europe. Pregaming helps to keep your wallet from getting too thin.
- Stick with liquor. Drinking vast amounts of beer leaves you feeling bloated. Plus, fridge space is at a premium. Red wine stains the boat decks and results in hefty fines.
- Hire a skipper. Even if you do have your sailing license, I highly recommend hiring your own skipper. The stress you’ll go through in not being familiar with the area or boat, as well as having to do it hungover is not worth the little bit of money you’ll save. Over 95% of the crews hire a skipper (which is done directly through the Yacht Week).
- Hiring a hostess is up to you. We elected not to, and were fine without one. You’ll eat most (if not all) of your dinners at the ports you stop at, so she really only ends up cooking breakfast and lunch (and cleaning). As we elected to go with sandwiches, fruit, and pasta for these meals, we were fine without one. Another benefit of a hostess is that she will book you a table or bottle service at the parties if you are so inclined to do so. I think about half of the crews elect to hire a hostess.
- Make sure you have a first aid kit. Seriously. Stock up with bandaids, tylenol/advil, and sea sickness pills. Spending time on a boat leads to various injuries, regardless of whether you’re intoxicated or not.
- At the beginning of the week, have everybody in your crew put a designated amount of money into a kitty. Use this for paying for port fees, fuel, and food and water.
- Drink lots of water. The combination of swimming, being out in the hot sun, and drinking alcohol all add up to dehydration. Make sure that you’re boat is always well stocked with water and that you are constantly drinking.
- Don’t shower (or shit on the boat). Do this at the ports. The shit goes directly into the ocean (ew), and there is a limited supply of water on board, so don’t use it all on a poorly constructed shower.
- The boats will be smaller than you think. For our crew of 7 plus a skipper, we only had 3 “bedrooms”. These bedrooms consisted only of a bed no larger than a standard double with only about three feet of space between the bed and the ceiling. As I am a bit claustrophobic and didn’t relish sleeping in such tight quarters with someone I didn’t know, I elected to sleep in the galley, which was a long cushioned bench.
- On a similar note, don’t expect to get much sleep at all. The close quarters combined with the noise from other boats, and the hot morning heat don’t allow you to sleep much later than dawn. The only solution when that happens is to chug water and open the beverage of your choice and start the next day head on!
- Yacht Week is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t get too caught up on the first night and take it too hard. Luckily there are gaps between all of the major parties and they are not held on back-to-back days. I took one of the “tamer” nights off mid-week, and am glad I did so, as it was very necessary in order for me to be able to survive the week.
- Have fun! Don’t get too caught up in everything and remember that this is supposed to be a good time. Yeah, it might not turn out to be the best or craziest week of your life, but make sure to enjoy it. Many people would be envious to be in your situation!
Has anyone ever been on Yacht Week? Please comment and share your experiences. And as always, I’m happy to talk more details if anyone has any further questions.