Sailing charter versus resort stay: comparing the costs

Posted In: Charter Sailing Holiday Tips , Charter Sailing Holiday Destination Guides

Talking to people about sailing holidays and charter boats to meets their needs, we frequently find that a land-based resort stay is part of the travel plan. The mix of nights aboard and nights onshore, or indeed whether budgets limit the choice to boat or resort, is a frequent discussion point among our travellers. So we decided to do an exercise on the cost implications of both options. To us, the benefits of a sailing holiday speak for themselves.

For the purpose we chose the popular Society Islands of French Polynesia, comparing a one-week private boating charter with a local mid-range resort comparison, and the results are striking!

To book a tropical island resort or to go sailing together in paradise? That is the question.

Let's assume you are a party of six – three couples travelling together. Your boat will be a modern charter catamaran up to 46ft. all such models these days have four double cabins, each with ensuite, and are designed for the comfort of eight guests. We only need three cabins in this hypothetical situation, so you have spare for bags and gear. Four couples would of course reduce the per person price further.

Your boat will typically also have two single cabins in the bow for a paid crew, creating the option to charter full bareboat, bareboat with skipper and steward, or fully crewed. Your boat has a generator and mains power equipment for air conditioning and appliances including a water maker. Wifi is available and there is entertainment, electronic navigation, an easy-sail rig configuration and very comfortable inside/outside living.  

For your resort, we have chosen Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts , which has a range of room options. You can pay considerably more at other resorts on Bora Bora, and sure there are accommodation options that cost less as well. But we are trying here to get as close as possible to the same standard of luxury that applies on and off the water, albeit in two very different formats.  

Before we did any budget analysis, we expected to find that the price for six adults staying in any of Bora Bora’s fine establishments to be so high as to question the value of any comparison. We don't stay in resorts when we travel, and even after 30+ years in the business this is the first time we have done this exercise anywhere.  

Our challenge therefore was to find a resort of an acceptably high standard to provide a meaningful comparison with the boat chosen, while still within a reasonable budget range. Even given our expectations, the margin we found between a sailing holiday and a resort was an eye opener! And the room pricing was just the start! 

Flying into the Society Islands, French Polynesia

Flying into the Society Islands, French Polynesia

Sailing holiday in the Society Islands

Sailing holiday in the Society Islands

The comparison: private boat charter vs land-based resort stay

The table below sets out our comparison between these two attractive holiday options in the Society Islands. The resort costs come straight from, noting:

  • As at 16/04/24, Le Bora Bora lists the same prices for peak and shoulder season 
  • A two b/room villa + one b/room villa configuration is more expensive than 3 x 1 b/room villas in the same location
  • Not included: restaurant meals other than breakfasts, drinks and excursions – which all add significantly to the listed resort price. 

The boat costs are as per our current listings with variables as follows:   

  • The modern cats we charter are these days in or close to the luxury class, with all amenities as now demanded by clients with means to travel and sail. We decided on a 2024-model Bali 4.2 catamaran (12.85m in length) for the purpose of the exercise. Size can be scaled up to 14 metre cat models and not greatly affect the per person rate.

Discounts: for the 2024 high season (July – August) the Bali 4.2 has a 15% special discount at this time, while the shoulder season of early November only has the early booking discount of 5% but note the following.

It is now common practice with boats and resorts alike for AI-driven dynamic pricing to set the discount levels. A 15% charter boat discount at this point in the 2024 season indicates there are fewer bookings than were anticipated. If this trend continues we can safely say that the 5% early booking discount on November will give way to a 15% special discount. Those are usually reviewed around six months out.

For this reason we have applied a 10% discount to the November boat price for a fair comparison. When we look to quote a boat advertised at list price, we always request the best discount, and invariably we get it.

  • On charter, mandatory and optional extras do not change and are not discounted. Included below are a starter pack, full insurance and a clean at the end of charter, at 805 Euro. 
  • Included are two paddle boards and a fair cost for fuel at 400 Euro. 
  • For crewed boats we include the skipper and steward as well as full board for six guests: 4,935 Euro for the week.  
  • All prices in the table are in Euros.
Bali 4.2 charter: one week for 6 guests (3 couples)
Bali 4.2 video here (9 minutes) Bareboat per person Crewed per person
High season (July/August) 11,205 1,867 16,140 2,690
Shoulder season (November) 6,935 1,155 11,870 1,987
Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts: one week stay, 2 people/room, breakfast included
One-bedroom bungalow over the water (top location)
3 bungalows

per person

In 20 July, out 27 July 2024
42,201 7,033
One-bedroom bungalow over the water (lagoon)
3 bungalows per person
In 20 July, out 27 July 2024
35,256 5,876

One-bedroom villa – lagoon beach

3 villas per person
In 20 July – out 27 July 2024
35,256 5,876
One-bedroom villa - garden
3 villas per person
In 20 July – out 27 July 2024
28,251 4,708

Of course not everyone wants to spend their vacation on a catamaran, however luxurious and fit for purpose it may be. But when thinking of a resort, what an absolute bargain a charter becomes. We would strongly encourage you to give this style of holiday a try!  

In fact for the cost of three over-the-water one-bedroom bungalows, a group of three couples can stretch out on a luxurious Alegria 67 catamaran for seven nights in peak-season July, with two crew and full provisioning included. To us that’s the height of luxury and the best holiday experience money can buy!

Bali 4.2 foredeck relaxation

Bali 4.2 foredeck relaxation

Bali 4.2 saloon looking forward

Bali 4.2 saloon looking forward

Bali.2 aft cockpit and flydeck

Bali.2 aft cockpit and flydeck

Bali 4.2 cabin

Bali 4.2 cabin

Resort stay extras that are all included in your boat charter

On charter your boat is your accommodation, means of travel and excursions all rolled into one. Think of it as your alternative over-the-water bungalow with all those extras included. And if you choose to take the crewed option, it’s your restaurant as well, saving significant costs over the land-based option.  

Consider your charter boat your own private floating resort. One on which you travel at a leisurely pace to explore and make the most of your important recreation time. Each day you visit somewhere new and exciting, perhaps staying a day or two, or just stopping for lunch before moving on. You are on an itinerary you are free to make up as you go along. 

What applies in the Society Islands applies wherever the sun and the sea draw vacationers in sufficient numbers to create both sailing charter and resort markets. There is of course more modest accommodation everywhere too, places to stay where the difference in cost is not so striking. Options that while aligning more closely to the cost of a bareboat/skippered charter, we’re confident will still come out considerably more expensive for a group. And the benefits don’t stop there, with the cost of meals and excursions that are add-ones to the cost of  your land-based stay.  

There’s so much more to this destination than Bora Bora

Before we finish, let’s acknowledge the premium that Bora Bora attracts, and for a fuller picture look at a Society Islands alternative. The Le Taha’a Resort, also operated by Pearl Resorts and in our opinion every bit the equal of its Bora Bora equivalents, is on the western reef of Taha’a, looking out over the ocean to the peaks of Bora Bora and towards the setting sun.  

Here passing boat crews are made welcome to stop by and enjoy some of the facilities. In fact we recommend to our clients that they breakfast there when exploring Taha’a during charter.   

Despite this island’s lower profile, for our six couples wanting to stay at Le Taha’a instead of Le Bora Bora, the price still comes in at 29,601 Euro for overwater accommodation including breakfast  – 4,933 Euro per person.  Speaking personally, I enjoy stopping off at Le Taha’a for morning brunch and a snorkel in the Coral River. But once done I’m ready to move on. I could do that and in fact visit all the main Society Islands including Bora Bora by boat for less, even taking an upgrade to the crewed Allegra 67! 

Except that I don't have that sort of money to invest in a holiday. I can have the same experience with family and friends on a Bali 4.2 for just 2,690 Euro per person per week.

The idea of this article was to make an impartial comparison between the costs of a 7-day sailing charter holiday and spending a week chilling out at a suitably appointed resort in the same general location. Having researched and written it, we conclude that there simply is no comparison!   

Before booking a resort holiday in the Society Islands or anywhere boat chartering is an option, do yourself a huge favour and talk to me, Robert at Sail Connections. You won't regret it!  

Resort Source: accessed 16/04/24

Exchange rates from as at 16/04/24


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