I plan yacht trips that cost up to $1.4 million a week. It’s a job that’s never boring.

  • Fiona Maureso is a senior yacht charter broker based in Antibes, France.
  • She started her career as a deckhand and stewardess before working her way up to train as a broker.
  • This is what her job is like, as told to writer Molly O’Brien.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Fiona Maureso, a yacht charter broker, about her job. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I started my career working as a deckhand/stewardess on a 40-meter motor yacht. Now,

I work as a senior charter broker with luxury yacht brokerage,​ Northrop & Johnson, with people all over the world in different time zones. As a yacht broker, I’m like a matchmaker between the client and the yacht.

With first-time clients, our initial conversation is all about getting to know them to learn about what they’re hoping to do on their trip. We send our clients a detailed questionnaire asking what they like to eat, what brand of sunscreen they like, the brand of toiletries they prefer, and their favorite Nespresso capsules. Once they’re on board and everything is exactly the way they like, the yacht should feel like a home away from home.

There can be all sorts of challenges when it comes to organizing charters

I’ve had people who show up without paperwork for an international trip and we had to try to get their visas expedited. I’ve had business associates on charters whose wives’ and their entourages are fighting.

We serve clients from all around the world and are careful to train our crews to be aware of various cultural differences. For example, in my experience Russian clients typically like to see a lot of food at each meal which is a sign that they’ve done well for themselves. We set it out family-style in the middle of the table, and they help themselves. American and British clients, on the other hand, might prefer a plated dinner served by the crew.

Either way, we never jump to conclusions based on the client’s background and always ask them directly what they want.

Yachts aren’t always about luxury and fine dining, sometimes clients just want a pizza party or a cozy movie night

Sometimes after two days of very fine dining and gourmet dishes, clients will turn to the yacht chef and say, “Can we just have burgers and pizzas?” Some nights they just want to use the boat’s popcorn machine and hunker down under blankets and watch a movie.

I often organize family holidays — and these are families that maybe don’t spend that much time together in their everyday lives because mom and dad work or travel a lot.

The beauty of chartering a yacht is that you can gather all of your family in one place and move from location to location without ever having to unpack. These are precious moments for families, and I think it really brings them closer together.

We get unusual requests for stuff to be flown out to yachts

People sometimes request specific equipment like a particular jet ski or the treadmill they use at home. These things are really heavy, so I have to organize cranes and cherry pickers to be waiting at the docks to lift the equipment on and off the boat.

One of our most lavish requests was for a client who was having a birthday party on his yacht in the Maldives. One of his friends sent a private jet to a hotel in the Swiss Alps with a chef who is famous for his macaroons. They ordered a massive box of macaroons and had it flown by private jet from Switzerland to the Maldives. His box of pastries was the only thing on that airplane.

Sometimes, things can go very wrong

I had one instance in Sardinia where a client went kite surfing against the captain’s advice and the strong winds pulled one of his arms out of its socket. He had to be airlifted and taken to a hospital in Switzerland.

You can’t train for these types of unpredictable situations. It comes with experience and working with a really good crew that’s trained and prepared to handle sudden crises.

Chartering a yacht is more accessible than most people think

There isn’t a typical price budget because we’re dealing with yachts that cost anywhere from $25,000 to $1,400,000 a week, and no two charters are the same. But if there’s a group of 12 all chipping in, it can cost about the same as staying at a really nice resort.

We’re very clear with clients about all costs upfront. Whatever the boat rental costs, the actual charter is going to cost double that, minimum. There’s the rental cost of the boat, and then the cost of food and drink, fuel, tax, and crew gratuities. Any items purchased for a specific charter (from food to flowers and special equipment) are charged at cost, with no mark-up.

One of the perks of my job is getting to spend time on different yachts before recommending them to clients

We travel to boat shows all over the world to view different yachts, and sometimes we’re invited on familiarization trips where we spend three or four nights onboard.

Learning about and experiencing each yacht is crucial as a broker because it helps us speak to our clients with authority and make good recommendations. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the Seychelles and spend a week aboard a 160-foot yacht. I’ve also been to the Virgin Islands, the South Pacific, Norway, and more.

I try to meet the clients as they’re boarding the yachts to introduce them to the captain and the crew. In doing this over the years, some of my clients have become friends and I’ve seen their children grow up — and now, their children are chartering yachts.

No two charters are ever the same, so it’s never boring and I get to meet and work with some amazing people

I’ve always loved my job. Needless to say, the yachts are fascinating and going to inspect them at boat shows all over the world is a great perk.

The yachting industry has changed a lot since I joined it over 30 years ago, but keeping up with those changes and growing in experience and expertise has enhanced my career. It’s a privilege to do this job and I certainly couldn’t imagine working in any other industry.