AdventureSmith Founder and President Todd Smith reviews our fleet of Belize Charter Yachts after traveling aboard a Belize Catamaran Charter Cruise. Learn what life is like on board an exclusive sailing yacht and how it differs from a motor yacht or small cruise ship. For further details, read Todd’s full trip report.
Living a Dream—First Impressions
Boarding a private catamaran for the first time, the sense of excitement is palpable. “I can’t believe we have this all to ourselves” is a common sentiment. With a private charter one really feels like “those people” by getting a taste for how the rich and famous might travel.
All-Inclusive & Fully Equipped
Each all-inclusive catamaran comes equipped with a captain, chef, provisions and excellent cuisine; an open bar; cabins with private bathroom/shower; and equipment for snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing. Special requests are easily accommodated, just ask in advance.
Customizing Your Itinerary
The ship’s captain will work with you to plot the course of your trip, starting with a pre-trip questionnaire and finalizing the route upon embarkation. Belize has over 450 islands and cayes (pronounced keys) spread along a beautiful barrier reef stretching the entire length of the country, providing many exciting options to choose from.
Prior to embarking you will complete a questionnaire regarding your interests, activity level and desires for the trip. Upon boarding you will sit down with the captain to plot the course of your trip. Based on the information you provided, the captain will outline a draft suggested itinerary. The captain will also take into account local weather and wind conditions. Other considerations include the need to restock on provisions, notably ice and water.
We provide two sample Belize catamaran charter cruise itineraries for your consideration. Much of the fun of a private charter is customizing the itinerary to suit the interests of each group. Some groups will focus on activity with 2-3 snorkeling stops, time for paddleboarding and kayaking, added rendezvous scuba diving, fishing and more—read my Expert Review: Belize Catamaran Charter Cruise for a firsthand account of this itinerary style. Others may wish to focus on the colorful towns, spending time ashore dining and shopping. One could spend a lifetime sailing Belize and still not see it all. Many guests return every year or two to revisit favorite places and discover new experiences.
Cabins—Best Sleep You’ll Ever Get in a Boat Hull
Sailing catamarans in Belize have 3-6 guest cabins accommodating up to 10 people. Cabins all have private bathrooms and air conditioning. They are small but very comfortable. One cabin is reserved for the crew of two people.
Cabins require a certain amount of mobility to access. Aboard a sailing catamaran, the cabins are located in the two hulls at water level. Getting to the cabin areas requires descending a short but steep set of stairs.
Inside the cabin, depending on the configuration, there may be only enough floor space for one person to dress at a time. Also depending on the configuration, guests may need to access the bed from the end while other cabins may have room on each side of the bed.
Small windows provide natural light and a peek outside, but not expansive viewing. Small curtains keep the room dark in the morning. Beds are approximately queen size but with a slight taper toward the foot where the bed narrows. Very tall travelers may sleep with their feet over the end.
Bathrooms are small but adequate with a tiny sink and separate toilet and shower. Showers are quick aboard a sailboat because fresh water supplies are limited. Cabins and bathrooms are cleaned daily by the crew.
Cabins have plenty of storage closets, drawers and cubbies. Unpack upon arrival and the crew will stow your suitcase in a storage area. Soft-sided luggage is recommended.
Air conditioning is available in cabins only at night and requires a generator. So the boat is only quiet when ac is off and under sail.
Pro Note: Cabins toward the stern might be affected by the hum of the generator or engines. Cabins toward the bow can hear the splashing of the water against the hull.
Common Areas—Belize at Your Fingertips
The lounge and outdoor decks are where the action takes place. This is not a cruise where you spend a lot of time sitting in your cabin. All the common areas are focused on the outdoors and environment that surrounds you.
Each catamaran is outfitted with a surprisingly spacious lounge and kitchen area. Comfortable couches provide enough seating for all. Large windows provide natural light and incredible views and let cooling breezes through.
A coffee station, water station and bar are stocked throughout the day. Fresh fruit and veggies cleverly decorate the lounge, providing ambiance and storage as they are eaten throughout the voyage.
A flat-screen TV is available for movies or videos. Satellite radio and a state-of-the-art sound system provide a soundtrack for your adventure. Internet is available with very limited bandwidth and only when in range of cell towers. We would sometimes be out of range for up to 24 hours.
Catamarans have an outdoor, covered, al fresco dining area. Dining outdoors with panoramic ocean views is one of the great joys of a private charter. In addition to the dining table there is ample seating and the area serves as an outdoor lounge where guests can relax while underway or at anchor.
At the rear of the dining area are dual swim steps where guests can swim and snorkel right from the boat. A swim ladder makes getting back on board easy. Underwater lights at night attract plankton, which attracts small fish, which in turn attract large fish. Dinner may be interrupted by an elegant eagle ray or silvery barracuda enjoying its evening meal.
The top deck is a favorite place to relax under the sun, sail and stars. Lounge seating and mattresses are a great place to read or sunbathe. A true open bridge is where the captain navigates the yacht and a fun place to sit and enjoy learning about Belize from an expert.
The forward deck also has mattresses for lounging and a trampoline-type net to sit or lie on while water rushes below. This is a favorite place to relax while underway or stargazing at night. The bow is also great for wildlife viewing when dolphins are sighted or manatees are seen. The crew might ask you to step aside shortly when dropping or heaving the anchor.
A sailboat has many hatches and openings on deck. Care must be taken to avoid stepping on hatches whether they are open or closed. The upper deck is accessed by a short but steep ladder. Adequate mobility is essential for guests to enjoy a catamaran yacht cruise.
Equipment for Adventure
Each yacht is outfitted with two kayaks and two paddleboards. Snorkeling gear is provided. Fishing gear is provided, and the crew almost always has a line in the water while underway. Sometimes you’ll swim ashore, but a small inflatable boat is available to ferry guests if needed. This is convenient if you are going ashore dressed for dinner.
SCUBA diving and world-class fishing are available at an added cost. Talk to your captain about the best point during the trip to schedule these activities. Local guides and boats will rendezvous with your sailboat to take you on half-day or full-day excursions.
Crew That Do It All
An experienced crew is essential to any successful private charter. We do not offer bare-boat charters. We emphatically believe that the experience and expertise of a professional crew is essential to a safe and successful voyage.
Each sailing catamaran has a crew of two people. The captain and first mate/chef have years of sailing experience and an intimate knowledge of Belizean waters. Combined with extensive knowledge of Belizean history and culture, they are always ready to share their experience with guests.
This small crew must wear many hats. They are the captain, first mate, engineer, cabin stewards, deckhands, chef and galley staff, naturalists, guides and expedition leaders. Incredibly they do an outstanding job at all these roles. These are intimate trips where the crew becomes family. We all need more family members like them.
Meals Are UnBelizable
Cuisine and meals are an important part of any trip and the food aboard Belize yachts will knock your socks off. Known for creative culinary fare with quality ingredients, the chefs can accommodate many dietary requirements and special guest requests with advance notice. Using locally sourced produce, fresh fish and meats from farms in Belize’s Cayo District.
Personal favorites included fresh lobster tails, tropical shrimp and pineapple salad, hogfish catch-of-the-day and Belizean-rum-marinated BBQ pork tenderloin. Each day a snack and hors d’oevres are presented, to which guests reply “oh I’m not that hungry” before devouring the entire plate. Favorites included lobster ceviche and lobster dip. Three types of hummus with all the fixings was brought ashore one evening while we dug our toes in the sand and watched the sunset.
Tropical cocktails were prepared with delicious fresh juices and local rum. If you would like to have additional spirits, plan to purchase them at the duty free shop in the airport upon arrival. Beer, wine, soda, mixers, fruit juices and delicious Belizean coffee are all included. Desserts were made from scratch including the key lime ginger crunch which rivals any restaurant in Florida.
Sailboat Vs Small Ship/Yacht
For AdventureSmith travelers with experience cruising aboard a small ship or motor yacht, there are some important differences when considering a catamaran sailing yacht. For more information see Small Ship vs Big Ship – What is the Difference.
Space & Mobility
A sailboat is smaller than a small ship but more importantly it requires more mobility. Narrow passageways, steep ladders, open hatches, lines and tackle mean travelers must have enough mobility to negotiate these hazards as they move around the boat. Sailing yachts have low cable railings or no railing at all. As such they might not be suitable for young children or travelers with limited mobility.
Flexibility & Itinerary
Instead of a set itinerary you work with the crew to custom craft a voyage suited to your interests. There is some down time each day while the boat is underway. Expect to raise the sails as much as possible when weather and route allow. Sailing yachts will anchor every night.
Guides & Crew
The small crew of two people will take care of your every need. They wear many hats including captain, mate, engineer, chef, cabin steward, expedition leader and naturalist guide. They hail from Belize and around the world. All are expert naturalists and know a lot about Belize and its great barrier reef.
Don’t expect any formal presentations, however engaging your crew with questions will enhance your knowledge and experience immeasurably. The intimate setting means everyone becomes an extended family while on board.
Instead of a per-person price as on a typical cruise, a charter pays for the entire boat. Prices are tiered depending on the number of travelers. Similar to other cruises, crew gratuities are not included in the price.
My Belize Charter Yacht Takeaways
Simply put, a charter sailing catamaran is the best way to experience the Belize barrier reef. These yachts are not luxurious, but they are exclusive. They are intimate and flexible and you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Caribbean throughout the voyage. You’ll feel like “those people” as you arrive at a private island caye or resort. And why shouldn’t you? You deserve it. A Belize charter yacht lets you travel in style for an ordinary budget.