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Luxury yacht charters on the French Riviera – the spiritual home of the superyacht

The Cote D’Azur stretches along the south coast of France and has long been the playground of the rich and famous, lured by the glamorous port towns along the French Riviera where they can step off their superyacht into the heart of any number of iconic locations. 

Choosing this timeless yacht charter destination gives visitors the chance to follow in the footsteps of movie stars, the international jet set and the long-established yachting fraternity. And where better to host two of the most prestigious sporting and entertainment events in the world – the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix – which open the Mediterranean summer season in May.

So let’s start our luxury charter adventure in the tiny Principality of Monaco, often considered the home of luxury yachting. Beginning a charter here will allow visitors to arrive in style by private helicopter, fresh from their international flight into Nice. This colourful and cosmopolitan destination has attracted artists and aristocrats throughout the centuries, and when you stand up on Castle Hill to see the breath-taking blue waters that gave the Cote d’Azur its name, you’ll know why it’s still such a favourite with the luxury yachting crowd. 

Monaco is only 2.1 sqm with a coastline of a mere 3.83km, but what a coastline. And its growing, thanks to recent land reclamation projects which have expanded the Port Hercules area by creating man-made ‘land’ in the Mediterranean. It is Port Hercules and the neighbouring Port Fontvieille which is home to some of the most beautiful yachts in the world, particularly in the summer months. Expensive boutique shopping, fine dining and glitzy nightlife are all part of the Monaco experience, but there is also plenty of history and culture with the Prince’s Palace, Oceanographic Museum, Opera House and world-renowned casino. Taking in the glamour and sophistication of Monaco before joining a charter will give guests a taste of the high life ashore before meeting their yacht. 

Chartering a yacht during Grand Prix weekend, when the streets transform into the world’s most famous racetrack, is an experience you will never forget. As well as being a top sporting event, it is also one of Europe’s premier social highlights, so a trackside superyacht puts you at the heart of the action. Guests can feel the roar of the engines on the teak deck and watch on the yacht’s hi-tech AV equipment while sipping champagne with friends and family before heading ashore for an F1 afterparty. 

Once the chequered flag has come down the captain and crew will manoeuvre out of the harbour and set off for the next port of call. Now is the time to sit back and relax on the sun deck, take a dip in the jacuzzi and soak up the Mediterranean sunshine and views. Delicious meals on board will be created by the resident chef and served by the dedicated crew, all to guests’ own tastes. A charter broker will have arranged everything according to the preference sheets completed by guests ahead of their trip. 

Just as the Grand Prix is the sporting highlight, the Cannes Film Festival is the pinnacle of the entertainment calendar where film stars walk the red carpet and movie executives make multi-million dollar deals on board luxury yachts and on the terraces of five-star hotels overlooking the Mediterranean. The festival week sees the population of the town swell by over 100,000 people with many of the temporary residents being accommodated or entertained on board luxury superyachts, which also act as floating offices and screening facilities. By night the yacht becomes a chic venue for hosting cocktails, dinners and parties where the chefs showcase their culinary expertise and the stewardesses their five-star service. There are some beautiful yachts ideally suited for receptions and parties, with vast deck space and all the technical expertise for onboard entertainment. Some can host up to 200 guests in port, while a few also have special licenses for larger groups at sea (above the usual maximum of 12 guests). For visitors not in the entertainment industry and just looking for star spot, some of the smaller yachts can get right up close to the action as long as you plan carefully and book your berth well in advance.

These annual spring events signal the start of the summer charter yacht season which continues through to October when the weather cools. Temperatures in the South of France in the peak summer months of July and August are around 25°C during the day with very little rain, making it perfect for soaking up the sun on one of the many glorious beaches. 

The soft sandy beaches around Saint Tropez are among the best in the region and include both quiet coves, only accessible from a yacht or on foot and lively stretches lined with sophisticated beach clubs. Plage des Granier is an enchanting beach next to the imposing Citadel of St Tropez and is backed with long grasses and a handful of small villas. Charter guests can be taken ashore on the yacht’s tender to visit the charming restaurant with tables spilling out onto the beach. At the other end of the scale is Pampelonne Beach, one of the most famous and glamorous of all St Tropez’s beaches which stretches along 5km of coast and is home to sophisticated beach clubs. The captain can anchor offshore while you spend the day as a guest at perhaps the most well-known club, Nikki Beach: a chic combination of elegantly furnished surroundings, stunning pool, dining and world-class DJs. 

The shallow water of Saint Tropez also makes an ideal area for families with young children learning to swim or snorkel, and guests can get out the power watercraft for some high-octane fun in the sun. A great charter yacht will carry a selection of water toys on board including jet skis, seabobs and towables plus stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) and kayaks for those who prefer a more leisurely experience under their own steam. Any aching muscles can be soothed in the onboard jacuzzi, where guests can share their stories from the day on the water while indulging in a cocktail. 

There is no clear landmark indicating the boundary of the French Riviera, but the delights of the South of France continue along the coast to Marseille, France’s second-largest city and home to a bustling port, classic architecture and culture. This part of the coast is ideal for extending a charter down to Spain and the beautifully varied Balearic Islands.  

The 2024 Monaco Grand Prix runs from 23rd-26th May while the Cannes Film Festival is from the 14th-25th May, so you could include both events as part of your luxury yacht charter itinerary: just be quick to secure a prime yacht and berth. 

Trina Howes

Trina Howes is a Director of CharterWorld America. CharterWorld America is a luxury private yacht charter company that creates outstanding vacations with excellent yachts at amazing prices – worldwide. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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