Welcome to Champs Elysees. An interview with the crew of Sail Cataraman Champs Elysees
Champs Elysees is a brand new Fountaine Pajot Saona 47 currently based in the Caribbean, offering crewed charters in the US & British Virgin Islands. She is a modern and spacious yacht and sleeps up to 8 guests in 4 cabins. Captain Michael is an experienced sailor and Divemaster. Chef Casey is culinary trained and an avid scuba diver. The duo met and teamed up in early 2019 in the Mediterranean before bringing their guest experience to the Caribbean last season. See the full details of Sail Catamaran Champs Elysees.
Where do you welcome the clients?
We can customize to the client’s needs, but we typically welcome our clients at Yacht Haven Grande marina in St. Thomas. Red Hook, St. Thomas or Scrub Island, BVI are also easily accessible marinas for pickup if arranged prior. We are happy to arrange transportation for the clients from the airport to the marina with one of our preferred drivers to make their arrival to the islands as smooth as possible!
Are the boats in the marina, or at a mooring when the clients arrive?
We always greet the guests with the boat on the dock in the marina. We find that a nice land to boat transition is easiest with luggage. We leave the first dinghy ride for later when everyone has gained their sea legs!
What’s the check-in process, and how long does it usually take?
Our typical ‘check-in’ process is fairly simple and relaxed! The crew, Captain Michael and Chef Casey, will meet the guests at the front of the marina to help gather all the luggage onto Champs-Elysees, their home for the week. Refreshing welcome cocktails and snacks are available while we give a tour of the yacht and let everyone settle into their rooms. We give a quick safety briefing to everyone to help answer any questions or concerns before heading underway and are usually out on the water in under an hour from when the clients arrive at the marina.
Is There anything especially important for clients to take in account at check-in
We handle most logistics, questions, and concerns of the guests before they land with our pre-charter phone call, so the ‘check-in’ is just hopping onto the yacht and getting settled in for a relaxing week. We do like to stress that communication is key. We provide a flexible vacation fully catered to their preferences. If they want to stay somewhere longer or do more/less of something specific they just need to let us know and we will absolutely do whatever we can to make that happen!
Any recommendations of what is important to wear for a boat.
On our vacations down in the Virgin Islands, the adage ‘less is more’ rings true. Your typical uniform for the week will be your swimsuit and any sun protection apparel you desire, reef-safe sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. The islands are extremely casual even for nice dining options, so you can leave your heels at home and embrace the laidback vibes the islands afford.
Do you have a favorite, or special menu you like to cook?
Casey’s ability to cater to various food preferences and dietary restrictions is where her menu planning shines. She loves to cook fresh and healthy meals incorporating local ingredients to provide a variety of flavors.
Fresh food: fishing, delivery to the boat?
We have multiple fishing rods aboard so if we hook a tasty fish along the way Casey loves to whip up some afternoon ceviche or add it to the dinner menu for the night! Otherwise, local produce from the islands are picked up along the way during the week.
Do you have Special recommendations for sunset or unknown places that you like to surprise client?
One of the best parts of Champs Elysees is the comfortable top deck lounging area, which is our favorite spot to watch the sunset with a cocktail. Whether it be on a sunset sail or anchored in front of a beautiful beach for the night, the view is unbeatable. To visit our favorite secluded spots, you will have to come visit and see for yourself!
What are the most demanded activities for clients.
The diversity of guests’ activity preference is one of our favorite aspects of the job! We are happy to cater to everyone’s version of vacationing. The most common activities include lounging on the beautiful beaches, discovering the colorful fish and coral reef while snorkeling, and experiencing some local flair at beach bars and restaurants. Champs Elysees also offers watersports of paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding and tubing.
What should the client expect and what shouldn’t they expect, both on the boat, and generally on the trip?
Expect to be surprised at how comfortable Champs Elysees is! This isn’t your old-school barebones sailing boat, rather a modern, luxurious floating home for the week. Also expect to be well supplied with delicious food, fun cocktails, and lifelong memories throughout the week.
Average sailing hours daily?
On average we will sail or cruise around for three/four hours a day to bounce from beautiful bay to awesome snorkel spot to fun beach bar throughout the trip. This is one of the many times where the guest’s feedback helps us determine the ideal vacation for them. If they enjoy cruising and sailing, we can take our time and spend the day on the waves. If they would prefer to get from island to island quickly, and explore there, we can make a direct line! Either way, we are happy to alter the course.
Do you organize Pick up & drop off from boat?
We offer transportation service in partnership with our preferred drivers who will efficiently and comfortably transport guests to and from the airport or hotel. We find that using our preferred drivers, who will welcome you at the airport baggage claim with a sign, is a stress-free way to get to the marina as they know where to go!
What can a client learn in a trip?
We love involving the guests in the sailing experience as much as their hearts desire! We strive to inspire a new love for the beautiful ocean that surrounds us and are happy to answer all the questions we can about the history of the islands (hint: it likely involves pirates).
What should the client expect to experience?
If it is their first time on the water for a crewed sailing holiday, they will have their eyes opened to a new type of vacation experience. Crewed sailing vacations shine because we take the five-star experience of a resort onto a moveable home for the week and bring guests on a personalized trip, front and center, to all the amazing spots in the islands. One of our most rewarding guest comments after a trip is that they will spread the word to all their friends about their new favorite way to vacation!
Do you have anything special for children, celebrations, anniversaries etc?
Special occasions are our favorite! We love going above and beyond to make that occasion extra special aboard Champs Elysees. Recently, we organized and executed a twenty-five-year vow renewal ceremony at Trunk Bay, St. John complete with a cocktail hour, a sunset dinner on the beach and a boatmade cake. In addition to the water toys, we have lots of games onboard for kids and us kids at heart, and both Casey and Michael enjoy getting involved with all the activities we can offer. If a child has a specific request or activity they really enjoy, we’ll do our best to accommodate.
Which are your favorite kind of clients/groups
On Champs Elysees we love to have all types of guests onboard. Meeting and connecting with people from all over the world and taking part in facilitating their ideal vacation is our favorite part of our job! They want to lay and read a book all week? Great, we have comfortable loungers all over the boat. They want to pack each day with adventure? Perfect, we will lead the way. Sipping cocktails and forgetting about the real world is their ideal week? They have come to the right place because Michael fancies himself a cocktail connoisseur!
Night life? Either on the boat, or on shore?
We usually like to recommend a bit of both for guests to experience it all. Although we would not typically characterize the Virgin Islands as a massive night life hotspot as it has a more laid-back vibe, there are some fun spots onshore that we would recommend checking out. Champs Elysees has also been known to throw a yacht party or two upon request in the past.
What’s special/unique about your boat?
Champs Elysees has quite a few water toys to keep everyone entertained: fishing rods, paddleboards, kayak, floating mat, wakeboard and tube. Michael is a Divemaster and Casey a Rescue Diver, so for those that are certified scuba divers, we can offer diving right from the yacht! We also have some fun tech toys to play with while onboard: GoPro 8, Drone, DSLR and Polaroid cameras, and a loud Soundboks portable speaker. We love to create memorable moments for our guests, so for those who wish, we are constantly snapping photos and videos throughout the week to provide an electronic album of memories to share with those back at home.
Do you have any interesting or funny stories or anecdotes about a previous trip?
What happens on Champs Elysees, stays on Champs Elysees! Except for embarrassing stories about your Captain having to rescue a floating mat or trying to be fancy picking up a hidden mooring ball to the rest of the bay’s entertainment, but you’ll have to come on a trip with us to hear those stories!
Sea sickness. Issue or no issue? How common is it for people with no sailing experience to get ill, and what do you do to combat it?
Everyone is different! Even the most seasoned sailor can get seasick, but we find that guests rarely do. Becoming seasick, unless you have a history of doing so, tends to be the exception rather than the rule. If guests do get a bit queasy in the open seas we are there to help them stay up on deck with breeze on their face, keep an eye on the horizon, or in some cases we recommend them take the wheel! If our old sailor tricks fail, we do carry seasickness tablets and patches on board.
Flights, any recommendations? Arrive same day, or hotel the night before?
If possible, we would suggest either arriving the day before or in the morning the day charter starts so we can make the most of the first half day!
Expected animals to see?
One of the best things about the Virgin Islands is the diversity of sea life in the waters surrounding us. We usually see turtles, stingrays, tons of fish, sometimes dolphins, and on the rare occasion whales! On land you’ll likely see anywhere from little critters like hermit crabs up to iguanas, goats, deer, and cows!
Expected weather, difference between seasons
Typically, the temperature stays steady in the 80s (26 C) during the day and 70s (21 C) at night. There are usually a few scattered rainstorms that last 15-20 mins per day throughout the week, but more often than not those occur during the night.
How is the sea to sail?
Beautiful! The islands are known as a sailing paradise thanks to the fairly consistent East to West winds and the beautiful blue and turquoise waters.
Minimum and maximum recommended days of trip.
While it is almost impossible to see everything in one trip, we believe that six nights aboard is the minimum to get a feel for the islands and relax. The maximum is really up to the guests, yet most clients cap their trips around 10 nights to leave some adventure for their next visit back!
Favorite places to take the clients, bars restaurants or nature.
While there are so many to name, one of our favorite restaurants to frequent, and typically a fan favorite amongst our guests, is Coco Maya on Virgin Gorda. It has it all with beachside dining, delicious food, cocktails, and tropical ambiance. One of our favorite bays to hang out in is Little Harbor in Peter Island where the water is crystal clear and friendly turtles and sting rays are abundant! Soggy Dollar on White Bay in Jost Van Dyke is consistently a fan favorite beach bar with their relaxed atmosphere, stellar drinks made by the best bartenders (Leon is the man), and beautiful beach. We also believe the USVI is highly underrated and would love to show our guests some hidden gems there too!
Your favorite bar/restaurant/beach/snorkel spot/dive site
We will fill our week with favorites – there’s so many to name! The Ram’s Head hike on St. John has a beautiful view of the BVIs and particularly nice at sunset. The diving, especially around St. Croix, is incredible (so many sites close together), our favorite being Armageddon or Cane Bay Wall. Cooper Island Eco Resort is a great place for happy hour with a fantastic rum bar to enjoy.
Favorite hour in the day for sailing
The Golden Hour has its name for a reason! It’s the perfect time to champagne sail to our spot for the night while enjoying a paintbrush sky and a sunset cocktail.
Expected budget in other expenses for clients.
Our typical charter offering is all inclusive while on the yacht, so it really depends on how many land or rendezvous activities the guests desire or how big their bar tab might be. We always have a call with the guests a few weeks prior to arrival where we discuss how much their basic logistics (ie airport transport) and off the boat activities usually cost if they desire to do them.
If you were recommending a destination for a trip outside of the BVI, where would you recommend and why?
We started our crewed charter career in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia and could not recommend it more! The beautiful waters, amazing port towns, and rich culture you encounter throughout the islands is well worth the trek.
What does a typical day look like in the BVI?
Days aboard Champs Elysees are filled with great food, beautiful blue water and all the relaxing you desire. From a morning snorkel with turtles to an afternoon paddleboard session to dinner and cocktails at sunset, we strive to provide you with a new experience every day you won’t soon forget!