This topic certainly is debatable. There are many levels of service, and many quality and types of boats. I’ll cover the types of boats in a future post, but what company you go with has a lot to do with how much risk you are willing to take.
Sunsail, TMM, and Moorings are huge names in the industry, and likely there are a few more. I believe each of the three of these has their own specific model and sail color/etc which is pre-specified and people buy these boats and put them into a company fleet.
CatCo (catamarans.com) is a smaller company and if they don’t have boats in the area you want to go, they will broker a boat on the Sedna System for you. The sailboats they rent are generally all custom specified by an owner and CatCo manages/maintains them.
By no means is this an exhaustive list… there will be these types no matter where you go.
Everyone has different expectations. If you need the best, go with Moorings or Sunsail, if you can handle a few bumps in the road, then maybe you can go with TMM/Catco or someone else like that.
As far as Service with CatCo — we had a leaky head that they came out while on charter and fixed in 2006, and then in 2009 we sucked a weed up into our generator and clogged the filter and we had to go to a marina and it took them about 45 minutes to fix it.. Both times were fairly painless and they were helpful and courteous. I have also heard good things about SunSail coming out to fix things while someone was in the middle of their charter.
Some things that can help with price are.
- Renting with a company you have already rented with
- Booking during low season OR the week before Christmas (usually lower)
- Booking over a year in advance OR booking short notice
- Find someone trying to sell their “owner time” which is the special rate they get for owning the boat in while it’s being managed.
I am really only covering bareboating.. which is to rent the sailboat and captain it yourself or you can rent a captain along with it. Crewed charters are also available, but I have no experience with that.