To BYO food or to order from the Boat’s Menu?

So you’re looking to book a private boat charter, great, now you’ll have to organise food. So should you order from the boat’s menu or BYO (bring your own) food?

This is a decision that every charterer will have to make and it really depends on their preferences, budget and style of cruise?


What food is offered on charter boats?

Each charter boat offers a food menu which is from their preferred caterer or self catered by the crew. The food

on charter boats (the good ones anyway) offer fresh and delicious food and an excellent variety of options. Some options include:


Canapé menu: bite size food items which are great for easy eating. Canapé boat waitress

The crew serve these to guests around the boat where ever they are usually with small napkins.

The boat wait staff walk around the boat with the platters making sure that everyone gets one to two pieces of each canapé.

Canapés on boats are always a good choice for larger group functions, this way there is no seating required to have your dinner as everything is served to you wherever you may be standing or sitting on board.

– Buffet menu: Often a large display of food with a variety of options. It usually served on boats with decent enough space for guests to grab what food they need and sit somewhere to eat with a fork and knife.

John Oxley rear deck food buffet


John Oxley grazing station 2

Platters / Food stations: A great way to welcome your guests as they board.

 These are nice displays of food which guests can pick at and can be eaten by hand. A common platter that is ordered is an antipasto station.

On bigger luxury yachts and as pontoon style boats there is room for food stations which offer mini meals for guests. This is often maned by a chef and cooked / served in front of the guests on request. Food stations are a fun way to provide food for your function and allows a bit of a social aspect. Some examples of Food stations are oyster station, sushi station, taco station, noodle bar, paella station.

Food station on boat


Boat Charter Sydney

BBQ menu: Offered by boats with a BBQ on board. It is a casual and very Australian option. It can be assimple as sausages and steaks, large prawns, marinated chicken and even vegetable skewers. Some menus may offer a BBQ menu and the boat doesn’t have a BBQ, this is because the caterer cooks the items in their commercial kitchen first then reheats them on the boat to provide that BBQ style.

A La Cart menus: Also known as Seated or Formal Dining, are also available on certain charter boats. A variety of options are offered to choose before your charter which is then executed by an onboard chef and served to the table. This is especially common for weddings, corporate functions which require everyone in the same room together, or even intimate smaller groups at a charter yacht’s dining table.

OneWorld rear deack dining


Canapé menus tend to be the most popular and also the most efficient. People on boat’s generally like to roam around and enjoy different areas of the boat. Canapé menus allow the food to come to them. 

You can even mix things up by ordering a canapé menu along with a food station. So there’s food ready on the station for people to dig into, and then canapés can be served 15 minutes into the cruise when people have settled in.


Is BYO food a good option?

BYO food on boats is available on some charter vessels, however the boats will generally charge a fee to BYO. This BYO fee is to cover the cost of cleanup, use of plates, cutlery, glassware and sometimes wait staff to serve. This BYO fee could be a per person rate (perhaps $15 per person) or a flat fee (From $200). Some boats may even charge extra for wait staff as their menu usually includes the wait staff. Some boats may not provide anything at all and you will have to bring everything (plates, cutlery, napkins etc) with you.

Every charter boat is independently owned and operates differently, so the owners will charge what they feel is right for their operation. 

Some boats don’t allow BYO at all and this is mostly on the luxury yachts or large function boats. This is because the food is a major part of their revenue particular for boats that can have larger guests numbers. Some boats don’t offer BYO to ensure their level of quality is maintained so all guests are treated to the standard that the boat wants to showcase.


What are the Advantages with BYO on charter boat?

There are some advantages of bringing your own food on a charter boat which are:

  • You may save money as you buy the food yourself. 
  • You can create your own menu that suits you and your guests.
  • You could ask everyone to bring some food to add to the boat charter so everyone contributes to the catering.


What are the Disadvantages with BYO on charter boat?

BYO can be a good option when you are happy to organise the food yourself. It will save you money, yes, but it is time consuming and can be a bit of a hassle on the day of the charter. Below are some disadvantages of BYO food on charter boats:

  • Carrying trays and eskies around. 
  • Delivering food at a certain time to a certain location. 
  • Ensuring you have enough food for everyone without going obsessive with the amounts.
  • The food can’t be cooked without the boat’s chef so it will most likely be served at room temperature. 
  • Catering to all dietary requirements can be challenging.
  • Having to take the trays, eskies, platters, leftovers etc away with you after the charter or pick-up the next day. 

Food is usually delivered to the boat’s berth however keep in mind that getting access to the boat before the charter is not always possible. The boat may have a charter before yours and will most likely not go back to berth. This is sometimes realised the day before as the boat’s tend to get last minute bookings depending on the weather and especially on weekends. If you cannot access the boat before your charter, your food will need to be managed (stored, kept cool/warm, etc) until you board the boat at your pre-determined boarding wharf . 


Can you BYO drinks on a charter boat?

Yes, some charter boats offer BYO drinks at a surcharge. BYO drinks is also a popular idea and more manageable although the surcharge may or may not include glassware, cups, ice, esky or fridge use. Best to check with Sydney Harbour Specialists to confirm as each boat is different.

It’s best to always pre chill your drinks on a BYO charter, this way they are nice and cool and all the boat crew need to do is maintain the cool temperature. Trying to chill the drinks from warm to cold takes much longer.

Also keep in mind that charter boats don’t have the fridge space for all your food and drinks so you may need to organise your own esky if necessary – please speak to your event manager on what facilities are available on the charter boat.


How to decide on catering or BYO on a charter boat?

It mostly comes down to your budget. If you can afford to purchase the catering from the boat’s caterer then it is the easiest option. The caterers on charter boats have been personally selected by the boat and provide quality food. They can alter the menu to suit your guest’s dietary requirements so you will be in good hands. 

BYO is more for people who are happy to do all the running around to have their preferred food selections on the boat and would like to save a few dollars. 

Your boat charter agent will help you decide what will work best for you and your group. We just want to make sure your charter is executed successfully.