Image: Safari Escape
Forbes.com
The best yacht for nature lovers is the 'Safari Escape'. With an all-Alaskan crew (including a naturalist), visit such famous sights as Glacier Bay, whose breathtaking display of 16 glaciers can be reached only by boat. The six bedrooms have televisions with DVD players, and the boat has an outdoor hot tub, a spacious dining area and a large salon. The cost? $78,000 a week.
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updated 7/17/2007 7:24:06 PM ET 2007-07-17T23:24:06

Though most vacationers renting a yacht for the summer planned their getaways at least six months in advance, many top-quality boats are still available.

"Most people don't realize that yachts are always available to charter on short notice," says Mary Crowley, owner of Ocean Voyages, an agency in Sausalito, Calif., that plans luxury yacht trips. "The bulk of people doing a yacht trip do plan in advance, but there are last-minute cancellations that free up fantastic boats, or there are a few weeks here and there when boats simply don't get booked, even in the prime months."

The prime months are July and August, and prime destinations include the Mediterranean, Caribbean and South Pacific.

"In the past few years, renting a yacht has become the hottest kind of summer vacation," says Janet Bloomfield, president of the Florida- and Connecticut-based International Yacht Charter Group. "As a result, there are more destinations where it's possible to charter."

Charter prices range from $25,000 a week to upwards of one million dollars a week. The price varies depending on amenities and number of staff on board.

Contrary to the idea that having a yacht vacation means traveling abroad, it is possible to embark on one without crossing U.S. borders.

Renting the yacht Four Wishes, for example, entails a trip along the scenic Maine coast. As with all yacht trips, guests can customize their itineraries based on their interests, but possible stops include Penobscot Bay, an area home to many art galleries and antique shops, and Bar Harbor, which boasts Acadia National Park. You can also spot seals on a few of the thousand islands along this waterway.

The boat, meant for eight, boasts a crew of nine, four mountain bikes, golf sets for children and adults, a gym, a game room, a lounge and a sun deck complete with Jacuzzi and wet bar. The five rooms have king beds and satellite televisions with DVD players. The boat is available through the month of August and costs $143,000 a week to rent.

Prefer a flashy yacht rental in the heart of the French Riviera? Go for the head-turning Mangusta 80, known as "the Ferrari of yachts." This boat travels between 40 and 50 miles an hour compared to 10 to 15 miles an hour for most yachts. This Mangusta can accommodate six guests and has three cabins and a large salon with plasma televisions with surround-sound systems. The spacious deck has a bar, a dining area and a sound system with a fully loaded iPod.

Image: Seasauvage
Forbes.com
The four-person crew on the 'Seasauvage' is a family with two children who have been raised on board. They can teach your family snorkeling or swimming; your children can even learn to sail with their guidance. They can also lead you on hikes or take you to the hidden spots on the mostly deserted islands of the Gambiers in the South Pacific, which are surrounded by a massive reef. Cost: $14,000
The boat is available for the month of August and costs $58,100 a week. Renters can water ski on the glamorous shores of the French Riviera, bask in the sun, explore the port cities of St. Tropez and Cannes or rub elbows with P. Diddy and other celebs that frequent the area during the summer.

As the popularity of yacht rentals has grown, boats' amenities have become more sophisticated.

"Now, it's more common to have amenities like Wi-Fi, spas and beauty salons on board," says Tom Virden, managing director and founder of Boatbookings.com, an online yacht-charter company based in London. "That wasn't always the case."

The RM Elegant, for example, boasts a beauty salon and a staff of 30 that includes a culinary team and a pianist. The ship also has satellite television, Internet connectivity, expansive dining areas, a massage room and an outdoor Jacuzzi.

With 15 bedrooms that have king-size beds, this yacht can accommodate 30 guests (most yachts only accommodate 12). It's available from August 10 onward and sails along either the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, dubbed the new Rivera, or around the Greek Islands. A week here will set you back $612,000.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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