“Just jump!” My friends repeatedly called out as I sat on the back of a yacht in the middle of the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia. I was mentally preparing to make the leap.

We were anchored with dozen of other boats, grouped together in a circle, each with a mounted flag reading: “The Yacht Week.” The island of Hvar could be seen in the near distance, EDM blasted from the lead captain’s boat and a sea of people danced in the water, many on colorful floaties with drinks in hand yelling “woo hoo!” everytime the DJ started a new song.

I stayed focused on my goal to jump into the ocean without any flotation device. Since setting sail from the city of Split, I’d watched in envy as friends dove from the top of our yacht and swam from boat to boat, mingling with fellow partiers. I’ve always been afraid of deep water and had taken swimming lessons just for this trip. There was no way I could be on a boat for 7 days and not know how to swim.

I downed a shot of liquid courage, took a deep breath and flopped (literally) into the water.

Counting the seconds to rise to the surface, I reminded myself over and over again, “Just relax. Don’t panic.” When I finally popped out of the water, I reached for a ladder hanging off the back of the boat and caught my breath. When I let go, I moved my arms in circular motion: treading water. My friends’ cheers could be heard over the fist-pumping music.

I was officially ready to join the party happening around me.

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If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to vacation on a private yacht like Beyoncé and Jay Z (or even if you haven’t), The Yacht Week (TYW) experience is as close as it gets to luxury for us non-celebs. As the company’s website puts it: “It’s nothing like the real world.” And it’s really not… unless you’re Bey and Jay.

In this world, you are freed from “real” responsibilities — just what a vacation should be. Your skipper navigates the sea while your hostess (if you choose to have one) prepares your meals.Your only worry is what swimsuit to wear and which party to attend. So, for a non-swimmer like myself, I was determined to overcome my fear and live it up to the fullest. After all, I paid for it.

TYW describes itself as a “floating glamping trip with friends” and a “floating festival.” Essentially, it’s a fleet of yachts organized by Swedish company European Travel Ventures that are taken on weeklong sailing tours to six destinations around the world. From June to September, it’s based in the Mediterranean (hitting spots like Croatia, Greece, Spain, and Italy), then moves on to Thailand for December and January, and the Caribbean for December through March.

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Groups of three to twelve can charter a boat, while solo travelers can reserve a cabin on a yacht with other lone sailors or smaller groups. The itinerary depends on the destination route, but it mostly consists of all-day drinking and sunbathing on the deck, followed up by all-night drinking and partying. Think spring break, but for young professionals.

A year ago, my friend emailed me an invitation to celebrate her 30th birthday at TYW. I immediately accepted and we spent a year planning and preparing for our voyage. We sailed to four islands in 7 days: Trgir, Hvar, Komiza, and Vis. In three days alone, we partied on our private boat, partied in a castle in Trogir, and partied some more at a remote location off the coast of Cape Diem Beach.

And while there was plenty of partying, there were also a lot of remarkable moments as well: We sang “happy birthday” to my friend while our skipper and hostess crossed the sea in a dingy with a lit birthday cake. We visited the “Green Caves” off the little island of Ravnik. We biked on the island of Vis, and slept on the deck to watch the sunrise as we sailed to Hvar. And, let’s not forget that I officially overcame my fear of deep water.

But as lavish as it all sounds, those seven days took a lot of planning and research. Here’s what I learned during my time at TYW.

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When They Say Pack Light, They Mean it

Everything I read in preparation stressed packing light. And you must. The cabins are tiny and there’s limited space on the boat. I carried a duffle bag and packed lightweight clothing that could easily be rolled up. You’ll have to store your luggage in compartments onboard to make space, so you need things that can fold down. In terms of clothes, swimwear is what you’ll be wearing the majority of the time. At most, you only need two pairs of shorts, a few shirts, a light jacket or sweater for the evenings, and cocktail-style dress, hat, sunglasses, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of sandals. But be sure to bring water shoes.The beaches are mostly rocky in Croatia and they make it easier to get around during the long walks back to the docking area. Other than that you’ll likely only end up wearing flip flops, sandals, or boat shoes. So leave the heels at home, ladies.

The Bathroom Situation

A yacht may sound luxurious (and some of the massive ones probably are), but it’s also a boat. So think tiny and economical in terms of space. The boat we chartered had two bathrooms with toilets… that didn’t flush. Instead, there was a lever attached that we had to use to pump water in and out. And also couldn’t put anything unflushable in the toilet… Anything. Thankfully, someone in our group brought Poo-Pourri, which was AMAZING. It masks any bathroom smell with just a spritz in the toilet before use. Oh, and don’t expect to shower every day. When you do dock, there are communal restrooms with showers. But when you’re out at sea for days as time all you can do is rinse off or use refreshing wipes.

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EDM. All. The. Time

If you’re into electronic dance music, that’s great, because that’s pretty much the only thing that TYW’s DJs seem to play. On day five of our trip, we actually decided to have our own version of a silent disco. Before heading out to the designated party for the night, we curated a playlist of songs to stream on our devices. When we got to the party and were tired of listening to the EDM rotation, we put our headphones on and streamed our playlist at the same time… And danced to our own music. It was a great alternative.

Get You a Hostess That Does the Mostess

My group went back and forth on whether we wanted to put up the extra cash and extra body on our boat, but our hostess was definitely the highlight of our trip. Because of her, we ate well while we were at sea. We didn’t have to worry about grocery shopping or how to work the kitchen on the boat. We also didn’t have to wash dishes or clean. She did all of it. It was seriously worth it.

It’s the Experience of a Lifetime. Live it up!

The Yacht Week has turned an inclusive, luxury lifestyle into an obtainable, somewhat affordable vacation of a lifetime. Who can say they know what it’s like to live on a yacht and not have to worry about anything? I can, after this experience. And it was an adventure I was able to share with close friends, who also encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and “just jump.”

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All photos courtesy Danielle Hester, our rockin’ social media strategist.

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