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Price of luxury yacht lifestyle plummets in recession

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. mega-yacht charter company waives massive $50,000 charter fees
  • The impact of the recession is reason given for the discounted deal
  • A yacht chartered by Hilary Swank can now be rented for less than $3,000 a day
By Mike Steere
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A U.S. company is offering a rare chance to holiday on a mega-yacht once used by a Hollywood star and her husband -- and thanks to the recession it's actually affordable.

The 100-foot Katania normally would attract an additional $49,500 charter fee for a week's use.

The 100-foot Katania normally would attract an additional $49,500 charter fee for a week's use.

The 100-foot Katania was chartered by Hollywood star Hilary Swank and her husband, Chad Lowe.

Seattle, Washington-based mega-yacht rental business CEO Expeditions usually charges around $100,000 a week to charter their 100-plus-foot yachts, but they have introduced a deal waiving the charter fees -- meaning guests will only need to pay for the running of the vessel.

The move to make such vessels more affordable comes as the recession continues to put pressure on the luxury holiday and mega-yacht industries.

Although the costs of crew and luxury food aren't extremely cheap, it is expected this move will open up the recession-strained market to many more potential holiday-makers.

The Katania now costs less than $3,000 per day. Normally it would attract an additional $49,500 charter fee for a week's use.

At the $2,950-per-day special rate, four people can stay on the Katania -- but with the maximum six on board ($450 extra per person) the cost per person is a slightly better $642.

The price includes full crew, premium wines, gourmet food prepared by a private chef, amenities such as kayaks, hot tub, fishing/crabbing/shrimping equipment, and even a 30-foot whaler for guest use.

According to the company, Swank said of her charter holiday: "We had an absolutely enchanted time aboard the Katania. A more beautiful yacht does not exist."

There is one small catch with the deal -- the boat is based in the San Juan islands off the coast of Washington and British Columbia, and any cruises to other destinations will attract an additional charge to cover fuel costs.

The company's owner, Bruce Milne, released a statement saying the deal was largely a result of the impact of the recession.

"Travel is down, agents and brokers need deals, so rather than just a few full-price charters, we decided to stay busy, put more people to work, and help island tourism by doing charters at cost.

"Since we started chartering 10 years ago, we have been looking for a chance to provide our 'Expeditions to the Extraordinary' in the San Juan Islands at a price any luxury traveler can afford -- this recession provides that opportunity," he said.

Tim Wiltshire, director and sales broker at international yacht company Burgess Yachts, said the charter market isn't a complete disaster, so he was surprised to see such a discount.

"I wouldn't have expected to see that," he said. "We are seeing discounts on average of about 25 percent. Although some people are trying interesting gimmicks to inspire new business."

Wiltshire said CEO Expedition's fleet isn't among the biggest or most luxurious on the market, and this deal appears to be clever marketing stunt.

His opinion is that other larger vessels still warrant their greater price tags.

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