What do James Bond, Kenny Rogers, and Kim Kardashian have in common?
They’ve all hitched a ride on a luxe boat from Valef Yachts, one of the first charter companies in the Mediterranean. The long-running go-to for Hollywood stars, international dignitaries, and fictional spies alike, the storied business celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and though much of its fleet may be out of reach for the average Joe, there are still relative bargains to be had.
Of the 400-some yachts in its rotation, Valef has about 80 that rent for US$2000 (€1755) or so per day, including sailing, motor sailer, and motor yachts (though that number can change mid-season if new boats come on the market). But whether guests book an entry-level boat or something top of the line, they get the same personalized attention either way. “Concierge services are offered to all clients free of charge, as [we’ve] done from the beginning,” says managing partner Kassandra Lefakinis. “It’s always been about taking on a new guest and ensuring that every aspect of their experience is looked after.”
It’s that attitude that’s drawn the glitterati over the years, from country legend Kenny Rogers—the company’s very first customer—to rockers Bruce Springsteen and Sting in the ‘70s, and designer Valentino in the ‘80s. The Roger Moore-starring For Your Eyes Only featured two Valef charters, and the Keeping Up With the Kardashians crew rented out a mega-yacht for an episode back in 2013.
Today, the company is a family affair. The founder’s wife and current president Kathy Lefakinis runs things from the US office in Philadelphia, and their daughters, managing partner Kassandra and her sister Alexandra, take care of things in Athens. Since Valef’s launch, the Lefakinises have widened their focus to cover Turkey and the western Mediterranean as well as Greece, and they’ve found that their clients’ tastes have expanded as well. “Interest in catamaran rentals has massively grown in the past six years,” Kassandra says. “Motor yachts of all kinds are the preferred mode of chartering, and we no longer have as many motor sailers, or as they are known in Greece, kaikis. These traditional wooden hull yachts have almost disappeared from the charter market as more luxury and speed is desired.”
When Valef Yachts first set sail in 1969, it had little to no competition. Nonetheless, its guests were treated like a million bucks, and over the years, that commitment has paid off. “Now there are plenty of resources and services on the destination that simply didn’t exist then,” Kassandra says. “Our company continues to be a family business focused on personalized attention, and for decades, that is what has kept our clients loyal.”