Archive Monthly Archives: October 2011

Upholstery, Carpets, and Drapes Need Attention, Not Chemicals

Last month, we talked about cleaning hard surfaces on the boat, and this month it’s soft goods such as upholstery, draperies and carpet.

Dust settles on upholstery and fabrics just as it does on hard surfaces. It should be removed regularly with vacuum cleaner attachments: the upholstery nozzle, brush and crevice tool. However, if you are cleaning down-filled cushions or pillows that are not lined with down-proof ticking, always use a soft brush by hand because vacuuming could pull the down out through the fabric.

Vacuuming will remove some dust but it will also scatter dust around so remember to vacuum the surrounding area when you are finished.

Different fabrics require different types of care. Here are some guidelines for cleaning window treatments and upholstered furniture.

Canvas, jacquard, and rayon: Run a dry-cleaning sponge over the fabric in short, even strokes to lift out dirt. Be careful on jacquard because delicate threads can pull and snag.

Add 2 capfuls of mild detergent to a bucket of cool water. Dip in a sponge or cloth, wring out well and go over the fabric with long even strokes. Use as little liquid as possible to prevent mildew.
Allow to air dry.

Leather and Vinyl:

Vacuum the piece of furniture using a soft brush on a low setting.

Slightly dampen a microfiber cloth with water and rub the soiled areas. Water can remove dirt and it won’t permanently discolor the leather.

For deeper cleaning consult a professional. Use leather cleaners and protectors with care, if at all, because they can stain some leathers.

Pile fabrics (such as chenille and corduroy) and wool:

Vacuum the piece on a low setting with the upholstery brush, using long horizontal strokes. Do not use a hard brush attachment as this can pull on fabric and snag it. A dry cleaning sponge or a slightly dampened cloth can be used to lift dirt.For deep cleaning, consult a pro. Slipcovers of cotton and linen:

Remove covers and machine wash them on a delicate setting, following care instructions that are on the label, which is usually attached near the zipper. Hang to dry.

Slipcovers of silk:

Hand wash in a sink filled with warm water and a capful of detergent. Or have them dry-cleaned. Hang to dry.
Slipcovers of suede:

Do not use any moisture on suede, since it will be permanently stained. Use a product recommended by the manufacturer.

For deep cleaning, consult a pro.

Carpets and rugs. Oriental, antique or delicate rugs:

Be careful with these valuable, delicate items. Do not vacuum them because suction from the vacuum can loosen threads from the weave. Instead, sweep gently with a soft nylon broom.

Water and cleaners can stain, so always consult a specialist about any cleaning that needs to be done.
Natural fibers (such as wool, sisal and sea grass):

Vacuum on high power with a brush with a beater bar attachment.

To remove ground-in dirt, push the vacuum over spots several times.

Carpet cleaners can stain or bleach out areas, so use a cloth dampened with water to get out any spots.

Blot dry and then allow to air dry.

If water does not get the stain out you will need to do a little detective work. It is important to know what type of stain you are dealing with, as specific solutions are used on different types of stains. Using the wrong solution can permanently set the stain.

Never apply stain remover directly onto the carpet; apply to a clean cloth instead and use the cloth to carefully work on the spot. If in doubt, consult a professional cleaner.

Synthetics (such as nylon, polyester and polypropylene):

Vacuum and spot-treat with water. Synthetics often have a stain resistant finish applied, so water is usually enough to release spots and stains without using any cleaner.

Blot treated spots with a towel.

Use a soft carpet brush to raise the pile of the carpet. This exposes fibers to the air so they will dry faster.

Generally speaking, when it comes to cleaning upholstery and carpet, keep it simple if you can. Always try using a cloth slightly dampened with water to gently lift spots out. Do not rub too much as this will grind in the stain.

Commercial spot removers can do more harm than good, so use sparingly, if at all. When in doubt, consult a professional cleaner.

Damage-Free Tips for Detail Cleaning the Interior Of The Yacht

This month in our yacht stewardess training article, you’re going to learn various yacht stew tips about detail cleaning the cabins and bathrooms on the yacht. Some of these tips, also found in the Yacht Service Bible, will also apply to furnishings in other living areas of the boat, so feel free to apply them where appropriate.

Yacht Stewardess Housekeeping Tips Continue reading

Learn to Delegate to Survive as a Manager

We’ve all seen instances of a stew being promoted or hired as chief stew who simply does not have the experience needed to perform the job.

A stew may be really great at service and housekeeping and have a year of experience, so she is hired or promoted to a chief stew position. She tries hard to master the management and administration aspects of the job, but at the expense of the overall organization. She is having a hard time and is not very successful.

Sometimes problems of ineffectiveness have to do with an inability to cope, not with a lack of skill or interest or passion for the job.Often, people are simply promoted beyond their capacity.

Management is all about getting the job done through others. The greatest motivator of human performance is knowing exactly what is expected of you. The greatest demotivator is the reverse. You must be perfectly clear about what you want done, to what standards, and in what time frame.

One of the hardest things about management is learning to delegate properly. It seems like it would be easier to do everything yourself—in the time it would take to stop a project you’re working on while you show someone else how to perform his or her job, you could have done it yourself and completed your present project as well. And it would be done correctly, no less, since nobody can do it as well as you anyway.

It can be hard to figure out how to delegate properly, but it is an important skill to learn. It can be the secret to your success as a manager, and without it you have no future. You will get stressed out, burned out, mean, and grouchy. You may as well go back to the ranks and let the captain hire someone who can delegate properly.
What are the keys to delegation?

Well, first of all, you must have an overall vision of what you are trying to accomplish, and then you must make sure that the goal is crystal clear. Determine what is to be done, how it is to be done, by whom, and with what resources. Then, plan properly. Every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution. Think the steps through carefully, be clear about your goals and objectives, and then convey everything through discussion and feedback.

Be very clear about the results expected; list everything that must be done to achieve the results you want, what resources are to be used, and the standards that are expected. Make sure your instructions are so clear and simple that anyone could follow them.

Be sure to communicate the expected standards of performance, as well. Each person should know what is expected of them, how the results are to be measured, and when it is to be done. People can’t hit a target they can’t see. It’s your responsibility to create a clear picture of their responsibilities.

Think through the steps to be done to complete the project. What experience and current abilities are needed to it? Discuss the work thoroughly with the person assigned, and then ask them for feedback to make sure you’re “on the same page” as far as understanding what you are asking them to do. Organize your supplies and make sure you have everything needed to do the job.

Remember, you are still responsible for the end product of the work you have assigned. Check in frequently to see that everyone is doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, to the proper standard, with the proper supplies, and at the right speed. If a stew uses a Scotchbrite pad to clean the high-gloss paint in the foyer and damages the surface, it is your responsibility, for not making it clear what was expected and what supplies to use.

Practice management by walking around. Even if you are working on projects of your own, stop frequently, go around and ask how things are going. Make sure they have everything they need. Inspect what you expect.

Be visible and available and think of yourself as a helper, a teacher, and a resource to help get the job done. Ask for feedback, make suggestions, encourage, and motivate others.

Create an environment where people feel good about themselves and their work. Listen carefully when people talk. Thank them for anything and everything they do that is out of the ordinary. Praise them in front of others.

Delegate patiently, delegate thoroughly, delegate carefully.

For each project, clearly communicate what responsibilities are being delegated, what your goals or objectives are, and to what standard the performance is being measured. Ask for feedback to be sure you are understood. Have the proper supplies and resources available. Manage by walking around. Be visible, available, and helpful. Check on progress every step of the way, and keep the end result in sight. Remember, clarity is the foundation of great management.

Level of Service on a Yacht Highest of All

Webster’s dictionary defines service as “to answer the needs of, and provide assistance that benefits, others.”

There are many levels of service performed in our economy every day, from the person who waits on you at Starbucks in the morning to the person who cleans that Starbucks at night to the person you speak with in customer service.

Within each of these levels are various standards, and we each have our own set of values and expectations. Unfortunately, many of the services that we take for granted have been outsourced, leading many of us to feel that our call is not that important to anyone anymore.

But think about this: The highest level of service is service within a private living environment. The level of service performed on a yacht may be the highest level of all. This kind of service cannot be outsourced; the responsibility is all on us.

Your function as a yacht stew is to provide service to the owners and guests while onboard. It is also your job to coordinate the many aspects of the job, including those that entail taking care of the crew to a certain extent. It’s up to stews to ensure that the departments interact seamlessly and that our own work is invisible and appears effortless.

In a nutshell, stews are the glue that holds the whole program together.

To be entrusted with a person’s private life, belongings, family, guests, and personal affairs requires a significant amount of trust. Without a doubt, it is an honor as well as a responsibility.Yacht stews help create order, dignity, and a sense of peace. That is a powerful and valuable contribution. We set the tone for others with our ability to remain unruffled in stressful situations. We must appear cool and collected, even when things are melting down around us.

Our superior communication skills can help crew who are at odds with each other to talk things out. Our insight can defuse a potentially risky situation.

A life in service is the highest possible calling. Service is not submission; it is a finely tuned set of skills. To succeed, we must identify expectations and values, and have a positive attitude. Along with the desire to anticipate guests’ expectations, we need the authority to carry out their wishes.

Well, exactly what sort of skills does one need to succeed on a yacht? If you’re just starting out, it can be hard. Most boats are looking for someone who already has some experience. But you can’t get experience without a job.

So to get that first job, identify the abilities you already have that will build up your yachting potential. You must be able to sell a future employer on your talents so someone will give you that first chance, or move you up the ladder to the next stage of your career.

Look over your employment history and identify the abilities that can be transferred to a yachting career. Do you have restaurant or hotel experience? Be aware that yacht stews must know about housekeeping and laundry as well as service. Bartending abilities comes in handy, as well as knowledge of wine. You will need to learn about flower arranging. Some boats are more formal than others; most will expect that you know what silver service is all about. You are also expected to know how to take care of all of the beautiful and expensive items you deal with every day, including china, crystal and other service items, along with valuable pieces of art.

But one of the most important skills you need is the ability to get along with others, because stews truly are the glue that holds the whole program together. It is up to us to manage crew dynamics, to be the liaison between the chef and guests, and to keep the captain and deck crew informed about events occurring onboard.

The work yacht stews do in a private service environment adds value and enriches the lives of the owners and their guests. By agreeing to serve, you agree to follow someone else’s agenda, and to do so with an open heart. As Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”

I discovered an old British poster from World War II that said “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I love that saying. That’s really what it’s all about. Every day is a new day, and even if we are scheduled and micromanaged to the last second, we never know for certain just what situation may come up. We have to be able to respond rather than react, and to grow along the way. Sometimes the best we can do is simply keep calm and carry on.

Trust in Teamwork to Provide Consistently Excellent Service

When working on yachts, we often hear about the importance of teamwork. One of my favorite annoying expressions is “There’s no “I” in team”, always delivered as a reproach when someone does something that someone else considers to be selfish, which is almost as popular as the old “That’s why they pay us the big bucks.”

Just what is teamwork all about?

We are in the luxury business, and “luxury” is transferred to people through people, an entire team of people. It’s our job to ensure that service is delivered universally so we can create a memorable experience for our guests.

The only way we can create the best benefits for each guest is to provide consistently excellent service. And in order to do this, we have to know that we can rely on each member of our team to do whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of whether a particular task is directly linked to an individual’s job description.

The most important thing to remember is that service starts with me — every “me” on the team. To demonstrate leadership, senior crew must be just as willing to pitch in and do the frontline work as we expect our junior crew to be.

It’s all about lateral service and cross-training. If we all understand what our fellow crew mates’ jobs entail, we have greater empathy and respect for each other. Cross-training prevents departments from becoming isolated from each other. There’s none of that “not my job, mon” attitude. Everybody does whatever it takes to get the job done; and the job is to deliver a memorable luxury experience each and every day.

Along the way, it is helpful for senior team members to invest time in a mentoring process to develop the talents of other team members. It is a matter of combining technical skills with the unique philosophy of the boat, and finding a way to measure competency and determine how good each team member is at his/her jobs. Seventy percent of learning occurs on the job. Are the skills they learn delivered consistently to guests?

One of the biggest components of good leadership is recognizing each person’s individual talent in terms of their innate abilities and then giving them a little room to envision what they want most to contribute to the team. In other words, let them grow in the direction of their interests.

This is the tricky part, the trust part. How much trust is too much?

I recently worked with someone new to the industry who said she felt like she worked in a restaurant and lived in the kitchen. We tend to forget how thin our boundaries are in this industry. There is barely any separation between any pieces of our lives, and it is inevitable that there will be breakdowns. How supportive the environment is will determine whether you can stand the heat or should get out of the kitchen.

Trust flows from the top down. Crew need to trust leadership to create a workplace where they feel they belong, to believe their work makes a difference, and to feel good about contributing to the team.

This is no small task. Leaders are human, too, and as such we are subject to breakdown as well. But having a reputation in yachting for respecting and empowering people goes a long way. Honesty contributes much toward building trust.

It may seem that the truth is sometimes better withheld. (We all accept that sometimes we are on a need-to-know basis; if there is anything we need to know, someone will tell us.) But trust erodes when communication lacks honesty. A true leader knows how to balance this power.

Distrust destroys morale and impacts service. One bad mood can quickly ruin everybody’s day, sending some scrambling to figure what they did wrong and who is at fault. When leadership can’t be trusted to sort things out, co-workers often work against each other as a means of self-protection. Let the drama begin.

It pays to remember that we are all human and we will make mistakes every day. Empowering through trust instills a sense of pride. Crew members know that deep down inside they are respected and protected and that their particular talents have not gone unnoticed.

You can’t micromanage memorable outcomes. You have to step back and trust that through teamwork and with guidance, your crew will be empowered to use their talents and training to consistently deliver the kind of service that will create a luxurious, memorable experience for your guests each and every time.

Yacht Stews Must Determine Expectations to Serve

Today’s world has many examples of corporate and individual high-net-worth personalities, celebrities, and political lifestyles.

These groups of people often have huge estates, large yachts and private aircraft that demand exacting management skills, technical knowledge, and an understanding of professional service relationships to function smoothly.

On yachts, in particular, the level of service skill demanded is high. What does this level of service look like?

Well, as we all know, in the minds of some captains, interior service is “not rocket science”, but what is it? The abilities a good stew must have are so much more than housekeeping skills.

Service is the management of meeting and exceeding expectations. Today’s professional yacht stews have a sophisticated knowledge of entertaining, etiquette, computers, food, cleaning products, fine collectibles, technology, security, safety, and so much more.

Today, more than ever, managing the level of service expected of high-net-worth individuals — be it on a yacht, at an estate, or on a private aircraft — is more or less a process for managing a lifestyle and creating a particular quality of life. How does one go about managing a lifestyle such as this smoothly, effectively, and consistently? How does one meet these expectations?

For great service to exist, there must be an exchange of information between a service giver and a service receiver. The giver must know what the service standards and expectations of the receiver are. Without this exchange of information, the art of service cannot be consistent, smooth, and effective.

But that’s exactly what professional yacht stews are expected to do. Often, we are asked to perform to the highest levels of service without ever having met the owners or guests. How do we give the best service if we don’t really know what the specific service standards and expectations are?

Every chief stew who has ever taken a job on a yacht where there has been no formal handover knows how this feels. If you are lucky, there will be a “manual” of sorts, with a list of preferences and “do’s and don’ts” at the very least.

But if there is no manual, you may be on your own, unless the captain and the rest of the crew can clue you in.

The fact of the matter is, there are broad generalities of personality types among people who own and charter yachts, and each type requires different service.

There are commonalities among types, but there is a lot of specific and personal information we have to sift through in order to quickly and discreetly figure out how to provide the best service once the guests are on board.

Sometimes the only common language and a system of standards to help us out here is the preference sheet we get from the captain, manager or charter broker. It would be great is we could read a personality profile and know more about the guests, but that is not really an option.

Those in positions of authority — be they captains, charter brokers or management companies — must acknowledge that this is an almost impossible proposition. What makes a good stew great is the ability to quickly discern the expectations from clues available beginning from the moment guests step aboard.

Then, hopefully within just a few hours, we are operating where we want to be and giving the guests the best service experience possible.

New Skills Keep Stews on Top

One of my students recently told me that she was frustrated because the captain on the boat she was working on did not encourage her to take any formal training.

“After all,” he told her, “there is no licensing requirement, and as we all know, it’s not rocket science.”

I have heard that line of reasoning before, but that remark is offensive, disrespectful and basically out of line. What it boils down to may be simply a matter of perspective.

Perhaps it is true that the job of a yacht stew is not rocket science, but it’s no simple thing either. I sometimes wonder if captains and owners understand just what it takes to lay the groundwork to become a member of this elite group of professionals who serve movie stars, celebrities, titans of industry, millionaires, royalty, and sometimes relatively normal, everyday families.

Not only do we have to be meticulously trained to handle an immense range of duties, we have to master the skills and responsibilities needed to serve a demanding clientele with the utmost attention to every little detail. We have to move fast, fast, fast. And, oh, by the way, we are expected to look good, too.

We can easily break some of the duties, skills and responsibilities down into categories, such as guest services, housekeeping, protocol and professional etiquette, and service standards and expectations. There are fundamental rules about what needs to be done, when, and by whom. It is relatively simple to quantify the level of skill and attention to detail and common sense it takes to do the technical part of our jobs.

But there is no checklist to tick off the values and attitude that make one stew perform better than another. If part of our job description includes the phrase “anticipate guest needs” (and it always does), we must be able to articulate what those wishes are. Clearly, we must know what standards are important to the owners, guests and captain on a particular vessel to develop the skills necessary to satisfy their requirements.

This is the area that benefits most from building up your knowledge and skills, because it broadens your perspective. It is hard to quantify the value that this kind of investment brings to you; let’s just say that it is priceless.

As business guru Peter Drucker says, “The only skill that will not become obsolete in the years ahead is the ability to learn new skills.”

The amount of knowledge and information available to us is doubling in every field every 2-3 years. That means that our knowledge has to double as well. Today, it seems like we practically have to run just to stay in place. By continually learning and upgrading your skills, you add more value to your company and, more importantly, to yourself. If you continue to reach and grow, you will never have to worry about becoming obsolete.

Believe me, our jobs are hard enough as it. Could we please get a little respect here?

When we have the desire and the discipline to learn and move ahead, we add value to our world. The desire to learn and grow should be respected and rewarded. It breaks my heart to hear that stews are not encouraged when they are willing to carve some time out of their crazy schedules and make a serious effort to develop themselves professionally.

Training lends intrinsic value to our lives and adds interest to what can become rather mundane aspects of our work. Other than longevity, what better way is there to ensure that you are promotable within an organization than to demonstrate a desire to grow? To earn more, it helps to learn more. When you learn more, you broaden your perspective, empower yourself, motivate your crew, and inspire your guests. That seems like a good bargain to me.

Interior Welcomes Training Standards

The Professional Yachtsman’s Association has recently announced plans to develop a formal training and certification requirement for interior yacht crew.

This is exciting news. There has not been much formal training available, and there are varying standards and objectives for the training that does exist.

One of the challenges of yachting has always been the lack of a training or competency standard for interior staff, unlike the deck and engineering departments. Interior staff are on the front line with owners and guests, and it is their responsibility to ensure that everyone on board is having a fabulous, stress-free vacation, so you would think that training would be vital.

This lack of a standard means that, on the one hand, crew may not know what is expected of them from one boat to the next, and on the other hand, owners may not know what skill sets they are getting from one crew member to the next.

Maybe a formal training and certification requirement will sort everything out in the long run. I just hope that there will be a competency exam so that qualified and properly trained crew can get credit for their experience and test out of the system without being required to repeat classes.

As business guru Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured gets managed.”

I have always felt that interior crew are at a distinct disadvantage because we have little empirical data to measure. Much of our skill set is based on soft skills such as service or people skills, for which it is difficult to measure proficiency.

One solution is the use of checklists and task sheets combined with frequent inspection and regular feedback to be sure our expectations are being met. The importance of offering praise, correction and constructive criticism builds the framework for a basic system of measuring and managing the progress of soft skills.

The management of service skills can be particularly challenging, because there is conflicting information available and various methods are being taught in courses.

Many times, the solution to this dilemma means simply learning the basic rules and knowing the “correct” way to perform certain duties, but then remembering that rules are meant to be broken.

A large portion of our jobs is based on subjective experience.In other words, we may know the “correct” way, (after all, we just took a silver service course), but in reality, the right way for our particular boat is based on subjective interpretation. Basically, whatever the owner or chief stew says is “the rule” determines what type of service we deliver.

In addition to mastering basic skills, it is important to learn the practical and historical significance of the various sectors of our job. Knowing more about our work environment increases the level of interest and motivates us to do better. It also helps us understand the value of the things we care for.

For instance, the crystal glasses and stemware we serve wine in can cost hundreds of dollars apiece. It would be wise to be aware of that and to know the proper way to care for them. It may seem kind of crazy at first, but if we understand the history and production process of various materials we work with, we can understand the value structure better.

There seem to be several schools of thought on the issue of training on the job, and a mandatory standard may help resolve this issue. Apparently, some team leaders do not take the initiative or accept responsibility for training their staff.

Whether because they are insecure about their own skill level, or because they think someone is going to take their job, refusal to train your staff leaves crew feeling deficient in their jobs. Even worse, crew who are not trained are not usually given much responsibility, and this is demotivating and demoralizing. Refusing to teach important skills to others can leave them feeling intimidated or humiliated.

The flip side of this issue is the claim that crew don’t want to listen or learn, which means they can’t be trained. There will always be that element of people who really don’t want to work, or don’t understand the scope of the work involved, and have less than honorable intentions.

Let’s face it, there is a huge social element in this industry and sometimes that is the reason people are on the job. Often their attention is more focused on after-work activities and it is hard to get them to focus on the work at hand.

When you try to show them how you want things done, they brush you off, with “oh, yeah, I know”, but then when you go back and check on them, they are doing a poor job. Lots of people are willing to train, but crew have to be willing to take instruction.

The bottom line is that no one can help you if you don’t want learn, and if you don’t want to learn then maybe this is not the right job for you. It’s not always easy. However, some of the best lessons of your life will come from the most difficult situations, and the right attitude and a little initiative can take you a long way in this industry.

Developing a formal training and certification requirement could be the best thing that ever happened to us, and I am really excited about that. The best way to predict the future just may be to create it.

Buying Little Chocolates for Turndowns Can be a Big Decision

Part of the five-star luxury service we provide for our guests on board is the turn-down service.

Turn-downs are usually done while the guests are having dinner. The practice involves removing and stowing heavy comforters and pillows, and then turning back the sheets and blanket on each side of the bed with a decorative fold and ironing the sheets and pillowcases so they look crisp and inviting.

It also includes checking and cleaning the room and bathroom one last time for the day so that everything is neat, tidy, and organized.

And last but not least, an important aspect of this ritual is leaving a last-minute sweet treat for guests to enjoy to promote a sense luxury and well-being.

One of the most common treats to leave is a beautiful piece of chocolate. The selection of chocolates available is remarkable. Each brand claims to be better than the last. Chocolatiers have been around for centuries, but in recent years there has been an increase in the number and type of gourmet and artisanal chocolate brands available.

We want to make the best choice when we purchase chocolates for turndowns by providing a high-quality product at a reasonable cost. But what is the difference between the various types and brands available?

All chocolate originates from the fermented, roasted and ground beans of the cacao or cocoa tree. A chocolate beverage consumed in Mesoamerica had been around for centuries before Christopher Columbus introduced cacoa beans to Spain.
Cacao beans were a prized commodity, and were used as currency throughout Central and South America and Mexico.

The Pre-Columbian peoples of the Americas drank chocolate beverages in many forms. They mixed it with chili pepper, maize and vanilla to make a foamy, spicy drink. Chocolate was not used simply for beverages; it was incorporated into Aztec, Mayan and Mexican cuisine in many ways.

Not everyone was eager to accept the mysterious new beverage. The French considered it a dangerous drug. Its popularity spread, however, and by 1615 it was the official drink of the French court.

By the 1700s it had become all the rage in Italy and England. In London, a milk chocolate drink was developed, which was initially used in apothecaries. The recipe was eventually sold to the Cadbury Brothers.

In the 19th century, John Cadbury developed a process for emulsifying chocolate and created the first chocolate bar. Interestingly enough, the Cadburys were a Quaker family, and were encouraging the general public to give up alcohol consumption and drink chocolate instead.

Eventually, as a result of religious persecution, many of the Quaker families fled England and settled in the American colony of Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn in 1862. By 1864 several thousand Quakers had settled in Pennsylvania, including one Milton Hershey. Chocolate kisses, anyone?

During the Industrial Revolution (18th-19th Century) a Dutch chocolate master invented the chocolate press, which extracted cocoa oil and left behind the dry powder we know as cocoa. This was the innovation that made chocolate affordable to the common man. A number of manufacturers began producing chocolate, including Cadbury, Fry, Nestle , Lindt and Hershey.

Today chocolate is one of the most popular and recognizable flavors in the world. It is contained in candies, ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies, and other desserts. Although cocoa originated in the Americas, today most chocolate comes from Africa.

Everyone has an opinion about the best brand of chocolate, but I thought it would be fun to think outside the box a bit, and so I have looked up the top 10 Chocolate Destinations. They are:

No. 10: Cologne, Germany, home of the Stollwerck Chocolate company

No. 9: Tain L’Hermitage, France, home of the famed Valrhona Chocolate company and esteemed chocolate cooking school

No. 8: Hershey, Pennsylvania, dubbed “The Sweetest Place on Earth”

No. 7: New York City, where you can take the New Cuisine Chocolate Tour, or the Luxury Chocolate tour, for starters

No. 6: Villajoyosa, Spain, home to Spain’s oldest gourmet chocolate producer, Valor

No. 5: San Francisco, home of Ghirardelli’s Chocolates

No. 4: Oaxaca, Mexico, the world’s first chocolatiers

No. 3: Barcelona, the first Europeans to experience chocolate, and a center of chocolate production ever since

No. 2: Zurich. The Swiss consume more chocolate per capita than any other country; take a ride on the Swiss Chocolate Train

No. 1: Brussels, the chocolate capital of the world, home to Godiva, Leonidas, and Zaabar

Just remember the four basic food groups, and you can’t go wrong: Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.

Old Faithful Vinegar and Water Cleans, and Protects Interiors

One of the biggest responsibilities of being a stewardess is maintaining and protecting the interior surfaces of the boat.

Environmental build-up can quickly cause damage to surfaces so it is important to schedule and carry out routine maintenance and cleaning procedures; neglecting to do so can be a costly mistake.

I rely on the old-faithful vinegar-and-water solution (1 part water to 1 part white vinegar) and a mild soap-and-water solution (2 or 3 drops of Ivory dish soap in a spray bottle of water) for general cleaning purposes. They both work really well and are much more environmentally friendly than many of the options on the market.

Three or four gallons of vinegar should be enough for several months, and a single bottle of Ivory liquid soap will go a long way. Collect spray bottles from every cleaning area, divide them evenly and fill some with your vinegar solution and some with the soap solution. Store the remaining supplies until you need a refill.

Most stews are responsible for taking care of sinks, countertops, small kitchen appliances, cutting boards, etc., either in the stew pantry, the bar or in the crew mess. Even if we are just lending the chef a hand in the galley, there are some important things to take into consideration to avoid causing damage to any of the surfaces or appliances.

So let’s start with the stew pantry, crew galley, bar and main galley. Many of these same recommendations will apply to bathrooms and counters throughout the boat, but we’ll concentrate on those areas in more detail next month.

Butcher blocks and cutting boards. There are two options here: Disinfect them by moistening a cloth with white vinegar and wiping down the surface, or sprinkle coarse salt on the board and rub it around with half a lemon, cut side down. In both cases, the acetic acid in the vinegar or the lemon kills bacteria.

Follow with a mild soap-and-water solution, then mist the block with plain water to wipe away any soap residue. Finally, pat dry with a clean cloth. If the wood gets too wet it could split or warp.

Counter tops and sinks. Solid surface high-gloss finishes do well with a vinegar-and-water solution. Matte and satin finishes are better off with a mild soap-and-water solution. Stone and stainless steel surfaces benefit from this soap-and-water solution followed with the proper polish or sealant.

Glazed ceramic tile. Mix one capful of rubbing alcohol with 1 gallon of water. Avoid using oil-based soaps or ammonia, which can yellow the grout. Avoid vinegar, too, since the acidity can damage grout.

Unglazed ceramic tile. Use a mild soap-and-water solution.

Faucets and fixtures. The key for all fixtures is to avoid ammonia, steel wool and abrasive cleaners or pads, which can strip or scratch the fixtures. Use a mild soap-and-water solution to clean, then apply the proper polish according to package directions.

Refrigerators. It is tempting to use bleach to disinfect the refrigerator. However, too much bleach damages many surfaces, and it is highly toxic. A healthier alternative is to dissolve 2 tablespoons of baking soda in one quart of warm water and use on a damp towel to wipe doors, shelves and walls. If you must use bleach, dilute one part bleach to three parts warm water and always use in a well-ventilated area.

Stoves and ovens. Be aware of any special finishes that your oven may have depending on whether it is a conventional, self-cleaning, or continuous-cleaning oven. Oven cleaners, powdered cleansers and abrasives will damage the finish on continuous and self-cleaning ovens. Some oven cleaners contain lye, which can seriously burn your skin, so always wear gloves for protection. Check the manual for instructions, or go online for this information.

Cabinets and drawers. Vacuum up crumbs and grit. Most cabinets and drawers are best cleaned with a mild soap-and-water solution. Dry with a cloth as you work to avoid saturating the wood.

Appliances. To descale water deposits in coffee makers, pour two to three cups of water and an equal amount of white vinegar into the water chamber and hit the brew button. Turn the machine off halfway through the cycle and allow the solution to sit inside the chamber for an hour, then turn it back on to complete the cycle. Run two cycles of plain water through to rinse out any leftover vinegar.

To descale mineral deposits in the dishwasher, fill the detergent cup with white vinegar and run an empty cycle. Don’t forget to wipe out the dishwasher occasionally and to scrub the racks’ wheels (where bacteria hide) with a toothbrush.

Baking soda and water can be used to scour the blade on an electric can opener.

To freshen and clean the microwave oven, place a coffee mug filled with water and a few slices of lemon inside and run on high power for three minutes. Let the lemon water sit inside for three more minutes. The steam will soften food spills and the lemon will eliminate odors.

To clean a toaster or toaster oven, unplug the appliance and remove the crumb tray. Remove any racks from a toaster oven and clean with a soap-and-water solution. A wet pastry brush can be used to clean the slots of a regular toaster. If the outside of the appliance is chrome, crumple a ball of aluminum foil (shiny side out) and rub off rust spots, being careful to only rub the affected areas so you don’t scratch the surface.

That about wraps up this segment covering surfaces, appliances, and items in the stew pantry, crew mess and galley areas.