A few years ago I started teaching 5-day and 10-day classes on interior yacht service. I like to study many aspects of service and I like to teach the “why”, not just the “how” of service. I know I can teach you how to perform the skills you need to succeed, but what I really want to inspire you to do, is to learn to think. I tend to have a lot of random information rattling around in my head, and I hope you will find it as interesting and inspiring as I have.
Long before I knew what a blog was, one of my students, Libby, suggested I write one. Here goes nothing! This first one’s for you, Libby…
Welcome to my world, to the travels, the trials, and the tribulations of a superyacht stewardess. In my 20 years of service onboard yachts ranging from 60′-200′, I have traveled and worked in the Caribbean, Alaska, Florida, the Bahamas, New England, Spain, England, Scotland, France, Italy, Turkey,Greece, Norway, Holland, and Switzerland.
I have always been an early riser, and one of my greatest joys has been exploring a new port before everything is open for business. I like to see how a town comes to life. The first thing I try to find is a local coffee shop so I can grab an espresso or latte to enjoy while I watch the shopkeepers and open-air markets setting up for the day. I love the little espresso bars in Italy where people whip in on their Vespas, lean on the bar and enjoy a quick shot of espresso as an antidote to their oh-so obvious hangovers, and then off they go! to I enjoy checking out the bakeries, butcher shops, produce stands, fish markets, flower vendors and even tabacs as they set up for business.
A lot of what I’ve learned about people comes from learning about the foods that they eat. Cultures that care a lot about food often have deep traditions about history, culture, and life in general.
Sometimes it seems that here in America we have lost our sense of history and tradition. Our culture is really a mix of traditions and ideas from all over the world. Society is so fast-paced nowadays that there isn’t time to pass the old ideas about things on. Family traditions, rituals and even manners seem to be a thing of the past.
One of the first things people observe when they get into yachting is the manners and traditions of our crewmates, who are often from different countries. It turns out that people have strong beliefs about the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ ways to behave. We talk about this initially in my classes, because the mix of the nationalities of crew will have an effect on how the crew gets along and how well they work as a team. Our ideas about service, what prompted is to get into the industry, and our work ethic say a lot about us. It is interesting to talk about this as a group and learn new things about each other.
As the interior service staff, we are known as yacht stewards and stewardesses. When I talk to people outside of the industry, they often comment that these titles are old-fashioned and sexist terms. I know that to be true, but to me the title confers a special status that “outsiders” don’t understand. I consider it an honor to be part of the yachting world, and I respect the honor and traditions of “old school” yachting.
We are in the hospitality business, and hospitality is definitely a team sport. The boat has to be perfect outside, inside, in the engine room and in the galley. There is lot of fussing about the interior service delivery process: the food, the activities, the table decorations, the flowers, the wine, and the meal service itself. But really, this is all secondary to something much more important. Really, it’s about the guests, isn’t it? It’s about creating an uplifting, enjoyable, positive human experience and about creating human relationships. As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people may forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That’s what it’s really all about for us. We are in the feel good business. And I hope that what I share with you will make you feel good about what you do. I know how hard it is to be a yacht stew. It is not all glitz and glamour. There is plenty of hard physical labor along the way. Let’s hope it turns out to be a labor of love.