Everything you need to know about yacht hospitality roles

Everything you need to know about yacht hospitality roles 

By Georgia Tindale 

To the uninitiated, a job working on board a superyacht can seem a thousand miles away from the everyday reality of working ashore in other hospitality roles, thanks, in large part, to its perceived glamour, incredible travel opportunities and competitive salary. 

Although this can, of course, quite literally be the case – depending on whether or not you fancy tackling a trip in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – the story is a more complicated one. 

Here, we speak to Gemma Hulbert, Sophie Wells and Rachael Avara. All former chief stews, and now Company Founder and Online Trainers respectively, they are just some of the expert team behind ‘The Yacht Stew’ which boasts the accolade of being one of the world’s largest global communities of superyacht stews, to discover what makes service roles on yachts so different from those found on dry land.

What is the most obvious difference to you between yacht service roles and other hospitality roles? 

Gemma Hulbert: The first thing that pops straight into my mind is the high level of personalisation for each guest on board a yacht. If we notice, for example, that everything is eaten on their plate except two pieces of broccoli, we will make a note of it for future reference and record it in their preferences. 

During that hour of meal service, you are effectively the eyes of the chef, as they can’t see the table, and you never go more than four or five minutes without communicating how everything is going with the galley. 

We will also talk to the chef after every single meal about what was and was not well received by our guests, which I don’t feel would be the case, even in the highest-end restaurants on land. 

You wouldn’t go back to the chef and say, “Oh, by the way, table three said they didn’t like the potatoes salted this way – let’s make them another portion.” On private boats especially, you come to know the guests so well that you can anticipate their needs before they are even aware of them!

What is important in your view to succeeding in a yacht hospitality job? 

Rachael Avara: One important factor for me is that of cultural understanding. If the owners and/or guests are from a different country to you, make an effort to try and learn their language. My first owners were French, and we were based in Monaco, and I thought all French people hated me because I was American. 

But then I realised it was just because I wasn’t trying to speak their language. So I altered that and said ‘bonjour’, when they came on board – they really appreciated even that very small gesture, as it showed them that I did care enough to try!

How does the perception of working on board a yacht match up with reality? 

Sophie Wells: Before I started, I had the perception that it would just be like a big working holiday, and that you’d be spending lots of time with your friends and making really great connections straight away with the rest of the crew. But this is not always the case – you might be on a boat where there might not be that many people you gel with, so it can actually be quite lonely. 

This is why communities like ‘The Yacht Stew’ are so important for bringing the industry together. If you put the effort in, there are loads of people out there who can support you and you can make lifelong friends. But it’s certainly not a jolly like I thought it was: it’s a very professional and serious working environment and not always the rosé lunches that you see on Instagram. 

Finally, how is it best to approach speaking to owners? Many people entering the industry might be a little nervous about this.

Gemma Hulbert: The tip I used to share with my girls when I was a chief stew is to always go in more formal than you think you may need to, because you can always tone it down, but if you are too informal, you can really offend someone. Always go in with ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’, and if they say. ‘Oh you can call me Mrs A’, then you can follow that. 

You need to choose the language you use very carefully. Something that one of my previous owners taught me, which will stay with me for life, is whenever I was asked a question or asked to fulfil a request, she said “I don’t ever want to hear you responding with ‘no problem’, because if I am asking you for something, it is never a problem – that is a negative, because the first word you are saying is ‘no’. You are immediately coming to me with a ‘no’, and it should be ‘most certainly’, or ‘absolutely, we will organise that for you right away.” 

It may seem like a small thing, but the nuances of how you talk are so important and can make all the difference in how you well you come across to the owners and guests, helping you secure that future position on board.

To find out more about the exciting range of roles offered within the yachting industry, visit our Yotspot jobs listings here.