For fans of Bravo TV’s Below Deck I’m sure the level of detailed cleaning and over-attentive service that chief stew Adrienne is stressing to third stew Sam seems anal, but that is what is expected in the yachting industry—especially when working on megayachts of M/Y Honor’s caliber. As a former stew, I remember thinking it was obnoxious when I first started as well.
In Sam’s defense, like many young women (and men) coming into yachting for the first time, she is learning the ropes. And I know I can’t imagine doing my first season as a yacht stewardess in front of television cameras.
So, Sam’s obviously learning that being a yacht stewardess is not for her. It’s also apparent that she never read a detailed job description of what being a yacht steward/ess entails. There’s no crime there. But she definitely could use an attitude adjustment. Talking to her superior—let alone anyone—with that tone is maddening for viewers. I keep trying to cut Sam some slack knowing she’s just new to it all, but when she cops that attitude, it’s hard to do.
Personally, I think it just shows her age and lack of real-world work experience. Sam’s made it known that her education has qualified her to “solve friggen rockets,” but if she thinks her engineering degree puts her above having to hustle to provide the service required (or to take time to learn from someone who has far more experience), then she shouldn’t have signed up for the job. (Oh wait, she signed up to be on a T.V. show, not to take her job seriously, be a team player, and have a sense of urgency to get things done the way they’re supposed to be done. Got it.)
It’s frustrating to watch on the show, but it’s not altogether uncommon for young graduates coming out of college with an array of academic accolades to get this cold slap of reality; and that’s in any job. You can learn a lot in college, but you can’t learn how to have a strong work ethic. That’s innate or something you develop growing up.
Got a college degree? Great, you’ve proven you can acquire knowledge and pass tests. But we don’t care what you know now—we care what you DO. And with regard to being a yacht stewardess, that means a lot of physical labor. It also requires taking care of other people, which means getting over yourself. (Note to future stews: cleaning toilets is a pretty humbling experience.)
To Be honest, I Was Once A Lot Like Sam…(but I got over it fast)
I have to be honest, when I first came into yachting, I was pretty taken aback by what all was required of a yacht stew. I had a chief stew once that we called “a female Hitler” (and funny enough, her name was Sam!)… In retrospect though, I was just immature and didn’t “get” why she was so demanding. I also didn’t know what I didn’t know. So I can definitely relate to Bravo Sam’s reaction, even though my experience was a decade ago.
In the end, it was my chief stew Sam’s incredible organization, attention to detail, and hardcore demands of the other crew that taught me the most about being a stew. In fact, she taught me so much that I really can credit her professionalism and strong work ethic (that I sadly lacked at age 24) for turning me into a good yacht stewardess. I am convinced that her challenging me the way she did also helped me develop the work ethic I have today.
Years later, as I’ve been in management roles in my land-based career, I’ve had to be that “bad guy,” who must be the disciplinarian and taskmaster over staff that I know are rolling their eyes at me as I walk away. It’s not easy to be a manager in any job, especially when you have someone who thinks they know better… or who you can’t trust not to go take a nap every time you turn your head.
So while Adrienne could perhaps handle the management role a bit more professionally and adjust the manner in which she speaks to the other stews, there is also a part of me that feels her frustration.
To be fair, Adrienne Gang has spent the last 7-8 years working mainly as a yacht chef or a stew-chef, with stewardess roles on yachts that are in the 80- to 120-foot category. What that means is that she’s never had to manage other stews, nor has she handled steward/ess duties on a yacht this size. Furthermore, as we witness with Below Deck’s Chef Ben, yacht chefs are used to working much more independently. In talking to Adrienne since the start of the show, she is the first to acknowledge that she has a little more to learn in terms of proper management techniques.
…Moreover, with regard to working on a yacht, keep in mind that it is a lot harder to manage a team that you must live among as well. A double-tough job for chief stews, no doubt.
Being Yacht Crew is Demanding, But Also Consider Who You’re Serving
Back to the insane work demands that Adrienne has placed on her fellow stews: I must point out that, in the real world of crewing on yachts, the stories out there of yacht owners and guests coming aboard and ridiculing the crew for the smallest of cleanliness details are pretty shocking. Things like an owner’s wife running her fingers along the tops of picture frames on the wall that are WAY above eye-level, and then making a big deal about a small amount of dust that is found. (Every stew I know has her insane war stories, the worst being about owners, not charterers.)
While the charter guests coming aboard Honor for the show don’t seem that over-the-top, they are also not the typical “super-rich” guests that charter a megayacht of that size. I worked on the sister ship to M/Y Honor—a 164-foot Benetti that was launched just a year earlier with the same exact look and interior layout of what you’re seeing on Below Deck. In fact, I attended the christening of “Honor” (in reality named M/Y Cuor di Leone) when she launched as M/Y Lionheart in 1999:
…and the type of guests that come aboard a yacht of that caliber for 7+ days at $25,000 per day, before food, fuel, docking fees, and crew tip, are typically big, BIG money. Certainly much wealthier than any of the guests we’ve seen on Below Deck thus far. Keep in mind, these guests on Bravo’s Honor are only on for three days at what Gawker.com reported was just $50,000 for the whole trip. Ha! You’ll be hard pressed to find many yachts that will charter for only three days, and normally, as Gawker.com also points out, M/Y Cuor di Leone charters for $200,000 per week. Again, that is the charter fee BEFORE guests pay for food, fuel, docking fees, and crew tip.
The guests who can afford the type of expense it usually costs to vacation on a megayacht like Honor are used to their living environments being pristine. Watermarks on bathroom mirrors and in bathroom sinks might as well be massive splatters of mud. (No Adrienne, don’t pick up a rag; pick up a toothbrush.) ;-)
…So while Adrienne’s attention to detail and her demands of Sam may seem odd, she is experienced and has also been trained properly by taking interior-crew training for steward/esses. Kudos to Kat for her great work ethic, too. She is definitely helping to make up for the struggles of having to work with an inexperienced crewmember.
If wanting to work on superyachts, let that be a lesson: You do it the way it should be done, or you walk the plank. And it’s far better to face the wrath of a fellow crewmember than the wrath of an owner; or the wrath of a charter guest who is also supposed to tip you. At the level of money people are at who own these vessels, their version of clean (right or wrong) is at a much higher standard than what most of us expect… or even notice, for that matter. And you can bet they are going to change dinner plans on you at some point. But guess what? At $25,000 a day, they can.
In the end, it sucks for both Kat and Adrienne when they can’t count on Sam to pull her weight. Shape up or ship out, for sure. When you have guests onboard (or coming onboard), it isn’t about YOU. It’s a service job, for crying out loud. As I’ve mentioned above, one of the benefits a person can gain from taking a job on a luxury yacht like Honor is to get over yourself. There’s no room for an attitude or coming off with a sense of entitlement when you’re providing service on million-dollar superyachts. I hope by the end of the season, Sam is able to realize that lesson.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about what it requires to become a yacht crewmember, or what the demanding yacht owners and guests are often like, please consider checking out my book, The Insiders’ Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess. Originally published in 2006 and used by hundreds of yacht crew out there today, I have updated it and am releasing the 2nd edition on August 1st. Adrienne Gang has written the Foreword for the 2nd edition, and according to both her and Kat, it tells you all you need to know!
Read more from the book, including information about megayachts, who owns them, where they travel, and what the guests are like by downloading Chapter 1 here.
Cheoy Lee says
Interesting post, It is interesting how much work is required in manning a yacht, I have a lot of respect for yachting staff!