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Stew Confession: I was overwhelmingly star-struck by a yacht guest once (and only once)

This yacht stewardess “confession” is an excerpt from The Insiders Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess. I’m posting it in honor of the fact that I re-met this individual when I was in the British Virgin Islands last month.

Upon introducing myself this time, I did not mention that we met 14 years ago when I was his yacht stewardess. (Not that he would have remembered me — let’s be honest, I was hired help on the first round, only there to clean his toilet.) Nor did I mention the fact that I’d been a finalist for a reality show he starred in back in 2004. (But boy would I like to know if he ever saw that audition tape. I’m rather certain he did since I made it to the semi-final round… But would he remember? Doubtful.)

So to make up for the fact that I mentioned neither of these things when we came face to face last month and he asked our group (collectively) where we were from, I’m posting this here on my blog. This is exactly how the tale appears in my book, where the individual’s identity is withheld. It’s really pretty obvious, so I will include a couple photos of the not-so-mysterious “Sir X X” at the end of this post…

And as a final side note, I wrote this 10 years ago when I was a tad bit more impressionable than I am today. He’s still a cool dude, and he’s still an idol of mine, but at the end of the day, he’s a person just like you and me. I do love the odd circumstances that have led to my encounters with him over the years though. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to pitch a business idea to him someday. Or maybe I’ll just carry on admiring his business savvy and zest for life. Yes, he rocks.

I Must Confess…

I was overwhelmingly star-struck by a yacht guest once (and only once).

Wouldn’t you know, but with only one person on the planet (other than Madonna) who could have left me star-struck, it just so happened that he turned up as a guest of a guest for a two-night stay onboard during the Monaco Grand Prix.

Monaco Grand Prix Superyachts and Crowd

Photo Credit Alliance/ and

I received word that this individual would be joining us only moments before his actual arrival. I’m not sure how I then missed the boisterous frenzy taking place on the dock as his brigade of vehicles turned up, drawing hordes of paparazzi and fans, but I did. Instead, I was down in the lower cabin he’d be staying in, sprucing up the pillows just one last time. Once I felt the room looked picture perfect, I vacated the cabin and went darting up the stairs to go perform one last celebration dance for my fellow crewmembers (which meant doing some victory-signifying arm motions while chanting “Sir X X is coming, Sir X X is coming” in an annoying, sing-songy voice).

But, as I reached the top of the stairs and made that final dash around a blind corner—BAM!—yeah, guess who I plowed right into? Sir X X.

And yes, it was literally physical contact that I made with him—not quite a body slam, but definitely more impactful than a gentle “brush with fame.” He was receiving a tour from the main charter guest, who took this opportunity to diffuse the awkwardness of the moment by giving us a more formal introduction: “Julie, I’d like for you to meet my distinguished guest, who will be staying onboard the next two nights, Sir X X.”

Okay, it was my turn. I was supposed to say something. But I froze! Not only was I a bit shell-shocked from the collision, but th-th-this was my hero! My idol! The man whose framed photo sat on my desk back home. This wasn’t an infatuation based on physical attraction, but rather, admiration for accomplishments; to me, this person is the mogul of all moguls, and one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. And oh my, was I screwing up my one shot to say, “Hello, I’m Julie. It’s nice to meet you.” That should have come easily.

But you see, in yacht-stewardess training school, one of the things they teach you is how to address various types of dignitaries, such as royalty and heads of state. “Sir X X,” as you can tell by the title I write here, is a Knight of the British Empire. But, in that instant, all of those formal titles for individuals of distinction that I’d crammed into my brain for my stew-certification test came flashing at me. I knew that the proper way to address this individual, as one who was knighted, was Sir X X. And yes, duh, that was it. All I had to do was say, “It’s an honor to meet you, Sir.” Sir. However, at that moment, the only words coming to me were ones like Duke, King, Lord… even Lady, Dame, and Your Royal Highness.

Blubbering helplessly, I came up with something along the lines of: “Nice to meet you, Sss…Um…Yes…Hi… Welcome aboard.”

He smiled big, shook my sweaty hand, and said something quintessentially British and Knightly about it being a pleasure to meet me, too.

Thank goodness over the course of the next two days I was able to redeem myself from that awkward introduction by engaging him in pleasant conversations on more than one occasion. I got to show him how to make an outside call from his cabin phone, I served him some killer cappuccinos on the aft deck two mornings in a row, and when I entered his room to help him carry his luggage out upon his departure, he emptied every last bit of change from his pockets, turned to me, and said, “I don’t feel like carrying these coins around, so I’m leaving them. Please do not think this is meant to be a tip, for I will be leaving that with the captain.”

Ha! A billionaire’s pocket change. It amounted to nearly 100 U.S. dollars, but to me, it was even more valuable. To this day, I still have some of the coins.

A special note: It’s quite scary when you meet one of your lifelong heroes—you fear that the person might not live up to your expectations. Believe it or not, this guest I just mentioned was the friendliest, classiest, and most down-to-earth guest I ever had onboard. Those two memorable days were among the best of my entire yachting career.

So here’s who it was:

Richard Branson on Necker Island

A photo of Sir X X (Richard Branson) when Julie ran into him on his very own Necker Island last month – January 2014. He was out for a morning stroll and was incredibly friendly and welcoming to our group, taking the time to ask us each where we were from.

Richard Branson Audition for Rebel Billionaire

A picture from when Julie auditioned for Richard Branson’s reality TV show The Rebel Billionaire. Photo taken April 2004. (And yes, she had that shirt made to get the casting agents’ attention, if not Sir Richard’s.) She made it to the semi-finals before being cut. And that’s life.

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Read more yacht crew confessions from Julie Perry by picking up a copy of her book, The Insiders’ Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess, 2nd Edition.

Don’t want to wait? Start learning more about what it’s really like to live and work “below deck” with a career in the luxury yachting industry by downloading Chapter 1 here.

The Insiders Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess 2nd Edition by Julie Perry Download Chapter 1