From the BlogSubscribe Now

Yacht Stew Confession: I screwed up my first time day working (and I even took my toothbrush!)

A sample “Confession” from The Insiders’ Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess: Confessions from My Years Afloat with the Rich and Famous: When Julie was learning the ropes of what “detailing” (a.k.a. hardcore cleaning) meant in the yachting industry, she had no idea just how detailed they meant… Nor what key weapon she would need in her arsenal…

I Must Confess…

I screwed up my first time day working…(and I even took my toothbrush!)

Toothbrushes: A Yacht Steward/esses' Secret Weapon

A Yacht Steward/esses’ Secret Weapon
Photo Source:

     When I first started looking for a job in the luxury yachting industry, I accepted an offer for day work. I was hired by a 140-ft. yacht to help the full-time stewardesses get the vessel ready to exhibit at the Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show coming up a week later. The boat was going to be shown off to potential buyers and charterers, so it was essential that every inch of the interior be spotless.

     Nervous for my first day of day working (or working on any yacht, period, for that matter), I turned to the more experienced crew staying in my crew house for advice. There was one thing everyone agreed upon as for how to make a killer first impression:

     “Take a toothbrush,” I was told.

     That’s right, a toothbrush. And no, it’s not because I was to expect a last minute invite to an onboard slumber party. Rather, I was advised to use it as a cleaning tool. One experienced stewardess I lived with referred to it as “a magic weapon,” and another called it, “a stew’s best friend.” As silly as I felt (are they playing a joke on me? I wondered), I showed up for my first day-work job with my trusty toothbrush in tow.

     My assignment on the first day was to clean the master cabin and its accompanying bathroom (the most elaborate “head” on the yacht). Well, I got right to it… I scrubbed, and I cleaned, and I polished, and along the way, I came to understand what the stews back at my crew house had been talking about. What better way to get into every possible crevice when cleaning something than to use a toothbrush? Ridges in the ceilings, build-up around tiny faucet fixtures, discoloration in the grout surrounding marble floor tiles…right down to the toilets! The only cleaning utensil that may give the toothbrush a run for its money as far as attacking those hard-to-reach places would be a cotton swab.

     In the end, I thought I did what would be deemed an impeccable job. (But thought is the key word there.)

     I still remember the disappointed look on the chief stewardess’s face as she scanned the results of my labor. Surveying my mirrors and floors, and all around the knobs and door handles, she scrunched up her nose the way people do when the smell of something is not to their liking. She was obviously not happy with my work.

     As she turned to me to comment, I swear she took on the image of Miss Hannigan in the musical Annie, when she shouts to the orphan girls, “You’ll stay up ’til this dump SHINES like the top of the Chrysler Building!” Or maybe it was the movie Mommy Dearest and the “No more wire hangers!” routine.

     Either way, she suggested quite sternly that I pay more attention to detail. I realized then there was definitely a lot more to learn in this line of work.

     The moral of this story? The toothbrush alone does not the good stew maketh. (But use it anyway.)

Yacht Stewardesses at Work

Yacht Stewardesses at Work
Photo Credit: Suki Finnerty of YachtingToday.TV

Line Break

     Make no mistake about it, keeping the interior of a megayacht in pristine condition is one of the most important parts of the being a yacht stew. If you think you know what clean means, think again. When it comes to the interiors of these yachts, nothing is ever clean enough!

     One of the things that amazed me when I landed my first full-time job and stepped into a 2nd stew position on a 164-foot yacht was the myriad cleaning products I was shown for my use. The variety was astonishing, as was the range of different surfaces I was expected to clean. We’re talking opulent surfaces, ones you may never have encountered before: gold sinks and gold-plated fixtures, marble floors, hand-crafted tiles, soft-finished woods, suede chairs, granite countertops, upholstered walls, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors, some of which twist around elaborate spiral staircases.

      In fact, when a full-time steward/ess starts the day on Housekeeping duty, it’s wise to come armed with a well-stocked cleaning caddy. And there’s a lot more than just a toothbrush in there…

A Yacht Stew’s Cleaning-Caddy Essentials:

  • a glass cleaner
  • diaper rags (cloth out-cleans disposable paper products, hands down)
  • a vinegar and water mix (the cheapest, most effective cleaning “product” out there)
  • a non-abrasive cleaner or some type of bath scrub
  • a scrub brush
  • a sponge or two
  • an all-purpose cleaner such as Formula 409 (used mainly in the crew areas)
  • tons of cotton swabs (the key to hitting those hard-to-reach places)
  • a toothbrush (the key to hitting those even harder-to-reach places)
  • toilet bowl cleaner (let’s stop talking about those hard-to-reach places)
  • toilet bowl brush (do not use the ones in the guest cabins—you carry your own)
  • diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap or some other wood cleaner (no Pledge comes onboard a yacht, as it can strip varnish)
  • a leather chamois (pronounced “shammy”), which is used for drying guest showers and tubs
  • air freshener (the more neutral the better, as guests may have allergies or sensitive noses)
  • a roll of mini trash bags
  • a feather duster (these are useless, but they look good)
  • latex or rubber gloves
  • the Glove—as in the white glove (just in case you get asked to serve something as you breeze through a room, and you’ve just been cleaning toilets two minutes earlier)

     And I’m sure there are plenty more items that could be added to that list.

     Where are those current yacht stews out there right now? If you’re reading this, tell me what essentials I’ve missed!

Line Break

     Read more “Stew Confessions” from the book, along with information about megayachts, who owns them, where they travel, and what the guests are like by downloading Chapter 1 here.

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


  1. Mommy Dearest says

    Loved this chapter especially the clip about the wire hangers.

  2. Microfiber cloths…Sprayaway glass cleaner …Shadazzle metal cleaner and polish …the entire line of Method natural cleaning products

    • Thanks for the valuable recommendations for the list!

      No doubt future and current yacht stews can learn a lot of additional tips for cleaning on board in your book, “The Yacht Service Bible” — not to mention a ton of other great stew tips.

      Thanks for dropping by my blog!



  1. […] bathroom sinks might as well be massive splatters of mud. (No Adrienne, don’t pick up a rag; pick up a toothbrush.) […]