The Superyacht industry is truly a unique place to work, and as such you can easily get swept up in the drama that can be associated with living in a bubble.
Mindfulness seems to be the ‘buzz’ word of this generation. His Holiness the Dali lama lives by it, Deepak Chopra teaches it and the Harvard Medical School students are writing research reports about it.
So why is mindfulness receiving so much attention these days, especially since the world is getting busier and busier.
We make a plan for the weekend whilst watching TV and playing with the dog
We fold the washing whilst watching the kids,
We eat our lunch whilst sat at our desk for 8 hours without a break
We drive our cars around on auto pilot
We “do, do, do, do, do, do,” all day long without engaging our brains into the one single activity that we are actually doing at the time.
The super yacht stewardess does the all of the above, just in a different way. Her day is just as busy as the regular woman at home.
This article will explain what mindfulness is, how it comes to be and how we can master mindfulness in with our busy daily schedules.
What is Mindfulness?:
“Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgement” (Siegel 2009, Harvard Health Publications).
The History of Mindfulness:
The art of mindfulness has been around for generations with strong roots being founded in Buddhism, however every religion, prayer group and meditation practices, teach us to be aware of the present moment and leave the preoccupying thoughts behind. For those readers who are not religious at all then you will be pleased to know that science is now taking an interest in mindfulness as it helps to reduce the effects of stress on our bodies and minds, which results in a happier more positive outlook on life. Mindfulness also decreases psychological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleep and mood disorders.
Mastering the Art of Mindfulness:
Mindfulness is being present in the mind at the present moment, it is being aware of your body, mind and spirit; it is paying attention to words, tasks, feelings, and atmosphere. Mindfulness is not some new age “mumbo jumbo” nonsense created by hippies and social outcasts to shame the rest of us for living extravagant lives; it is a way of thinking and a way of being that EVERYONE has instant access to regardless of your personal beliefs or religious followings.
We can cultivate and nurture mindfulness through various mediums, such as:
Basic mediation and mindfulness. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing, let the thoughts come in and out, do not judge these thoughts or put any pressure on yourself at this time. Practice a mantra out loud or quietly to yourself; the idea here is to systematically focus your attention on what you are doing and how you are feeling.
Body sensations: Notice any subtle or strong sensations in your body, notice they don’t think about them or judge them, now let them pass.
Sensory: Notice, smells, sounds, sights, colours, tones, taste and touch, do not judge them and let them pass.
Emotions and urge surging: Coping with cravings can be challenging for us all; so the idea here is to notice how your body is responding to the urge. Replace the physical urge with knowledge, that in time it will pass. You are aware that nothing ever stays the same and life is a continual river of change. You have the power within you to resist the urge.
By practicing mindfulness techniques, daily you will slowly be empowered to take your life into your own hands without judging yourself or placing unrealistic expectations upon your personal goals. It is about being kind to you and giving yourself the tools to handle all of life’s little challenges in a calm state of awareness.
The Mediterranean season is in full swing and for many superyacht stewardesses, this means long hours, difficult guests and draining colleagues.
It’s right about this time that the stewardess is not looking out to sea or enjoying the beautiful sunshine, but rather at the mountain high pile of towels in the laundry, dirty cabins and running from one of the yacht to the other, making sure that the guests have everything that they need and want.
Everyone desires a meaningful and fulfilling professional life. When you’re happy with your work, you feel more content, purposeful, and complete.
When you’re unhappy at work, the days seem long, you miss home, friends and family, and the daily stresses and negativity can build up and up until there is little room to conceal your feelings any more.
This can lead to poor decision making, a change in your personality, poor work performance and depression. The work of a superyacht stewardess can be mundane and boring, so it is right about this time that you may be asking yourself “What am I Doing Here”?
Whatever your motivation or trigger is that has led you to the point of resignation, ask yourself the following questions before you throw in the towel.
Questions to Ask Yourself If You want to Leave the Yachting Industry
Understand where your unhappiness comes from — is it specific to the type of work you do, who you work for, or is there a personality clash on board? This is a great starting point for understanding your unhappiness and a great place to make a change.
2. Do I need a job change or a life change?
Ask yourself: Is my unhappiness about my job, or life in general? Unhappiness in one part of life can have a cascading effect on the rest of what we do. Before taking action, make sure your focus is to resolve the primary cause of your discontent.
3. What are your professional goals?
What do you want to achieve professionally, and when? Are you currently on the path to achieve those goals? If not, what do you need to do or change about your current job and career path to get there?
4. What’s been missing for you professionally?
What are you lacking in your professional life? Recognition, compensation or advancement? When you know what’s missing, you can make plans to fill in the gaps, in your current position or elsewhere.
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10? 20?
Envisioning your future self is a great way to keep the bigger picture in mind. A simple envisioning exercise: close your eyes, clear the mind with a few minutes of breath awareness, meditation, and then look ahead five, 10 or 20 years.
Where are you working?
What have you achieved?
What does the rest of your life look like?
When you open your eyes, jot down what you saw. You can then take action to align your present life with the future.
6. What do you feel you were put on this earth to do?
This question is hard for many people but warrants deep thought if you’re considering a career change.
What do you feel in your heart you’re meant to do?
What work would bring you deep happiness and meaning to your life?
This may be something you can do outside of your current job – as a hobby or part-time interest. Or it might be worth pursuing wholeheartedly as a career.
Undertaking self-exploration work will allow you to understand what you need to be more fulfilled professionally. If you have financial obligations and other considerations that preclude making a significant job change, look for ways to incorporate what you learned about yourself in other areas of life.
Take action. Move towards the activities, interests, and people that resonate with you, and fulfilment will follow.
A lot of companies provide their staff with uniform workwear, especially if they have to perform some physical tasks or be in constant contact with guest and this is so true with superyacht crew.
Uniforms can make work personnel look more professional and it helps businesses appear more established and trustworthy. However, having all your crew wear uniform can be costly if not managed properly.
The establishment of specific applications such as a uniform inventory management program in superyachts can help reduce and even eliminate misuse and wastage of uniforms. It may even enhance the overall efficiency work operations.
The basic stock control system
A superyacht should have a uniform and even linen inventory management system in place. Large establishments use the bar code system in keeping their inventory updated and this can also be used in huge yachts, especially if the owner maintains more than one boat.
However, even if this type of system is quite effective, it can be very labour intensive because the success of the program relies on workers scanning every uniform on an individual basis. Unless this entire task is completed, you can never have a reliable inventory file.
It also requires a sizable amount of money because the boat owner has to purchase scanning equipment in order to track the uniforms effectively.
Super Yacht Crew Uniform:
Changing crew what to do with the old uniform There are large establishments which designate a uniform manager who takes care of the purchase, distribution, and handing out of uniforms. On a super yacht this is usually managed by the chief stewardess or the chief housekeeper on a mega yacht.
For the purpose of this chapter I will refer to the manager as the chief stewardess. The chief stewardess, in effect, takes care of the image of the yacht by making sure the crew wear the right uniforms and that these work clothes are maintained and are kept neat and clean at all times.
The chief stewardess, should conduct uniform inspections and check new uniforms when they arrive. She also tracks the number of uniforms needed and places the order for them.
She is in charge of stocking for future distribution. Most of the time, she also takes care of laundering, repair, and other maintenance jobs in connection with uniforms.
The Old Uniform
This is where a little common sense and good judgement comes into play and it is a bit of a no-brainer.
If the uniform is in good condition keep in and return it to the uniform stores.
If it is worn, then use it for down time.
If it is really worn then cut it up for rags.
Choose a Uniform Supplier
Whenever there is a need for new uniforms, the chief stewardess will buy them. She meets with clothing manufacturers and tailors to check for swatches and customize uniforms to the yacht’s specific standards.
This may include considerations regarding employee comfort when working at different temperatures and textile performance under strain. Especially when on board a boat. There are many uniform suppliers that can offer their services.
Please refer to the Yachting Pages for a full list of uniform suppliers in your area.
How to Store Uniform with Limited Space
The smart use of space on board is sometimes ignored in the boat industry. Making sure that you have enough space for storage can have a huge impact on a yacht’s efficiency. Making sure that you have ample room for uniform storage inside the boat can lead to a harmonious and productive staff.
Modern boat manufacturers make use of furniture to provide extra space. Most furniture inside super yachts serves more than one function. Sofas can be used for seating and storage as well. Deck benches can also act as stowage for shoes, towels, and a lot more. As with all stowage, make sure your inventories are kept up to date.
How much uniform should I order?
This is a question that I get asked A LOT, and to be honest, it really depends on so many variables, for example, the uniform requirements of a 30 m sailing yacht will be a lot different to that of a 120 m mega yacht.
Other factors to consider are as follows:
Is the yacht private or charter?
How often does the crew change?
How often do you change the style of the uniform?
How much storage do you have specifically for the uniform?
For general purposes, let’s look at a 50M private superyacht:
The uniform style stayed the same for a few years.
The crew changes on average every 2 years.
The owners are on board a moderate amount of time.
I understand that many other people would issue much more uniform, however, I think it is important to consider the crew’s living space, therefore if you pack the crew cabins with uniform then ultimately the uniform will get squashed and pushed around to accommodate personal belongings.
In the end, you will find that giving crew too much uniform will just make extra work for the stewardesses.
Note: The on charter uniform will vary with ties, epaulettes etc. per the yachts uniform design.
For a general overview, I would issue the following:
4 Polo shirts
1 Pull over
1 Day shoe
1 Night shoe 3
2 Night trousers/skirts
1 Spray jacket
1 Spray jacket
Concerning the engineers and the chefs. It is important that they have the same uniform as everyone else, as well as their technical uniforms. I would lessen the amount of general wear to 2 pieces each IE shorts, polos, T-shirts and issue them with the specific technical uniform that they require.
Super Yacht Crew Uniform
Below are just a few uniform suppliers to get you started, however, there are many places that you may visit to find that perfect crew uniform.
On a charter superyacht in season, it may be weeks before your next day off. You may be having to deal with, literally, the most demanding people on the planet for as many as 18 hours of the day.
In this environment perfection is a minimum requirement, and under these strains, a superyacht stewardess has to develop superhuman levels of patience. It’s not a job for everyone, but those who get a thrill from providing immaculate service in difficult circumstances have plenty of tips to share for those who are finding patience difficult to come by.
The role of a superyacht stewardess will open a window on how a tiny proportion of the world’s population lives. It’s a select few, and they can be unique in more ways than just their wealth.
Many will have unusual habits, make extravagant requests or have an unconventional manner, and it is up to you to adapt and apply a whole host of different skills while at their beck and call.
Your job description extends to all manner of odd-jobs and it’s up to you to master all of them. Just by way of introduction you’ll have to understand the nuances of international etiquette, keep watch at night, help the exterior crew, apply a silver dining service, help plan meals tailored to the guests’ tastes, maintain the cleanliness and tidiness of the yacht’s interior and perform a variety of laundry duties, many of which are personalisedfor the passengers.
Working in Customer Service
When dealing with billionaires, many of whom are staking their reputations on the smooth operation of their superyacht while their guests are on board, the word “no” is not in your vocabulary. Whatever the demand, and however outlandish it may seem, you are obliged to find a way to make it happen.
What’s more, it’s not just enough to meet the needs of your passengers, the role of a stewardess working in a 7* plus hospitality environment dictates that you should go about your work with a smile and cheerful air.
Experienced stewardesses talk about a gradual transformation into a service superhero, no matter the time of day and no matter how many days into a voyage. The rewards in tax-free salary and tips, which can be 10-15% of the charter, speak for themselves and make the effort worthwhile.
Patience with Professional Challenges
Out at sea, you may be confronted by any number of professional challenges. One of the most common is the universal truth of seafaring; some people will get sick.
This can be a particularly challenging situation to deal with. It’s not just the unpleasant task of cleaning up vomit quickly and efficiently, you will also have to attend to some poorly and most likely impatient passengers and make sure that they are as comfortable as possible.
Superyacht stewardesses also have to get used to the fact that there will be no set routine on board, especially during a charter. Your day will be dictated by the schedule and demands of the guests, and it’s up to you to change to ensure that you offer a bespoke experience for them.
Here, goal-related thinking will go a long way. A calm exterior and brave face will inspire confidence and peace of mind for your guests, and there’s a good chance it will be rewarded financially at the end of the voyage.
Many superyacht stewardesses say that, once they’ve learned to go with the flow the voyage takes on a timeless quality, as days blend together in a pleasant way.
Patience with Personal Challenges
Something that many superyacht stewardesses find difficult to cope with is the absence of personal space. Quarters can be cramped and cabins are shared. Crews tend to mix and match so there’s a chance that you’ll be spending a lot of your time in the company of a stranger.
Homesickness can also strike at any time, even to the most hardened seafarer. Rather than getting nostalgic and looking to the past, try to look forward to future experiences and the time you’ll get to spend with loved ones when the season does come to an end.
At these times it’s a good idea to fall back on the training that you put to use in the professional sphere. Approach every day with a smile, but also fix your gaze on the best parts of the job.
Because few things are better than when you have time off between charters when you’ll be moored in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Many stewardesses take the time to treat themselves, booking in for massages, sunning on the beach or by a pool. For these days you can be as selfish and demanding as the guests you serve out at sea.
And that gratuity will be all the more welcome when you’re relaxing in a tropical paradise like the Bahamas, Saint Martin or Saint Barth.
So while the potential for stress can be quite high when you’re sailing, the opportunity for de-stressing and luxury is never too far away.
Patience with difficult guests
All stewardesses will have an interesting story to tell about the guests that they have served in the past. It’s a simple fact that the super-rich has a different set of standards and modes of behaving to the rest of the world.
A watchword, no matter how difficult the guest may be, is discretion. It comes with the territory in this business, and even when recounting weird and wonderful tales of times at the beck and call of an eccentric sheikh or rude oligarch, stewardesses will never name names.
Spending days on end at the beck and call of difficult guests can be especially draining. But, though it may sound strange while you’re actually living the experience, there’s little in this job that beats the satisfaction when you come to the end of a particularly challenging stint and know that you made sure that the guests went home happy and satisfied.
For many in the hospitality or service industry for that matter would have heard the expression “the customer is always right”, and I guess for many this is true. But what about dealing with conflict that may occur with your colleagues or that guest is just step too far over the line (yes there is a line!). This article will examine boundaries and how to handle conflict in a manner that won’t break your spirit or destroy your belief system.
The Super Yacht Stewardess & Conflict Management.
“Conflict usually occurs when two or more individuals demonstrate differing needs, and can occur between employees, management and customers”.
Sadly, conflict for many of us is unavoidable and is a part of life; how it is resolved can make the difference between positive and negative outcomes for all parties involved.
Given that there is a very high turnover of professional crew from season to season, I believe that conflict resolution is an important element for senior officers and departmental heads to master. Furthermore,I believe that is equally as important for individuals to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions in the conflict.
Conflict within the crew:
We are shaped by family, culture and experiences, which can at times create a polarizingeffect with colleagues. Each conflict is unique and can have its own dimensions and behaviors to the conflict situation.
This in turn can affect work performance and have a negative impact on the individual who is already under the pressures of the hospitality industry. Due to the very nature of working at sea, there are limited resources to ‘de-stress’, lack of personal space, cramped crew accommodations, and long work shifts can result in poor work performance, demotivation and even depression.
Conflict may occur for many reasons, some may include:
Poor communication processing.
Exhaustion and stress due to the nature of the work.
Poor interdepartmental cooperation
Poor internal culture created by a senior crew (i.e. Captain, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer).
Hierarchical dominance and lack of respect for fellow colleagues.
Sexual social difference and behaviors.
In my experience, conflict within the crew usually occurred due to a combination of two or more of the above points. Professional super yacht crew in general is usually very nice open minded people, therefore it is unusual that conflict will arise due to one reason only.
Furthermore, (and this point is specifically in relation to the interior department, that consists predominantly of women), in my experience I found that avoidance of the initial irritation led to an escalation in the conflict, which required more energy and resources to mediate.
The difference in the genders on board also results in the difference in behavior. For example,conflict on deck seemed to be resolved faster and with greater ease than that of the interior department.
However, conflict between genders took much longer and seemed to linger on and on. This difference in gender behavior can be researched independently, however my hypothesis for this is that many women working in a male dominated industry (for various reasons) feel highly stressed, which alters their psychological state, and can affect their sensitivity and effect how they communicate effectively.
More about The Super Yacht Stewardess & Conflict Management is in my new book:
The Stewardess Bible: Achieving Excellence in Service – Module One.
Conflict with a guest: Case Study- Conflict with your values.
In this case study I will use an example where the conflict occurred against my inner values and belief system. We were half way through a very busy 2 week charter, yes, I know all charters are busy, however we were travelling with another yacht, in and around the St Tropez area . Everything was going well until one day it was our turn to host the cocktail party. The conflict occurred when one of our guests was showing off to another guest , he was a hunter and was boasting that he had shot over 5000 birds (of some kind) one of his hunting trips. The next statement he made was even more damaging. He went on to say that he had shot and killed a black rhinoceros on his last African safari. He was bursting with pride. As my stomach was turning I looked over and saw the horror and absolute devastation on the South African deckhands face as he was tiding up the sundeck. My first instinct was to protect the deckhand from hearing any more of what this guest had to say and he was removed from that area to work in another. Secondly, I had to check my own behavior and body language. The thing about conflict with your inner values is that they are your values. I don’t know if what the guest said is true or not and that is exactly the point. People say things for different reasons. Killing an endangered species is illegal, and killing anything for fun just makes me feel sick, however hunting is not illegal and the feeling sick part becomes my problem. How would you handle such a situation?
A skill every superyacht stewardess must learn to master.
The life of a superyacht stewardess is incredibly busy with many tasks demanding her attention seemingly all at once, therefore time management is the greatest skill that a superyacht stewardess can possess.
Time management is the ability to effectively manage your goals by implementing good planning and task management.
Poor time management can be related to lack of focus, distractions and procrastination, as well as problems with self-control and personal power.
If you are a stewardess who wishes that there were more hours in a day, then below are some helpful tips to help you achieve more throughout the day.
The more you focus on a set task the more you can achieve in a day, additionally the less you focus on the task the more distracted you become which results in a sub-quality of work.
Many people attempt to do everything themselves, which quite often results in a burnt out and stressed out stewardess. However many tasks can easily be assigned to other colleagues so that you have more time to accomplish the most important tasks.
This is a very valid point to make if you are the Chief Stewardess or second stewardess and have a more structured day.
If you are a junior stewardess than this is an important point to make if you are feeling inundated with too much work, let your superiors know what task you are up to so that they can redistribute the workload.
Procrastination and putting off tasks that can be completed during the day is a recipe for disaster. Procrastination occurs for several reasons:
You do not like the job
You are too tired
You do not have the skills to complete the task within the time required
Quite often because of the above reasons, this leads to avoidance of the task. Therefore, it is a good idea to do the more challenging tasks first, when the team is fresh and has enough mental energy that is necessary to complete the task.
In addition to this tackling, the more difficult or unpleasant jobs first reduces the amount of time to build up stress and anxiety, making it seem less hard.
Setting goals is a very effective way of achieving workplace demands in a timely manner. By simply setting a goal you can organise your day, week and month better.
One advantage of setting a goal is to improve time management and to have a realistic understanding of how much can be achieved in one day. However, a goal must be set in an effective manner, for example:
The right person must be delegated to the task.
You must have enough resources to achieve the goal.
It must be a realistic goal.
You must be interested in achieving the goals set.
Meet the deadline early: Deadlines are there to help us manage our time better. Certain tasks are inevitable and must be met by a certain time. Rushing to get a job done can result in poor attention to detail, however, if you break the big task down into smaller manageable jobs that can also be delegated then the task can get done before the deadline and with a higher standard of work.
Organisation and time management are like two pee’s in a pod. Many people waste time by:
Playing on the computer.
Messaging their friends.
Or just being too consumed by too many things at once.
To stay organised follow these simple steps:
Maintain a cleared workspace, clutter is a killer of time, every day clean your workspace. This will ensure a clear mind and a more efficient way of working.
Make sure you have the tools and resources readily available to you.
Keep your day planner or schedule up to date, when one task is finished strike it off the list, and if it is not completed on the day, put it down to be completed the following day, or work the extra hours to get the job done.
The effects of stress on the body can be damaging, and there are many books written about this subject.
Stress impairs your ability to manage your time well. To effectively manage your stress, identify the triggers. Next, remove the triggers, or if this cannot be done to take steps to reduce the amount of stress that you place on yourself by