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I am a yacht stewardess now living life back on land! After 5 years travelling the world on Superyachts. I want to share with you how you can do it too!
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Breakfast service – My favourite shift onboard, it’s the quietest time on the boat, no guests are awake it’s usually just yourself, some deck crew and an officer up. You get to take in the beautiful sunrises and the water is usually so calm. I am a morning person so I loved setting up the breakfast table watching the ocean glimmer on the surface while the sun is rising. However it is no doubt a big job, every service shift is. You need to use your time wisely as once the guests are up the focus is on them.
On most boats I have worked on we have done buffet style for the guests, and then plated meals if someone requests or orders bacon and eggs or something like that. Usually the chefs will prepare all the fruit platters, cheeses, meats, yoghurt cups, freshly made granola, breads, muffins and pastries. A stews job is to organise the rest so cereals, milks, jams etc. Each boats buffet set up will vary with guest and owner preference so check with the chefs or your chief stew with what they put on the buffet.
The breakfast service shift is probably one of the first service shifts you will run by yourself. So this episode today will focus on my tips for ensuring a really GOOD morning breakfast shift that will help to ensure it goes smoothly.
I can’t emphasise enough how preparation is key to smooth running service. The night before your shift check the decor schedule (if you don;t have one onboard I suggest creating one before charter as it takes the thinking out of wondering what decor to use each day when you are sleep deprived)
Then you choose your napkins and do your folds doing any ironing necessary,
You’ll also pull all the decor out so it’s ready to roll in the AM. be sure to check with the Captain to see if you will be cruising overnight as you don’t want a glass fishbowl rolling down the stairs. This is all done the night before.
When you rise in the morning for your shift and finish up your morning coffee in the crew mess, I want you to think about what you can take up to the pantry on your way up to start your shift. You don’t want to do those stairs any more times than what you need to considering you climb about 40 flights of stairs a day on charter. So maybe it’s items to top up your pantry fridge like guest yoghurts, flowers for your table decorations or even tea towels from the laundry that need to be replenished in the upper deck pantry.
Next, Read the night notes from the late service stew. This is a diary that the late night stew writes in to give to the morning stew to pass on any essential information. There may be info in there about breakfast requests, guest movements for the day or new preferences you need to be aware of. It may not be a written diary as such that you have onboard, maybe it’s a crew whatsapp group, whatever it is make sure you read the notes.
You’ll now Check in with the chefs to see if they need any plates or platters. Do they have napkins for the bread baskets? Do they need coffee? Chefs will love you for this one. And we want to keep them happy. They have very long days on charter.
Your next focus is Setting the table: Work from the centre out with your table decor then set each place with the essentials. Make sure flowers or items used as decor are not too high so guests can’t see each other over the table. As you’re setting the main table, check each item you put down for any marks and polish if needed. You’ll be wearing white gloves… wont you! Right ok so a quick polish is very easy to do.
After this is done you’ll set the buffet table: Don’t forget to turn the cold plate on if you have them. You usually dispaly a variety of yoghurts in a bowl with ice on display, keep an eye on this throughout your shhift as if its hot you’ll need to replenish the ice.. So don’t put this out too early as you dont want the yoghurts to go warm, the same goes for any butter you put out too early. And if you have something to add to the table such as spreads – decant them into a ramekin don’t just plonk the jar next to the guest.
The coffee, water and juice station will need to be set up. You may be responsible for squeezing the fresh juice daily… if you are, make sure it has time to chill in the fridge as if you put loads of ice in the juice jug it makes it difficult to pour and can make it watery. Also if you’re doing plain orange juice and cutting the fruit make sure there is no skin on the oranges as it can make the juice bitter. The coffee again depends on the boat, some boats with american guests will want filter coffee, this again takes time to brew so make sure it’s organised and kept hot in a thermos. You may also put a thermos with hot water out on display and a variety of teas with assorted milks. Usually you will ask the guests if they would like a tea or coffee and go and make it fresh in the pantry (unless its filter coffee you’ll pour from the coffee jug it was made in). The coffee and tea station just makes the buffet look full and guests can help themselves if they would like.
Ok so let’s organise your Pantry because as I said before preparation is key to a smooth service! Turn your Coffee machine on, get out backup cups, saucers, and teaspoons. Clear all surfaces and set up your dishwashing station. Where do the dirty dishes sit? Not in the sink. Get out your cutlery dividers to easily slot knives and forks into. Is the dishwasher empty? Start with a clean and organised pantry.
Now to help you remember everything you need for each service I use a ‘pre-meal’ checklist- it has everything that needs to be on the table, the timings to put them out and a tick box so you can check it off as you go… because if you need help its so easy for someone to step in and see where you’re up to and assist. Because sometimes you’ll have 6 different smoothies to do, or a variety of cold pressed juices the guests have requests and it takes time so don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.
Also you’ll need to check if the pantry fridge is stocked? Have you got enough Milk? Berries? Yoghurts? The last thing you want to do is be flying down those stairs getting a top up of something when your eyes should be on the guests.
So when you see a guest in the morning make sure you greet the guests as soon as you see them and offer a fresh juice, coffee or tea. You’ll radio the team “Interior, Interior… Thats’s Mr. B on upper deck aft” so the housekeeping team know they are just waiting on Mrs. B to jump in and do the master cabin. It’s also a good idea to let the deck crew know as often they can be having convos on the decks and Mr. B doesn’t want to hear about the deck crews latest gym routine while hes trying to read his newspaper peacefully.
Once all guests are up you need to be doing checks on them at the table, offering any breakfast specials, clearing plates as they make their way through the buffet. It’s really important you have your back up cutlery ready to go (this all be included on your pre meal checklist) as you don’t want to be caught out with chefs saying take the plated meal when you haven’t set the person with new cutlery yet. This needs to be done first so each time you clear, clear the dirty cutlery and replace with new cutlery if they are still eating.
You can also go around the table offering water or juice. Remembering who has still water and who has sparkling (because you read the guest preferences sheet).
Once the guests have left the breakfast table – be sure to radio the deck crew ASAP as most of the time guests will be gearing up for a morning of water sports or it could be a trip ashore and they need to be ready with tenders etc. If you hear any talk of morning activities from the guests at the table let the deck crew know as it keeps them in the loop. Remember communication is key!
Make sure each guest has finished eating before you clear the buffet. Ask the chefs if they would like you to keep anything from the buffet table- such as berries for smoothies etc.
Lucky for crew most of the pastries and sweets are brought down to the crew mess. Yum.
And now once guests are ok outside you can begin your pantry pack down, be sure you do a few rounds checking on guests don’t just abandon them once breakfast is over. Your pantry shutdown should also be in a checklist and include clearing all surfaces, doing all dishes, emptying dishwasher, bins, cleaning coffee and juice machines, wiping all cupboards and surfaces, cleaning the sink and topping up dishwashing detergent and your pantry fridge if required. Vacuuming and mopping the floor. This enusres pantries are always ready to go for the next service.
So that wraps up breakfast service, it usually ends around 12noon depending on guests rising times- you usually start at 5:30am and typically I’ve always worked it out that the breakfast service stew goes on break for a few hrs after her shift in time to return for backup lunch service later in the afternoon. All boat dependant though with how many crew you have onboard.
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I’m a chief stewardess with over 6 years experience working in the superyacht industry on boats up to 88m. I help aspiring yacht crew by propelling them with the know-how and tools to confidently break into the superyacht industry.