7 Ways To Nail Your First 7 Days As A Yacht Stew.
Hear about the real yacht life, info on how to kickstart your superyacht career and tips on becoming a super stew.
A Chief Stew with 6+ years experience in the superyacht industry. I help aspiring crew confidently land their first job and teach the skills needed to be a stand out YACHT STEW.
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 and watching the ocean glimmer on the surface while the sun is rising. However, it is no doubt a big job, as 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 breakfast, and then plated meals if someone requests a special order. Working on 60+m yachts 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, milk, jams etc. Each boat’s buffet set up will vary with guest and owner preference so check with the chefs or your chief stew on what they put on the buffet.
The breakfast service shift is probably one of the first service roles you will do by yourself. So this blog will focus on my tips for ensuring a really GOOD morning breakfast shift that helps to ensure it all 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 to stow any items as you don’t want a glass fishbowl rolling down the stairs. All of this prep should be 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 as you climb about 40 or more flights of stairs a day on charter. So it could be items to top up your pantry fridges 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 information 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, all yachts have their own preference is could be a crew whatsapp group, whatever it is make sure you read the notes.
You’ll check in with the chefs to see if they need any plates or platters for the buffet items. 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 do 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 set the main table, check each item you put down for any marks and polish if needed.
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 display a variety of yoghurts in a bowl with ice on display, keep an eye on this throughout your shift as if it’s hot you’ll need to replenish the ice. Don’t put this out too early as you don’t want the yoghurts to go warm, the same goes for any butter/milk or other cold items. 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 guests – it’s all in the little details.
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. You will ask the guests if they would like tea or coffee and go and make it fresh in the pantry (unless it’s 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, and 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 (A download in The Seaworthy Yacht Stew Course)- 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 it’s so easy for someone to step in and see where you’re up to and assist. Sometimes you’ll have 6 different smoothies to do, or a variety of cold-pressed juices the guests have requested and it takes time so don’t forget to ask for help if you someone is available.
You’ll need to also 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.
When you see a guest in the morning make sure you greet the guests as soon as you see them and offer 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 conversartions on the decks and Mr. B doesn’t want to hear about the deck crew’s latest gym routine while he’s trying to read his newspaper peacefully.
Once guests are up you need to be doing checks at the table, offering any breakfast specials, and clearing plates as they make their way through the buffet. It’s really important you have your backup 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 it 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 the 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 shut 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 the 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 ensures pantries are always ready to go for the next service.
So that wraps up breakfast service, it usually ends around 12noon depending on guest’s rising times- you usually start at 5:00am – 5:30 am and typically I’ve always worked it out that the breakfast service stew goes on break for a few hrs after breakfast is done in time to return for backup lunch service later in the afternoon. All boat dependent though and really depends on how many crew you have onboard.
As a first-time junior stewardess, there are ways you can prepare for your first charter which will, in turn, boost your overall confidence. From procedures to learn, to how the boat operates and is laid out and the expectations of your role whether it’s laundry, housekeeping, service, or crew mess.
If you want to learn more about how to prepare for your first charter as a junior yacht stew – check out this blog post below for tips which will help you prepare as a junior stewardess coming into the upcoming charter season. How to Prepare For Your First Charter as a Junior Yacht Stew- read blog here.
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.