Interview with a Chief Yacht Steward

I’m Tom and I have spent the past six years working at sea onboard some of the world’s most renowned yachts. I moved into yachting after spending three winter seasons in the glorious ski resort of Val d’Isere.

It certainly has been a rollercoaster of a ride, I have made friends for life and seen some fairly unbelievable things. The one thing that I can say for sure is that I wouldn’t trade the past six years for anything. I have been fortunate enough to climb the ladder quite quickly and have been working as a Chief Steward for the vast majority of my yachting career.


On deck of a private yacht

What 5 top tips would you give a candidate wishing to start a career in yachting?

1.      First and foremost embarking on a career in yachting can be a long and arduous journey. Yachting is becoming more and more well known and as such the competition for jobs is fierce. Be prepared to be knocked back countless times but know with unrelenting perseverance you will be walking up the passerelle of your first yacht in the not too distant future.

2.      Join your first yacht (and any yacht thereafter) with an open mind and willingness to learn. Every yacht operates differently and the quicker you pick up the ins and outs of the way the yacht operates – the more valued a crew member you will become.

3.      It’s wise to avoid falling into the trap of partying like you’re earning a yachting salary whilst job hunting from the comfort (or not so comfortable…) of a crew house. Remember that you are there to secure a job and the more focussed energy you put into that the quicker you will secure that all-important first job.

4.      Remember that the world of yachting is extremely small, everyone knows everyone and if they don’t, they’ll know someone who does. Avoid the drama, work hard and ensure you build a great reputation for yourself – this will absolutely help you in the long run.

5.      Once you have secured that invaluable first job, ensure that you commit to staying on that boat for at least 12 months, longevity is highly valued in yachting. It’s one of the first things that will be analyzed when you’re being considered for a new position.

What advice would you give a client when choosing the right Chief Steward or Chief Stewardess?

1.      I would always suggest looking for a Chief Steward with strong land-based hospitality experience (as with any position on the interior) – it makes for a much more well-rounded view and skill level.

2.      Look for those who want to improve the skill set of their team – we all stop moving forward when we stop learning and yachting is no different. Complacency is a common theme in the yachting industry so question that during the interview process.

3.      Whether it be a Chief Steward or any other crew member, seek those who are passionate, not just driven by the financial rewards – your crew become your family and we all desire to be surrounded by passionate individuals who strive for the best.

What piece of advice would you have been grateful for before starting your career in yachting?

I wish I had known how changeable the industry is – absolutely nothing is certain and everything can change within a moment’s notice. You have to be the absolute epitome of flexibility, your life will be governed by someone else’s wishes and desires. A nothing is too much trouble attitude is vital to success.

What is the most valuable lesson/skill you learned as a Chief Steward?

The most valuable lesson that I have continued to learn in yachting is that your team members will all require a different style of management – some will respond to clear and direct instruction, some require more explanation than others and so on. If you want to get the best out of your team you need to realise they are individuals who operate differently and understanding which style of management they respond to best will serve you very well in the long run.

Do you have a career highlight?

There are almost too many to mention but if I really think about it my absolute highlight is the wonderful friends I have made. I am fortunate enough to have met some of my best friends during my time at sea, your friendships are often forged quickly and you will endure the highs and lows together. Laughter has been the greatest tonic and will continue to be so.

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