Becoming a stew/masseuse
Updated: Jun 3
Many people dream of working on superyachts, attracted by the romantic idea of a life at sea, and the lure of being paid to travel to exotic locations. Competition for jobs is stiff – but the good news is, if you're a massage therapist, beautician or hairdresser, you generally have a far better chance in getting your foot on the passerelle. (The demand for personal trainers, yoga teachers and health coaches is much less, however the more skills you bring to the deck, the better.)
In this blog post, I’ll give you an outline of what kind of jobs are available; what to expect; and what kind of skills you’ll need.
Yachts are as unique as their owners, and the range of spa/fitness roles on board reflect this. For example, some possible job titles may be:
Stewardess/Masseuse or Steward/Masseur, commonly know as stew/masseuse
Deckhand/Masseur or Deckhand/Masseuse
Out of all of these, stewardess/masseuse is by far most common, so this is the default role I will refer to in this article. Roles may be permanent, seasonal, and occasionally may include travelling with the yacht owner on land.
Cleaning the clean
All jobs on yachts will include some, if not a lot of, cleaning. This often depends on the size of the yacht, how many crew are on board and the nature of the owners or charter guests. Even on a larger yacht, stewardessing may be 90% of the work, with spa treatments just 10%. This may be a big change if you’re used to working on a cruise ship.
If a yacht has a dedicated spa area and treatment room, this can indicate that more treatments will be required. On very large yachts over 100m, there are often dedicated spa crew on board, however bear in mind there will be still large amounts of time when the boat is not being used, and these times you will be expected to maintain the spa areas. Superyachts are kept to an immaculate standard, so if the idea of vacuuming walls and cleaning floor corners with earbuds sounds like a nightmare, then maybe this isn’t the career for you. That being said, often stew/masseuses enjoy the variety that comes with doing some housekeeping or service, and some even choose to focus on stewardessing in order to work towards being a chief stewardess.
Maritime law states that seafarers should not work more than 72 hours in a week, or 14 hours in a day, yet on smaller yachts and in the middle of the season, it can end up that crew exceed even these long hours. If you have to give treatments as well as be a stewardess, then you’ll need to have lots of energy and endurance. (This is one reason why junior yacht crew are largely, but not exclusively, in their twenties and thirties)
Due to cabin arrangements
The yachting industry is slowly dragging its keels into the 21st century, however traditional gender roles are prevalent. This is also true when it comes to massage therapists - many yachts can’t have mixed cabins, so they may specify that a stew/masseuse must be a female, to fit in with the existing crew format. Or it may be that the owner prefers a female therapist, or that it gives the most flexibility with charter guests from different cultures/religions. Saying this, there ARE some male massage therapists in the industry, so it is possible!
Working on a yacht is a tough job – you’re away from family and friends for long periods of time; you have very little personal space; the hours can be long and the work mundane. However it can be a great way to see the world, meet people from all over the world and make life-long friends. Salaries for a junior stew/masseuse range from 2500€ to 3500€ a month - considering you'll have no bills to pay, and on charter yachts the tips can be substantial, then it can be an opportunity to save some serious cash. And very occasionally, you may get to drink cocktails on deck, go snorkelling on tropical reef, or sunbathe on the deck of a multi-million pound vessel, pretending for a just few minutes that you’re not actually working at all…
There are loads of resources online about how to find a career at sea, so I'll keep this brief. Check out the forums on Dockwalk for lots more information.
The basics – what you will need:
An STCW 2010 (or STCW95) – This is a week-long course that costs around 1000€ to complete in Europe. It’s compulsory to get a job on yachts, and most boats won’t even consider your CV unless you have it.
An ENG1 – a basic medical certificate particular to yachting that take about an hour and costs around 120€
A recognised massage, beauty, hairdressing or fitness qualification. You will need to submit your professional certificates, so be honest about your level or qualifications and experience.
A positive and adaptable personality. You will be working and living in close quarters with your crew mates, in often stressful and tiring conditions. It will be much easier if you are easy-going, tolerant and resilient.
A good work ethic and be a great team player.
CV – critically vital!
Yachting CVs are a little different from CVs, and it is really worth taking the time to make sure yours fits the format. Online there are many tips to writing a good yachting CV, or get professional advice from specialists such as The Crew Coach.
I would add that for a spa or fitness CV, remember to clearly list all the treatments you offer. Include the year, length of course, and location of your training qualifications – a year-long full time massage diploma is much different from a weekend course!
Get some help from the Angels
Still keen to get on board? Once your CV is ready and you have the basics, then send your CV to us at firstname.lastname@example.org We specialise purely in spa and fitness jobs on yachts, and we’d love to assist you in every step of your career at sea.