We know how it feels to consider a career in yachting - exciting, daunting, intriguing... The good news is, we are here to help.
If you're dreaming of using your spa or fitness skills on a superyacht, check out these frequently asked questions by 'greenies' (candidates new to the industry):
What kind of beauty and fitness roles are there on superyachts?
Nearly all wellbeing roles on yachts are primarily stewardess or deckhand jobs, with massage, beauty, fitness, and hairdressing duties being a smaller part of the role. The most common positions are stewardess/beautician or stewardess/masseuse, with roles involving deck work, hairdressing, fitness and yoga being less frequent.
Are there jobs where I can just do beauty or fitness?
Many 100m+ yachts will have dedicated spas onboard, and the spa therapist may get used most of the day whilst guests are on board. Saying this, most yachts have long periods without guests on board, so all roles will involve cleaning duties and you must be willing to do this as enthusiastically as your spa or fitness work. On smaller yachts, stew/beauticians often will be doing 95% stewardess duties, for example.
What is an average day like?
All yachts are different, and duties will depend on whether there are guests onboard, the yacht is docked, or in a shipyard. Generally, a housekeeping stewardess's average day will begin with vacuuming, dusting and mopping the interior of the yacht and tidying the crew areas. Many spa/stewardess roles are part of housekeeping teams, and duties will also include making beds, cleaning bathrooms, assisting with laundry. If there are service duties, these would include serving drinks and food to the guests, table-setting, and keeping the pantries clean and stocked-up.
How many hours will I be working?
When guests are onboard, days are long and breaks can be unpredictable. Sometimes stew/spa crew may get called from their break to do a treatment. The Maritime Labour Convention stipulates that the maximum hours of work should be no more than 14hrs in a 24hr period, with a minimum of 77 hrs of rest a week. Days off during the season aren't guaranteed - it's not unusual to go for several months without a day off. Shipyard periods are usually more relaxed, and with more normal working hours and weekends off. Annual leave entitlement varies from one month, to roles which are rotational - one month's holiday after every three months, for example.
What qualifications do I need?
All seafarers need an STCW Basic Safety Training course. These can be done all over the world; in the UK, we love the work of UKSA in Cowes.
There are many additional qualifications that may increase your chances of landing that first job. They can be expensive, so consider them carefully - they are by no means essential however can be an investment that signals to employers your commitment to working in the industry. Plus, if you do get a job, you'll quickly earn back your money spent on training. Do remember also that it's a good idea to keep some money aside to travel to one of the major ports to dockwalk and job search.
If you're going for an interior position such as stewardess/spa therapist, a Food Safety (Hygiene) Certificate Level 2 is often required as service and/or crew mess duties will require you to handle food. Many training centres offer courses in housekeeping, laundry and service skills - one reputable programme is the GUEST certification. Check out the UKSA interior course.
If you are going for a deck position, consider some of the following qualifications:
The RYA Powerboat Level 1
The RYA Tender Operator
The RYA Competent Crew
The RYA Yachtmaster Certificate
PWC Personal Watercraft Proficiency
What are the average salaries?
Entry-level salary for stews and deckhand with additional skills start at 2800€ per calendar month, and can rise to 5000€ or more for experienced crew. On charter yachts, you will earn tips on top, and these can be 1000€ - 3000€ per week, but these are never guaranteed. You'll be paying no expenses for food and accommodation, and if your home country has a seafarer's exemption on tax, such as the UK, then you'll get to keep all of your salary - so even as a junior, you can make some great money.
What kind of character is best suited to working on superyachts?
You'll need to be hardworking, with good stamina, able to get on well with people and be emotionally resilient. You're likely to be away from home for months on end, sometimes without knowing when you'll next get a day off. If you mental health is vulnerable, it may not be a great industry for you.
Is my age/gender/nationality a barrier to me getting work?
I won't lie - yachting is not an industry known for its progressive approach to equality and diversity. Many yachts prefer entry-level crew to be in their 20s, though will consider candidates in their 30s if they have lots of spa experience for example. That being said, I have known new crew in their 50s who were able to find work, however they didn't stay long in the industry.
Gender is often discriminated against - many yachts prefer female interior crew and male deck crew, however this is gradually changing. Yachts often specify they want females for their stew/spa/massage and beauty therapists roles, as they may have female guests on board who may not wish to be treated by male therapists for cultural, religious or personal reasons. Also, for cabin arrangements, the yacht may be limited. That being said, we do occasionally get yachts open to male massage therapists, it is just a lot rarer.
Nationality can be a barrier - it is a very English-speaking industry and some Captains prefer their crew to have English as their native language. Crew need to have correct visas to travel freely, which can be a barrier for some. Some yachts don't wish to pay expensive repatriation costs, so prefer crew who live in the same continent as the yacht cruises. Some Captains and Chief Stews prefer crew with similar nationalities due to cultural bias. There are also many yachts open to employing crew from all around the world - we are all migrant workers at the end of the day. Most important is for crew members to have a desire to be an active part of the team and to understand and respect the cultural differences of each other.
All the jobs say 'yachting experience required'. How can I find my first job?
It takes determination and a little bit of being in the right place at the right time. Make sure your CV is the best it can be. Travel to one of the major ports such as Antibes, Palma or Fort Lauderdale to dock walk and try to get some dayworking experience. Be professional, respectful and presentable at all times - it's a small industry and you never know who knows who. Be consistent in checking in with agencies and respond promptly to messages.
What else should I consider?
When you get your first job, set up a savings account straight away and make a commitment to how much of your salary you will save. Too many yachties work for years and never save, and all they have to show for their hard work is a fancy sunglasses collection and some memories of wild nights out.
If you are resident in the UK, remember to declare your earnings annually in order to claim Seafarers' Tax Exemption, and consider paying voluntary National Insurance payments to keep contributing to your pension.
Facebook Yacht Groups pages such as Palma Yacht Crew and Antibes Yacht Crew are a great source of information