Guests on board cruise ships, ferries and superyachts expect excellent service, delivered by first class hotel operations personnel. Superyacht owners in particular will expect their interior crew’s standards and experience to match their expectations, as well as their guests.
Roles vary depending on the size of the ship or yacht, but commonly require a broad base of skills and experience, including guest, housekeeping, butler and valet services, barista, bar and wine knowledge, laundry and wardrobe management and floristry.
A career path within the interior department will allow you to progress from junior steward/ess to a managerial position with the right qualifications and training.
Skills and attributes
- Housekeeping and interior maintenance
- Guest service including table setting and silver service
- Impeccable eye for detail
- Superb customer service skills
- Precision management and forward planning
- Flexible, practical and highly organised
- Discrete and trustworthy
- Excellent understanding of protocol and etiquette
- Exceptional spoken and written English skills. Multi-lingual preferred
- Computer skills (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)
Cruise and ferry industries
Modern cruise ships and passenger ferries are run in a similar way to a large hotel, and a whole range of hotel and catering, hospitality and support services are needed on board to service guests' requirements.
Specific roles vary from company to company but prior qualifications and experience in hotel, catering or hospitality work are generally necessary. In addition to the relevant qualifications and experience, you'll also need to have a bright personality, an efficient manner and a sincere commitment to providing top quality customer service.
In all these functions you'll be providing services to passengers every day. As with all customer-facing roles, you'll be required to maintain high levels of customer service to ensure passengers fully enjoy their cruise or ferry experience.
Listed below are some of the roles you could find on board cruise and passengers ships:
Hotel and catering
- Hotel management and administration (often called pursers): receptionists, bookkeepers, PAs and office-based staff.
- Restaurant: Maître d'Hotel, waiting staff, wine stewards.
- Bars: bar manager, bar staff, cocktail waiters.
- Kitchen (galley): chefs, catering assistants.
- Housekeeping: housekeepers, stewards, cleaners, porters, laundry personnel, carpenters and joiners, concierges.
- Entertainment: cruise directors, dancers, entertainers, DJs, casino staff.
- Shore excursions: managers, support staff.
- Health and beauty: hairdressers, beauticians, massage therapists, sports and fitness instructors.
Support roles include but are not limited to: childcare assistant, youth staff, doctor, nurse, lifeguard, retail manager, retail assistant, photographer, florist, computer system/IT manager and computer technician.
It's worth noting that many of the concessionaire staff employed on passenger ships (eg, entertainers, hairdressers, beauticians, casino staff and photographers) are usually employed through third party companies or agencies who provide specialist staff to the cruise or ferry company on a contract basis. In this case, you'll need to apply to the agency directly, not the cruise or ferry company.
Further information on entry requirements and applications procedures can usually be found on the individual cruise or ferry companies' websites or by contacting the agencies.
Luxury superyachts require nothing less than a seven-star standard of service and hospitality. It is down to the interior crew to provide a first-class experience which matches the expectations and standards of the owner and guests.
Roles will vary depending on the size of the yacht, but commonly require a broad base of skills and experiences, including guest, housekeeping, butler and valet services, barista, bar and wine knowledge, laundry and wardrobe management and floristry.
A career path within the interior department will allow you to progress from junior steward/ess to managerial positions with the right qualifications and training.
Responsible for managing and directing the interior team and ensuring owners and their guests are provided with the highest level of service and attention specifically tailored to their needs during their stay on board. They mentor and develop all interior staff with a view to strengthening their current performance.
Responsibilities include: hiring, developing and implementing training programs, coordinating leave schedules, creating maintenance plans, day-to-day scheduling, provisioning and financial management.
The chief steward/ess is responsible for setting standards and keeping the yacht maintained to an immaculate condition. They will also deliver an exceptional experience for owners and guests, which may include creating itineraries, scheduling activities, organising events and craft memorable themes for owner and guest trips. They manage, direct and oversee the team in their area of assigned responsibility.
Lead, second steward/ess, butler
The lead steward/ess is responsible for keeping the yacht maintained to an immaculate condition in their assigned area of responsibility, for example, wine cellar, bonded store, drinks fridge, candles and decorations, wardrobe care, owner amenities, guest amenities, owner's deck, stationery, or flowers and plants, which would include updating and maintaining appropriate inventories, preparing orders and creating in-house training.
The steward/ess is responsible for keeping the yacht maintained to an immaculate condition with minimal supervision. Although the position of steward/ess used to be a blend of housekeeping and service duties, on larger vessels we see a division between these departments and crew are assigned to a department with a focus on either one.
They will manage the area of assigned responsibility, for example, wine cellar, bonded store, drinks fridge, candles and decorations, wardrobe care, owner amenities, guest amenities, owner’s deck, stationery or flowers and plants. They may also be required to accompany the owners and/or guests on tours, shopping trips or excursions, or provide childcare services.
Speciality steward/ess roles
Demand is increasing for stewards/esses to have qualifications in speciality fields such as nursing, beauty and massage therapy, hairdresser, personal trainer/yoga instructor, and floristry.
Lead laundry steward/ess
The lead laundry steward/ess is also ultimately responsible for the day-to-day operations of the laundry and maintaining the set standards.
Day-to-day duties include cleaning and maintaining all owner and guest wardrobes and linen; log all laundry to ensure all items are returned correctly and in a timely manner; cleaning and maintaining all crew uniforms and linens as well as galley, deck and interior linen; return all cleaned laundry to an appropriate location in a timely manner.
PYA GUEST accreditation
For those looking to pursue a career on superyachts, the Professional Yachting Association (PYA) has developed a set of guidelines (GUEST – Guidelines for Unified Excellence Service Training) to cover the training provision for new and existing crew working in the hospitality departments of superyachts. The GUEST accreditation ensures training received meets the standards set by the industry. Our interior and hospitality training courses are accredited by the PYA and adhere to the GUEST standards.
Finding jobs on superyachts
Most yacht crew agencies have websites, so check them out to see what kind of jobs and salaries are being offered.
You can register with many agencies in advance online, but you should still visit agencies in person when you can. Remember to make an appointment in advance. After you have made contact, check in with them regularly and keep them up to date with your progress. If you do find a job, inform the agencies so they can take you out of their active files.
We recommend you contact our specialist recruitment partners, Burgess and, Elite International for their advice and job opportunities.
Get yourself known and get some valuable experience by taking day work or part-time work around the docks. Day working is a good way to make some money in between jobs and also means you'll hear about permanent jobs when they become available. You could also try walking the docks and handing out your CV at boat shows and large maritime events, such as the Monaco Yacht Show.
Connect with experienced crew members who are usually happy to give helpful advice. There are also community forums you can join, such as Dockwalk.