If I don’t have a boating background can I still work on a luxury yacht?
Definitely. A background in hospitality or customer-service can assist in securing a job as an entry-level stewardess or a sous chef, whereas a trade or mechanical background will provide skills that can be applied to an entry-level deck or engineering position. Then all you need to secure a position on a luxury yacht is the right attitude and the know-how (that is, the correct visas and qualifications, an industry-specific CV and business cards, a good agent, the correct attire, etc.)
If I am prone to seasickness can I still work on a luxury yacht?
Of course you can, so long as you are aware of the preventative measures and their limitations and you are selective in your choice of yacht. (See Guidebook for more information)
What qualifications do I need to become a crewmember on a luxury yacht?
This is perhaps the most perplexing issue for many potential crewmembers and, with the myriad of regulatory bodies, courses and certificates out there, it is little wonder so many are confused. SOLAS, MCA, USCG, STCW, IMO: like any bureaucracy there is plenty of red tape and grey area. But basically there are two major regulatory bodies - the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) - that lay down the rules and regulations pertinent to the luxury yachting industry.
Essentially, qualifications differ depending on the crew position (See Crew Positions) but it is important to differentiate the courses that are mandatory under the regulatory bodies’ code of practice from those that are designed solely to improve a prospective crewmember’s skills in a particular area (in other words, those that are not compulsory but instead provide industry-specific skills to potential crewmembers who lack industry experience).
These qualifications and courses are discussed in greater detail in Get a Job on a Luxury Yacht: The Definitive Guide but, basically, the most important qualification a prospective crewmember should obtain is the STCW95.
What is the STCW95?
STCW is an acronym for Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers and 95 stands for the year that it was last amended, replacing and strengthening the original convention that was introduced in 1978. It is not a certificate but a convention and what a prospective crewmember needs to do is a course that will award them a certificate that meets the standards outlined by the convention.
There is a Basic Safety Training Course that forms the minimum standards outlined by the convention, and this course covers the following four modules:
- Basic Firefighting
- First Aid
- Personal Survival
- Personal Safety and Social Responsibility
Why is it suddenly necessary to have all this extra training?
Quite simply, for safety purposes. In 1995, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) decided that all crewmembers should have at least a rudimentary understanding of first aid, firefighting and personal safety techniques, and since July 31, 2002 this requirement has been rigorously enforced.
What makes a good crewmember?
A great crewmember is well-presented, open and enthusiastic. A great crewmember is an active listener and a compassionate observer. And a great crewmember understands the importance of solidarity within a crew. Which means, for a prospective crewmember, that your appearance, your demeanour, your body language, your mannerisms and how you are dressed will all affect the opinion a captain and crew will form of you.
What sort of hours would I work?
The exact hours a crewmember will work is impossible to identify as it can differ greatly between yachts and between positions. But if there is one thing you can be certain of when joining this industry it is that the hours can, and will, be erratic.
Generally though, crew on private yachts will have shorter working weeks than those on charter yachts, whereas crew on charter yachts may have less free time and longer days but they will receive tips (sometimes as much as $2000- $5000 cash) on top of their already substantial salaries.
What sort of people would I work with?
Perhaps a more apt question is ‘what sort of people will I be working, living, laughing, eating, drinking, gossiping and exploring with?’ Or perhaps even more fitting is the question ‘what sort of people will become my life?’ because when you are away from life as you know it now - your family, friends, work colleagues, pets and sometimes even your partner - it is your fellow crewmembers that will fill these voids. So it is important to find a crew that share similar ideals and interests.
However, with around 65, 000 crewmembers from all different parts of the globe presently working on luxury yachts, and with many of these yachts having a distinct character and crew makeup - from the social, to the laidback, to the sporty and adventurous - there is sure to be a crew that fits your personality perfectly.
Where should I go to find work?
Although there are few places in the world that are beyond the reach of luxury yachts, if a prospective crewmember wants the greatest chance of finding a position that will suit them then it pays to go where the highest concentration of yachts are. Fortunately there are some places in the world that provide a veritable smorgasboard of opportunities for prospective crew, the three largest being Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Antibes, France, and Palma, Majorca, Spain. What’s more, there are also a number of smaller places that are quickly gaining reputations within the industry for their world-class facilities and allied services.
Get a Job on Luxury Yachts: The Definitive Guidebook describes each of these destinations in detail, with special emphasis on when to go, where to stay, where the marinas and crew agents are located, what the atmosphere is like and what each destination offers the potential crewmember.
What will I be paid?
As a crewmember on a luxury yacht, your salary will fall somewhere between great and amazingly great depending on your position, your experience and the type and size of yacht. (See Crew Earnings Guide)
Keep in mind, however, that the displayed rates are current industry standards and are merely a platform from which to negotiate, especially as you gain experience within the industry and trust from those that employ you. In fact, in an industry founded on such wealth, there is no distinct cap on a crewmember’s earning potential.
Is the salary tax-free?
Ostensibly, yes. However, taxation laws differ between countries - and even within a country’s tax system there is a complex and forever changing web of rules and regulations - so it is essential that every potential crewmember ascertain the rules and loopholes that apply to them. (See the Guidebook for more information)
Are there any other benefits?
In addition to a substantial base salary, crew on luxury yachts enjoy many other benefits, the minimum being onboard accommodation, all meals and snacks, all toiletries, vitamins and medications, four or more weeks paid annual leave with return flights home, and basic medical insurance. However, if a prospective crewmember has some experience and/ or chooses the right yacht, he or she may also be offered such perks as:
- a private cabin with a double bed, a widescreen TV, a DVD and internet access,
- full reimbursement for any courses taken,
- end of year, Christmas or end of season bonuses,
- full medical coverage,
- full use of a crew car,
- shows, tours and dinners ashore,
- the opportunity to dive, sail, waterski, fish, etc on a regular basis,
- the opportunity to job-share (ie. six months on, six months off)
- a fully-stocked crew bar, and
- regular cash tips.