What I learned on your summer vacation

Sep 18, 2012 by Alene Keenan

Now that autumn is upon us, this is the perfect time to sit back, kick off those deck shoes, and meditate upon the season. What went wrong and, more importantly, what went right?


Let’s put this information to good use to better prepare for the next season of adventure travel. Suppose we have our schedule for the upcoming winter season. There is a simple formula for an action plan.


We have an idea of who is coming, what they like to do, when they will be onboard, where we are going to take them, and why they are coming to the boat.


Start at the very beginning: the guest list.

1. Who is coming to the boat, and how many guests will there be? If it is owners, current family, ex-family, friends of family, or some combination of the above, we can refer to preference sheets and other information we have gathered from previous visits. If it is a charter group, are they repeat visitors or new guests? This information will help us establish not just culinary and personal care guidelines, but also the degree of familiarity we may have with them, and the level and style of service they may reasonably expect. At the very least, we need to know: Name Age Sex Occupation Culinary preferences: food and drink profile Allergies, health and illness concerns Religious or cultural guidelines


2. What else would it be helpful to know about them? * Their nationality. In addition to cultural and religious factors, keep in mind that family traditions and dynamics may influence daily habits, routines and activities * Activities they enjoy. A bit of knowledge about hobbies and special interests can go a long way in helping provide customized concierge services and in planning sports and entertainment options. * Personal care guidelines, likes, dislikes and favorites. Each time guests visit the yacht, the opportunity to create and stage a unique, memorable encounter presents itself. Knowing that Mr. X loves listening to soft music in the morning while he reads the daily newspaper you have so graciously provided can get the day started right. Knowing that Mrs. X is surrounded by her favorite flowers, foods and drinks completes the ambience. Ensuring that you have anticipated everything the two of them could possibly need to enjoy every minute they have onboard is a priceless gift for them to treasure. All of these things add up to the development of a truly authentic service relationship with the possibility to grow and improve over time. * Safety and security concerns. An awareness of and respect for the safety and security concerns of guests will create confidence and trust, allowing them to relax and enjoy their time with us.


3. When are they arriving? Timing is an important factor when setting the stage for the perfect onboard experience, and certain things have to be taken into account to properly prepare for guests. Routine tasks must be completed prior to arrival in order for the crew to give their full attention. The time of day they arrive determines the first day’s schedule and whether or not drinks, snacks or a full meal service should be ready to accommodate them. The length of the trip and the number of guests onboard is another factor. It influences the planning and scheduling of every detail, from the number of bottles of wine you need to have on hand to the number of times you need to change and launder the bed linens. The time they are departing, and whether the boat is scheduled to leave after they depart will affect the schedule, too.


4. Where are we picking them up? There are numerous details to be sorted out regarding travel destinations and planning. The mode of transportation they use to get to the boat can have an impact on the amount of time you have to complete preparations. Are they arriving by private jet, commercial aircraft, or are they driving? Is a crew member picking them up, or will they be meeting the boat on their own? Whether they will be standing on the dock waiting for the boat to arrive, or coming in at a reasonable time alters the program. The travel schedule and information about destinations impacts opportunities for provisioning, availability of services, and entertainment options. You might not have an opportunity to send items out for dry cleaning or to find fresh flowers, so plan accordingly.


5. And finally, why are they coming to the boat? Holidays, vacation time, special occasions and family celebrations are among the many reasons why people charter yachts, and why owners use their vessels. Whether they are coming with the family for a school break, for an anniversary or special event, for a religious or traditional holiday, or simply to relax and have a good time, you will need a plan of action, and the means and authority to execute it.


There is no such thing as failure in life; there is only feedback. The feedback we have received during the summer season is invaluable information. By using that information and then sticking to the simple who, what, when, where and why formula, we are guaranteed to plan and execute a successful season this winter.

Alene Keenan has been a megayacht stewardess for 20 years. She offers interior crew training classes, workshops, seminars, and onboard training through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions (www.yachtstewsolutions.com). Comments on this column are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.


About Alene Keenan

Alene Keenan is a veteran chief stew, interior training instructor/consultant, and author of The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht.

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