Getting ready for the boat show

Oct 9, 2012 by Alene Keenan

Congratulations, you have a job on a yacht that is going to be in the boat show. Now you need to know how to set up for the big event. 

Whether the boat is for sale or charter, you are competing with all of the other vessels in the same size range for attention. Your goal is to make this particular boat stand out from all of the rest, and show clients that you and your team can make their yachting dreams come true.
It is important to have a strategy for drawing people in to explore. You accomplish this in part by “staging” the boat, much like designers would decorate and set up properties to make them more appealing. It is kind of like creating a set for a movie scene or a magazine photo shoot.
Every yacht has a distinctive design and style concept. It may be modern or traditional, ornate or minimalist. Particular layouts, materials, finishes, inlays, fixtures and artwork features come together to create a welcoming environment with a certain elegance and sophistication. Each feature provides a benefit, and together they add up to increase the perceived value of the yacht.
Features and benefits are important aspects to play up in “selling” the boat, and you need to know what they are. The captain, management company, and brokers involved will be able to tell you what the “selling points” are. If you have a brochure of the boat, you will find photos of how the yacht was professionally staged for the photo shoot, and you can get some ideas for the focus areas.
When staging the boat, think about the destinations of the upcoming season. The object is to set things up so that when people come to view the boat, they can imagine how it would feel to be enjoying each area. Stage them to look as if someone just stepped away from that spot for a moment and will be right back to enjoy it.
Use elements that will relate to the region that the boat will be in for the next season. For example, if the boat is chartering in the southern Caribbean, use design elements, books, magazines, and travel guides as props that highlight the destinations you will be visiting.
Flowers can complement the destination as well as the décor, and are used extensively throughout most yachts. Make certain that the same type and style of arrangements are used throughout, whether they are tropical or European flowers, modern or traditional arrangements.
Here are some features and benefits of various areas that you will commonly find on yachts:
1. The galley is said to be the heart of any yacht. Showcase a modern galley with state-of-the-art equipment, commercial-grade appliances, ample refrigeration and storage space, and plenty of dry storage and pantry space by creating exhibits within each work area to illustrate the versatility of the space. You might display an assortment of cookbooks on the counter, next to fresh fruits and vegetables arranged in pretty bowls to give a hint of tempting meals to come. Baking fresh cookies just before guests come aboard lends an inviting fragrance to the air.
2. The yachting experience is all about delivering service, much of which revolves around food and drink. Meeting and exceeding the expectations of owners and guests for preparing and serving meals, along with all-out exceptional hospitality is the name of the game. Accentuate stew service areas — wet bars, pantries, appliances, dumb waiters, and any other features that allow crew to provide prompt, efficient, discrete service.
3. Each area should be spotless, well-organized and set up for use decoratively to embellish functionality. If there is an awesome coffee machine, set up a pretty tray with cups, saucers, creamer and sugar to show how you would serve beverages to guests. Add a small vase of flowers or a single, perfect blossom to dress it up.
If there is a wet bar, set it up as you would to prepare cocktails for guests, and set up some drinks to show how creatively you would garnish them.
4. Most likely there are a variety of meal service areas, ranging from gracious formal dining areas to casual spots for alfresco dining. Create spaces with distinctive moods where guests could enjoy delicious meals prepared by the chef.
The collection of china, silverware, glassware, service ware, and table decorations onboard allows you to create one-of-a-kind dining experiences while showcasing the skills and abilities of both chef and stews. It looks great to set up each area in a different style to demonstrate the range of your napkin-folding and table-setting skills. Each dining area could have floral arrangements and other table design elements to carry out a dinner theme or menu style.
5. The size of the yacht will determine how much common space there is for guests to hang out, and undoubtedly there will be some areas finished to show off unique style, decorative and design elements of the yacht.
The main salon will have seating areas and entertainment components that provide space for comfort, privacy, or conversation. Modern communication systems provide the opportunity for guests to keep in touch, while at the same time, “getting away from it all”. This is one place where a good eye for detail comes in handy.
Make sure that all pillows, cushions, comfy blankets, and works of art are perfectly arranged and the entire room looks symmetrical. All surfaces should be immaculate, and books, candles, plants, flowers and artwork should be in perfect balance to the surroundings.
6. If there is a bridge deck level skylounge with big screen television, bar and game areas, play up the comfortable TV and video viewing areas for guests, along with the space for games and fun. Set up displays of games, books, movies, music and any entertainment items you have available. If there is a game table, set up a chess game or other board game. Fresh flower arrangements throughout these areas and in day heads are a nice touch. Again, make sure that everything looks balanced and symmetrical.
7. On the bridge deck aft and on the sundeck, if there is one, set up sunning areas with towels, baskets of sun products, and an array of magazines and reading material neatly arranged. Set out towels and refreshments next to the Jacuzzi, it there is one; a champagne bucket and 2 glasses of bubbly are particularly inviting here. Create a display of tropical beverages at the outdoor bar.
Give guests the option of open or shaded dining and relaxation areas, and provide an area where visitors have the opportunity to sit out on deck and relax, simply enjoying the view and the ocean breezes. The trick here is to demonstrate that they may enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors in comfort here while maintaining an exceptional level of privacy.
8. Show off the ample space in guest cabins. Point out the different room configurations, entertainment systems and communication access areas. Adjust the lighting to spotlight floral arrangements, artwork, and sumptuous bed linens.
In each bathroom, make sure that all towels are folded perfectly, and set up a basket of toiletries and a small floral arrangement.
Set up the master stateroom and any VIP cabin features to create the feeling of a private retreat away from the rest of the boat that transcends luxury and surrounds guests in tranquility. This is where the owner or charter host and important guests will go to get away from it all. These cabins may have special features such as private office space, king-sized beds, special shower and tub configurations, private dressing areas, and twin sinks and facilities. Be sure to accentuate these elements and point out their benefits.
These little touches have a big impact on emphasizing features and benefits that make a yacht stand out among the hundreds on display. Your best shot at being a star in the show lies in your ability to create a vision of the dream lifestyle that is made possible here and only here. You want to be seen as the most desirable destination afloat. Yachting is business, and whether or not yours is a successful one depends on the value demonstrated to owners and potential clients. Show them that in your case, dreams really do come true.

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 ( Comments on this column are welcome at


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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