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Stew Cues: Checklists help interior team stay on task for guest arrivals

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Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

At this time of year, season is in full swing. Yachts have moved into position,  and you’ve probably already had at least one charter or boss trip. Now is a good time to regroup and think about where you can improve your team.

The pre-arrival checklist is a good place to start. If you don’t already have a system in place, now is the time to start one. The day the guests arrive is stressful. Whether you’ve had a week to prepare or less than a day, certain things need to get done every time. A good system of checklists will keep you on point. Here are some things to think about. 

First things first. All rooms must be detailed and reset ahead of time with clean linens and towels. Restock refrigerators and snacks. Wipe out drawers and closets, organize hangers in the closet, and place luggage pads on the beds to protect the linens. Review preference sheets and finalize any last-minute provisioning, including fresh flowers and magazines.

Finish last-minute fluff and buff, covering every little detail, checking for fingerprints, smudges and spots. Place fresh flower arrangements out, fill the candy dishes, arrange magazines on the coffee table in the salon, and prep for guest arrival cocktails or Champagne. Check with the chef about arrival snacks, meal plans and set up for service as needed. If guests are dining shortly after arrival, determine the menu and location of service, and be ready at the appropriate time. 

Establish guest arrival details, inform the crew, and determine what time to change into guest-on uniform. Discuss guest cabin arrangements. When they come down the dock, follow the welcome procedures you’ve established so that everyone knows where they should be and what to expect next. Take luggage to the cabins as soon as possible. While guests are enjoying their welcome drink, bags can be unpacked and then properly stowed.

As the captain or first officer delivers the safety familiarization briefing, be sure guests understand where safety equipment is in their cabins and in guest common areas. If the boat will stay in position for a day or two, there is time to get organized once guests arrive, but if the boat is getting underway shortly, it must be at least partially stowed. Begin full stowage procedures depending on the length of the trip and the sea conditions. If guest cabins are stowed, ensure guests have everything they need at hand for the trip, such as medications, sunglasses and reading materials. Offer sea sickness bands or medication as needed. 

This is “on charter” service now, following the daily and weekly schedules for guest preferences and the travel itinerary. Meal set-up and service, housekeeping and laundry procedures, and checklists adapt to the schedule day by day, whether the boat is traveling, at the dock or at anchor. 

When the last day approaches, stews are organizing a plan to reset the boat to guest-readiness. As people prepare to depart, stews are helping with luggage, packing to-go snacks and beverages, checking around for forgotten items, and helping guests disembark safely.  

As soon as they depart, the boat is cleaned, detailed, restocked and prepared for the next round. Whether this is a mad rush or a time to regroup and restore the boat at a decent pace depends on the turnover time between guest arrivals. No matter how experienced the team is, there is nearly always a desire to get better. Well-designed checklists can always help to improve outcomes.

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at yachtstewsolutions.com. Comments are welcome below.

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