Seven-star service starts with well-maintained preference sheets

Aug 1, 2022 by Ciara Farrow

At last count, there were nearly 9,000 yachts in the world, no two with exactly the same manifest, configuration, or crew. But one thing every luxury yacht program does have in common is preference sheets — the detailed profiles of yacht owners and guests that serve as a field guide for the interior crew.

Preference sheets spell out everything from dietary restrictions and medical conditions to favorite music and morning routines. They’re used to plan provisions, keep guests safe, and arm crew with the information they need to anticipate passengers’ needs. When it comes to delivering a seamless onboard experience, there’s nothing more valuable than good preference sheets — and yet, they are almost always mismanaged and overlooked.

I have seen preferences handwritten on stacks of Post-it notes and scribbled on dirty napkins. I’ve rummaged through boxes of unlabeled binders and suffered through poorly written novels on how guests like their beds made. I’ve provisioned steaks for vegans, used laundry detergent that made guests break out in I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to preference sheets, and here are a few of the most important things I’ve learned:

Designing Preference Sheets

The design of preference forms and guest profiles matters more than you might think, so make sure you’re using a clean template.

  • It’s all in your head(er): A busy stew may only have a second to glance at their packet between guests, so make sure the most important information is at the top of every page. Basic details (picture, preferred name, cellphone, etc.) are essential, but it’s a good idea to prioritize health information (medical conditions, allergies, dietary restrictions), and any strong likes and dislikes, so they’re top of mind.
  • Keep it short: Organize preferences into categories (food, daily routine, etc.), and keep any notes short and to the point. Bullet points make preferences easy to read, and the occasional bold type or underline can help draw attention to important information — but don’t overdo it.
  • Make it visual: Include images whenever you can. Headshots of guests make them easy to identify, and photographs of festive table settings, favorite cocktails and special meals are the quickest way to capture complex preferences and impress even the most particular passengers.

Maintaining Preference Sheets

Preference sheets are living documents that need to be constantly updated and shared with a rotating crew. Preference records are only as good as they are current, so be sure yours don’t get stale.

  • Assign an owner: Every program should have a “preference owner,” a single point of contact for making sure profiles are up to date. The owner — usually the chief or second stew — should be the only person who can edit the master preference sheet and be responsible for making sure any new information (e.g., from group chats, Post-its, and emails) is added and communicated with the crew.
  • Post them everywhere: Print up-to-date preference packets for current guests and post them anywhere guests won’t notice — on the crew board, taped to the pantry wall, in the galley, in the linen closet, and anywhere else you can think of — so that crew can grab them on the fly.
  • Time stamp everything: Even the best preference sheets have an expiration date, so make sure you know how old yours are. Label the cover of your preference packet with the date of its last edit so the crew know if they are working off the same version, and track individual changes by including the author’s initials and date next to any new notes. This is particularly helpful when preference packets change hands.
  • Keep a digital copy: Keep preference records in one place online. Google Drive is a great, free alternative to Dropbox, and using Google Docs allows crew members to edit or comment on individual items. Plus, having a digital copy makes it easy to check preferences on your phone when a paper copy isn’t nearby. Just be sure to toggle the settings so your document is “available offline.”

For more tips and a free template, visit



About Ciara Farrow

Ciara Farrow is a regular Triton News contributor.

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