How to move from cruise ships to luxury yachts

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A: Hayley, Stewardess, 24:

“I’ve just come off 2 years on cruise ships, and I was led to believe that with this background I’d find a job on yachts quite easily, but it seems like everyone I talk to looks down their nose at me when I show them my CV. I’m not even getting any interviews, even though I have loads of transferable experience, and there are girls here at the crew house who barely have any relevant experience that are getting hired. I’m getting the impression people think cruise ship experience is a bad thing rather than a good thing, as if I’m inferior to them in some way – surely it counts that I am already used to being at sea, working as crew and doing the exact same job, just in a slightly different environment?”

Q: The Crew Coach:

This is a really great question that I’m being asked more and more often as more people from the cruise industry are beginning to try and make their way into the luxury yacht industry. Unfortunately your suspicious are correct. The painful truth is that cruise ship experience is a double-edged sword when trying to transition into yachting, as strange as that may seem. Yes, you have amazing experience living and working at sea, being away from home for long periods, pleasing guests on holiday, dealing with seasickness, safety awareness, and working in teams. That’s the good bit—and you need to be making the absolute most of this experience on your CV.

However, in the luxury yacht sector, cruise ships are unfortunately viewed as being ‘downmarket’, the ‘poor cousins’ of the yachting industry, with much higher guest numbers and the perception of much lower service standards than luxury yachts. One is about mass-travel for the masses, while the other is about ultra-bespoke travel for high net worth individuals and their friends or family. There’s definitely a stigma in our industry and you’re right, yachting does ‘look down its nose’ at the cruise industry. As snobby as it may seem, this is the very reason you’re finding it a bit more difficult to bridge the gap over to yachting.

But never fear. There are lots (and lots!) of professional yacht crew who have made this transition from cruise ships very successfully, and you already have much of the skill-set you need to be a great success in yachting. You will almost certainly need to refine these skills a little when looking after billionaires—for example learning how to serve a high-profile family, or take care of precious materials like gold, silk, and marble, but the core elements are already there. And because you’ve lived at sea for 18 months, you are streets ahead of the competition when it comes to the yachting life, and how to be long-term crew. (If you spent the entire two years on one cruise ship, you really need to make that favourable longevity sing on your CV.)

So, how to make your cruise ship experience work for you?

You didn’t mention what kind of cruise ship you were on. This really matters, as if you were on one of the more luxury cruise ships like Regent, Seabourn, or SilverSeas, then you need to highlight this higher-end experience on your CV. Similarly, if you were involved in any butler service or other high-end services, you must make that experience shine on your resume and cover letter. Concierge roles dealing with demanding guests are also of interest to the yacht market.

If you were working on one of these elite lines, you can probably find out some data about their clientele that might be of use to you while speaking to crew agents or captains. There’s been a huge growth in the luxury end of the cruise ship market lately, with penthouses and suites with butler service now in high demand, and higher net worth guests spending increasingly large amounts on their cruise ship holidays. It would be very handy to be armed with the information, for instance, that many of the guests you’ve looked after on cruise ships have been multi-millionaires (which is now quite often the case in the luxury cruise ship market). Also, the size of the cruise ship can work to your advantage if you worked on a smaller ship with a higher crew-to-guest ratio, so point this out on your CV.

Just a quick note to those of you who may be struggling to get work this season and are considering a cruise ship role as a way of moving into yachting later, you really need to be targeting these luxury cruise ship companies and smaller vessels to be setting yourself up well for the transition. Try to steer clear of mass-capacity low-budget cruise liners, as it will be much harder to sell that experience as relevant to the yachting world.

When writing your CV, think long and hard about what your selling points and transferrable skills were. How did you stand out to guests? Did you get promoted to the upper decks, work in one of the higher-end or celebrity chef restaurants, or manage a customer service desk? Did you run any shore excursions, participate in guest watersports, or become an expert on destinations/wildlife/safety drills? Remember to highlight any longevity you have, not only on that cruise ship, but in any other previous roles you’ve had. This will help position you as a serious candidate.

Also, bear in mind that while you have many skills from cruise ships, you’ll need to refine them for the yachting market as mentioned earlier. I’d strongly recommend a GUEST accredited interior training course to help you rapidly up-skill and learn about luxury yachting service expectations. This will also help people see you are serious about stepping up your standards and not just trying your luck over in private yachting. When writing your CV, honesty is a refreshing quality that can make you stand out as a good candidate. As such, it may be a good tactic to show that you already know that you’ll need to refine those cruise ship skills for the yachting industry. For example,

‘I’ve worked for two years on luxury-end cruise ships as a housekeeper/waiter/concierge. Although I have always applied very high standards in my work, I appreciate that my skills may need to be refined even further for the private yachting market. I have undertaken a GUEST course to learn as much as I can about luxury yacht service and ensure I am able to meet the highest possible expectations of large yacht owners and guests.’

It’s scary to admit your deficiencies when job-hunting, but it can also attract the right kind of attention if you show that a) you understand what the yachting market wants, and b) that you’re already working to correct the perceived deficiency through training.

Overall, I think you’re armed with a really great start into yachting, with lots of important skills to build on. You just need to bear in the way yachting people tend to think about cruise ships, so you can play the game right and land yourself a yacht job with some targeted up-skilling and clever CV writing.

The Crew Coach offers a professional yachting CV writing service that could really help you transform your chances and land that job. Just drop us a line if you need us to look at your CV to make sure it’s perfectly tailored to the yachting market, as this can absolutely be the difference between getting interviews and getting a chance, or being passed over altogether.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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Alison Rentoul

Alison Rentoul

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