The ‘Reality’ of Crewed Charter

By Kenny Wooton, editor-in-chief

Reality TV rarely has much to do with reality. Often it features third-rate actors or first-rate crackpots placed in semi-scripted situations and allowed to create their own interpretation of reality, usually involving getting into trouble or making idiots of themselves. Some of them are pretty good at what they do.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, perhaps you’ve seen the Bravo series “Below Deck.” Many people have—1.4 million watched the season two finale last fall, and the show has been renewed. I recorded the first two seasons and have been watching as many episodes as my stomach will tolerate. Rarely have I been tempted as often to fast-forward through the actual content to get to the commercials, but I’ve persisted.


For starters, it’s always cool to watch anything that uses a super-yacht as a film set—even those breathless “Secret Lives of the Super Rich” shows that feature what yacht brokers call “whistling gophers.” (“What’s this go-fer?” Cue whistle.) But “Below Deck” has a sinister side that I, and many others, have concluded does a great disservice to the professional crew who staff the yachts you charter.

“Below Deck” is a waterborne “Downton Abbey” meets “Upstairs, Downstairs” meets “The Love Boat” that chronicles the lives of a charter-yacht crew. Each of the first two seasons of the TV show, the producers chartered a different yacht to act as the set. Some crew, including the captain, first mate and chief engineer, stayed with the yacht, and some of the additional crew had yachting experience, according the show’s promotional material.

I’m sure the actors are nice people in real life, and the pros are competent, but in the interest of entertainment, they’ve been reduced to screwing up at their jobs, getting drunk, having fights and engaging in other activities that wouldn’t make their mothers proud. It’s often more like crude yacht charter than crewed yacht charter.

I’ll concede it’s possible this kind of thing goes on whenever you put young people in a small space under heavy pressure, but as entertaining as all this can be, it bears little resemblance to the supremely competent, well-trained crew I’ve always seen on charter yachts.

When this show made its debut, charter professionals were, for the most part, mortified. They thought such a twisted picture would turn off their clients or potential clients. The fact is, luxury crewed charter is experiencing a boom like it hasn’t seen since before world economies slipped on the banana peel seven years ago, so I guess the show hasn’t scared off too many clients. In this issue, you’ll find highlights of our first annual charter industry survey. One of the questions we asked was whether “Below Deck” has hurt or helped the industry. The responses reflected little support, but one well-respected charter broker said she has clients who watch the show religiously. Go figure.

The bottom line? Charter crews and the service they provide reflect the highest level of personalized hospitality available. That, folks, is the reality of crewed yacht charter.


6 comments on “The ‘Reality’ of Crewed Charter

  1. antony

    The show gives the crowd a glimpse of luxury yacht charter. As an ex captain I can say that it can be considered a good example of reality .
    Indeed it cannot be compared to all other charter boats experiences.
    Each boat and its crew is a creature of itself . Owner , crew , captain and boat can be of variour forms and colours.
    No boat charter experience will be the the same .
    If you can afford it you should give it a go and find out for yourself !

  2. Margaret Banks

    I’ll forever be indebted to Adrienne Gang from Below Deck. Through the craziness around her, I saw a professional doing a job that finally got me excited. So i left the corporate world, packed my bag, and became a yachtie. Were it not for the show, the yachting industry never would’ve popped up on my radar! And, yes, I still watch it because it’s entertaining. Nobody wants to see the reality of my crew sitting around in the crew galley drinking tea and eating sandwiches! LOL

  3. Cheryl Fleming

    As a former yacht professional for twenty years, there may be drama as the article reports above. In all my years of yachting, it is nothing like the show Below Decks. The crews on these amazing yachts that I now photograph, must find this show quite a low blow to their profession. Great article. – Cheryl Fleming Photography

  4. Dhardra Blake

    Having worked in television (both Network & Cable) it’s all about ratings & maximizing advertising investment. I will also add that yes, it’s nice to be in the yacht charter biz right about now and yes there are more “luxury lifestyle” shows in the works as well~ Stay tuned..

  5. Ronald B

    I have watched the show a few times and decided that I would not charter with that crew. The producers have presented the most unattractive aspects of chartering. The show turns out to be anti-charter. No, I don’t watch it any longer.

  6. Paul Madden

    This show can do nothing but lower clients’ expectations, unless they aspire to hit on crew. I was lucky in that I was able to help convince our Commissioners to run an MTV reality show out of my neighborhood in Middletown, RI before they could import their gang-banger cast. This low-rent show will be around forever in re-runs and, over time, it will define what yachts and crews are all about to 99.9% of viewers. Hopefully, there is not a high-correlation of viewership to actual yacht charter clients.
    It’s a shame because our industry has so many well-trained, disciplined and professional crew-members. Sadly, unless someone wants to step up and produce a more high-brow show that is based on ‘true-reality’, this may become the industry’s legacy.

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