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.