Oftentimes crew are afforded certain benefits along with their salaries to sweeten the deal and keep them from jumping ship faster than you can say full-time, liveaboard owners with six kids, 10 pets and lots of visiting relatives. A recent poll on Dockwalk.com asked crew which benefits they are given and what they think they should receive.
Health insurance is a staple benefit of most jobs and sure enough, 71 percent of our respondents said they do receive health insurance.
“For me, I look for insurance when finding a job,” said the deck/stew of a 157-foot Trinity. “I know injuries happen on board and, while it’s not a deal breaker, it’s definitely something I want.” The chief stewardess aboard the same yacht said, “We have health insurance, but with the deductible, we will end up paying it all ourselves anyway. I have emergency insurance for myself.”
For Doug, bosun on a 152-foot motor, insurance isn’t key. “I’m a healthy 28-year-old so health insurance isn’t that important to me.” While he and his crewmates do get health insurance, Doug says, “To be honest, I really don’t expect it. I’d rather get [paid] more money and be able to spend it as I see fit.”
If health insurance isn’t a high priority, are bonuses? Fifty-one percent of poll respondents said that they do not get bonuses. Chef Mike of M/Y Moonraker is part of the lucky half that does. “We have a three-year employment contract. At the end of those three years we get money as well as annual increases.” However, the deck/stew and chief stewardess on board the 157-Trinity said they do not get any bonuses and Doug said crew are not allowed to receive tips on board.
Time-off is a benefit that everyone wants. Eighty-eight percent of poll respondents said they receive paid vacation time. Of them, more than half get one month a year. Deckhand Garron of M/Y My Little Violet said, “After the three-month probationary period, we get paid leave. We receive a month time off for every year of service.” On board the 152-foot motoryacht Doug works on, crew are offered two weeks of vacation and on the 157-foot Trinity, the crew have time off when the yacht is headed to the Med on Dockwise. “It’s almost forced vacation,” said the chief stew. “It’s hard because it isn’t on our own terms. On my previous boat we got five weeks paid vacation, not including our time on Dockwise. It’s a big change.”
If you have time off, where is the first place you want to go…home, right? Okay, maybe it’s the second place, but you still want to get there eventually. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they get paid plane tickets home. On Moonraker, based in the U.S., non-American crew are offered two tickets a year. Some yachts, however, like the 157-foot Trinity do not provide paid plane tickets home. Bosun Doug doesn’t get plane tickets home either, but he says, “We never really go too far as to where we can’t get home.”
An overwhelming majority of crew said they do not receive any retirement benefits (ninety-five percent).
But do crew think their benefit packages are really sweetening the deal? It’s almost an even fifty-fifty split, about half said yes and half said no. And when it comes to what crew want more of; it’s evenly split between the options. Twenty-three percentage of crew who responded that they weren’t happy with their benefits wish they had health insurance. Eighteen percent said they think bonuses should be added and twenty-one percent feel they need more vacation time. Sixteen percent think plane tickets home should be put on the table and a final eighteen percent feel a retirement package is needed.
Dockwalk.com member Dean says crew shouldn’t forget about the non-tangible benefits like new experiences, sea time, the beautiful locales and the financial stability that working as crew offers. Deckhand Garron said, “Crew used to get their courses paid for and little extras like that, but I think that’s all being phased out now because of the recession. Owners are cutting back because they’ve lost money.”
“I’ve been doing this for about ten years and I have a great benefit package on this boat. Other boats I’ve worked on have given much of the same, some more, some less, but I’ve never been stiffed so I can’t complain,” said Chef Mike.
But Bosun Doug sums it up best, “If I was stuck in a cubicle all day, of course I would want great benefits. I would demand it. But I’m not, I’m out here and I get sunshine benefits.”