Dos & Don’ts for Handling Famous Guests

26 August 2009 By Rubi McGrory
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Hooray, you just found out a celebrity booked a charter on board your yacht. Are you picturing exchanging haircare hints with a Hollywood starlet? Guitar riffs with a rock star? Tennis tips with a world-ranked champion? Well, think again.

There is no manual for dealing with celebrities on board, but here are some dos and don’ts offered by a roundtable of yacht crew (who wish to remain anonymous).

DO understand that your famous guests are very used to being waited on. They have an entourage of personal assistants, drivers, chefs, nannies, bodyguards, trainers, stylists, etc. Five-star service is not a novelty, but rather the norm. As with any guest, the more information you can gather about their needs prior to their arrival, the better service you can offer.

DON’T be starstruck or rather, DO keep your cool. Whether your guest is a famous politician, actor, singer, heiress, athlete, TV personality or CEO, they are constantly being bombarded by people who want something from them. They have come aboard to relax and de-stress. You may see a conversation with the famed director as your ticket to winning your own Oscar®. He sees it as unexpected, unprofessional staff intrusion.

DO know exactly how they wish to be addressed. This is information you should obtain before your famous guests arrive, and will most likely come from the broker. Although OK magazine refers to her as “Madge,” she may actually wish to be addressed as Margaret or Miss [insert last name here]. Similarly, if you are asked to call the principal charterers “Your Highness,” you may want to practice a few times so it doesn’t sound forced.

DON’T confuse the guest with their media/industry persona or a character they play on TV. Superman is more likely to be Clark Kent in real life.

DO treat them as you would other guests. Give them the same attention and courtesies. DON’T hide in your cabin.

DON’T be surprised to have to indulge wacky requests. Your guest is famous and is used to getting whatever she or he wants, whenever he or she wants it.

Purser Diane recalls, “When ‘Diva’ came on board in Antibes, she told us she would be more than happy to pose with the crew at her leisure. One night she told me that she would be ready for photographs when she returned from her evening — which would have been about 3 a.m. None of the crew were fans; some had never even heard of her, and nobody wanted to get out of bed in the middle of the night. You can be sure everybody did anyway, because that is what made our guest happy.”

DON’T do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. As with any guest, if you encounter a situation with drugs or an illegal situation, immediately tell your supervisor or captain.

DO keep your mouth shut. Even if you’re not asked to sign a confidentiality clause, don’t stand in the middle of the marina bar and announce who’s aboard your boat. Remember, your guests deserve privacy and respect. When speaking with them, keep your opinions to yourself about their last break-up, film, album or failed bid for senate. “You are the person who folds their towels; they don’t care what you think,” Diane adds.

DON’T expect a huge tip. An informal poll of yacht crew with famous charter guests reported below-average tips. Some suspect the tip money may have gotten lost in tiers of management; others think the experience of serving a celebrity was supposed to be gratuity enough.

Stew Emma counters, “The ‘Famous Family’ were some of the nicest guests I have worked for. The kids only wanted mac-n-cheese from a box, and the parents just wanted to relax together. We got an appropriate tip, and they bought each of us a personal gift.”