Sailing in Croatia: 8 Harsh Realities of Life as a Hostess
Believe it or not, the reality of life as a hostess is not all vino, sunsets and smooth sailing…
Often, when people heard I was a hostess on a yacht, some of the first few sentences to come out of their mouths would be – “wow, you have the dream life”. If you go through my Instagram or Facebook you will find hundreds of pictures of stunning sunsets, idyllic locations, maybe even a glass of vino… I understand that this has added to people drawing the conclusion that all I did was explore, sail, drink wine and watch every sunset all summer long. But, there is a good reason for that – I don’t think people want to see photos of the other side of the job. So, while I loved my time as a hostess aboard a luxury yacht, there are definitely a few harsh realities that many aren’t aware of.
1. Sleep is overrated
While life onboard is tough for all crew and I have respect for every single role; depending on the type of yacht and how many crew, the role of the hostess can be one of the more physically and mentally demanding. While the deckhand aboard our yacht got up every morning at a very leisurely 7am and retired at 9pm most every night, I was up at 6am most days and never in bed before midnight. As a hostess, you are the first face the guests see in the morning and the last face they see at night – after “just, one more drink…” You simply learn to operate on minimal sleep.
Oh and the sleeping quarters I hear you ask? Definitley not as nice as the rest of the yacht, let’s just say, it didn’t matter, because by the time you get to our cabin at night you immediately pass out.
2. There is no ‘off-switch’
I worked in hospitality for the better part of a decade and while restaurants can be a demanding environment, at the end of the night, you still get to go home and switch off, even if only for a night. On a boat, there is no off-switch, you live and work in one confined space – there is no escaping the job, even for a second. You are on-call 24 hours, 7 days a week – including having guests knock on your cabin at 3am because they heard a weird sound in their room…
3. Being on the water, never getting in the water
There is sweating, a lot of sweating. Running up and down stairs, carrying tens of plates and drinks, vacuuming, cleaning in 30+ degree days… it all equates to being a very sweaty Betty. Enviously eyeing the guests swimming while I cleaned up after them, only to hear them say when they got out – “the water is so lush, why aren’t you swimming?” Good question, thanks for pointing that out *continues sweating profusely* Believe it or not, it’s not really appropriate as a hostess to get into your bikini in front of guests and go for a swim. If I wanted to swim, I either got up earlier (around 5.30am), waited ‘til the guests got off the boat (which many rarely did) or sometimes I thought – screw it – and got in when no one was really around *frowned upon*. Either way, I can count on one hand the number of times I went swimming last summer.
Credit: Tash Pericic; just imagine staring at this every day and not being able to get in…
4. Filth, spew and other excretions
Cleaning spew and other excretions comes with the territory (no pun intended). One week, a group brought a nasty bout of gastro onboard. Needless to say, there were a few bedsheets that needed changing and I was fortunate enough to contract it myself…
One aspect that always blew my mind, was just how filthy some people could be. I could never understand how you could be an absolute slob in your bedroom, knowing we see that every day (yes, we are quietly judging). Maybe it’s just me, an industry hazard, but when I stay in a hotel room for a night or two, I always give the room a quick once-over when I leave – and I don’t even have to face the cleaners! It was definitely the minority, but the cleanliness and hygiene of a few was definite cause for concern.
5. Put on a happy face
The second you walk out the door of your cabin, you are on show. While some guests were not morning people and would snap their coffee orders in my direction before I even had time to blink, no matter how tired I was, or how out of sorts I felt, I still needed to smile and say “yes sir”.
One day, half an hour before new guests were to board, we had a huge fight as crew; it was the end of the season and we were all at our wit’s end, the chef exploded and I was in tears. I literally had seconds to splash some water on my eyes, calm myself, put on a happy face and welcome our new guests aboard “hi, welcome, are you excited to be here?”
Tired, moody, PMS, sick… guests didn’t pay to know any of this, the show must go on!
6. Service with a smile, the customer is always right
Similar to above, but this is more related to the service side. The old motto “the customer is always right”, is actually outdated and you will find plenty of restaurant managers who will tell you so. It goes more something along the lines of – “the customer is always right, to a point…” Except for on a boat. The difference is, in a restaurant you are providing a service, on a boat, you really are there to serve. Might seem like paraphrasing, but there is a huge difference. When people pay for a boat, there are different expectations and a much higher-level of service expected. NOTHING, is out of the question. I didn’t personally face any outrageous demands, though I have heard plenty of stories from others.
OK, this was actually one of the more hilarious requests – yes I delivered cocktails on a SUP board to guests while they were swimming.
7. Dealing with more personalities than a professional impersonator
As a hostess, you come across every personality imaginable and it is your job to adapt and please them all. OK, I genuinely do love people, which is why I have worked in hospitality and tourism for more than a decade. Regardless, serving and living with people for an entire week is tough. Most of us have friends and family we wouldn’t want to be trapped on a boat with, so imagine having no choice. There was the demanding, rude, chauvinistic, hedonistic, princess… the ‘funny guy’ who had a joke or comment to say about everything, ‘the questionnaire’ – a minimum 100 questions per day, the ‘storyteller’ – “that reminds me of this one time, I was driving in California…”, the ‘never good enough’…
While I consider myself a patient person and look for the good in most everyone, when I am on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet and someone decides it is a good time to start telling me a story, or when I am told “that’s not how they make a cappuccino at Starbucks…” or when a group is nervous (and rude) all week because they can’t swim and are afraid of deep water… *why book a holiday on a yacht??* THIS, is when my patience wears thin.
8. Crew, one big happy (dysfunctional) family
Once again, working in restaurants was tough, there were a lot of staff and not all you necessarily liked, but at the end of the shift, you could all go your separate ways. On a boat, you are literally in each other’s pockets, you spend more time with crew than you probably ever have your own family. It can make for the best of times and the worst of times… There is always one person who thinks they are more important than the rest, or someone who doesn’t quite pull their weight and this can take its toll over a season. But, love ’em or hate ’em, you learn to make it work, just like a real family! I have actually worked with some great people over the years, but fair to say there is a high staff-turnover in the industry at large.
Why do it?
The money can be good, but if you read any of the above, you know that no amount of money can help you endure 16+ hour days, every day for 4 – 5 months straight under these sorts of conditions.
For better or worse, I loved my time as a hostess in Croatia. I have a genuine (maybe twisted) love and passion for people and hospitality. I got an absolute kick out of giving my all to make someone else’s experience in Croatia a memorable one. I loved sharing the history, culture, cuisine… and hopefully imparting some of my love for Croatia on others.
For every moment I wanted to cry, there were 10 more moments that made me laugh and smile. I did watch almost every sunset, I WAS in ridiculously gorgeous destinations every day (and have seen more of the Dalmatian islands than a lot of Croats I know), I dined in some of the best restaurants and met some truly awesome humans from around the world – some of whom I now call friends. We had guests print us t-shirts, children write us songs, we even spent one morning, battling it out on a waterpark with a family (the first time all the crew were in the water).
These moments and so many more, made every tired, long, sweaty day worthwhile and I wouldn’t change this experience for the world!
Some of the amazing clients who made it all worth it! Thanks for the memories Curt & Jamie, Ed & Evo, Tim & Jen, Doug & Nancy!
I am sure there are plenty of hostesses out there who could add many sections and stories to this list and truth-be-told, I never had it ‘that’ bad (I have heard some absolute horror stories before), but it is also a much tougher job than most realise or the smiling photos let on.
If this didn’t put you off and you are considering becoming a hostess, you can look forward to an upcoming piece on – what it takes to be a hostess.