What is BravoTV's Below Deck doing TO or FOR the yachting industry? If you haven't seen it, Below Deck is a show about the crew of a multi-million-dollar luxury yacht and their adventures doing charters with all different types of guests. Filmed entirely in the Caribbean, on an amazing boat, it's the only show of its kind that gives real people a peek into what's considered a glamorous lifestyle. Season One viewers loved it.
Much like my show Wedding Island on TLC, which was about the behind-the-scenes of what happens at a destination wedding planning company, Below Deck is supposed to be about the crew of the yacht more than it is about the guests who've chartered it. They come and go, but the crew remains the same. Mostly.
Last season, I fell in love with Below Deck with millions of other viewers because it was real -- the crew was battling it out behind closed doors, the bosses looked stressed out, and every charter ended perfectly. Despite the obstacles, the captain and his crew came out heroes every time. The chief steward, Adrienne Gang, had a tough job training two immature and irresponsible young ladies on how to do their jobs. And it wasn't easy with a camera crew and production company encouraging them to break the rules behind her back at every opportunity. But viewers cheered her on because it was obvious that her only goal was to achieve stellar service for the charter guests.
It may have seemed to some viewers who could relate to the crew's naughty party girls that Adrienne was mean or "not cool enough," but the reality was she was doing HER REAL JOB. Running a professional crew on a luxury yacht. Every charter came off perfectly. Every set of guests felt spoiled, happy and appreciated.
The result was that yachting was elevated to new heights for "real people" who never would have considered that sort of trip within their means in their lifetimes. Suddenly it became a "bucket list" item. It was the first view into the lifestyles of the spoiled rotten, and their uniformed crews, that ordinary viewers had ever seen. Unless they've caught an episode of a "mega-yacht" type of show on one of the Discovery Channels, regular people may never have imagined the luxury and entertainment of such a cruising adventure. It was a peephole into a world they cannot afford. And watching Below Deck made all of us viewers wish we could.
Unfortunately, BravoTV has let this season's crew become a joke. And it's reflecting poorly on the service staff of the entire yachting industry. Unlike Season One, where every guest was happy and the crew battled it out in quarters, Season Two of Below Deck has given us a view of the worst case scenario of a luxury yachting crew. Sure, we still have Ben-the-amazing-Chef on board to dazzle us with his midnight creations to satisfy the irrational whims of inebriated guests, but the uptight head of the deck crew, Aleks Taldykin, and my heroine Adrienne Gang, are not appearing in all the episodes. In fact, Adrienne was replaced by the worst imitation of a leader than any captain could ever imagine having.
Let me give you 10 examples of how Kate Chastain is making the entire luxury yacht industry look bad:
- She never smiles and acts friendly to the guests. When she makes an effort, it's obvious she's faking. None of the charter guests feel welcomed by her.
- In the first episode, she told us all that she only started working on yachts to meet a yacht owner's son and get married. She's a self-avowed gold-digger who says compliments mean nothing if you don't show her the money. Not exactly who you want serving your group on your five-digit vacation.
- She's had to be asked to improve her attitude by the primary guests on two charters in a row - totally unheard of in an industry that's supposed to be known for its impeccable service standards.
- She says she's more "refined" than her guests, and she's openly disdainful about them in front of her crew, demonstrating the worst possible leadership about how to show hospitality to the client.
- It offends Ms. Chastain when she's treated like "the help," despite the fact that's what she is. All of us who work in the service industry are "the help."
- She's jealous of every single charter guest and shows it by constantly insulting them in front of the other crew members.
- When a guest upsets this chief steward, she gets revenge. She made a guest's blanket into a penis shape on his bed to basically tell him that she thinks he's a big dick. Message received. Guests insulted. Captain received complaint.
- When she screws up or forgets something, she doesn't own her mistake and fix it. Instead, she cheats. She substituted basil and chervil in mojitos because she forgot to order the mint, despite the fact it was on the prep list provided to her.
- When the captain of the boat caught her in a lie, she denied it. Over and over again until she didn't have a choice because the rest of the crew had ratted her out. Would you want this woman in charge of making sure that you have a fabulous vacation on a luxury yacht?
And replacing the performance-driven Chief Steward Adrienne Gang with a bitter, over-the-hill, Botox Barbie with an attitude problem may be causing mad drama for "Below Deck," but unlike last season, the drama is with the guests, not the crew. And the guests are unhappy.
I'm sorry, but isn't this exactly what luxury yachting is NOT supposed to be about? It's giving the whole industry a bad name. The question we're left with is are most of the crew members on these multi-million-dollar boats snarky, mean and jealous, or are they tourism and hospitality professionals eager to serve their clients? Last season I wanted to be one of those spoiled charter guests. Season Two, not so much.
Kate Chastain would probably call me all sorts of names and make fun of me for being fat. When I busted her for serving a faux mojito, how would she have handled that? Would she have told me I didn't need the calories anyway? When guests wanted to start up a late night dance party, she snarkily told them that when she's ready to dance she knows she's had too much to drink and it's time to leave the wedding. Say what? She should have been setting up their music with a big smile on her face. THAT'S HER JOB.
A lot of professionals in the yachting industry have expressed displeasure on social media about the way Kate Chastain is portraying the role of "Chief Steward" on a luxury charter yacht. I'd be saying the same thing if somebody was portraying my job that way. For potential vacationers who can afford to rent a yacht like the Ohana, Kate's behavior is enough to make them think twice.
So at the end of the day, or maybe I should say at the end of Season Two, will "Below Deck's" disastrous new crew boss sink the show for the yachting industry? It's certainly putting a pall over things. It's teaching future "yachties" that it's okay to bitch about being "the help" and treat their guests with disdain. I guarantee you there are more Andrew Sturbys out there "fudging" their resumes if they think they can get hired to sail around the Caribbean. It's definitely reducing the amount of respect the average charter guest will have for the crew when they board a luxury yacht they've paid dearly for.
My conclusion, if this show is going to do positive things for the yachting industry, instead of destroying its reputation for stellar service, a big change had better come with Season Three. Viewers are on pins and needles for next week when Adrienne Gang reappears - but what will it take for BravoTV to see that she's what they need to bring back to keep this ship afloat? If the reaction of Kat Held to her appearance doesn't say it all, I don't know what does. She's thinking "OMG, I might actually have to do work again."