The problem begins with the lack of mandatory training for interior crew – something The Crew Report feels strongly about and is trying to raise before the eyes of the wider industry. “[Interior and hospitality training] is something that has been trialed and errored in the past. If you want to be a captain on an 80m, the guys know where they have to go and what they have to do, following their progression, but the interior, and sometimes the culinary, is very unwritten,” explains Zehnder.
"A private service as opposed to a public service, which is what [land-based service] is, which is completely different. It’s a whole other world of training and service."
The choice of instructor is of particular importance, here, says Zehnder, who adds that the Nautical Academy deliberately doesn't stick solely with ex-chief stewardesses when it comes to its trainers. Rather, the training provider uses a mix of ex-chief stewardesses and those specifically from the top-end hospitality schools. The combination, for Zehnder, is a strong one. “We’ve done a lot of research, looking into how the hospitality schools are structured. We’re looking at taking the yachting [only] training out of this. Just because you’re an ex-chief stewardess it doesn’t mean you should be teaching a silver service course. We do have one of our instructors who is one of the top ex-pursers and ex-chief stewardesses and she’s highly knowledgeable, but pairing her with a specialist in service from the hospitality industry in London, where another one of our instructors comes from, [makes the training] service orientated and high-end. There will be modifications, and that’s where the yacht trainer comes in, because she’s saying, ‘OK, now you’ve got these huge machines in a factory, how do you apply that to a smaller space?’”
Zehnder also wants those attending the Nautical Academy to truly understand the varying requirements of different types of service – so often in the superyacht industry, the term ‘silver service’ is generalised and interior crew starting out in the industry think land-based silver service is comparable. “A private service as opposed to a public service, which is what [land-based service] is, which is completely different. It’s a whole other world of training and service, which is great when you have a background, but what we’re looking at giving [our students] the background of the level of service they need. Learning that specialised service, that opening the bottle of wine at the table is probably not what you do on a yacht. You’re learning these smaller, finer techniques. Taking your knowledge and giving it a more specialised training, and from there is where you start.”
It is interesting that, given the industry still refuses to introduce any mandatory training for the interior, training schools such as the Nautical Academy are moving closer towards hospitality training, rather than focusing specifically and sole on yachts. Perhaps this shift in focus could be just what the interior department needs.
*During the time between this interview and its publication, Mikaela Zehnder left the Nautical Academy and is no longer with the training provider.