Ask the Crew Coach - Our Leadership Q&A Column
Camper & Nicholsons's Crew Coach gives festive tips to ensure Christmas at sea is a special time for crew who might be missing home during the holiday period.
Captain: Christmas can be hard for the crew, being so far away from their families while working long hours – and I’ve had some problems with crew performance over this period in the past. Do you have any suggestions for how to keep crew performing at their best during the festive season?
You’re right, Christmas can really dial up the homesickness factor in crew, particularly if they are busy and working long hours with charter guests or owners onboard. This is quite normal, as despite knowing that working hard over holiday periods is part of being yacht crew, most people do still miss their families and friends at this time of year.
Here are some tips on how to keep the festive spirit high onboard so your crew can deliver exceptional service to your guests with genuine smiles on their faces.
Secret Santa. This gets Christmas day off to a brilliant happy start as each crew member receives a gift from a mystery fellow crew member. It’s even more fun if you set a low budget for this, meaning people need to source smaller meaningful presents or silly ones that get everyone laughing. Make sure you do the draw deciding who is giving to who as far in advance as possible; no-one wants the extra stress of dashing off the boat in their afternoon break and tearing around the shops trying to find something.
Loved ones. Make sure every crew member gets time to Skype or call their family. If your yacht has an internet bandwidth control set for crew, raise it for that day, or consider creating a rota for crew to take 1 hour off the yacht to visit a local internet café where they can get in touch with their family.
Christmas dinner. It’s very important for crew morale to make an effort with Christmas dinner. Make sure the chef gets whatever help they need in the galley, particularly if they are also trying to prepare guest food at the same time. Do as much as possible in advance in order to take the pressure off on the day.
Decorate the crew mess as much as possible – and encourage everyone to take part in decorating, even if it’s just creating one silly paper decoration to put on the tree. Make sure you have a tree, however small, and get the crackers out! Christmas lights and music can really lift the mood too.
Say thank you. Be sure to thank the crew for the work they’ve put in, and acknowledge that it can be tough to be away from their families. Ignoring the big pink elephant in the room can make people feel even more frustrated, but a simple recognition of a tough situation (without complaining) can go a long way to making everyone feel their presence and efforts are appreciated and valued.
New traditions. Crew will often have their own family traditions. Find out what they are and see if any of them can be incorporated into your day. You could even have an anonymous suggestion box for Christmas games to play if there is time to fit something like this into your schedule.
A special day. If you’re flat out with guests on or around the 25th of December, then set aside a day between charters to have a celebration together. If possible, have your ‘Crew Christmas before the actual Christmas Day rather than afterwards, so crew feel they’ve already had the enjoyment that they are now providing for the guests.
There are plenty of ways to keep your crew in good spirits over the festive season, no matter how busy the boat is. Good leadership, showing empathy and a allowing a sense of fun and festivity will pull your crew through Christmas in fine style, so make sure to celebrate where and when you can.
Camper & Nicholsons International provides complimentary leadership training and coaching including a private and confidential hotline for the Captains of our Managed and Charter yachts. For more information about our Crew Development Program and our Crew Coach please click here.
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