'I made $11,000 a month and travelled the world in luxury.' This is the world's coolest job.

"It's the coolest job in the world." 

That's the first thing Madison Jay tells Mamamia of being a chief stewardess on superyachts owned by multi-millionaires and billionaires.

"We get to travel the world, make incredible money and we get more leave than any land job. You also enjoy waking up every day to do work that you're passionate about — plus, the guests are fascinating. One of my stew friends, her first shift she was serving Leonardo DiCaprio on a superyacht."

Thanks to shows like Below Deck, many of us have a fascination with the world of superyachting (myself included). But is it actually like what's shown on TV? And just how lucrative is it?

Madison was in this industry for seven years, and she knows it like the back of her hand. So naturally, I asked her for all the juicy details...

Watch the trailer for the latest season of Below Deck. Post continues below.

Video via Hayu.

Madison still vividly remembers the first time she joined a boat as a junior stewardess, staring in awe at the sheer size of the vessel in front of her.


"I'd obviously never seen a boat that size before in person, and I was so gobsmacked," she tells Mamamia

"I was just so amazed that I was here to work on this yacht, and live onboard. That feeling never disappeared — realising that you get to live on a superyacht that people have to pay like $1 million to come and stay on for the week. That's insane."

Madison was 24 at the time, and within the space of three years, she had been offered a chief stewardess position. It was likely a combination of being very good at her job, showing initiative, upskilling in her downtime and joining boats strategically for career growth that helped her climb the ladder quickly.

A chief stew's role is to be the manager of the interior department. Stews look after laundry, housekeeping, and service — which on yachts that typically range from 40 to 130 metres in size, is no easy feat — and the chief stew could be managing anywhere from one to 20 people in their team.

"My favourite memories are always the times when guests took out the crew for a day or experience with them. I've fortunately always worked for owners who treat us like family and with respect. One couple on board went to Cuba with the boat, so for two weeks, we explored all of Cuba with them. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done," says Madison.

"Other guests have taken us to really fancy restaurants in the south of France. I remember the guests playing a version of roulette with each other over which one of them would pay the bill, and it was easily over €10,000." 


That's around $16,500k in Aussie dollars. Just FYI.

Audiences love Below Deck, and it's quickly become one of Bravo's most popular franchises.

And the fanbase behind the show means more people are interested in joining the industry. One crew agency told Madison that registration lately has been at an all-time high, particularly in 2022 with almost 8,000 new crew registering through the agency.


But as for whether or not Below Deck represents the reality of the work, well... Madison thinks otherwise.

Number one example? You usually get longer than 24 hours between trips, she says. The charter trips themselves are never just a couple of days like on TV; rather, they're typically one to three weeks long. Plus (devastatingly) the crew are not allowed to use guest areas — like the jacuzzis — even when guests aren't onboard.

"My unpopular opinion is that [Below Deck] doesn't accurately represent the industry. I watched the show before I joined the industry and I sometimes still watch it now — I think It's funny and I have friends who've gone on it. But at the end of the day, it's a reality TV show," says Madison.

Being a chief stew isn't all roses, says Madison. No job is.

"There are always nightmare guests. I've tried to block them out as much as I can, but they do all obviously expect a lot because they're paying a lot. Some people, though, are just impossible to please.

"We had one guest who wanted everything gluten-free, but she hadn't mentioned it on her preference sheet, and we were in really remote Greek islands — so that was a big challenge. Then there was another guest who wanted a specific type of Fanta. It wasn't available in Italy, where we were at the time, so we had to fly it in from France, then someone had to take it on a ferry and then drive it to the boat," says Madison.


"Not being able to switch off or 'leave work' and sit on the couch and watch Netflix for the night was hard. I think people underestimate how physically and mentally tough it is. We're obviously working really long hours for sometimes weeks or months without a day off. Plus crew politics... it can be dramatic. But the pros always outweighed the cons for me."

Madison as a chief stew on superyachts. Image: Supplied.


Madison's favourite parts of the jobs ranged from the incredible places she got to visit, to the delicious food she had courtesy of the chef onboard the vessels, and of course, the lasting friendships she made.

"[Working on superyachts] combines four of my favourite things — people, travel, money and hard work. So for me, it was the perfect job."

It's not a career that many typically stay in for decades.

After working on extremely busy boats for seven years, Madison decided it was time to hang up her chief stew hat and focus on a land occupation instead. She now has a business, 'Shore to Sea', where she teaches aspiring superyacht stews how to land their first job onboard and stand out from the competition.

"I now have extremely itchy feet all the time from living that lifestyle. Not being in a different country every day and staying put in one location is a hard lifestyle change, but it has big positives as well. It was the right time," she notes.

Overall, Madison reflects fondly on her time in the superyacht industry — a job that was also very lucrative, she says.

"After those seven years I had paid off my house mortgage, and had money leftover to buy my dream BMW. When you're starting out as a junior stew, you make at least €2500 [$4,100] per month as a salary, separate from tips. Then as you climb the ladder, you can earn up to €7000 [$11,600] per month as a salary, separate from tips. Most chief stews also only work half the year as they're given a lot of paid leave time," says Madison.


"The best tip I ever received was €13,500 [$22,350] on a 10-day charter. ⁠And the worst tip I ever received was zero on a seven-day charter. ⁠Keep in mind you're not paying for rent or food, you have toiletries provided and your medical insurance is covered. The only expenses you really have are your phone bill and the holidays you want to take around your work schedule."

She adds that it's not uncommon for yacht crew to own multiple properties by the time they leave the industry, having paid off any student debt, and still have a hefty amount in savings.

"You've been exposed to some of the wealthiest people in the world, who have also followed their dreams, which is very inspiring."

And for singles, yachting is a bunch of fun.

"A lot of people also find their partners onboard. Many of my friends are engaged or married to crew members they met when working onboard. It attracts like-minded people, and there are a lot of relationships that develop. It's a really fun industry to date in as there are so many young fun crew."

So... time for a career change then?!

For more from Madison Jay you can find her website with the course information here, and her Instagram here.

Feature Image: Supplied/Instagram @madisonjay__.

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