I’m chief steward on Below Deck & the demands billionaire guests make are ridiculous – the drama is far worse off camera | The Sun

IT often looks like they're living the dream on screen, sailing from one exotic destination to another aboard a luxurious super yacht.

But Below Deck star Fraser Olender says it isn't always plain sailing when you're dealing with super rich clients.

The chief steward on Bravo's reality show tells The Sun he's seen more than his share of outrageous demands and seedy behaviour while working as crew.

“The drama you get on a yacht is very intense,” he says. “It's actually 100 per cent worse and more intense off the show than it is on it.

“After all, you have 26 crew living on top of each other, and some of them will be idiots.”

Catering to the whims of wealthy people staying on the boat can throw up some bizarre challenges.

“We create this incredible faux world on the yacht, but at times it is really hard,” Fraser explains.

“I had a guest who, as we're pulling up into Portofino, decided he wanted to go see a friend and drive a really nice car to dinner and then drive it back to the yacht with their friends.

“But they wanted a car that was near to impossible to find, and it was absolutely not going to be rented by anyone.

“So within 72 hours, we purchased the impossibly sourced vehicle from Milan and had it taken to Portofino for 24 hours.

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Fraser had to source a rare car for a guest to drive when they got off the yachtCredit: Getty – Contributor
Fraser joined a yacht crew after enjoying a trip as a guestCredit: Instagram

“Then that was that, and we shipped the car back off to wherever it needed to go.

“It was almost impossible but we were able to make it work after ahideous, harrowing 72 hours. All for maybe 21 minutes of driving.

“There wasn't a thanks, but I don't expect that.”

Fraser recalls how another guest demanded he sourced her a particular pair of shoes in a matter of hours, as she wanted to wear them to dinner.

He ended up flying the shoes from Monaco to St Tropez – only for the guest to not even wear them and dispose of them.

More recently Fraser says he was asked to turn the boat's jacuzzi into an ice bath for a client to use after their yoga session.

It was almost impossible but we were able to make it work after ahideous, harrowing 72 hours… There wasn't a thanks, but I don't expect that

“They gave me an hour's notice, which was ridiculous, and then wouldn't accept why it wouldn't really work thanks to the heat and sun," he says.

"Eventually we settled on turning his cabin bath into an ice bath.”

Even that was no easy feat, as Fraser had to transport ice by hand from the back of the boat down to the cabins.

He managed to enlist fellow staff members to delay the passenger so he could get the request done in time.

Shocking behaviour

While on board the boat, production rarely step in on the series in Fraser's experience.

Earlier this month spin-off Below Deck Down Under sparked controversy when it showed scenes of bosun Luke Jones trying to get into bed naked with a passed out stewardess.

Producers quickly stepped in to remove the inappropriately behaved crew member before anything could happen.

Sadly Fraser says this kind of behaviour isn't uncommon in the yachting world, and he wasn't surprised it happened on the show.

“The incident that was shown is something many of us in the industry have all seen too many times,” he admits.

"We've all seen terrible things happen, and sadly often nothing happens as a result of it. No one is really protected.

We've all seen terrible things happen, and sadly often nothing happens as a result of it. No one is really protected

“I'm not sure what it's like on normal yachts now as I don't work on them still, but certainly when I joined there were these grey areas.

“From what I've heard, there is a lot more attention towards preventing these issues, which is really good.

“I'm just so grateful to work for a show that did step in and is bringing this issue to the fore. While it's awful it's happened, I'm glad it's shining a light on preventing it and getting people talking.

“Hopefully it will prevent other people being put into these situations in future.”

Strict rules

In a world where “no” isn't really an option, Fraser says it falls to him to make sure everyone is kept safe.

“I have a very strict policy with my crew to have boundaries with the guests. However, I can gauge when a male guest is being creepy towards one of the girls under my wing,” he says.

“I have to tread carefully but keeping my staff safe is a priority. There is no real HR team in the yachting world, so I have to create a safe space for all of my team.

“If they're making one of my staff feel uncomfortable with flirtatious behaviour, I will move the shifts around to make sure that stew has minimal contact with the guest.

“For example, if the guest in question normally gets up late and stays up into the night drinking, I'd put the stew they made uncomfortable on the breakfast shift. That means they'd go for their break as the guest wakes up.

“Sadly a lot of guests feel like they can get away with anything, and a lot of the time they do.

Sadly a lot of guests feel like they can get away with anything, and a lot of the time they do

"I have to say every owner I've worked with is wonderful, it tends to be their guests that are more difficult.”

When it comes to being hit on himself, Fraser says he will politely decline but thank the guest for taking an interest, as otherwise it can get too awkward and complicated.

However, romances between crew and former guests and owners do sometimes work out.

"I've got a friend who started yachting at the same time as me, and who is now married to an owner of a yacht," Fraser says.

"Good for them. Listen, it hasn't quite worked out for me yet, but I'm not closing that door.

“The friend now holidays on the yacht they used to work on – that must be weird. In this particular case, it's actually really wonderful."

Six figure tips

Fraser decided he wanted to work on yachts after travelling on one as a guest.

Then the head of commercial modelling at a top agency, he says he was transfixed by how much the staff loved their job, and decided he wanted to give it a go – even if it meant living in a hostel with everything he owned in a backpack until he secured his first job.

Before joining Below Deck, Fraser mainly worked for privately owned yachts with 25 other staff members.

Often the owner would spend their summer on board and entertain friends, family and business partners.

This meant Fraser could be looking after up to 12 full time guests, and then around 200 people if a party was thrown on board.

On the show crew members often receive large tips from guests at the end of a trip.

While Fraser wouldn't reveal how much his biggest ever tip was, he admitted it was six figures, adding: "People can be incredibly generous."

American's are known for their big tips, as showcased in the series, but Fraser says other nationalities can be just as generous.

For him there's one key difference between the guests he used to work with and the American ones on Below Deck.

“Yachting in the States is a very different ball game to anything else because it's very theatrical,” he says.

“They want this big show and to kind of be on a party boat with lots of booze. Whereas before Below Deck, the people I worked with were very reserved.

“It was mostly British or Hong Kong owners on the private boats I did, and they were very reserved and formal. We were lucky if they knew our name – although in some cases it meant we'd done something very bad.

“For them, the boat was their second home, and they liked it run a certain way. It was all very clean, precise and smooth. Not like the show at all.”

One of the biggest issues he faces on Below Deck is not being able to pick his crew.

The staff are all selected by production, and while some return for multiple seasons, others don't.

Fraser has no idea who he will be in charge of until they walk onto the boat, and often they have little to no experience of the industry.


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“It makes great television, but it is a challenge not having any say at all,” Fraser says.

“When you make it to the end with a crew you've moulded, it feels amazing.”

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