When it comes to interior, crew and leadership skills training, there aren’t many individuals with more passion or zest for the business than Peter Vogel.
A veteran who managed Paul Allen’s superyacht stable for nine years, Peter left the billionaire Microsoft founder’s empire to start his own, launching Interior Yacht Services as the go-to academy for ambitious interior crew keen to forge a professional career path in yachting.
As he sets off for St Kitts to run a series of workshops at Christophe Harbour with ACREW, Peter finds time to chat about his vision for the company, which enjoys PYA GUEST accreditation across its courses and is also a proud interior partner of the Warsash Superyacht Academy.
‘I get scared when I speak to captains who say, well, my owner is not asking for the best,’ he says. ‘Owners don’t have to ask, they should always get the best. That’s why I wanted to set up the training and consultancy company and focus on hospitality because that is my field. Before we started IYS, the interior was pretty much left to its own devices.’
Peter’s grass roots experience means he can empathise with the students and trainees he teaches. He started out 23 years ago as a waiter and then an assistant maitre d’ onboard the world renowned Seabourn Cruiseline ships before landing a role as Chief Steward on Lady Maura. He moved to M/Y Chamar to work for a Monegasque family between their Gstaad villa, their yacht and Monaco where he learned the finer points of formal service.
However, his big break came when a friend at Crew Network offered him Secret Project O. ‘It turned out to be Octopus,’ he recalls with a smile. ‘I spent 18 months heavily involved with the build as well as with their other two boats Meduse and Tatoosh. Mr Allen asked me to create a standard for the three boats and he loved it. I stayed for seven years, becoming Fleet Hospitality and Event Manager, overseeing corporate hospitality at events like the Olympic games in Athens and Beijing.
Striving for excellence
‘That role was the front runner for what I am doing today. I left Mr Allen to do what I had done for him for the industry. There needs to be a minimum standard, we should not be allowed to get away with mediocre.
‘I have been there, scrubbing the toilets and cleaning the floors as well as creating luxurious experiential events for up to 500 guests, which naturally included big Hollywood stars. When the owners love what you do, it provides you with this incredible buzz.
‘The industry was ready for a professional approach in terms of interior training, developing people, inspiring them and trying to get the best out of them. Leadership and management training are my passions, as is getting the whole crew to come together to create great memories and experiences that guests go home and talk about. We need owners and charter guests that are ambassadors for our industry to help it grow.’
Peter has visited more than 100 boats and says that 70% did not have standard operating procedures in place. ‘The more structure you can install in operations on the Interior side, the better, and it should be documented as an online manual. That saves time, which can then be spent on the owner.’
The maritime and yachting industry is rich in history and tradition, and one that is beginning to transition from a casual employment environment to one that is professional in its approach to management. IYS was the first company to launch the Luxury Hospitality Interior Yacht Management course in 2014 and prides itself on bringing the very best in the industry to pass on their expertise.
The three-day Leadership and Human Resource Management element is provided by crew leadership expert, Alison Rentoul of The Crew Coach, who brings a unique combination of yachting industry knowledge and cutting edge leadership methodology. Students acquire a strong foundation in the use of Talent Dynamics, a profiling tool used in personal and leadership development accredited by the UK ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management), and receive an internationally recognised CPD certificate.
‘We are ex crew and understand yachting but we bring on specialists who have worked in their industry. I’m not the best bartender or the best butler or sommelier, but I bring in people who are better than me to inspire others.
‘When I first started in hospitality, I brought a friend from the Guild of Professional English Butlers onto Octopus. He told me: 'The big difference between what you guys do and what we do is we go home at night. You become so close knit you will do anything for each other and we can’t compete with that dynamic.'
However, Peter is keen that the PYA GUEST accredited courses on offer, including the YSL4, offer certificates and qualifications that are also transferable to land based careers as well as those at sea.
‘The whole idea is that the skill sets and certificates people obtain are transferable shore side to domestic estates, hotels and resorts,’ says Peter, who is based on board the SS Rotterdam. ‘We are a seven-star industry and I notice that our girls and guys are so good and detailed that it is a hard thing to step back on land.
‘It’s up to us to educate the millennials coming into the industry and make them understand why we see the yachts as diamonds, which need to be polished inside and out. Big businesses like Coca Cola and Microsoft are aware of the benefits too, and we are certifying young people to step out of our industry and straight into business.’
Asaro partners IYS as guest lecturers on the Luxury Hospitality Interior Yacht Management course. Director George Brooks says: ‘The programme is the perfect platform for us to give an insight into the unique guest experiences we have been creating and delivering over the last three years.
‘Our approach is to work alongside captains and crew, so it’s a great opportunity for us to spend quality time with those who are clearly passionate about their career in the industry, whilst imparting relevant skills and expertise that they will find useful right away, or in the future.
‘During our module, which is the final day of the management programme, we put the focus back on what the job is ultimately all about - the guest experience. And whilst after one day’s training, the attendees aren’t going to walk away as events experts, we hope to have inspired such ambitious crew to realise that with the right support and expertise, they can take their guests events and experiences to new heights of possibility.
‘The success of the module to date is a huge credit to the crew who attend. It’s a jam-packed day, but one that each group has approached with complete positivity and commitment until the end!’
Peter describes his typical student as ‘serious minded and driven,’ adding: ‘They arrive on Sunday afternoon, we have a meal together and the first training session is on Monday morning. It’s a five-day course, with three days focussed on human resource strategy, including leadership and management tools.
Investing in leadership
‘Every session is full on, with a social calendar of dinners and cocktail parties so that people get to know each other very well. We get chief steward/esses, second and lead steward/esses, butlers, interior managers, pursers, chefs and occasionally captains who come to train here.
‘They are investing in themselves and learning how to create budgets, be proactive, build rapport, be effective with owners and suppliers and learn which leadership style to use in different situations. People are encouraged to make mistakes too.’
His exclusive partnership with the Warsash Superyacht Academy – part of the Warsash Maritime Academy at Southampton Solent University – should lead eventually to IYS courses being accredited at the university. In addition, Peter is working with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line to source and train staff for their ships.
‘They want me to deliver 1,000 people a year,’ he reveals. ‘Our first course – the 12 day Maritime Introduction Course – starts in April and consists of a five day STCW course and seven days vocational self and team development. The students decide whether to go onto yachts or cruise ships and Royal Caribbean has pledged that if we give them the stamp of approval, they will give them a job with one of their partner brands;Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises or RCCL. It’s very exciting.’
What IYS Students Say:
Chief Stewardess on M/Y YOU & ME
‘I was on the Warsash website looking at the GUEST Interior Programmes and IYS was on there. When I messaged Peter about it, he phoned me straight away, explaining how it worked. We just clicked, he had a lot of passion when he spoke about it which made it inspiring.
I did it for me, not for a particular role. I want to see a career advancement. I’ve been on yachts for eight years and it makes sense to me to give yourself a career path as a stewardess and get some training knowing you are on the right lines instead of jumping on and winging it.
I did the five-day Interior Management Course towards the Chief Stewardess GUEST certificate. I’d looked at other courses and they didn’t seem quite as detailed on the management side. There’s a lot of paperwork to do on yachts but Peter’s course took you more into how to manage a team. Getting the team to see your vision is the hardest thing and there was a lot of that in our training.
Everybody was there to learn on a similar level, we were all on the same page, which is instantly bonding and gives you something to talk about. We learned about ourselves and other people in the group and got to know each other, our faults and our good points.
On the events management day, we divided into groups and balanced out our skill sets to work together and get the most out of our team. Putting that into action and seeing how you can implement it to your team onboard was helpful and great fun.’
Formerly on M/Y TATOOSH and M/Y DILBAR
Stig completed the Luxury Hospitality Interior Yacht Management Course.
‘I am convinced that you have to keep doing courses so you can adapt to this quickly changing industry. A lot of different aspects of managing an interior team are discussed in this five-day program so the whole package looked very complete to me.
The individual profiling analysis was the best part of it to me. You also get to know your own leadership style better and learn how to adapt to different profiles within your team to get the best out of people.’