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Long Stays: Activities for Guests On Board

Your yacht has a brand new owner and he thinks it will be a novel idea if he and eight of his closest friends joined you for the Atlantic crossing – a whole three weeks on board – with big swells pitching and rolling and a few storms thrown in for extra excitement. What are you to do?

I once had a boss who thought it would be fun to join us for a two month journey from Long Beach, USA to Barcelona, Spain (and all the stops in between). Luckily for us, he became so sick and tired after only 10 days (he was literally seasick for the entire time), he left the yacht in Costa Rica and we didn’t see him again until we arrived in Barcelona!

Of course, with the arrival of Covid-19, some of us have had guests on board for extended periods of time, many wanting to live aboard for weeks or months to avoid the risk of infection. We recently had this discussion on our ever-popular Facebook group, Yacht Stewardess and Steward Tips so in this column I wanted to share some of the wonderful ideas from members, plus a few of my own, on ways to keep your guests entertained during those long stays on board.  


Guest activities during a crossing 

Make a betting pool on how many boats you will see with the naked eye.The game can start about 2030- miles offshore when most coastal and shipping lane traffic has subsided. Allocate  points for different sizes/types of boats. Set rules for when sightings begin and end. Rules could include naked eye only, with no radar or binoculars allowed. All sightings have to be verified by at least one extra person.

Never misjudge the enjoyment brought by good old board games such as Monopoly ©, Clue ©, Pictionary ©, Scrabble ©, Twister © (especially fun in moving seas!), Battleship ©, Trivial Pursuit ©, a magnetic Chess board and, of course, all sorts of card games or a poker night. A running tally of the overall winner of all the games will add some extra fun, maybe even a prize can be offered to the overall Board Game King/Queen. You could also have T-shirts printed for the entire group of guests – something like: “I survived crossing 2020” or “Crossing Crew 2020”, etc.

On alternate nights, you can exchange board games for quiz nights or puzzles – again, this could be turned into a running competition – give each guest a 100-piece puzzle and the winner who completes the puzzle first wins a prize.

Or a “movie of the day” selected for the evenings after dinner – all sea/ocean themed films (Voyage, Life of Pi, Titanic, Perfect Storm, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas). It could be presented to the guests each morning printed out on “The Ocean Bulletin” or “Yacht Renegade Chronicle”. Your “daily newspaper” could include fun facts about crossings, educational facts about sea creatures, a summary of the upcoming “movie of the day”, photos taken of the guests the day before, or share fun facts about the crew, the depth of the ocean where you are currently sailing, the weather for the day, etc.

Another great idea may be hosting a Murder Mystery or a Live Cluedo party on board – again remember to provision and plan for this long before the trip – it will include specific areas on board, weapons, costumes, characters (the Butler, the Librarian, etc.) and prizes.

If guests are interested, it may be fun to be included in a bridge watch and have a competent crew member teaching them the workings of the radar, plotting, assisting with look-outs, engine room checks, etc.

For avid astrologists, there's evening star-gazing, lessons in operating the sextant and fun random astrological facts (purchase some guide books and use apps if you will have internet available).

If you're lucky enough to fish along the way, host a sushi night with all the fixings put on by the stews and the chef. This could also be turned into an Asian-themed evening with costumes, music and the works.

Provide for a Karaoke machine on board and stock up on books and e-books. If possible, find out what books the owners and guests like to read and provide those for the trip. Upload the yacht’s movie system with all the latest releases and a large variety of films, documentaries, TV series, etc. – no matter how many activities you plan, guests will still enjoy watching some movies and reading a few good books.

If the chef is game, you could offer some cooking classes or sushi making lessons – this maybe fun especially for the teenager or adult guests on board.

Purchase some Sudoku and adult colouring books  - these will always provide entertainment to a variety of guests.

Ask the guests to participate in drills – such as teaching them to dress in firefighting gear, dry suits – again make this a competition with prizes at the end. Teach them the alphabet flags or nautical alphabet and have a quiz to see who can identify the most, or offer lessons and competitions in navigation lights or COLREGS.

Have them place bets on navigation and the journey – for instance, who can bet the exact time you will arrive at the dock on the other side (no help allowed from the navigation crew), or how long customs will take before coming on board. 

Entertainment mid-crossing

Although a little clichéd, a nautical/Neptune/pirate-themed party mid-crossing would be a tremendously fun way to break up the mid-crossing blues. Of course, having an age-old ceremony midway would be almost compulsory! Neptune can visit (remember to pack a costume for the appointed crew member who will act as Neptune), create fun outside games and have a celebratory party planned on deck (weather permitting). Other themes may include Hawaiian, Under the Sea, Caribbean, USA, Key West, Island Style (all depending on where the yacht is heading).

If the crossing will include the Equator, here is what Wikipedia has to say about first-timers: “The ceremony is a long-standing tradition of initiation that commemorates a sailor's first time crossing of the Equator. The seamen who have already crossed the Equator are referred to as Shellbacks (or Sons of Neptune) and those who haven't are called Pollywogs.”

Prepare some nautical songs to teach the guests, fun games, certificates handed out to the newbies, Champagne, etc.

If weather/sea conditions allow, stopping for a swim or some fishing will always be a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Another fun idea would be doing a “message in a bottle” with a nice poem and maybe someone’s contact details – who knows who may find the bottle and contact the person years later!

You can find more theme party ideas here: 

Provisioning/planning prior to the trip:

  • If possible, send a preference sheet to the guests to gain knowledge on their preferences for foods, snacks, activities, fishing, movies, games, books, etc.

  • Purchase and plan costumes, board games, theme party items, cards, poker chips, puzzles

  • Items for the midway party and celebration

  • Look into alternative polycarbonate glasses – like Strahl © -these may be better during rough days at sea instead of the yacht's good crystal glasses

  • Plan for and purchase prizes for the different on board competitions

  • Printed T-shirts and various yacht swag gifts

  • Items for theme nights and Murder Mystery/Human Cluedo games

  • When planning a theme, always consider: music, decorations, table décor, clothes, food, cocktails matching the theme

  • Karaoke machine and karaoke programme for the song lyrics

  • Upload the yacht's movie system with a selection of movies and an appropriate selection of music

  • Astrology books, travel books on the country/area where you are heading to, astrology apps (if you will have internet), a sextant (if none on board)

  • Fishing gear – ask deckhands to assist with the correct gear and rods

  • Sushi items and soy sauce, ginger, table décor, music – ask the chef for assistance with menu planning

  • Get some attractive baskets (with high edges) to serve food in when the weather is rough. Then you can do soup and sandwiches or curries with naan and they can hold onto their basket with everything in it

  • Look at purchasing thermal coffee mugs, Perspex cup holders and non-skid place mats

  • Seasick medication – plenty!

  • Alcohol, sodas, drinks, cocktail garnishes and items, personalized water bottles as gifts

  • Adult colouring books, pens, colouring pencils, water colour paint

  • Printer ink for ‘daily newspaper’, certificate paper to print out winner certificates

What if your guests or crew get seasick?

I wrote a very handy article about this a few years ago – check it out!  

Best of luck to you, even though it is extremely hard work – you have it in your power to make the guests’ journey an unforgettable one!

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