If you're looking for a new show to binge, Bravo's “Below Deck” might just float your boat. As Bravo's most-watched series, it combines the drama of “The Real Housewives,” the class-consciousness and drama of “Triangle of Sadness,” and the sexual tension of “Love Island,” making it a must-watch.
“Below Deck” celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and is the first of five franchises available to stream on Peacock. The other four are “Below Deck Mediterranean,” “Below Deck Sailing Yacht,” “Below Deck Down Under,” and “Below Deck Adventure.” Really, these franchises don't need much explanation since the titles do much of the work.
In what follows, you'll learn more about the ins and outs of “Below Deck,” including useful terminology; details about the crew, guests, and yachts; and everything you need to know before hitting the high seas from your living room.
Getting Under Way
The first thing to notice about “Below Deck” is that it's gorgeous. The settings are stunning, the crews are craved by all, and boats are beautiful. Each season is set against backdrops that will make your jaw drop, including the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, the fjords of Norway, and the Queensland coast in northeast Australia.
Apart from “Below Deck Sailing Yacht,” each season takes place on ships that are officially designated as motor yachts and cost about $200,000 per charter. The ships on this show vary in size, but let's just say that all the apartments I've ever lived in would fit comfortably in one of these “boats.” They house jacuzzis (plural) and master suites with $10,000 toilets and often carry a couple of jet skis on board wherever they go. If money talks for you, and it certainly does a lot of the talking in “Below Deck,” these ships are worth roughly 400,000 trips to your local kayak kiosk.
Part and parcel of any reality series is the larger-than-life drama that arises when people live, eat, sleep, and work together in incredibly cramped quarters, all while being filmed. This is what we make the popcorn for, though, and the crew and customers in “Below Deck” are always willing to put on a show.
As the title suggests, the stars of “Below Deck” are the crew members rather than the wealthy charter guests. Some of the employees appear on several seasons of a franchise, which provides a sense of stability amid a sea of chaos. And yet, there are enough new faces to keep the show fresh and see how all kinds of personalities mesh.
While this show might be described as “upstairs-downstairs” because of its focus on the crew as a separate entity from the passengers, the boundaries between the two are blurry at best. When guests arrive on the boat, they're met with champagne, and it doesn't stop flowing until they disembark. Even though the crew isn't allowed to drink on charter (this is probably the No. 1 rule on the show), the crew parties down once the guests are gone.
Naturally, all of the booze makes for entertaining TV, but on “Below Deck,” there's plenty of drama without it. For instance, navigating and maintaining a 150-plus-foot ship presents its own set of unique challenges, including untangling anchor chains, battling high winds, suppressing oven fires, and avoiding other boats nearby. As this show demonstrates, life in paradise can sometimes be anything but.
Comedy at Its Finest
For all the tensions that arise at sea (and at port), there are just as many laughs. It makes sense given the stressful, demanding life of a yachtie that the balance be struck between work and play. And in the same way that a seemingly limitless amount of alcohol creates trouble for guests and crew alike, much of it is in the name of fun.
Because audiences peer into almost every moment of the crew's life, they're also treated to beautiful moments of vulnerability, compassion, and teamwork. Because the safety of everyone on board depends on the crew's ability to pull together, it's heartening to see the maelstrom of charter season peppered with a dash of humanity — really good-looking humanity.
The yachties on “Below Deck” have been known to participate in diving competitions, drag performances, and much more to secure a good tip at the end of the charter. They throw lavish parties and picnics for the guests, but more importantly, they take every opportunity to pretend they're the ones with millions of dollars to waste — and that's the dream!
Finally, with the abundance of oysters, caviar, and champagne, audiences can expect a slew of romances between crew members, as messy as it is, and a wide array of couples, throuples, and more between charter guests. “Below Deck” features weddings, breakups, blowups, and throwdowns that will have you laughing, crying, and grabbing for your safety vest.
Many of the yacht employees work on these boats seasonally since many of the filming locations are subject to severe weather during wet seasons. So while the tips might be lucrative (about $1,300 per charter per employee), they won't sustain someone for the whole year.
Some crew members work on yachts or catamarans (sailing ships on pontoons) throughout the year, but others lead completely different lives on land for the remaining 39 weeks of the year. After all, despite the cramped quarters and constant turnover of guests, many of the crew express how isolating and lonely it can be in this industry.
For audiences, however, the reality seems like a mix of glamor and elbow grease for the crew. They know the expectations of them on the show, and they (more or less) know what tasks they need to perform. Together, the crew reveals a fascinating side of luxury yachting, one that almost makes it seem accessible.
There are a lot of nautical terms thrown around in “Below Deck” that might put a kink in your anchor chain, so here's a list of words so you don't have to keep track:
Bosun: Technically written as “boatswain,” this is the most senior member of the deck crew. When anything happens on the exterior of the boat, the bosun takes responsibility and answers to the captain, chief engineer, and first mate.
Bow: This is the front of the ship, also known as the “fore.”
Bowline: Perhaps one of the most important knots in a yachtie's toolbelt, the bowline is tied and untied easily and is used for all manner of things aboard a ship. Not to be confused with the “bow line,” which is the rope that attaches the front of the vessel to a dock, rock, etc.
Chief stew: Short for “chief steward·ess,” this crew member manages the ship’s interior and oversees a team of steward·esses to ensure the comfort of the guests. The chief stew works closely with the yacht's chef to coordinate meals.
Deckhands: These invaluable members of the crew are responsible for maintaining the conditions of the boat's exterior. They provide much of the physical labor, shuttling guests around, setting up water toys, and keeping the ship in, well, shipshape. They keep the teak at its peak so the guests can make the most out of the outdoor amenities.
Port: The left side of the ship in relation to the front (bow).
Starboard: The right side of the ship in relation to the bow.
Stern: The rear of the ship, also known as the “aft.”
Tender: A small motorboat used to shuttle guests from the yacht's anchorage to shore, etc.
Wheelhouse: A section of the ship that covers the helm (wheel). This is generally where a yacht captain spends most of their time. Not Captain Sandy, though; she's a great, hands-on leader.
Yacht: Surprisingly, there's no standardized definition of a yacht, but it's generally considered to be a passenger ship with a cabin intended for overnight use. Etymologically, the term comes from the Dutch jacht for “a hunt” or “a chase,” so called because of their speed and their intended use to hunt down privateers and other law-breaking ships in the 1500s.