I’m a relatively new viewer to the Below Deck series. A friend recommended it to me in May 2022 and I tried all series of the show. I must admit that the scenery and places the boat visits are amazing. I have viewed all five shows on stream: Below Deck, Below Deck Mediterranean, Below Deck Sailing Yacht, Below Deck Down Under and Below Deck Adventure. I had been watching previous seasons before writing this piece and being in the hospital recently gave me ample opportunity to view all available episodes. Now, I will state my overall opinion on the series which is simply: “What Gives?”
What gives, you ask? Yes, I mean that just the way I said it. I know this is a Bravo show where sex and arguments are a staple of the Real Housewives line. I know to the network that these two items sell the shows. It wasn’t too bad during the first seasons. Now it is going the way of the others to becoming a soap opera with the crew area becoming more of a focus that the locales. Let’s look at the captains, shall we, to see how they control the show.
Below Deck — The Original
Below Deck is the parent show. All others came into being because of it. It’s the one I prefer the most and I think that this is due to Captain Lee, the only Captain I have seen do this show. Captain Lee knows how to handle a yacht. He gives his first officers, bosun and chief stewardess, the opportunity to run their staff. If something happens, he goes to the officer to address first before he gets involved. The chef has their own department which makes things interesting. Captain Lee doesn’t like to take part in petty arguments but will step in when things get beyond the control of his officers. He doesn’t like bullies and he doesn’t like staff who take advantage of the ship and its amenities. If he doesn’t like something, he lets people know, usually shouting from the bridge deck (while guests are on shore). It’s a well-run ship and very few problems exist. He also doesn’t let guests disrespect the ship or his crew. When Doris refused to follow the ”no swimming at dark,” he told all that the cruise was ended and headed to dock. He relented and only Doris left the yacht, and the other guests were much better after that.
I didn’t realize how much I liked his managerial style until he had to leave mid-cruise this season (Season 10) due to health concerns. Captain Sandy of Below Deck Mediterranean took his place. I’ll go into more about her in a minute, but things haven’t gone well with her so far. She sometimes seemed to want to be a deckhand and didn’t seem to see what was going on under her nose on the interior team.
Let’s look at the elephant in the room this season. Camille knew that Captain Lee was watching but could always pass it off as “I serve two areas and don’t have time to always complete what I’m given.” I think he was wise to what she wanted (to party) and was giving her enough rope to “hang herself” and lose her job. Before he could take any action, he had to step down (temporarily I hope) as captain and Sandy came in to fill the gap. Granted, Sandy was walking into a minefield with Camille and Camille realized it. Camille tried to stay under the radar but kept getting called on the carpet. As a stew, she thought she’d be able to have fun and blame others. She didn’t like the second stew which made me question whether Camille thought she was superior to people of color. Little by little, it started to unfold. She always weaseled out and then would say “my captain” will listen to me. Camille thought that she could con Sandy into anything. That is until the epic fight in front of the guests. That was the turning point for Sandy. The drinking of ship’s liquor, the sex in the quarters of a deckhand while the other one was there, only made it worse for the audience. Captain Sandy put it back on Frazier, a first time chief stew, to make the decision. He knew what he needed to do when Camille got the guests champagne and drank it while on duty. When Frazier reached the end of his limits and said to fire Camille, Sandy finally did but in such a nice way. Instead of apologizing, Sandy should have told Camille she was given every opportunity to do her job. In my opinion, a first-time chief stew needs to be guided not handed an ultimatum. But to each their own.
Below Deck Mediterranean
Let’s move to Captain Sandy on the Below Deck Mediterranean series. The Mediterranean series offers the beautiful ancient world and I love it. I will be honest. The crew cast gets on my nerves. There are times when Sandy gets as gossipy as her crew. When Malia was on the show, she constantly brought news of the actions of the crew to Sandy who relied on her as her eyes (or spy). The most talked about incident was when Malia went to Sandy about Hannah having illegal drugs on the yacht. Granted that is a no-no, but to some, it appeared as a vendetta of Malia against Hannah. Hannah had done several cruises for the ship and here she was out of a job. Malia was bosun but I honestly think she thought she was first officer. Sandy could have warned Hannah and sent her to a doctor for help due to her service to the yacht, but what Malia wanted, she got. A Hannah free ship.
While I don’t have much to say about the interior (except excessive gossiping), the deck crew during the last outing needed help. They just couldn’t seem to dock the boat. Yes, it was a new port and almost new crew, so I was glad when things finally came together for them.
Below Deck Sailing Yacht
Next up is Below Deck Sailing Yacht. I like Captain Glenn. He’s my second favorite captain of the five. The main concern I have with him is that he never lets the chef know when he’s going to move from engine to sails. As soon as the sails go up, the dishes in the mess go flying. I know that is what the guest paid for (and at least they know it’s happening), but how much damage has he done to the mess (not including injuries to the chef) has occurred when this happened. Just get on the walkie and say “Sail.”
If there is one concern I have with Captain Glenn it is that he allows Gary King to get away with, shall we say, sexual approaches to the females on crew. Gary, or the hound dog as the engineer calls him, just must have affairs with someone on every cruise. The good news is that Gary keeps it to down time (unlike Camille mentioned above). The bad news is that Gary seems to like all women and that causes friction within the interior staff. At least, Gary can work it out and it doesn’t seem to affect the running of the ship.
Below Deck Down Under and Adventure
Now, let’s look at the newest editions to the Below Deck family. I have to say I liked Below Deck Down Under and see that it may become a vital part of the franchise. Captain Jason in the commercials is nothing like the real Captain Jason on the show. Yes, he’s a hunk but he’s not a pushover or looking for a love hookup. He’s a family man and it comes across in everything he does. The show has only had one season, but I will definitely watch it again to see just where they let it go.
The final edition is called Below Deck Adventure. It’s still in its first season and had the promise of being good since it was going to the Scandinavian area. I thought—great! More beautiful scenery and extreme sports. Instead, the first episode had one of the deck hands trying to figure out which stew would be his bedmate. The good news is that he got kicked off the boat early in the show. The bad news for the show is I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Extreme sports for them is not what I would consider extreme.
Don’t get me wrong, we do get scenery but I’m not warming up to Captain Kerry or his crew. He’s able enough and has proven he can do his job and that of the deckhands but I’m having trouble with the crew. Both the chief stew and bosun haven’t proven themselves capable to job with the stew worrying more about make-up and appearance of her staff and the bosun who does very little assisting on deck. It may just be my opinion. After all I loved Eddie from Below Deck and more than tolerate Gary from Sailing Yacht.
This is just my opinion, but I wish Bravo would keep more of the original higher staff in place. I miss Eddie from Below Deck. If he was there, I don’t think Sandy would have the problem she has had. I love Captains Lee and Captain Glenn. I see real potential with Captain Jason. I won’t judge Captain Kerry as it is his first outing. My advice for Sandy is to stay on board and learn from Captain Lee. I think you will find you see much more than learn through gossip.
The other piece of advice I would offer is that Bravo make the crew aware that their actions on off duty hours affects the view of the port toward the yacht and yachting in general. Their antics at the restaurants, bars and clubs get out of hand. Eddie could handle them. Gary has control over them. The rest just seems to let it happen.
If you want more on the Below Deck franchise, let me know!