The untold truth of Below Deck

Since 2013, Bravo's Below Deck has been serving up as much drama as they serve up fancy, three course meals on the luxurious deck of their multi-million dollar mega yachts. Everyone wants to be a fly on the wall of a vacation they could never afford — but this is not that. In fact, it's one of Bravo's most exhausting (but fun to watch) shows.

The series follows the yacht's hard-working crew as close quarters battle against a lack of sleep and a high stress workplace to fuel fights so explosive, they put the Real Housewives of New Jersey to shame (and Teresa Giudice has served hard time, so you know it's serious). It's almost hard to believe that the drama — from the demanding guests to the myriad of co-worker hookups — is actually legitimate, but in reality, the world of professional yachting may be even more explosive than what's seen on the show. This is the untold truth of Below Deck.

A boat by any other name is just as expensive

There's no doubt that the yachts on Below Deck are impressive, but the vessels and the crew may not be exactly what they seem. In 2013, when the series had just debuted on Bravo, co-executive producer Rebecca Taylor gave yachting news site The Triton the low down on Below Deck's lavish boats.

Taylor, who pitched the idea for Below Deck after spending "three summers working on yachts" during college, searched for a yacht and charter guests willing to appear on TV. According to The Triton, the boats were renamed for the series. Mustang Sally, which appeared in Season 3, was renamed Eros. Cuor di Leone, which appeared in Season 1, was dubbed Honor. Most of Cuor di Leone's real crew was given time off and replaced, barring the real captain, engineer and first officer, who each remained on board.

"The original crew was perfect, but in the television world, there's all kinds of reasons you can't do that," Taylor told The Triton. "It's almost impossible to find a real functioning crew and step on with cameras and say go. Just because you have the perfect crew doesn't mean you don't have a convicted felon or someone with anger issues who's going to punch the cameraman. All that matters to us in TV."

The film crew constantly get in the way

The mega yachts on Below Deck may be gigantic, but the crew is lodged in incredibly close quarters. This means that the cameramen tend to get in the way. According to Hannah Ferrier (above left), who served as chief stew in Below Deck Mediterranean, the boat crew generally tried to pretend the TV crew wasn't there, which was exceedingly difficult considering that meant 30 to 40 additional people rotation on and off the yacht a various times. Worse yet, the film crew allegedly left fingerprints everywhere — the horror!

Finding a vessel big enough for charter guests and a film and yacht crew is tricky. Space on the ship is reportedly so tight that the film crew sleeps on a seperate boat.

"You find yourself almost hoping you don't have a sexual harassment claim from a camera guy," Ferrier admitted to Forbes. "You're like, my butt is too big to squeeze by without touching him."

Beyond getting in the way, the film crew does have some drama of their own. In 2017, local St. Martin news outlet The Soualiga Post reported that one of Below Deck's production boats sank after breaking its propellor. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Vacationers get a hefty discount

Looking for a cheap, luxury vacation? The charters on Below Deck still aren't it, even with the hefty TV discount. In a Reddit AMA, Below Deck producer Mark Cronin, admitted that the rich guests who hire out the luxury charters on the series get a steep discount for allowing themselves to be filmed.

Charters typically last three days. For the week, Thought Catalog claims it costs around $150,000 to $200,000. Cronin admitted that guests on the show get "about 50%" off their stay and free airfare. They're still expected "to tip about 15 to 20%" of the full price and don't make a cent for appearing on the program. At the end of each charter, the crew can expect $1,000 to $2,000 each in tips.

Unlike some of the crew, the guest who stay on board Below Deck's charters apparently aren't carefully chosen by Bravo in advance. Cronin admitted that while he wishes he could be "picky," in reality, "whoever's check clears the bank is on the show." Somehow, it's all worked out pretty well because they've never had a party "too boring" for an episode (though, the cast's drama certainly moves things along).

The Captain won't get physical (but that doesn't stop the guests from trying)

Captain Lee Rosbach (above) is Below Deck's resident silver fox, which is a descriptor he seems to have eagerly embraced. After all, this is a man who named his memoir Running Against the Tide: True Tales from the Stud of the Sea. 

Anyway, the yachting vet of more than two decades opened up to Fox News about his guests' wilder demands. According to Rosbach, almost all yacht captains have been "propositioned several times in their careers." But like a true professional, Rosbach generally tries to avoid any situation where passengers may attempt to get physical.

"Never be alone with a female guest in any situation that isn't public, specifically avoid their cabins. You always take someone with you when your presence is requested. That sort of thing is usually precipitated by a large quantity of alcohol so you monitor the situation and avoid the ones that can cause you grief," he said.

Apparently, the captain isn't the only one who gets propositioned. According to Rosbach, it's not uncommon for female guests to ask male crew members to do a little striptease (or as he put it "dance to what closely resembles a stripper pole"). Here's hoping they got a good tip. 

Getting propositioned by a mob member is just an average work day

It's not just the male crew members who get hit on by frisky female patrons. Apparently, the women on staff also get propositioned by some pretty powerful men. If you're into picking up mobsters, sugar daddies and famous actors, you might want to consider a career change.

In an episode of Watch What Happens Live, chief stew Hannah Ferrier (above) admitted, "I had a charter guest from the Russian Mafia once request a little bit more than a bed turned down." Later, she joked about how he could have been her sugar daddy, but she gave him up for a bosun (the supervisor of the deck crew): "What was I thinking?"

This isn't the first time a wealthy man made a pass at one of Below Deck's hard-working women. Stewardess Brooke Laughton, who appeared on Below Deck Mediterranean, admitted that a "super hot famous actor" asked her to throw on a swimsuit and get cozy in the hot tub. She told The Daily Mail that she declined "for some strange reason," because she wanted to remain professional and the charter didn't end for another month.

Bravo robbed us of a RHONY crossover episode

We know The Real Housewives of New York were left fearing for their lives after a traumatic boat ride in Colombia (at least, according to People), but that doesn't mean the ladies don't enjoy a good yacht outing. And yet, Bravo had the audacity to rob us of a RHONY crossover episode!

Below Deck's chief stew, Kate Chastain (above left), was apparently working on a yacht parked in Sag Harbor (a RHONY hot spot) when Ramona Singer (above right) allegedly invited herself on board after a pinot grigio-filled day of filming. 

According to Chastain, who spoke to The Daily Dish, Singer started hanging out with boat's owner in the main salon. She was reportedly "feeling sassy" because she had "just gotten her short haircut" (or maybe it was the pinot). If only we could have be a fly on the wall, but you know those chief stews wouldn't tolerate insect stowaways.

Though the RHONY crossover may have escaped us, there's still hope for another Bravo reality series. In August 2018, Southern Charm star Patricia Altschul hit up Captain Lee Rosbach on Twitter (via The Daily Dish) about chartering his boat. Lee agreed, and Chastain said she was "already planning the theme parties." Fans of Real Housewives of Atlanta got their crossover episode in 2015.

The guest requests get even stranger than you think

Below Deck's charter guests pay exorbitant sums of money to hang out on a yacht for a long weekend, so it's not really surprising that sometimes their demands get out of hand. And even though everything supposedly has a price, that's only if the request is actually possible, right?

Case in point, stewardess Kasey Cohen (above right) told The Daily Mail that one of her strangest requests came from an "old rapper" who asked her to "fluff his marijuana." Though she didn't admit the demands came from Tupac, who's rumored to be hanging out in Cuba somewhere, she didn't say it wasn't Tupac.

"I can barely fluff a pillow and [this guest] wanted me to fluff marijuana," Cohen said. "What the h— does that even mean?"

Lead deckhand João Franco apparently had an even more annoying experience. He was asked to peel grapes for a guest who wouldn't eat the skin, something we've literally never thought about while eating grapes until now. Bosun Conrad Empson claimed a guest asked him to ride a camel, which seems pretty difficult in the ocean. Can camels swim?

Below Deck's singles are used to being swiped left

Though there are plenty of perks to being a yachtie, a glamorous dating life apparently isn't one of them. The constantly on-the-go lifestyle of the crew makes it exceedingly difficult to form lasting relationships, hence almost all of Below Deck's drama. But praise the reality gods that be for bringing the cast together, because if they didn't hook up with their fellow crew members, like chief stew Hannah Ferrier and bosun Conrad Empson did on Season Three of Below Deck Med (above right), they might not be able to find a date otherwise.

Outside of the so-called "boatmances" featured on the show, Ferrier (above left) told Forbes that it's easier for the male crew members, because girls "don't get scared off." Men in Europe are apparently totally different and think reality fame is "trashy." Needless to say, the women of Below Deck are used being swiped left — literally.

Ferrier and Kate Chastain spoke about their Tinder and Bumble habits on the latter's podcast, After Deck with Kate Chastain. Though they're both avid users of dating apps, Ferrier admitted she's looking to "date people that are not [her] type," while Chastain copped to being a straight-up Catfish — her main photo is of Rachel Zoe.

"I put my first name and then I put photos that aren't me, but they could be!" Chastain admitted. Does this ever actually work out?

It's common to get fired or quit mid-season

The cast of Below Deck are not immune to getting fired, and no one wants to be on the receiving end of one of Captain Lee Rosbach's disappointed gazes. When it comes to handing out plane tickets to under-performing staff, Reality Blurred reported that the captain definitely has some "authority" there (even if Bravo helped curate the crew). According to producer Mark Cronin, getting fired or quitting mid-season is pretty common in the industry.

"Yachties tend to jump ship if they're not happy. They are people who don't appreciate being tied down. Most of them don't even have a proper address on land," Cronin admitted during a Reddit AMA.

Still, that doesn't mean Below Deck's captains aren't a little bit lenient at times. Drama makes for good TV, and poorly performing staff make for good drama. Rosbach admitted that Season One's crew got a little more credit than they deserved.

"They pretty much acted like crew I would have fired," Rosbach told The Triton, later adding, "The producers of the show wanted to show the long hours and the stress of yachting, but most of that was caused by the crew being inept."

Are the crew really qualified?

One of the biggest questions in reality TV is always: is it real? For Below Deck, the answer is a little yes and a little no. We've already established that Bravo reportedly picks the charter's crew members instead of the captain, but that certainly doesn't mean they're actors playing a role. Though some crew members are overwhelmingly qualified, like Hannah Ferrier (above right), who has put in at least eight years working on yachts, some of them lack experience. Co-executive producer Rebecca Taylor told The Triton there's typically "a mix of professional crew and young, transient people" on professionally run boats. On the other hand, Captain Lee Rosbach accused the network of hiring people who were "inept" — but could Bravo have been duped?

Apparently, lying on your resume isn't uncommon on Below Deck. Stewardess Kasey Cohen reportedly lied on her resume as did deckhand Andrew Sturby (who was later fired). Does coming clean for the cameras even matter if Bravo's the one who picked you in the first place? Regardless, the staff do have to train for safety prior to their stay on Below Deck's mega yacht. Captain Rosbach told Reality Blurred they must take "a two-week course" that includes "basic first aid" and "firefighting" to get their STCW certification, which is required to work on a yacht.

Six weeks can't contain the drama

Bravo has a knack for creating the most dramatic reality shows on TV — from Teresa Giudice's iconic attempt at flipping a table on The Real Housewives of New Jersey to the various cheating scandals among the cast of Vanderpump Rules. On Below Deck, the drama seems to write itself. It has everything that makes for good, nautical-themed TV: love triangles, boat flings, laundry room affairs, and a healthy dose of seasickness. What else do you expect from a group of adults who are essentially living in sardine can bunk beds while working a high-stress job?

Apparently, the drama we see on Below Deck doesn't hold a candle to what happens when Bravo packs up their things and heads home. Bobby Giancola, who appeared on Below Deck Mediterranean, told Forbes that the network should "film it for seven or eight weeks. That's when everything starts boiling over." Hannah Ferrier concurred that filming those weeks would be "the worst idea ever." Producer Mark Cronin confirmed a season is only six weeks long.