'During an average charter we create around 21 different table settings,' says Dawn Walker, Chief Stewardess on board the 48.7m (160ft) motor yacht CYAN. 'We try never to have the same layout twice.' This may sound ambitious, but the art of tablescaping on superyachts has reached unsurpassed levels, with bi-annual competitions becoming a coveted award to win.
Gourmet dining with your own personal chef is obviously one of the principal attractions of any charter vacation, but however delicious the dishes may be, how they are presented has a huge impact on the overall dining experience. 'A beautifully set table with the finest crockery, decorations and flowers that blend in with the colours of the chef’s creations, or fun items to match a theme, all go towards creating that all important atmosphere which is part of the whole on board dining experience and what makes yacht charter so special,' explains Burgess charter director, Lesley Excoffon.
Whether guests are enjoying al fresco dining out on deck or perhaps a more formal dining occasion inside, the dining table is one of the most sociable places on the entire yacht. 'The majority of our charter guests will choose to have most of their meals on board, opting to step ashore to a restaurant just once or twice during a charter,' says Dawn. 'On board CYAN we only have a couple of different dining areas, so guests will often be at the same table for three meals a day, for seven days or more. Because of that it is obviously important that we find ways of making each dining experience unique.' Lesley agrees. 'I have had some clients who specifically request that there are a variety of table settings throughout the charter, with different settings every day and not just for the same dining area,' she says.
Weather permitting, most charter guests prefer to dine al fresco, whether for a formal dinner or relaxed buffet lunch. To achieve a different look, crew tend to differentiate the table settings with more formal crockery and tableware for dinner than for lunch by using crystals, and gold and silver colours. 'During the day we tend to use brighter coloured napkins and placemats with larger, fun deco centrepieces and our day silver cutlery,' says Tiffany Hutton, Chief Stewardess on board the 60m (196ft) motor yacht SLIPSTREAM. 'We tend to have a more formal, sophisticated setting for dinner – silk napkins, whites, creams and silvers and golds, with mirrors and sparkly items that reflect the light from the candles with which we often decorate the table.'
Lighting is another key element that can be used to enhance the ambience. 'Lighting is something I love to play with,' says Tiffany. 'Besides candles of varying shapes and sizes, we have strings of small fairy lights that we weave into centrepieces.' Crystal glasses and vases can also be used to reflect the light and help to create a depth to the table.
Pieces should be complementary, with linens not matching exactly but enhancing the tableware. A centrepiece can also add a wow factor to the entire table setting, with artefacts used as props where possible. One thing to consider is the height of the centerpiece. 'We tend to keep it low, so that all the guests can have eye contact with each other,' explains Dawn. 'This may seem obvious, but it takes experience to understand what works best, and also to understand what may look good but doesn’t work.'
Occasions usually dictate the type of table setting. For example, an anniversary celebration should have a romantic theme, with soft lighting and candles, and elegant crockery and flowers all adding to the intimate sense of occasion. A New Year’s Eve celebration or birthday might require more of a fun or risqué theme. 'We had a 13th birthday for one of our younger guests and he loved football, so we transformed the table into a visual football pitch,' says Tiffany. 'We also recently celebrated a client’s special birthday with a masked ball/ Phantom of the Opera evening. The table was decorated with masques and peacock feathers, while to add to the drama the guests received an invitation and mask on their pillow.'
'You can create an infinite variety of settings if you keep it simple and adaptable,' explains Dawn. 'Less is sometimes more.' Storage may be an issue on board and therefore table décor should be versatile so that it can be used in different combinations of settings over and over again. 'Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for creating new, fresh ideas,' says Tiffany. 'We have a lot of repeat charter guests so keeping the tables looking different every day can be challenging but it’s a part of our job that we love,' Tiffany explains. 'If we are two weeks into a three-week charter and have already created 42 table designs, we tend to defer to a selection of “go to” themes that we know the clients like.'
Obviously on board a yacht there is always going to be the question of storage space, no matter how large the yacht may be. Taking advantage of different cruising environments and the natural flora and fauna helps to make the décor less artificial and a reflection of the cruising ground. From bamboo textures for sashimi and sushi dishes, to shells from the beach as centerpieces when seafood is on the menu, if presented correctly just about anything can be used in the art of tablescaping.
Tablescaping - gallery