Kayleigh Westgarth spent almost 12 years working onboard Superyachts. Starting as a Spa Stewardess, and working her way up to Spa Manager, Westgarth has worked on various vessels up to 120m in length. Westgarth then went on to create her business, Coral Spa Consultants, a division of Gym Marine. The two companies work together to set up premium Spa spaces onboard Superyachts. Westgarth’s initial business idea was formed from years of experience working in limited spaces onboard Superyachts and a deep understanding of how to improve these spaces in order to deliver better guest experiences.
In this article, Westgarth speaks of her passion for providing guests with exceptional service and memorable treatments onboard, her tips for aspiring Spa Stewardesses, why she chose to work with Gym Marine, and the importance of adequate treatment spaces onboard.
SYC: How did you find yourself working onboard Superyachts as a spa therapist?
Kayleigh Westgarth: After qualifying as a massage and beauty therapist straight out of school, I started working on cruise ships as a Spa Therapist, whilst there I started hearing more and more about the magical world of yachting! After my contract ended, I spent some time at home working in Spas, but missed the travel element. I decided to take the plunge and get my Yachting qualifications. I was very lucky to get a position on a new build 80m yacht – it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!
SYC: How long did you work onboard and what was the journey up to the position of Spa Manager like for you?
KW: I worked in Yachting for about 12 years. Initially starting as a Spa Stewardess, I loved learning all the new skills, focusing on becoming a valuable member of the interior, as well as offering guests a large range of treatments. Over the years, massage rooms on yachts have slowly started to expand in size, turning into full Spa areas on some boats. This allowed me to start to take on more responsibility within the Spa, working with the other Spa Stews.
I started focusing on new-builds, setting up and managing various onboard Spas from 60-130m plus, and loved the challenge of helping to create a space that flowed well and met all the guests requirements.
SYC: What are the key skills and qualities crew need to have to excel in the role of Superyacht Spa Therapist, and how do you develop and maintain these skills?
Flexibility, knowledge and passion! I truly believe that you can tell if the person treating you isn’t fully invested in their position. Yachting can be tiring and you can be pulled into treatments last minute, but when you step into that space you must be ready to give that guest your undivided attention. If you are distracted and thinking about what snacks might be in the crew mess – your guest will feel the difference!
I am also a big advocate for constant training. The Spa industry is constantly changing and you have clients that undoubtedly visit the best Spas in the world, so you need to constantly be improving. I have always aimed to do treatments on the crew in down time, it’s a great way to get feedback on new techniques but also a wonderful treat for them after a long charter!
“Being onboard is all about being part of a team, and working together to create a wonderful environment for each and every guest”
SYC: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the yachting industry, and what qualities do you think are essential for success in this field?
KW: Open yourself up to learning from anyone and everyone. The joy of yachting is that the crew and guests come from all over the world. Which means there are so many opportunities to learn more about different cultures or new massage techniques from another Spa girl in your team! Being onboard is all about being part of a team, and working together to create a wonderful environment for each and every guest.
SYC: Can you describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult or demanding guest, and how did you handle the situation?
KW: Sometimes it’s all about seeing a ‘demand’ or difficulty in a new light – you never know what someone has been going through that day. Looking at it that way always made dealing with a guest being slightly snappy a lot easier to deal with! Although being made to massage someone’s feet on the Aft Deck, sitting on the floor under the table whilst they played Backgammon is probably something I will never forget, my shoulders ache just thinking about it!
SYC: What inspired you to set up Coral Spa Consultants? What were some of the key issues you faced when setting up your business?
KW: As I started doing more and more new-builds, I kept noticing the same problems in the Spa area onboard. They were always gorgeous spaces but sometimes the operational aspects hadn’t fully been taken into consideration, which sometimes detracted from the level of luxury and calming ambience we wanted to offer during treatments. I found myself wishing that I could get involved earlier in a project, to address these issues. I spent a lot of time brainstorming, reaching out to people, and assessing how I could best be of use to designers and shipyards.
“Coral Spa Consultants creates a better working environment for the crew, a far superior treatment experience for the owner, and often saves them a lot of money in the long run”
SYC: How did you come to join forces with Gym Marine, and why is it a perfect fit to work together?
I reached out to Edward from Gym Marine late in 2022, I had been on many boats where they had fitted the Gyms for guests and crew, and I was always really impressed with the attention to detail. I saw them as the Gym version of what I wanted to be for Spas! I loved the fact that Edward was also from a yachting background, so understood the importance of the crew also having a great working space. Luckily, he had also seen the gap in the market for Yacht Spas. Working with Gym Marine is honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only does it allow me to help and work with many more projects than I could have imagined, but I also get to work with a truly incredible team that are so supportive.
By sharing Gym Marine’s resources in CAD planning, logistics and international structure, we know that we can save clients’ money and time. We will be able to combine the Freight, Installation and Customs processes of Gym and Spa areas into a single white glove service.
SYC: What solution are you trying to solve in the Yachting Industry with Coral Spa Consultants?
KW: We are bridging the gap between the interior design team’s vision and then the end usage of the Spa. We are able to provide valuable insight into the flow of a treatment room, allowing the team to take into consideration where they might need to place plumbing for hair wash basins or pedicure baths, the storage required for all the equipment, linens and products, as well as locations for plug sockets.
Currently, when a Spa Therapist steps on a boat, they often have to figure out the best way to provide a Pedicure or Manicure on a massage bed, and often that massage bed doesn’t even have enough room for them to move around it freely. These are all elements that can be avoided if designers and shipyards speak to people with the relevant training and experience from the beginning. Coral Spa Consultants creates a better working environment for the crew, a far superior treatment experience for the owner, and often saves them a lot of money in the long run.
The fact that I have actually been in all of these situations myself is also crucial. Not only do I think about the general spa operations and requirements, I can also see it as a crew member. My brain automatically goes to ‘where will that be stowed?’ and ‘Does that wheeled item have brakes?’. I have experienced chasing a spa trolley across a room when at sea and having to massage from awkward angles because I can’t sit at the end of the bed for a reflexology treatment! I pre-empt these problems in the early stages, my goal is to save as many Spa Therapists from bad backs as possible!
SYC: What advice would you give to Spa Therapists working onboard yachts in terms of practicality and working in small spaces?
KW: Sometimes the best treatment is a simple massage or facial. You don’t need a lot of space, you just need to ensure your bed is as comfortable as possible and you can reach your products without having to dash to a cupboard outside. On smaller boats, I always liked to have a ‘grab bag’ prepared ready to go. Which meant that whether my treatment was in the massage room or on the Sun Deck I knew I had everything ready.
Making sure you have simple items like a bed warmer and large comfortable towels and sheets, this will instantly allow your client to relax on the bed. You just need to provide guests with a calming space to switch off in. There are so many multi-functional items out there these days that allow you to save space whilst still offering high-end treatments. Good quality handheld facial machines are a great way to offer a results driven facial. Lava Shells allow you to add heat to your massage without the need to store a big hot stone warmer. It’s these little considerations that will make a guests’ time in the Spa memorable.
To find out more about Coral Spa Consultants and their services, visit their website.
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