Part of the fun of watching Below Deck Mediterranean this season has been getting to know a whole new crop of yachties. That's with the exception of Chef Ben Robinson, who we all already know and love from the past three seasons of Below Deck.
The crewmembers of the Ionian Princess are definitely very skilled at their jobs, so it might come as a surprise to learn that they weren't always in yachting. In fact, many of their past careers didn't even involve water.
After getting a taste of some of the yachties' extraordinary pre-Below Deck Med lives already this season, such as finding out that Bobby Giancola worked as a firefighter and Tiffany Copeland was a marine biologist, The Daily Dish caught up with all of this season's new cast members to discover what the crew did before the show and how they ended up in yachting in the first place.
1. Captain Mark Howard
Who knew Captain Mark also had a mustache many years before Below Deck Med?
Prior to taking the helm of the Ionian Princess, Captain Mark Howard was still using his sea legs working for a marine search and rescue, fire-fighting, and law enforcement agency in California, which gave him "an enormous amount of training and expertise," the captain told The Daily Dish via email.
He got into the yachting biz in 1989 when he was asked to join the crew on the delivery of a 120-foot motor yacht from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. "It was the most interesting and fun thing I'd ever done on the water," he said. Captain Mark said he had gone as far as he could in his current position, so he climbed aboard a yacht in the Med two weeks later. He has traveled all over the world on private and charter yachts ever since.
2. Hannah Ferrier
Hannah has traveled to breathtaking locales long before Below Deck Med.
Hannah Ferrier is a pro when it comes to handling the interior operations of the Ionian Princess as the ship's chief stew, but she didn't always live that yacht life. Hannah worked in IT and telecommunication sales for seven years in Sydney, Australia before getting into yachting. "My life was what others would describe as perfect: beautiful apartment, amazing boyfriend, gorgeous BMW, nice wardrobe... but I started to feel like something was missing," she told The Daily Dish via email.
After spending some vacay time in the South of France, Hannah said she realized that she wanted to travel the Med, so she researched what she could do for a living while only speaking English. She stumbled upon yachting and quickly found out it's quite different from every other line of work. "It is so much better... and so much worse!" Hannah said of how yachting compares to other jobs she's had in the past. "You can be scrubbing vomit off the side of a toilet in the morning and then drinking champagne and eating king crab at lunch... Just remember to wash your hands in between."
After working on boats for a few years, Hannah basically spent the summer in paradise, hanging out in Cote d'Azur, Cap de Antibes, Paris, Amsterdam, and Croatia with her besties. But when Below Deck Med came knocking, Hannah was ready to take her career to the next level. "I had reached a stage in my career where I couldn't get any higher without increasing the boat/crew size to 70 to 100 meters, and I never had a desire to work on a boat that size," she said. "I thought this would be a great challenge for me to test my skill set — I wasn't wrong."
3. Bryan Kattenburg
This throwback photo proves Bryan was made for the life of a yachtie.
Bryan Kattenburg seems made for yacht life as the first mate of the Ionian Princess. That's definitely more than we can say for what he was doing before he got into the business. "Before I got into yachting I was 23 years old and I was working for an online university as an 'Enrollment Advisor.' However this was not an advisor really, but more of a salesperson," he told The Daily Dish through email. "It was not a fun job, and I hated trying to convince people to take out major student loans. At this time I was realizing just how much in debt I was in."
Bryan said he eventually became bored of working hard and playing hard while living with a couple of friends from college in Tempe, Arizona. "I was praying something would come into my life and change everything," he said.
Luckily, an opportunity like that did come along for Bryan after a friend told him his father, who was a captain of a mega yacht in the Caribbean, was looking for a new deckhand and he would be a good fit. "It was a long shot for someone to start on this big yacht with no experience, but I was going to work as hard as I could, learn as fast as I could, and overall be a yes man to everything required of me," he explained. "I sold all my belongings, conformed my possessions to a single backpacking backpack, and was shipped out to the Caribbean. My life would be changed forever after that."
Bryan worked his way up to eventually serving as captain of day charters out of Miami by the time Below Deck Med came calling.
4. Julia d'Albert Pusey
Julia could totally chic up those red Ionian Princess uniforms.
The Ionian Princess crew is required to wear only a few different uniforms while working on the yacht, which means we haven't been able to see how stylish Julia d'Albert Pusey really is. In fact, she was kind of a big deal in the fashion world before becoming a yachtie. The stewardess studied fashion in London and went on to receive her master's degree in Paris before starting her own label D'ALBERT. She even had some famous fans of her designs, such as Little Mix and Angel Haze. Though her company was successful, Julia told The Daily Dish via email that she found it difficult to sustain sales, so she closed the studio last April and returned to stewardessing for a season in Cannes, France.
Julia has been working on-and-off in yachting for the past few years ever since doing a full season to help pay her way through grad school. She was working on a 30-meter boat in Cannes before joining the Below Deck Med crew. "I wanted to experience a bigger yacht and team, and I had not cruised the Greek Islands before, so it was an exciting opportunity and would put me & Matty [her boyfriend] in a better position for when I returned," she told The Daily Dish.
However, Julia hasn't totally left her entrepreneurial spirit behind. She still has two small businesses: Motion Medic, which makes wristbands used to relieve travel sickness, and Myrtle & Maude, which sells products to help pregnant women with nausea. Julia had "a eureka moment" to create these companies after years of seeing guests get seasick on super yachts. We wonder if Below Deck Med will inspire yet another new venture.
5. Bobby Giancola
This may look like a photo from his modeling portfolio, but Bobby really is a firefighter.
As Bobby previously revealed on Below Deck Med, he worked as a firefighter before getting into yachting and still works full-time as a firefighter EMT today, he told The Daily Dish via email. Bobby keeps busy also working as a maritime firefighting instructor in Cape Canaveral, Florida as well as a safety marshal for the traveling superboat racing circuit.
However, Bobby told The Daily Dish that he is now in the process of transferring to yachting full-time. "I wanted to get into yachting to switch things up," Bobby said of why he initially decided to get into the industry. "It is a lucrative career and being able to travel is an amazing job perk."
So it should come as no surprise that "there was no hesitation" on Bobby's part when it came to spending a charter season cruising around the Greek Isles on Below Deck Med. And we're so glad he said yes.
6. Jen Riservato
Jen may be a deckhand now, but could she be a captain in the future?
Jen RIservato does backbreaking work as a deckhand on Below Deck Med, so it's a good thing she went to chiropractic school before becoming a yachtie. However, Jen told The Daily Dish via email that she liked the flexibility that yachting afforded in terms of when and where you work. So she started her own business called U.S. Yacht Services and was performing freelance jobs, such as sanding teak, managing interior and exterior projects, and working in shipyards as she stayed at her grandma's condo in Florida right before setting sail for Below Deck Med.
Before the show, Jen mostly did day jobs, so working and living with the Ionian Princess crew 24/7 presented its challenges. "You are rarely granted alone time, work seems longer. And it's just tight quarters. A lot of people think, 'You're so lucky, you are on a yacht. OMG, I'm jealous.' The grass always seems greener on the other side," she said of how yachting compares to her past work experiences. "While yes, yachts are beautiful, but it's extremely hard work, long hours, time away from family, and sometimes you don't have time for a life. And, maybe it's just me, but I want to be the owner of the yacht, not serving martinis and towels for eternity!"
We like that Jen is dreaming big.
7. Danny Zureikat
Danny may dream of being a model and actor, but does this throwback pic prove he has singing skills, too?
Danny Zureikat was a self-proclaimed "jack of all trades" before getting into yachting, he told The Daily Dish via email, and he's not kidding. He earned his college degree in computer networking systems and worked as a systems support technician for ITT Tech and was a Geek Squad employee. Danny went on to work in several restaurants for more than five years after college.
Though his real passion was and still is modeling and acting, Danny fell in love with yachting after going backpacking through Europe and the Middle East in 2014. "The people I met, the food I ate, and the places I traveled were unparalleled from anything else I had ever experienced," he explained. "Immersing myself in the world’s different cultures changed my perspective on life. I asked myself, 'How can I travel the world while making a living?' and that’s how I fell into yachting. I sold everything that I owned and eagerly jumped into the industry."
Danny had been working on yachts for six months prior to Below Deck Med. He's even catered to celeb clientele like Marc Anthony, as he described on the show. Danny said his goal in yachting has always been to work on a super mega yacht in the Med, and joining the show made that happen. "My mother always told me I would one day be rewarded for sacrificing so much of my life to help support my family… and she was right!" Danny said of getting the opportunity to be on Below Deck Med. 'It was a blessing."
8. Tiffany Copeland
Tiffany doesn't just look like a marine biologist; she was one!
Tiffany hasn't always been in yachting, but she has spent much of her career on boats. The stewardess formerly worked on 300-foot dredge boats, which excavate underwater, as a marine endangered species observer traveling up and down the East Coast and Gulf, she told The Daily Dish via email. But after dredging for 35 days straight and experiencing three different winter storms, Tiffany took some time off to travel around Central America, and when she returned, she went on a date with a guy who was in the yachting biz. Tiffany was intrigued, and after his roommate encouraged her to apply to some yacht jobs, she was hired.
Tiffany joined Below Deck Med to experience what it was like to work a charter season in the Med. As we learned on the show this season, she ultimately aspires to be a captain and doesn't mind lending a hand to other departments outside of the interior to learn every aspect of what it takes to keep the ship afloat. "I love learning new things, and I think it's important to learn from as many different people to see what works best for you," she said.
See more of the crew's pre-Below Deck Med adventures, below.