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Below Deck Sailing Yacht Producers Open Up About the Charter Guests' COVID-19 Scare

"It was one of the most unknown situations, production-wise, I’ve ever been in," executive producer Jill Goslicky said of Season 2.

By Laura Rosenfeld

Starting a season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht in the middle of a global pandemic is no small feat. But successfully completing a full charter season? Well, that proved to be a different story as the Parsifal III crew experienced a coronavirus (COVID-19) scare in Season 2.

In the March 15 episode of Below Deck Sailing Yacht, one of the charter guests was not feeling well and came down with a fever of 101. All four of the charter guests were immediately confined to their rooms away from each other and the crew before a doctor arrived on the boat to test them all for COVID-19.

Captain Glenn Shephard then informed the crew that they would be heading back to the dock. The charter guests would have to disembark the yacht and stay in a hotel as they awaited their test results.

Captain Glenn later received the news that the charter guests' tests had come back negative in the March 22 episode of Below Deck Sailing Yacht. However, one of the guests was still symptomatic, so the doctor recommended that the group not return to the yacht. Captain Glenn told the Parsifal III yachties that the guests' charter was officially over, and they would need to pack up their remaining belongings on the boat. The next group of charter guests would be arriving in a couple of days.

Show Highlight
The Crew Gets a Major COVID-19 Scare
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Jill Goslicky, an executive producer on Below Deck Sailing Yacht, and Matt Reichman, Vice President, Current Production at Bravo, recently provided some insight into how the Parsifal III crew and the production team behind the show handled this crisis during an exclusive interview with Bravo Insider.

"We put together the COVID protocols with a lot of thought and care," Goslicky said. "We took everything very seriously, any kind of fever, even if that’s the only symptom someone’s showing, we were willing to shut everything down immediately to make sure everyone was safe. So our first thought was A, the safety of everyone on board, mainly the people that are up there exposed, the cast, our crew that’s on the floor. And then, because we had these really well-thought-out protocols, we were able to put them in place immediately." 

As the leader of the Parsifal III crew, Captain Glenn was tasked with making sure those protocols were followed properly should an emergency such as this arise. "So Glenn is briefed on these, and he kicks into action. Everything he’s doing, that’s part of the protocols, getting the guests off the boat, back into quarantine," Goslicky said, noting the "waiting period" to find out "that everyone was actually negative, that this was a false alarm." "But if it hadn’t been, the protocols are we would have gotten shut down for a bit. It was a very high stakes season in that way at every turn."

Reichman praised the Parsifal III crew for being "consummate professionals" in this high pressure situation. "They’re also just really good at their job. They’re really professional, and they don’t go into panic mode; they go into triage in a sense," he said. "It’s like, 'OK, here’s the problem, what are we gonna do?' Rather than be deer in the headlights, it’s like they go into that mode of like, 'What are we gonna do to right this?'"

It's moments like these that also really underscore the authenticity of Below Deck Sailing Yacht, according to Reichman. "While there were production protocols, obviously, because we’re responsible for it, it’s our show, it really is a yacht charter. I think that we stayed very true to what would happen on a boat in this situation, and we were able to document it in a way that feels very real and honest and also safe, which is pretty amazing. I think it really just speaks to the authenticity of what we’re trying to document at all times on the show," he explained. "As terrifying as it is for the producers and the crew that are involved, it’s also a very real, terrifying moment for the cast. It’s not manipulated in any way. And this is part of their story of their charter season, and we all felt if we’re able to tell it, we have to tell it."

Of course, TV production of any kind during a pandemic was completely uncharted territory for everyone in the entertainment industry. "When we went out there, honestly, this was so early into everything, we didn’t even know if we could do it," Goslicky said. "And the fact that we ended up doing a whole season, honestly, with very few incidents, is incredible. I keep calling it the miracle season, because that’s how it felt. We just didn’t know. It was one of the most unknown situations, production-wise, I’ve ever been in."

Even as other shows on Bravo began to find ways to film during the pandemic, planning production on Season 2 of Below Deck Sailing Yacht at this time was an entirely unique experience.

"It took months of strategy and planning to figure out how to shoot any show, I think, that we do. We have ensemble docu-shows, like the Housewives or Married to Medicine or Southern Charm, which has its own sort of set of challenges," Reichman said. "When you’re dealing with a show like Below Deck, which in a normal year on a normal season is one of the most complex productions that I’ve ever been a part of in 20 years in the industry with the amount of boats and planes and travel and the size of the crew and all of those elements. And then you add to the fact that you’re shooting it internationally in a time zone that’s, you know, 10 hours ahead and just figuring out the logistics, again, on a normal season is pretty overwhelming. And then to throw into it the safety protocols that had to be implemented that Jill and her team had to, first of all, figure out and then overcome and execute it, it’s sort of mind-boggling. We couldn’t be happier that we were able to pull it off."

What we're also seeing this season is a very different kind of energy from the Parsifal III crew and charter guests alike, according to Reichman, especially since the yachting industry is one where "the pause button was pressed" in the early days of the pandemic.

"These are people that lost their income, lost their jobs, like so many other people in the world. And when we figure out a way to get cameras up and do the show, like the crew, they had probably not been around, likely, young, sexy people their age in their industry in quite some time. Getting them all together with just so much pent-up energy, and I think you see that for sure in the show," he said. "It was like an explosion of — whatever you want to call it — energy, sexual tension, excitement, just the sheer joy of having human contact, even being in the same room without a mask on and having a conversation with someone. I feel like that energy is really captured in this season in a really amazing way. And the same thing with the guests, you know, these are people that had been on lockdown, and here they are getting to go on a vacation, and it’s like all hell breaks loose this season."

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The Yachties Celebrate the End of Their First Charter With a Hot Tub Party
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Goslicky agreed that this season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht really had "that feeling of coming out of lockdown and getting to let go a little bit" for those in front of as well as behind the camera.

"I will say, and even being boots on the ground, the energy that they’re feeling on camera, we were kind of feeling behind the scenes, because we had been all posting or working on shows individually from our homes. So we all got to collaborate in person, granted, you know, in masks and stuff. But that was really energizing, too," she said. "The whole production kind of has this sort of, like, electric feeling to it for multiple reasons. Just one, that we’re up and running, two, that every day is high stakes, and three, that you’re actually interacting with people for the first time in a long time."

The producers also hope that the escapism of Below Deck Sailing Yacht is something that viewers can enjoy this season — now more than ever. "Below Deck is always sort of that wish fulfillment fantasy kind of show of, like, people dreaming to go on that vacation," Reichman said. "But in a year like this, and you get to live that through them by watching the season, it’s pretty amazing."

Want more Below Deck Sailing Yacht? New episodes air every Monday at 9/8c or catch up on the Bravo app.