How to Survive Steiner Training

I thought I’d give it a go as I’ve done a bit of travelling with my beauty and massage and I figured this was the next step for me.  I completed a 9 month contract and after a few months break from the ship, I decided I was ‘homesick’ and wanted to go back!

The interview was quite straight forward; we listened to a presentation about ship life and then were each given the chance to speak about ourselves and our profession. (Steiner recruits beauty therapists, massage therapists, hairdressers, nail technicians, fitness instructors and acupuncturists). Then we were split into professions and did our trade test- which was a massage with no hands for beauty and massage therapists. 

On ships, guests tend to like deeper tissue massage and appointments are back to back, so it’s an advantage to learn how to limit the use of your wrists, fingers and thumbs, sticking to stronger body parts like forearms and elbows. The interviewer then came round and asked us individual questions in front of the group and whilst we were massaging. Steiner like to know that you can speak well in public and don’t get embarrassed as when you are on the ship, it is your responsibility to speak to guests and promote yourself as a therapist. 

From the interview onwards, Steiner constantly analyze your personality, appearance, behavior, attitude to work and results from assessments. These notes will then be passed onto the training academy and will help determine which ship you are placed on. Be yourself, as you will be chosen for a ship that suits you the best.

The next step was to fill out the various paperwork, which included obtaining an American crewmember visa from the American Embassy in London. A top tip is to be organized with this, as there is a LOT of paperwork that goes into securing your place with a cruise line. We were also given pretty much the whole range of Elemis facial and body products to study, and I can’t stress how important it is to learn your products as you are tested on them frequently at the academy and it may affect you being chosen for specialist courses.

I eventually packed my life away and headed down to the Steiner Training Academy in London. I was put up in the YMCA for my 1st week, which is a youth hostel in Watford. The YMCA has many different people living there; some are homeless or on rehabilitation programs. It’s not the cleanest of places to stay, it doesn’t smell nice but if you can get through a week at the YMCA, you are well on your way to being a crew member. It reflects the type of accommodation in the crew quarters on ships- basic and shared. You will find yourself sharing with a group of about 4 other members of the same sex. Steiner prepares you for the absolute worst at training, so things get easier when you get onboard your ship. For this same reason, we get given a white uniform which has to be cleaned and pressed every day; your ships uniform could be white so this is another way they prepare us.

Also, staying at the YMCA helps to keep costs down for yourself, as all the various bits of paperwork including a Norwegian Medical, Criminal Records Disclosure, American Visa, various travel insurance and travel to London (or to the UK for international therapists) all adds up to over £1000.

The first week at the academy was the hardest; the teachers are lovely but also they have to be ‘cruel to be kind’. People who aren’t open to change are in for a rude awakening. There are a lot of rules and the academy reflects ship life which can be very strict; if you are late then you wait outside until the lecture is over and have to explain yourself. Be flexible as things change all the time at the training to cover the needs of the business. As I said before, training prepares you for the worst and it is a lot easier once you get on your ship. But more about that later. You get absolutely bombarded with paperwork to sign on the first day; I said it before and I’ll say it again: be organized (and get practicing your autograph)! 

We started off by getting up at 5am to do full make-up and hair - think baby ballroom dancers; bun nets, hairspray, false lashes, the lot! We were taken to the Maritime doctor’s house to do our medical which involved blood tests, drug tests, pregnancy tests, blood pressure, medical questionnaires, height and weight measurements and finally a trip to the local private hospital to get a chest x-ray. A tip to pass your medical would be to not eat anything that morning until your medical is done, as you can fail on the cholesterol part of the blood screening and risk having to pay the fee for another set of bloods to be taken.

Our second day consisted of presenting ourselves, our professions and experience to the whole group and some of Steiner’s most senior directors. Dress to impress and have your speech ready, you have about 3 minutes to make a lasting impression to the directors who will choose your ship and whether you go on to specialize in different types of treatments. You are given time before to rehearse, just hold your head up and speak clearly. Smile and make eye contact as they like to see you engaging with the audience. You need to constantly sell yourself as a therapist and on your guest service skills in order to be picked for that amazing ship.

We learnt the Elemis deep tissue massage routine and were assessed at the end of the week on technique and product knowledge. There is so much to learn and you will do a lot of private study in addition to the hours you train at the academy. Don’t stress and make sure you are studying every night as there is a LOT to take in. You will learn the basic Elemis massage even if you are training as a facialist and you will be expected to massage onboard. 

We were trained intensely on how to retail; this was very interesting as it’s more about psychology and how to read your guest and sell the ‘concept’ to help them. Concept selling involves assessing the guests’ main concerns and then ‘planting the seed’ at the start of the treatment on how you are going to HELP the guest to get rid of their concerns rather than SELL to them.

Be prepared for a lot of role-play; it gets tiring but helps prepare you for the real guests. Be creative and come up with objections when doing the role-plays as it helps to get your head around turning a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ which equals a sale, and equals your commission!  

Most people passed and moved onto the second week which was either specialist massages for massage therapists or facials for facialists. People that don’t pass are given the chance to sit the week again which helps if practicals aren’t your strong point, but this will only prolong your time at the academy and delay you getting onto a ship. This will go on your record and may also affect the ship you are chosen for.

It’s a relief to finish your first week, but don’t put your feet up and relax because you have just as much to learn next week. Most people don’t even get a day off in between. At the end of my first week, I was told I was lucky enough to be specializing in La Therapie, which is a specialist course for facialists. In addition to this, I was told to pack my bags and take them to training the next day, as I’d be moving into a host home! Steiner have a few families that help them out if there are many trainees and the YMCA gets too full. This made it easier for me to study in the evenings as it was quieter and also I walked to the academy and saved money on transport.

Beauty Therapists are automatically assigned to Elemis facials for the 2nd week, if they haven’t been picked to specialize. If they are specializing, it will either be La Therapie facials or Ionithermie which is a slimming body treatment; these courses alternate by the week. These courses are hard work and involved learning a 30 minute seminar to present to guests, plus a completely new line of products in addition to Elemis. The people who do well at public speaking get put onto these courses.

By the 3rd week, beauty and massage therapists are starting to get their ship details. Wednesday was details day; everyone would be crossing their fingers and waiting for their name to be called out. I was given a ship but it got cancelled at the last minute. This is just how things are at Steiner, you have to be FLEXIBLE to meet the needs of the business; things change all the time. La Therapie and Ionithermie run through to a second week and Elemis facialists usually join the massage class or they go into Branding, which is learning specific treatments for a specific ship e.g. Bliss treatments and the 24k Gold Facial.

I hadn’t got my details by week four so I joined the Elemis facials class which was a lot more relaxed.  I had also had one day off that weekend! By this point, you feel part of the furniture and it feels good to have all the first and second weekers asking you all the questions for once. It’s a strange feeling to be constantly sitting on the edge, waiting for details about where you are going and what your ship will be- but the longer you stay at the academy, the more prepared you will be for ship life.

I finally got my details to join my ship the Zuiderdam by Holland America Line the following week. You go to training right up until your scheduled travel date so I joined in for the Monday and Tuesday of week five. I was nice and relaxed as I had a full weekend off! Admittedly I had spent it going over all my notes. The class for upper weeks is to just prepare people as much as possible before they go onto their ships. You usually learn more massage; I learnt bamboo massage at this point and it was a very interactive class, Steiner like to get you to teach others the massages under supervision of the tutor as it really helps to get the routines and procedures stuck in your head. All Steiner’s treatments have a very precise order to them, there are many little touches such as cleansing the feet and ringing a little bell at the end of the treatment; you will only pass these treatments if you can demonstrate them PERFECTLY.

So the date came to leave for my ship. I got a taxi in the middle of the night to the bus stop and had to catch about 3 buses to get to Heathrow and around the different terminals. It makes the journey longer but will save you about £70, which is what you’d be paying in a cab from the area we all stay. I flew London Heathrow to Madrid and then Madrid to San Jose, Costa Rica. 

Steiner pay for your flight to the ship. However, they will not reimburse you for taxis or hotels. I stayed in a B&B which cost me about $90 and my taxi to the port from the hotel was $100. Make sure you have enough money to cover these things in the currency of the place you are travelling. Most South American countries, Mexico and the surrounding areas accept US dollars in addition to the local currency. Make sure you allow enough time to travel from your airport/hotel to the ship. Steiner will tell you that you need to be at your ship by 8am at the latest. This means doing some research on your journey beforehand. I decided against taking a shuttle bus as I didn’t want to risk being late.

Steiner training was the most difficult but worthwhile thing that I’ve ever done. You are pushed to the limit, physically, mentally and emotionally but it’s the best feeling ever when you can give yourself a pat on the back and feel pride for all you’ve achieved.

That moment you step onto the gangway of your ship, you will remember it for the rest of your life!

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