Bravo’s ‘Below Deck Mediterranean’ includes Big Island native on drama-filled crew
October 24, 2023, 1:00 AM HST
* Updated October 26, 8:18 AM
Although she grew up on the Big Island, Jessika Asai had never stepped on any kind of boat until about 5 years ago when she boarded a 295-foot mega yacht in Florida.
She wasn’t one of the charter guests on the million-dollar-a-week luxury vessel. It was her first job as a stewardess in the yachting industry and her first time experiencing the open seas, on a trip between Fort Lauderdale and Antigua in the Caribbean. The word to describe it: rough.
“I felt like I was going to die because of the seasickness,” said the 27-year-old, who grew up in Kea’au and graduated in 2014 from King Kekaulike High School in Makawao after her family moved to Maui during her senior year.
But her body eventually adjusted to the rocking boats — and the aftermath of “wine nights” during off hours with the crew. She got her sea legs, which have since taken her to many places she thought she’d never visit — the Caribbean, Canada, California and Mexico — as a crew member of different luxury yachts.
Now, you can go along for the ride in her most recent gig, cruising around the waters of the Italian Riviera on the 180-foot Mustique as a cast member of the latest season of Bravo TV’s “Below Deck Mediterranean.”
This season of the show, the first spinoff from the Bravo hit “Below Deck,” premiered Sept. 25. It follows Asai and the rest of the Mustique crew, under the command of Capt. Sandy Yawn, during a charter season last year that was filled with after-hours antics, complicated dynamics, unexpected rifts, unprecedented staffing changes and outrageous guests.
In her profile for the “Below Deck Mediterranean” website, Asai was asked what was her first impression of the yacht. She said: “Her name immediately reminded me of ‘mistakes.'”
Here’s a little yachting 101 for those unfamiliar with the show.
There are two departments featured: the interior and exterior. The interior crew takes care of everything inside: housekeeping, cleaning, laundry, bartending, serving meals, cooking and ensuring guest requests are met. The exterior crew handles outside duties: washing down the exterior of the yacht, docking and maintainance, and helping guests with water toys that include jet skis, a slide and paddleboards.
Stewardesses, or stews, handle the interior, led by a chief stew who manages the department. There’s one chef. The exterior is led by a bosun who oversees the deckhands.
Asai is part of the Mustique’s interior team. Her rank is fourth stew, putting her in a support role with two stews ranked higher under the chief stew. She doesn’t do more or less than the other stews, her rank simply signifies her position in the chain of command and focus of responsibilities.
“For me, the rankings only decided where my focus would be on my job duties and what time I went to bed,” Asai said. “I will always want my team to succeed, so I’m still gonna work just as hard — no matter my rank — to help and assist the other stews.”
Through the first four episodes of this season, the crew dealt with seasick guests and rough waters, working with an interim chief stew and losing their bosun. After the permanent chief stew comes aboard, a rivalry is hatched between her and the former interim chief, who is now third stew.
It’s gotten so bad, Capt. Sandy has had to step in. It had Asai feeling like she might have gotten in the middle and hoping she didn’t stir the pot more.
The crew’s down time, at dinners, bars, clubs and late night dips in the yacht’s hot tub, produce plenty of drama. Asai said that’s when the real fun happens.
The guests on a luxury yacht also aren’t your average tourists and can provide drama of their own. Their tastes can be rich. You know, business owners, CEOs, doctors — the whole “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” kind of tourists who sip espresso martinis.
On the Mustique, Asai said it was more likely margaritas: “People like their expensive tequila.”
“You’re serving, you know, high-profile clients all the time. So it’s just really delivering, like, five-star service at all times. We all work really hard to make our guests happy.”
Just how high-profile the guests are, however, NBCUniversal’s Carla Platero said: “You’ll have to tune in to see who comes on board.”
Asai’s hospitality and tourism background gave her a leg up.
After high school, she moved to Las Vegas and then around on the mainland, including spending time in Texas, Florida, California and Arizona. She worked at restaurants and a few hotels, did some bartending and for a time was with JetBlue Airways.
So making guests happy comes easy to her. Asai said all the guests during her time on the Mustique were a delight.
As for how the rest of this season of “Below Deck Mediterranean” will go?
“Things are gonna go down,” Asai said. “You’ll see.”
Working on the Mustique in the Mediterranean gave Asai, who is now living her dream of being a globetrotter, the opportunity to visit Europe for the first time and she said Italy was a good stop.
“It was really beautiful,” she said. “It just ended up being the most insane, amazing experience.”
Despite all the show’s hallmark drama, Asai said her experience aboard the Mustique was great, especially meeting and now maintaining friendships with her fellow crew mates and working with the legend who is Capt. Sandy.
“She really set the bar for women in the industry,” Asai said. “I was just so in awe and inspired by her that now I’m actually considering getting my captain’s license here in the islands.”
Asai now is taking a break from yachting, living on O’ahu, but was thinking about hopping on another vessel in Florida. It’s been nice being back home in Hawai’i and having time to process her Mediterranean experience as she watches herself on TV.
“It’s like a shocker, honestly,” Asai said. “It’s really nice to relive those moments and think about what I was thinking during those scenes. But, yeah, it’s a very crazy experience.”
“Below Deck Mediterranean” airs on Mondays and can be streamed the next day on the Peacock app. Bravo is on Spectrum channel 86 in Hawai’i.