What is a Chief Steward?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A chief steward is a hospitality professional who supervises staff on board a boat, in a hotel, or on an aircraft. The specifics of the job can vary depending on the employer and the size of the facility the steward works for. To be employed in this position, people usually need work experience in various hospitality positions. A degree in hospitality from a technical school can also be highly beneficial and may allow a potential chief steward to move into a senior position more quickly.

Chief stewards may work on cruises.
Chief stewards may work on cruises.

As a general rule, the chief steward oversees the staff associated with the pantry, storeroom, and kitchen, with the exception of the cooks. Chief stewards can also handle dining rooms and room service. As supervisors, chief stewards hire, fire, and train employees. They also set and maintain quality of service standards and handle customer complaints and requests. The chief steward is responsible for ensuring that guests have an enjoyable time and that staff treat guests consistently and well.

It may take five years or more to gain the proper experience needed to become a chief steward.
It may take five years or more to gain the proper experience needed to become a chief steward.

Some chief stewards handle supply ordering, inventory management, and related tasks. They can also enforce cleanliness and confirm that all work areas comply with the law and any relevant codes, such as codes set by the health department for restaurants. This work requires multitasking abilities, as the chief steward needs to be able to supervise large crews of people working in diverse environments while also balancing incoming information from customers, suppliers, and vendors.

Management structures in the hospitality industry vary. Depending on the facility, the chief steward may be a senior member of the staff or may be under the supervision of another staff member or department. People who work their way up in the ranks in a single organization get a chance to work in numerous different positions so that they understand the management structure and company values. These individuals are sometimes more likely to be considered for promotion than outsiders, depending on the way a company structures itself.

The term “chief steward” is also used in another sense. On race tracks, the chief steward oversees the track and is responsible for confirming that conditions are safe to race, making rulings on complaints about fouls and other misdeeds, and being involved in the judging of photo finishes. This position requires experience in the sport along with a level head and the ability to make critical judgments under very high pressure that can include very high stakes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@gardenturtle- That is too cute! My oldest son actually works for Disney Cruise Lines and he said that they get that a lot! Many of the younger ones ask where Zach and Cody are.

My son started out applying for hospitality jobs and was hired on and is now the chief steward on one of their cruise liners. He says that it is the best job he has ever had and it brings him great pleasure to see all of the kid's faces when they are walking around.


My family and I are taking our first cruise in a couple of months. My youngest daughter is ten and watches many Disney shows on television. One on them is called “The Suite Life on Deck”. In this show, Mr. Moseby is the “chief steward” on the show.

My daughter, in her innocent little way, told me that she was so excited because she was going to get to meet Mr. Moseby!

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