The first time my husband and I cruised with a butler, aboard Silversea's Silver Whisper, we presented our suitcases to our butler, Wilson, and were assured that by the time we returned from lunch, the job would be done. And it was. I marveled at our garments hung with precision in the walk-in closet: pants with pants, dresses with dresses, shoes lined up like little soldiers.
Then the doorbell rang, and there was Wilson, my husband's tuxedo in hand, explaining that he’d noticed a crease in the jacket and had taken it to be pressed.
I never thought of a butler as a dressed-up cabin steward again. Not only can they press your clothing without being asked, they may also shine your shoes and bring you drinks before dinner. And that's just the beginning. Here are five things you need to know about butlers at sea before you book a cabin that has one:
1. Butlers perform a lengthy checklist of duties designed to make your cruise stress-free.
Packing and unpacking are only the beginning. You can count on butlers for dry cleaning and pressing, making restaurant reservations, booking spa appointments and shore excursions, arranging in-suite cocktail parties, delivering hors d’oeuvres, serving room service meals course by course, drawing baths, shining shoes, and tying bow ties.
2. Luxury and premium cruise lines are all about personal butlers — well, almost.
It’s no surprise that butler service is offered in suite categories aboard lines such as Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises. Silversea Cruises has butler service in every category.
You may be surprised, however, that swanky, all-suite Seabourn Cruise Line doesn’t provide butlers — although to be fair, those duties are handled by the "personal suite stewardess" assigned to every stateroom, and they provide a similar service. And beginning in May 2016, passengers booking top suite categories on Royal Caribbean International's Quantum- and Oasis-class ships will have round-the-clock service from "Royal Genie" personal assistants. (A butler with another name? We think so.)
3. Even the budget cruise lines are on board the butler bandwagon.
The real eye-opener is that butlers now service the top suites of more affordably priced lines, too. Passengers in all suites on Costa Cruises ships — with the exception of Mini Suites in Europe and those on vessels in Asia — are offered butler service. To experience butlers on MSC Cruises' ships, guests need to book a Yacht Club Suite on MSC Divina, MSC Deliziosa, MSC Fantasia, or MSC Splendida. Similarly, on Norwegian Cruise Line, butlers are on call 24/7 for guests booked in The Haven, the luxury enclave on board Norwegian Epic and the Breakaway- and Gem-class ships. Celebrity Cruises provides butler service in all suites — from its fleetwide Sky Suites to Celebrity Reflection's indulgent 1,636-square-foot Reflection Suite.
4. Most butlers aren't British.
Although some cruise lines tout staffs schooled in traditional British techniques, don't expect an older British gentleman named Geeves. Your butler is apt to be young, personable, and anything but stuffy.
5. Butlers are full of surprises.
Tasked with making guests happy, butlers often go out of their way to arrange little moments of joy. Should one overhear you talking about a birthday or anniversary, you may find your suite decorated, stocked with Champagne and canapes, and ready for a celebration.