5 Totally Surprising Things Butlers Can Do

by Gayle Keck

5 Totally Surprising Things Butlers Can Do

by Gayle Keck

What's the next best thing to having a genie in a bottle? A butler. Butlers have a long list of regular duties, but the best ones go above and beyond those to organize extraordinary experiences. Case in point: We returned to our Silversea ship from a chilly shore excursion one night to find that our butler had a hot bubble bath waiting, complete with flameless candles ringing the tub. Here, a variety of ways that cruise ship butlers surprise and delight guests.

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Wine on the veranda / Seabourn Cruise Line
In a Haven suite on Norwegian Escape
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1. Make your cabin feel like home.

Sometimes, it's the personal touches that a traveler remembers most. A couple who frequently cruised with Norwegian Cruise Lines was coming aboard with their entire family to celebrate their 50th anniversary. A butler who'd served them previously heard they were going to be cruising and had a photo he'd taken of them printed, framed, and placed in their stateroom before they boarded — even though he wasn't their assigned butler on this voyage.

Sometimes, it's the personal touches that a traveler remembers most. A couple who frequently cruised with Norwegian Cruise Lines was coming aboard with their entire family to celebrate their 50th anniversary. A butler who'd served them previously heard they were going to be cruising and had a photo he'd taken of them printed, framed, and placed in their stateroom before they boarded — even though he wasn't their assigned butler on this voyage.

Silver Whisper's Owner's Suite
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2. Customize your service.

Our editor confessed to a Seabourn butler on a recent cruise that she hates it when cabin stewards turn the TV on to cheesy music at turndown, and place the remote control on the bed instead of its usual place. The butler said she was glad to know, and happy to stop! Every day after that she turned the TV on to rock stations instead, and it was an important lesson in speaking up in order to get what you want. If, for example, you don't eat the chocolates that are placed on your pillow or towel animals freak you out, you should always speak up on day one in order to have the best experience. On that Seabourn cruise, the personalized turndown was just part of the service — the suite stewardess (Seabourn's version of a butler) also customized the fruit bowl to include just the types of fruit that were actually being eaten, and upon hearing that Champagne and caviar were favorites, put in a standing order for a 4 pm delivery daily. 

Our editor confessed to a Seabourn butler on a recent cruise that she hates it when cabin stewards turn the TV on to cheesy music at turndown, and place the remote control on the bed instead of its usual place. The butler said she was glad to know, and happy to stop! Every day after that she turned the TV on to rock stations instead, and it was an important lesson in speaking up in order to get what you want. If, for example, you don't eat the chocolates that are placed on your pillow or towel animals freak you out, you should always speak up on day one in order to have the best experience. On that Seabourn cruise, the personalized turndown was just part of the service — the suite stewardess (Seabourn's version of a butler) also customized the fruit bowl to include just the types of fruit that were actually being eaten, and upon hearing that Champagne and caviar were favorites, put in a standing order for a 4 pm delivery daily. 

Champagne service on Seabourn Odyssey
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3. Cheer you up when you're down.

A couple on a Seabourn ship was a bit sad to be missing their grandson's birthday. Their suite stewardess decorated their cabin, even hanging a poster that said "Happy Birthday" with their grandson's name. The surprised couple was able to take photos and send them to their grandson, showing him they were celebrating his birthday even though they couldn't be with him. In other cases, intuition and kindness can turn a tough travel day around. A Seabourn suite stewardess noticed a guest seemed sad. The woman had quite a few pink belongings, so the stewardess decided to put a bouquet of pink flowers in the suite and placed pink butterflies all over the mirrors. The guest was amazed and confessed that it was one of her happiest days, because her daughter, who had passed away, used to put butterflies on her mirror. Finding butterflies everywhere, she said, made her feel like her daughter was there with her.

A couple on a Seabourn ship was a bit sad to be missing their grandson's birthday. Their suite stewardess decorated their cabin, even hanging a poster that said "Happy Birthday" with their grandson's name. The surprised couple was able to take photos and send them to their grandson, showing him they were celebrating his birthday even though they couldn't be with him. In other cases, intuition and kindness can turn a tough travel day around. A Seabourn suite stewardess noticed a guest seemed sad. The woman had quite a few pink belongings, so the stewardess decided to put a bouquet of pink flowers in the suite and placed pink butterflies all over the mirrors. The guest was amazed and confessed that it was one of her happiest days, because her daughter, who had passed away, used to put butterflies on her mirror. Finding butterflies everywhere, she said, made her feel like her daughter was there with her.

On Alaska's Mendenhall Glacier
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4. Create custom tours.

When it comes to making an occasion special, butlers excel. A man aboard a Crystal Cruises ship told the butler he'd really like to impress his companion during an Alaska trip. The butler worked with the shore excursion team to organize a helicopter ride to a glacier. Then he flew along with the guests and served them Champagne atop the glacier. And Crystal isn't the only line offering this kind of service. A Silversea butler saw to it that a couple's 25th anniversary was truly memorable, thanks to a little eavesdropping. He overheard them talking about having a romantic lunch on Capri, but wishing they didn't have to deal with the crowded ferries to the island. He offered to put together a special day, working with the ship's concierge team. The couple was whisked off in a helicopter for a flightseeing tour along the Amalfi Coast, stopping in Capri for a guided tour and lunch at a 5-star hotel. Then they flew to the island of Ischia for an afternoon on the beach, freshened up at a luxury hotel, and had a romantic dinner at the island's top restaurant.

When it comes to making an occasion special, butlers excel. A man aboard a Crystal Cruises ship told the butler he'd really like to impress his companion during an Alaska trip. The butler worked with the shore excursion team to organize a helicopter ride to a glacier. Then he flew along with the guests and served them Champagne atop the glacier. And Crystal isn't the only line offering this kind of service. A Silversea butler saw to it that a couple's 25th anniversary was truly memorable, thanks to a little eavesdropping. He overheard them talking about having a romantic lunch on Capri, but wishing they didn't have to deal with the crowded ferries to the island. He offered to put together a special day, working with the ship's concierge team. The couple was whisked off in a helicopter for a flightseeing tour along the Amalfi Coast, stopping in Capri for a guided tour and lunch at a 5-star hotel. Then they flew to the island of Ischia for an afternoon on the beach, freshened up at a luxury hotel, and had a romantic dinner at the island's top restaurant.

Taxi stand
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5. Continue to serve guests after they disembark. 

Butlers often keep looking after their passengers, even when they're not on board. A Crystal Cruises guest had to disembark for medical reasons. The ship was in port for several days, and the man's butler checked on his condition daily. On the third day, he visited the hospital, bringing the guest a newspaper and his favorite sandwich from the ship. In another case, an Azamara Club Cruises butler was off-duty, heading home to visit his wife and family in Istanbul, when he noticed one of his guests struggling to communicate with a taxi driver. He stopped and checked with a number of cabs to find an English-speaking driver, then bargained to make sure the passenger got a fair deal.

Butlers often keep looking after their passengers, even when they're not on board. A Crystal Cruises guest had to disembark for medical reasons. The ship was in port for several days, and the man's butler checked on his condition daily. On the third day, he visited the hospital, bringing the guest a newspaper and his favorite sandwich from the ship. In another case, an Azamara Club Cruises butler was off-duty, heading home to visit his wife and family in Istanbul, when he noticed one of his guests struggling to communicate with a taxi driver. He stopped and checked with a number of cabs to find an English-speaking driver, then bargained to make sure the passenger got a fair deal.

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