On a cruise on the luxury Regent Seven Seas Voyager, the writers experience the pampered service of a trained butler.
Our cruise ship passed both the flax challenge and the truffles test.
At home, a few flax seeds scattered on our cereal is a morning ritual so, when we cruise, we always ask if the galley can provide some. The head waiters at most cruise lines are baffled and say “sorry.”
But not on Regent. Our recent Mediterranean and trans-Atlantic cruise on Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager showed that the upscale cruise line takes its pledge of superior service seriously. On our first morning at sea, we asked the head water about flax and, within minutes, the chef found us a package which became available every day throughout the seventeen-day cruise.
The truffles test was a challenge for our butler. Although every suite on the Voyager is spacious and has a balcony, we were lucky enough to be upgraded to one with a butler. We fondly remembered this ultra-luxury on another line and asked our butler, Gusti, if we could get some chocolate truffles for our room. Not only did he deliver three varieties on a silver platter but he replenished the supply whenever the handmade delicacy appeared to be getting low.
Like many guests, however, we weren’t quite sure how to fully utilize our butler. Gusti, who was born in Bali and worked for many years as a private butler in a home, said his job was to be our personal assistant. If we wanted, he would unpack and/or pack our suitcases (we couldn’t imagine why anyone would not want to do that chore themselves), book our dinner reservations in the two speciality restaurants, handle shore excursion requests, spa appointments, any pressing, cleaning or shoeshine needs, deliver any meals to our room and serve them course by course or even arrange and cater a full cocktail party in our suite.
“Anything you require,” he said, “just push the Butler button on your phone.”
Since Sandra was celebrating a birthday during this cruise, we decided to take up Gusti’s cocktail party suggestion. We invited six new friends to our suite (one of whom was also celebrating a birthday on the same day) and asked Gusti to arrange drinks and nibbles for a little pre-dinner reception. The “little” became very fancy. To our amazement, our butler from Bali decorated the room with birthday balloons and banners, laid out a tantalizing spread of caviar, shrimp, crab legs, cheese and fruit and arrived with silver ice buckets of champagne which he professionally poured for us and our delighted guests.
After dinner, we returned to the room and it was, as usual, sparkling clean.
The extra cost for this cocktail party? Nothing. It’s part of the butler service.
The Hotel Manager on the Seven Seas Voyager said that Regent started its butler service several years ago to enhance the value of the bigger, more expensive, rooms. About eighty suites now have the service which is provided by a staff of 11 butlers and one head butler.
“The butler worries for you.” he said. “Attention to detail is his specialty and he’s trained to know your idiosyncrasies. Every day your suite is arranged exactly the way you want it.” He admitted that some guests used the butler extensively and some not at all.
Training is provided by the Guild of English Butlers and its head, Robert Watson, visits Regent ships two or three times a year to fine-tune the service.
The Head Butler, Ian Banerjee from India, said that Regent recruits most of its butlers from Indonesia and the Philippines where the butler tradition in private homes and fine hotels is still strong. He said that Robert Watson teaches an attitude.
“No matter what, you handle it professionally. Our goal is to have the guest leave the ship extremely happy.”
It’s hard to avoid being happy on a cruise where all costs are included in the fare (specialty restaurants, bar drinks and wine at lunch or dinner plus all tips) and the butler keeps the room fridge stocked with water, pop and beer while he brings fresh fruit every day and makes sure the room flowers are always fresh. If you want a special fruit or vegetable drink brought to you from the Voyager’s juice bar, just ask.
We queried our butler, Gusti, about any particularly strange requests during his five years at sea. “No,” he replied diplomatically. “No request is too strange. I love requests from guests because my job is to surprise and delight them. A lot of things have to be done perfectly. That’s my challenge…and my pleasure.”
*Guest contributors John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Nova Scotia.