Butlers and personal service
If your idea of a butler springs from the pages of Jeeves and Wooster, you may be surprised to learn you don’t have to be a member of the aristocracy to enjoy such personal service – it could come as part of your holiday. While a hotel butler may not be standing by to put toothpaste on your brush, as one of Prince Charles’ staff was rumoured to do, they can help with chores, such as unpacking and pressing your clothes, or treats like running you a flower-strewn bath at an allotted time.
When the Savoy reopened last October following an ambitious £100 million refurbishment, it introduced a new generation of butlers. This elite task force will tackle a range of jobs including completing guests’ business expense forms and helping them dress for dinner. There’s even a green butler to advise on all things ecofriendly in London. Prices for a suite for the night with butler service start at around £1,100 plus VAT, though it’s worth looking out for packages.
In recent years, a wide range of more mainstream hotels have added complimentary butler service for higher room categories. And it’s not only business travellers who are the target; many beach resorts have introduced butlers to help guests mark a special occasion, or simply get maximum relaxation from their holiday.
The Savoy is managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, which has butler service at several properties. The Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados even has “beach butlers” who’ll deliver drinks and nibbles and fetch items from your room. St Regis is another chain with butlers. They’ll wake you with morning tea and newspapers and spring to other requests made by email.
Caribbean all-inclusive chain Sandals now has butler service as standard with its top-tier suites. The staff can be summoned from a dedicated mobile phone to unpack your luggage, serve you dinner in your suite, shine your shoes and press your clothes. They’ll also organise your stay, making all your spa, tour and dinner reservations and reconfirming your flights before departure. A one bedroom honeymoon suite with butler service at Sandals Emerald Bay in the Bahamas currently costs from £2,999 per person for a week’s all-inclusive in high season, including flights.
On a smaller scale, Serene Pavilions, a boutique beach hotel at Wadduwa, Sri Lanka, opened two years ago with an all-butler concept. Serene has just 12 large villas which cost from around £295 per night including breakfast. They’re full of mod cons, including remote-controlled blinds, but if the effort of pressing a button wears you out, your 24-hour butler can step in to ease your stay.
“Butlers help guests to unpack their baggage, organise their meals, provide all the services requested by them and basically follow them without interrupting their privacy,” explains Serene Pavilions chief executive Anura Lokuhetty. “They’ll even organise meetings with the chef to decide on the menu and locations for their meals, as we provide several options.”
Elsewhere in Asia, the Nam Hai hotel in Vietnam beach resort Hoi An recently called in the Guild of Professional English Butlers to train its staff for three months. The guild, which also trains Sandals’ butlers, notes Caribbean and Far East hotels are particularly keen to add this personal service. Among many others, it has also trained butlers at London’s Lanesborough and North Island, in the Seychelles – honeymoon destination of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The guild has seen a boom in hotels seeking its services. “I’ve been training butlers in hotels for 15 years and it’s increased year on year so now almost every type of hotel has some form of butler service,” says Guild president Robert Watson. “It’s almost a guest expectation these days; it’s not restricted to the luxury five-star market.
“The most important thing is to treat the guests as individuals and that’s very much the essence of my training. They may want you to be smiling, bubbly or ‘yes’, ‘no,’ ‘there you are’. It’s very much tailoring the service to suit the guest.”
Cruise lines, too, are committed to butler service, most now offering it with higher-grade suites. MSC Cruises’ butlers, for instance, can be paged round-the clock to take care of laundry and shoe shining, make priority bookings for restaurants, tender access and
excursions. They’ll even arrange for onboard boutiques to open exclusively for you.
Concierge floors and services
If you don’t want to splash out on the full butler experience, concierge floors (also called club or executive floors) in both hotels and cruise ships can be a good compromise.
Though perks vary, these upgraded levels usually have a lounge for breakfast, drinks and snacks, better room facilities, and dedicated check-in and concierge desks. Many major hotel chains including Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood offer such floors and, more surprisingly, some Disney hotels do as well.
The hotel concierge, who helps with reservations and local advice, is a familiar concept but nowadays not all such services are desk-bound.
Thinking of popping the question on holiday? At Cap Maison, St Lucia a proposal concierge will help you do it in style, perhaps with the ring sent down a zipwire to an offshore dining deck. And if you don’t fancy lugging your skies to the airport, how about sending them ahead to your chalet with ski concierge service Piste of Mind?
Upmarket tour operators, among them Kirker Holidays, Audley Travel and Abercrombie & Kent, also offer concierge services, booking ballet tickets, behind-thescenes tours, that special restaurant or a family party so the highlights of your trip are already in place when you arrive.
All prices and details were correct when published in tlm - the travel & leisure magazine, please check before you travel.