Uniworld’s butlers aim to anticipate the needs of their guests. // © 2016 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Feature image (above): Guests sailing in suites on most of Uniworld’s European fleet receive butler service throughout their cruise. // © 2016 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Ivan introduced himself to us at check-in, escorting us to our suite in his perfectly tailored suit, complete with white gloves. He told us that he, along with his colleague Bosco, would serve as our butlers throughout our cruise.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection already has fewer staterooms and more onboard staff than any other river cruise line, so I wasn’t sure that a butler was especially necessary for us. I almost felt anxious — would I have to avoid Ivan throughout the cruise, turning down superfluous offers?
What I found was warm service that was subtle in its execution. Truly anticipating the needs of cruisers, the Uniworld butlers have thought long and hard about how they could improve a guest’s experience in a way that didn’t feel gratuitous.
Following are a few of the advantages in-suite guests can expect from their butlers.
They’ll remember all the small things.
Before a three-hour bike ride, Ivan appeared with two filled water bottles for my partner and me. Most guests get one refillable water bottle, but we got these special ones just before the excursion. After our bike ride, Adrian was there to welcome us and take back the extraneous bottles. Basically, our butlers weren’t reactionary. They were great at anticipating our needs, no matter how small.
They make you look good.
Probably after a quick glance at our well-traveled feet, our butler warmly told us that we could get our shoes cleaned simply by placing them in the wooden-and-leather box in our closet. My initial inhibitions about taking proper advantage of my butler quickly dissolved at this much-needed offer. My partner’s sneakers and my leather heels suffered from different ailments, but they both looked brand-new after our butler flexed his shoe-shining skills for us.
Butlers will also do a guest’s laundry daily at no charge and with extreme care.
They take care of the tedious aspects of vacationing.
In other words, our butler also enthusiastically promoted his ability to unpack our suitcases. My partner and I immediately dismissed this offer, since we are used to unpacking ourselves. But when we lingered at dinner, ordered a glass of wine and checked out the local band playing onboard for the night, it was clear that we both subconsciously had already taken up Ivan’s offer. And as a result, we were enjoying ourselves more.
What’s more, Uniworld butlers will organize a guest’s clothes and other belongings to save space and leave the room decluttered.
They deliver “luxury” — and food.
Uniworld offers suite guests the option of room service. Simply dial the reception desk, and a butler will come to your door and take your customized order. This is a huge perk if you’re anything like me and need all possible time in the morning. The best part of enjoying room service is sipping on a latte while facing the river — in your bathrobe. Few things scream “luxury” more than that.
They tug at your heartstrings.
On our final day of sailing, Ivan and Bosco knocked on our door with personalized gifts.
“You seem sporty,” they told me, handing me a detachable water bottle holder.
My boyfriend was (kindly) told he was always on his phone, so he received a power bank that can also take selfies. A fashionable couple received a felt hat and a leather belt, which they also thought were spot on.
Examples of Service by Uniworld Butlers
- An in-suite guest chose to sail through the Netherlands in springtime because she liked flowers (particularly tulips). She arrived onboard with a bag of tulips and asked her butler to place them in as many flower vases as possible round the suite. Because the tulips were transported via plastic bag, the butler couldn’t manage to salvage more than half of them. The ship was about to set sail, and it was too late to run ashore to buy other tulips. After the butler explained the situation, he noticed how disappointed the guest was. As soon as the ship arrived in the next port, the butler went ashore and bought a few bunches of tulips and placed them in the suite. The guest was pleasantly surprised to find her suite full of tulips.
- Uniworld once organized a transfer for a couple who traveled with the company several times. The line rented a limousine to transfer the guests from the train station to the ship. Their butler, dressed in his uniform with white gloves and a fresh rose on his lapel, was waiting for the guests inside the train station on the arrival platform.
- A guest once asked his butler on the first night of a sailing at 10:45 p.m. to bring him a glass of lukewarm milk. The butler did. On the second night, the same guest made the same request at the same time. On the third night, the butler prepared the milk, and at 10:45 p.m., he knocked on the door and handed the glass to the guest. The butler repeated this every night for the duration of the trip.
Fun Facts About Uniworld’s Butlers
- Uniworld’s butlers are trained by Switzerland’s first female butler, Zita Langenstein, of England’s Ivor Spencer Butler School.
- In 2016, Uniworld expanded in-suite butler service to its entire European fleet (except Russia and Portugal).
- In 2017, Uniworld will implement 24-hour room and in-suite butler services.
- Uniworld butlers try and find out about guests’ preferences, likes/dislikes, allergies and anything else that might help anticipate guests’ needs. They call this operation “Butler’s Interview,” and it generally takes place at the beginning of the cruise as soon as butlers introduce themselves to their guests.