The Butler Did It

A butler serving a family in their suite at Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall.
A butler serving a family in their suite at Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall.

The first time I ever stayed in a butler suite, I had no idea how to make use of the butler’s services. I wondered, Am I supposed to order tea? Maybe ask the butler to straighten out my personal life, as Jeeves always did for Bertie Wooster?

Joseph, the butler, gave me a quick tutorial. “I can unpack and arrange your clothes,” he explained. “Whenever you want to book a restaurant table, a round of golf, or a ride to the airport, I’ll do it. Anything special you’d like for the minibar, let me know.” As travel adviser and weddings/honeymoon expert Mark Hennigan, co-owner/lead specialist at Dreamers Travel points out, good butlers also “escort you to dinner, save beach or pool chairs for you, and deliver drinks to you throughout the day.”

These days Joseph has plenty of company in the Caribbean. Like fusion cuisine and massage treatments that slather your back with dark chocolate (no, no; put it in my mouth!), butler suites have proliferated at all-inclusives whose operators want to demonstrate their luxury bona fides. Hence, the butler suites (and/or service) at Beaches, Hyatt Zilara, Iberostar Grand (all room categories at Iberostar Grand properties come with complimentary butler service), Jewel Resorts, The Level (Melia), Paradisus (owned by Melia), and Sandals (as in Beaches), and that’s just off the top of my head. Of course, “Not all butlers are created or trained equally,” notes Hennigan. For example, the training Beaches and Sandals butlers get at the Guild of Professional English Butlers would be hard to top. Then again, Sue Schmerling, owner of A Time to Travel agency, reports that clients who recently visited Hyatt Zilara “LOVED” their butlers.

why guests love butlers
What makes guests love their butlers? Ask 20 travelers, and you’ll get 20 different answers. Maybe 21. Schmerling says, “Most valuable to me is having a butler bring drinks to my deck chair, and lunch, too, if I don’t want to go to a restaurant.”

Leslie Kepplinger, resort and weddings specialists at Trips Ahoy, says, “I appreciate the butler making dining reservations, saving beach chairs (with shade), and getting coffee to me at 8 a.m. so I don’t have to make it myself! It’s also the little things. For example, on a trip to Sandals Barbados my phone ran out of juice, so I was going to run it back to the room. My butler saw me and offered to do it for me. I told him I didn’t want to be a bother, but he said I should relax, and he would happily get the phone recharged. And he did.”

Butler suite veterans collect plenty of memories like that. “We had honeymooners at Sandals Regency La Toc,” recalls Hennigan. “After the butler created a romantic dinner for them under the moonlit sky, the bride wrote to me and thanked me for suggesting the upsell of $1,300, because that dinner was magical for them.”

Kepplinger recalls the time she mentioned some flubs at one of Sandals LaSource Grenada’s restaurants. “Our butler promised this wouldn’t happen again, and he made another reservation for us. That evening he arrived with another butler and our favorite cocktails on a silver tray. He said he’d take us to the restaurant in a golf cart, but instead, he drove to a cabana with a table set for two, candles and music. Three butlers, including one who stayed after his shift, served dinner, and they even had someone sing for us. It was a very sweet gesture.”

My own thank-you-Jeeves memory is from The Level at the Melia Caribe Tropical, where I lost a tiny but costly piece for my camera somewhere on the expansive grounds. When my butler told me he’d look for it, I said, “Don’t bother; you’ll never find it.” He found it.

communication is key
So should you book clients into butler suites? Schmerling feels it depends upon both the resort and the client. Travel advisors should help clients “make sure that Jeeves is actually what they want.” Hennigan comes at it a different way: “I always try to upgrade clients to butler rooms, because if you don’t do it and they get there and see what they could have had, they are coming after you.” He adds, “Most clients return very pleased that they upgraded because of the enhanced experience.”

Above all, says Kepplinger, “Communication is key.” She tells her clients, “Let butlers know your likes and dislikes. If you aren’t okay with something, tell them, because they want to make your experience a good one. If they don’t know you’re unhappy, they can’t fix it. Don’t be shy about asking for things you want. But do realize that you are not their only guests, so you do have to share a little. Then relax and enjoy the experience.”

contact information
Beaches/Sandals: beaches.com; sandals.com or taportal.sandals.com/landing
Iberostar Grand: thegrandcollection.com/en/home; iberostar.com/en or iberostar.com/en/travel-agents-hotels
Hyatt Zilara: rosehall.zilara.hyatt.com
Jewel Resorts: jewelresorts.com or aimforthestarsrewards.com
Melia: melia.com or melia.com/en/travelagents/home.htm