Butlers have held an important role in the homes of royalty and the wealthy for centuries. Traditionally, they were a high-ranking male servant who would offer face-to-face service with the master of the house and manage the liquor, amongst other things. (The word “butler” has its origin from the old French word “botellier,” which refers to the person in charge of the king’s alcohol supply.)
By the early 20th century, the butlers supervised all the food and drink services in the houses of the British aristocracy, but the decline of this social class led to a reduction in the number of domestic staff, so the butler took on more responsibilities and became the head of the house. To this day, the role of a butler has changed dramatically to adapt to modern society while still maintaining the original essence of this old tradition. Much like butlers, superyacht stewardesses have proven their ability to effortlessly blend butler skills with their other duties to deliver a flawless level of service. It’s important to incorporate butler skills within your role as a superyacht stew and is something every steward/ess should be working towards mastering.
Much like butlers, superyacht stewardesses have proven their ability to effortlessly blend butler skills with their other duties to deliver a flawless level of service.
The typical superyacht owner or charter guest purchase and charter a yacht for various reasons. These reasons vary, but what they all have in common is the idea and promise of utter luxury. The yacht itself represents ultimate wealth. Not only with the build quality, materials used, and destinations that are on offer but also with the level of service on board, which is globally well known — and surpassed by none. An experienced chief stew is someone who has a high skill set, which includes a command of the butler skills needed to get things done quietly and efficiently, surpassing the needs of the most demanding guests. A good steward/ess is someone who can solve any situation by his/her own means or by seeking the necessary tools to solve any request, incident, or situation.
Recommended Butler Skills: Some of the desired qualities and values of a butler that every steward/ess should learn are:
- A friendly but formal demeanor
- Maintaining a low profile
- Generally carrying themselves calmly and elegantly
In addition, there are certainly many diverse and sometimes even random skills that a butler and stew must handle from time to time, but some of the most popular skills include:
Unpacking and Packing Luggage: This is probably the most-asked task among guests since it is something that can be tedious — many wealthy guests expect this service. This duty should be carried out efficiently and in accordance with the yacht’s valet service policy.
Shoeshine Service: This is another popular request, especially for male guests. Most are used to a luxurious lifestyle and wearing the best high-quality shoes, which means keeping them lustrous and in a good state. It’s common for them to call for the stew to get a quick shoeshine before stepping out. Make sure that the yacht has suitable cleaning products and equipment to carry out this service.
Bath and Room Preparation: Some people require the stew to prepare the perfect bath with the right mix of oils and essences. Others may ask for certain bed linen or music to be playing in their cabin — all of which requires discretion.
Food and Beverage Knowledge: This skillset will come with time and good education. You cannot expect to know everything about every wine, liquor, or beverage immediately. But you are expected to know how to store beverages correctly, as well as basic food-pairing knowledge.
Attention to Detail: Be ready to organize schedules for the guests, launder clothes, and sew a button if necessary. You should also assist in any medical discomfort, take care of broken glass, set tables, and make sure everything in the room works properly, among many other varied things.
Interpersonal Skills: Finding the right tone is a vitally important skill that every steward/ess should master, whether it’s taking or making calls, ordering things on behalf of the guests, or cordially greeting or saying goodbye to visitors in the room. Be sure to also respect their privacy and maintain confidentiality.
Many of the butler skills discussed may sound like regular stewardess duties — and they are indeed. Butler and stewardess skills are interchangeably blended. The efficiency and level of these services will determine how much a superyacht guest will appreciate their stay aboard. It’s important that the stew never lose their composure with picky requests, when having to multi-task, or when they must think outside the box when the right tools are not available.
Butlers and superyacht interior crew alike are essential to providing an incredible experience for all of their guests.
This column originally ran in the August 2020 issue of Dockwalk.