Behind the scenes with a Uniworld River Cruises Butler
Guests staying in suites on all company-owned European boutique river ships in 2016 are treated to in-suite butler service during their cruise. Uniworld’s Senior Butler,Valentin Gradescu, oversees their staff of butlers, who are trained to the same level of skill as those serving in the finest royal houses in Europe, including Buckingham Palace.
How long have you been with Uniworld?
I started working for Uniworld five years ago as a relief butler and waiter. During my second year, I took over a full butler position and I was more involved in developing Uniworld’s butler department. In 2013, I graduated with distinction from The International Butler Academy, a prestigious butler school located in the Netherlands. Since then, I have served as the Senior Butler in charge of Uniworld’s butler department.
What attracted you to becoming a butler?
Working with guests in the hospitality industry is an exciting challenge, and working with people from the perspective of a butler, even more so. It gives you, as the butler, the chance to be closer to the guests than anyone else from the other departments. It gives you the opportunity to acquire guests’ preferences faster, their likes and dislikes, and to act accordingly in order to anticipate their wishes before they are spoken. These are just two very important aspects, of many others, which inspired me to choose a butler career.
What are the most important qualities and skills needed to be a Uniworld butler?
As I mentioned, the butler/guest relation is very tight. Therefore, discretion is the most important value of Uniworld’s butlers. Other values that characterise Uniworld’s butlers are a desire to serve, interest and curiosity, and the ability to anticipate. Uniworld does care about our guests. We really do pay attention to all our guests’ needs and we really do our best to offer them an unforgettable holiday.
Please describe the typical day working as a butler onboard a Uniworld ship.
Onboard the ships that provide butler service, there are two butlers who work in shifts to cover a full day, from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm. The butler is on call all day long, and at the same time, his day is divided into three parts: Morning Service, Afternoon Service, and Evening Service.
For Morning Service, it is the butler’s responsibility to organise and serve in-suite breakfast room service upon guest request. After that, the butler proceeds to refresh all food- and beverage related goods in the suites, such as cookies, fruits, the coffee station, and the mini-bar. The butler also provides the final touches after morning housekeeping service—he arranges all cushions and curtains, and leaves the suite tidy before the guests return from their excursions.
For Afternoon Service, the butler offers his assistance everywhere it is needed—the bar or the restaurant, for example. He socialises with guests, checks the suites again to refresh the beverage-related goods where needed, and provides final touches in the suite before leaving. Both butlers are on duty in the evening.
One is in charge of Evening Service in the suite, which consists of once again refreshing all beverage-related goods in the suites and providing the final touches after evening housekeeping service. The other supervises and serves the Private Fine Dining, if it is offered. This is a special dinner organised and served by butlers together with the restaurant team. And this is not all. There are other activities that do not take place every day, but are still the butler’s responsibility. These include unpacking and packing service, upon guest request; shoe polish service; laundry service; attending Private Parties or River Heritage Club parties; and arranging movies, popcorn, and beverage service in the cinema onboard select ships.
What have been your most memorable experiences working as a Uniworld butler?
One pleasant moment working as butler was during the Private Fine Dining event. This is a formal event, so it requires special attention. At the end of the dinner, all guests who attended stood up and applauded the butlers and the performance of the service team. It was something magical, something unique. Also, a few years ago, we organised a limousine transfer from the train station to the ship for a couple that had travelled with us many, many times. I knew them, so I also went to the train station to meet them. Just imagine, me wearing my uniform with white gloves and a fresh white rose on my lapel, walking in the train station to meet our guests. When the guest saw me, she was really speechless, she couldn’t stop crying. They were so impressed with Uniworld’s service. For me, it was the most emotional moment ever. I definitely will not forget it.
Reproduced with kind permission from Uniworld Boutique River Cruises