What Does A Cruise Ship Butler Do?

We’re about to explore the world of cruise ship butlers and find out the 10 things that they will do and the four things they will say absolutely no way will they do. I’ve built this based on my own experiences and also talking to and interviewing a number of Butlers around the different cruise lines that I’ve cruised with.

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Cruise Butler Myths

First of all, let’s find a little bit about the myths and realities of exactly what is a butler on a cruise ship.

Not all cruise ships offer Butlers, but many of the cruise lines will offer a butler for those passengers travelling in a suite. It’s quite interesting because Butlers aren’t necessarily all on one particular grade or type of cruise line, for example there are a number of mass-market cruise lines that will offer their passengers a butler. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa and MSC Cruises in the mass category.

In the premium category you do see many more cruise lines offering Butler service, for example Cunard, Celebrity, Oceania, Azamara and P&O Cruises – and all those cruise lines is for passengers in their Suites.

In the Ultra-luxury segment, you would expect most of the cruise lines to have Butlers, however that’s not true. You find Butlers on board Silversea, Regent Seven Sea and Crystal. Silversea, as far as I can tell, is the only cruise line that offers a butler to every single cabin or suite on board their ship and everyone has a butler.

The second important thing to understand about Butlers is forget Downton Abbey, forget Carson, forget all the imagery of the posh English Butler. You’ll find the Butlers are both male and female, you’ll find that they come from all around the world. I’ve had Butlers from Italy. the Philippines, from
Indonesia and from India.

The other kind of myth about Butlers is, unlike again like Downton Abbey, unfortunately your Butler will be
looking after a number of people. They don’t just look after you. It’s not a one-on-one relationship with your Butler.

What Will Cruise Ship Butlers Do

Let’s take a look at the 10 things that you can reasonably expect a butler to do for you.

Meet and Greet

On many cruise lines the Butlers will actually meet and greet you at the check-in desk or when you board the ship.

They will then introduce themselves obviously and show you through the ship and to your suite. Right from the very beginning you have a sense of feeling really important because you have a meet-and-greet service. That happened, for example, on MSC where a butler met me when I checked in if you were in the Yacht Club. However, on other cruise lines, so for example on Cunard, the Butlers doesn’t meet you and just introduce themselves later in the suite.

Ship and Suite Orientation

The other thing that the Butlers will do is they will spend some time explaining to you the facilities and how the ship works. They will give you a personal one time briefing about the ship and where to find the facilities and how things operate.

They also explain how you access certain parts of the ship so, for example, on some of the ships like on MSC Cruises where the Suites and the Butlers are in a very distinct area, they also tell you how your access that area and what facilities are within that whole ship within a ship.

Set Up and Manage Your Suite

The next thing they will do for you is set up and manage your room. For example, in most Suites they will explain to you the pillow concierge service or the pillow menu and they’ll help you choose the right pillows for you.

They’ll also set up your minibar and agree what you want in your minibar, and they will keep replenishing that. They’ll perhaps check what snacks or fruit you want, and they’ll make sure that’s then set up and constantly replenished.

If you want, they’ll also occasionally run a bath for you if you want a particular bath set up or when you’re coming back from a big day out on excursions, they can set up a nice scented bath.

Also, if you want perhaps DVDs or CDs or books brought to the cabin, they also make sure that your cabin is stocked with those. They’ll bring you daily canapes every evening just before dinner.

Of course, what they’ll also do is they’ll supervise and make sure that your cabin is kept fresh and they’ll make sure that it’s reset whenever you go out. They will do the nightly turndown service and they normally partner with a cabin steward who will do some of the more heavy-duty cleaning.

They basically set up and maintain the suite with what you want in it and how you want it run.

Unpacking And Packing

The other thing they will do for you is pack and unpack. On some Cruise Lines I found the Butlers will actually offer to do that, in others they wait to be asked because, of course, in many cases a lot of people want to unpack themselves because they know exactly where they want to put things.

But certainly, a key part of a butler service is unpacking, putting everything away and when you’re ready to pack instead of that awful evening or day before you leave, they will pack it all up again for you.

Grooming Needs

The fifth thing that a Butlers will do is look after all your grooming needs. They’ll make sure that your shoes are polished if you need them, they will also handle all your laundry and dry-cleaning requirements.

So, anything to do with looking after your clothes and looking after your shoes, including if you perhaps have broken a heel, they also make sure that things like your shoes are fixed up.

Also, if you want a dress or a shirt freshly pressed ready for perhaps a big night out or gala evening, they’ll also do that for you.

In-Suite Dining

One of the most popular things that people get Butlers to do is bring meals to them. They will also organize with you for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In a normal cabin you just phone room service, you order room service and someone from the room service department will come in dump a tray and they might do a little set up and go.

A butler will actually do much more of a full-on meal service and they’ll lay a nice table, they’ll serve the meal very nicely and if you are having dinner in your cabin, they serve it course-by-course, so bring each course individually and serve that for you.

Perhaps you wanted a nice cappuccino or a nice coffee, they will also organize that and bring that to you.

If you have any dietary requirements or needs, they will also, if you want, deal with the restaurant and the chef on your behalf.


Another great service that Butlers will provide, and one that I probably haven’t taken enough advantage of when I’ve had a butler, is they will act as a concierge.

They will make all the arrangements if you want like specialty dining bookings, they can also book appointments for things like gym classes, personal training or reservations at the spa. They will also book and arrange for you the excursions you want, or they will take on your behalf to work with the excursions department to arrange a private tour.

They can also, if you want, give you advice and tips and even make reservations off the ship. They have a huge amount of experience of the ship and the ports and they are a mine of information.

Take a look at your Butlers as providing a kind of a concierge and booking service.

In-Suite Parties

Another thing that people use Butlers for very frequently is to arrange parties or events within the suite.

They will set up an arrange for you to have a cocktail party or some kind of event within your suite. They will reorganize the furniture, arrange the canapes and arrange the drink. If perhaps it’s your partner or travel companions birthday or some special event, they will also (if you ask them) decorate the cabin, arrange a cake.

So, any event or activity that you want within your suite they will also arrange.

Escort Around Ship

Another thing the Butlers will do is escort you around the ship, to certain events or activities or places that you want to go.

Particularly at the beginning of a cruise if you’re on a ship that you’re not familiar with, they will take you if you want to the dining room or they’ll take you to where a particular event or activities going on, for example a cocktail party. They take you where you want to go.

Problem Solving

Another great thing that Butlers do is problem solving, and the great thing about having a Butlers is if you
have any issues you have someone you can turn to and they will sort it out.

For example, I was traveling with someone and they were in a suite and a suitcase had a broken handle and the butler took the suitcase away and I guess worked with some workmen down somewhere in the depths of the ship and fixed the suitcase up. It was ready to use again.

If you have any problems or issues Butlers are great at helping solve problems.

What Cruise Ship Butlers Will Not Do

We’ve taken a look at what butters will do, but what will they refuse to do? What will they
not do for you? There are four key things that fall into this category.


The first thing that a butler will refuse to do is babysitting. They will not look after your children. If you want to go out and do anything you have to make other arrangements, the butler will not do that partly because they don’t have time, but also, they don’t have the expertise the skill and I guess the clearances to do that. They will not babysit.


They won’t act as carers or support people. So, won’t for example travel with you on excursions if you have limited mobility. They will not help you if you need caring activity in terms of getting out of the bath or around your suite. Any of those sorts of activities which are Carer activities they will not provide those for you.

If you do have any of those needs, you have to be travelling with someone who can provide that service for you.

Personal Companion

Thirdly, they will not act as your personal companion. Although they might take you places or escort you
places, they will not come along and sit with you at dinner or come to the show with you. They won’t go out on tours with you. They’re not any kind of a companion.

Every Problem

Of course, they can’t solve all problems. They will do their best and actual what I found is they sometimes
like a challenge, because if it shakes things up and gives them something different to do from the normal and the routine. But a butler will not be able to solve everything for you.

Final Thoughts

If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in a suite, or you’re in one of those ultra-luxury lines that have Butlers, hopefully this has given you a better sense about what you can actually expect.

I do really wish I’d had this advice before I went on a cruise and had a butler. I was kind of embarrassed about it because I thought “Well I’m paying for this. I have a butler and I don’t really know what I should be asking them to do and I don’t want to embarrass myself by asking to do things that are way out of the scope”.

Hopefully this has given you a good sense about what a butler is and isn’t for.


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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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