Soaps and shampoos on a silver salver are all part of the service on Silversea
Unless you live in a stately home, the closest you’re probably ever going to get to a butler is through watching Downton Abbey’s Mr Carson, Lady Penelope’s Parker, Jeeves & Wooster, or similar. Until recently, I could say the same.
Yet these days they’re no longer the preserve of grand mansions and palaces, and you don’t need to be the Dowager Countess of Grantham, or even to the manor born, to enjoy the services of a butler, if only for a few days.
In the past my only experience of cruise ship room service has been continental breakfast or a sandwich. But within minutes of boarding Silversea’s brand-new ship Silver Muse butler Oscar was tapping gently on my cabin door with a white-gloved hand and I quickly realised things were about to be taken to a whole new level.
He was carrying a silver tray spread with a choice of luxury bathroom products. Hesitating over whether to choose between Bulgari and Ferragamo he makes up my mind for me and leaves them all. Next he presents me with a menu, not for food but for pillows. There are eight to choose from, including memory foam and buckwheat, the latter said to be good for sleeplessness, headaches and snoring. I plump for the standard down and feather pillows which are already on the bed and covered in cotton and silk cases with hidden pockets that can be filled with fragrant chamomile or lavender.
Silversea is an ocean away from cruise lines that tempt you aboard with cheap deals that turn out to just cover your cabin and basic meals in the main dining room or buffet with everything else on top. The family-owned line, which oozes its stylish Italian heritage from bow to stern, is all-inclusive. Its fares might start at four figures, but you never have to think twice about making a restaurant reservation, ordering room service, drinking Champagne or having a final nightcap. Even things like tipping, guaranteed to get Brits hot under the collar are included. Best of all, the 289 cabins all come with a balcony and butler service.
The 596-passenger Silver Muse – a small ship in cruise terms – is Silversea’s first new vessel in seven years and the ninth addition to a fleet that offers both traditional itineraries and expedition cruises. The eagerly awaited vessel certainly won’t disappoint anyone who wants to set sail in the lap of luxury.
Up on deck I found a shoemaker from Capri who had come on board to sell dainty sandals that he hand finished with the customer’s choice of baubles and decorations. Nearby, chefs at the poolside Spaccanapoli al fresco restaurant are baking pizzas to order. I decide to head to the idiosyncratic Arts Cafe, lined with books and contemporary art that occupies a lovely position overlooking the front of the ship.
You’re certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to eating too. Silver Muse has eight restaurants, including the Relais & Chateau La Dame, which is the highest number of eateries for a ship of its size. Even the 24-hour room service bucks the trend. In addition to having meals and snacks sent to your cabin they can also be delivered to your favourite spot on the ship, such as a lounge or sun deck.
Despite its undeniable luxury, Silver Muse is stylish rather than showy. The public areas and cabins are muted and classy, creating a peaceful onboard vibe.
The next day I find myself studying a different menu, this time one that includes ingredients such as chocolate orange, tangerine, vanilla, apricot, ginger and mint. It heralds yet another treat that’s about to be served up in the Zagara spa and involves, you’ve guessed it, making another choice. In addition to a list of familiar sounding massages, the spa named after the lemon, bitter orange and sweet orange blossom that scent the Amalfi coastline in springtime features ‘freestyle’ treatments that begin in the Mood Room.
They are based around four moods depending on whether you want to relax, be restored, revitalised or rebalanced. I opted for relaxation and the therapist put on a calming video of the sea, turned the Mood Room lights to a restful blue and scented the air with lavender oil before taking me to the massage room, which was similarly lit and scented.
Despite some initial discomfort about what to request from Oscar, as time went on I realised it’s a waste to have butler service and not use it. Oscar took great pride in his job, and butlers are there to provide special services and touches where cabin stewards leave off. Whenever I met him around the ship he greeted me by name and asked if there was anything I needed. If he spotted me returning to my cabin he opened the door to avoid me having to fumble for my key card. Unlike their rather stuffy TV and film counterparts, Silversea’s butlers quickly gauge how to interact with passengers depending on how you set the tone, such as sharing a joke and talking about day-to-day things.
When I asked for a gin and tonic to sip while I got ready for dinner one night he returned with a full-size bottle – the norm on Silversea when passengers request a drink in their cabin – rather than my anticipated miniature. Later he escorted me to the restaurant where I was dining that night. With the combination of the designer products which I used for a long soak in the full-size bath, the supersize G&Ts and blissful pillows it’s no wonder I slept so soundly throughout the cruise. I could easily get used to life with a butler!
Silver Muse sails on a variety of itineraries to destinations including the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska, South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Fares include all meals, drinks, butler service, Wi-Fi and tips. See their website for up-to-date prices and itineraries.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Silversea.