To many cruisers, the notion of having a personal butler on board is like sprouting an extra thumb -- a mostly unnecessary appendage. After all, isn't a cabin steward's attention service enough?
On occasion, our stateroom accommodations have included butler service and, frankly, we had no idea what to do. Beyond asking the tuxedoed young man to make certain our cabin was stocked with bottled water, we could think of little else to request. The butler would have gladly unpacked our suitcases or done our laundry, he said, but we declined.
Our curiosity, however, was piqued. How do passengers pamper themselves with butler services, private concierges and even excursion-desk personnel? We asked cruise lines to reveal some requests and discovered that they range from the ridiculous to the sublime.
A Regent Seven Seas passenger, for example, asked a concierge to have the ship turned around because, he said, "The view from my window is not very good." Others have asked if butlers could accompany them ashore to cater to their needs in port. Obviously, there are limits to which whims can be fulfilled.
Some Regent passengers have requested a private dinner table, set up in the ship's galley, for a ringside seat at mealtimes. And in fact, Regent does extend this privilege sometimes, a spokeswoman said, depending on the number of requests, itinerary and an evening's theme.
Many lines seamlessly handle passengers' hankerings. On Oceania Cruises, for instance, a suite passenger with a ravenous sweet tooth insisted that at precisely 2 a.m. each day of the cruise, the butler deliver to his cabin a 16-inch, chocolate-chip cookie-dough cheesecake and a pot of hot cocoa.
Holland America's team met this challenge: A passenger on a three-month sailing carried aboard a suitcase brimming with greenbacks because, for personal reasons, he preferred paying for everything in cash. His peccadillo was drinking Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac and his wife's was Cristal Champagne. The couple frequently hosted lavish parties for 80 or more, arranged by the concierge. At one gathering, they gave each guest a bottle of costly vino, a gesture that obligated the concierge to obtain several cases of wine in ports the ship visited. By midcruise, the couple's lavish lifestyle depleted their cache but, according to the line, the gentleman "sent for his son while the ship was in Hong Kong to deliver [another] suitcase full of money to [him]."
Another HAL passenger, in a penthouse suite on the Amsterdam's world cruise, was eager to catch the views from Sugarloaf Mountain while the ship was docked in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, the mountain's cable car was not working. Quick-thinking personnel at the ship's excursions desk chartered a chopper to fly her to the pinnacle.
For that passenger's flight home, the ship's staff arranged for a limo, a police escort and a crew member to accompany her (and her million-dollar jewels) to the airport -- a story that even has a Cinderella ending. According to a HAL representative, "Somehow, there were some sparks flying in that limo," and the passenger is now married to the crew member who escorted her.
Some passengers' wishes require the services of normally unseen personnel. A Windstar passenger with a penchant for frogs was smitten by the frog-shaped bread the chefs had baked for the ship's barbecue night. She asked to take the bread home, which required that it first be varnished to preserve it. Mission accomplished, courtesy of the ship's carpenter.
On super-luxury lines, you would expect pampering to come with the territory. But even well-heeled passengers can push the envelope. A Silversea passenger on a sailing in the Mediterranean was an avid skier. When he learned that the Austrian Alps had received an overnight blanket of snow, he wanted desperately to tackle the slopes. Thing is, the ship was heading to Venice.
"He asked our concierge if he could make arrangements for a private jet to fly him to Innsbruck when the ship arrived in Venice," a spokesman told us.
A private jet made the flight and, after an afternoon of skiing, whisked the passenger back to the ship just in time for dinner. The cost of his afternoon of skiing: $50,000 -- plus a tip for the resourceful concierge.
Cruising is synonymous with romance, and Norwegian Cruise Lines burnished that reputation during a Hawaii cruise, when a penthouse passenger decided to propose to his significant other but sought to do it with flair. He consulted the ship's concierge, who suggested arranging for a charter plane to take the couple on an aerial tour of a nearby island. Meanwhile, at the beach near the ship, the concierge would gather branches, leafy vines and large stones to spell out "Marry me" in the sand.
And one more extravagant indulgence ended happily ever after.
Arline and Sam Bleecker can be reached at AJBleecker@aol.com.