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Butler training

The Barefoot Butler

 The Barefoot Butler

Far removed from the swirling turmoil of the world, its political upheavals, financial scandals, and social unrest, Soneva Gili stands as a very small island sanctuary—no bigger than a football field or two, it secrets away 250 staff amongst its shady trees and about 120 guests in less than 50 water villas satelliting around the island. Three gourmet restaurants on the beaches or over the water, including a below-ground wine cellar where eight people can enjoy fine cuisine and vintage wines and savor the chocolates made on the spot; and a spa where glass-covered holes in the floor below the massage tables reveal fish swimming below.

The Private Reserve is the top villa, standing apart from the rest

But this discreet elegance and luxury is not what attracts so much as the serenity of the space that pervades from the moment one lands. Shoes are not part of the dress code. Unsustainable living is not part of the agenda either, with organic gardens and greenhouses, water all made on site, and no throw-away plastic or other fast-paced, throw-away culture, please. The Founders of Six Senses have a vision they call SLOW LIFE, which stands for Sustainable, Local, Organic, and Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, and Fun Experiences.

It’s a great way to experience what life and society would be like if there didn’t happen to be a few dedicated to raping whatever they can lay their hands on in life. The number of people who return time and again to this little speck in the Indian Ocean testifies to what a hidden treasure it is. The owners do not advertize, relying mostly on word of mouth and the kind of writing that I am doing right now!

And to top it all off, they have butler service, called “Man (and Lady) Fridays” after Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday, copies of which are available in each water villa. The Fridays, who are almost all Maldivian, were eager students and fired up to offer the best possible service—with some innovative treats conceived to wow their guests.

So when your boss is wondering where to go for the next getaway, I suggest you suggest  this far away place: a twenty-minute private boat trip from the airport.

One of the three jettys. There are stand-alone water villas, too
Housekeeping on the way to a villa just before a storm…the rainy season has arrived and is not that rainy
Cruising under my villa in two feet of water
A young shark swims by my villa in one foot of water. There are no records of shark or ray attacks in the lagoon
One of the trainees—not a butler, but the Training Director—coming up to speed on how to butle
Two of the butlers: no plastic smiles here, just fun-loving people.

These hotel and resort butlers are the butler-away-from-home, filling in for the butlers at home for those lucky enough to employ butlers, and giving a taste to those who do not yet have butlers, of what life is like when butlers take care of the minutiae that go into living.  As 90% of the uber-wealthy are new money, this seems like a good way to test the waters. These butlers may not have the sophistication of experienced private-service butlers, but they make up for it with their open-heartedness—and the difference is just a matter of degree, really, for in the final analysis, private and hospitality butlers pursue the same goals for the same people.

A variation of the bath drill. There is something special about lying in a bath and listening to the waves lapping below.
A private sunset cruise in a One-Butler-Powered traditional Dhoni
The tsunami a few years back washed up many dead trees on the island. One handsome specimen is used as the table in the wine cellar, and two have been given a second lease on life as hammock supports
The private “swimming pool” accessed from the bathroom
A typical sunset view from my villa

 

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Butler training Training

Butlers in the Bahamas

Disappointment over delays without adequate cause and lost baggage evaporated as the hotel’s  airport greeter  ushered us to the limo outside Nassau’s airport and promised to have our lost bag to us by the end of the day.

Butlers and butler-level service are a welcome pick-me-up or antidote to the increasingly poor service one experiences in other service industries, and only serve to illustrate the truth of trendwatching.com’s proclamation that “Brand Butler” is the most important trend in the corporate world for 2010.

For the majority of us (myself included) who cannot afford butler service, there is a solution: start applying butler mindset and standards to all service industries. As the US manufacturing industry is now something like 9% of GDP, the rest must be service industries. So unless we all want to drown in mutual frustration, it may be time to bring service standards out of the basement.

So I turned in all my old medium format equipment, and older digital stills and video cameras, and was given 5 cents on the dollar,

all of which went toward the purchase of my new Canon 5D Mark II and 28-300 mm lens.

Let the fun begin!

Views from our hotel room.

 

Storm clouds over Paradise Island, Nassau

If a wo/man is as alive as he can communicate, then these butlers are most certainly alive

Some butlers on Paradise Island

 

The engaging and inevitable Bahamian smile—a trainee during a break