Introduction: Welcome to Crew, Life at Sea podcast. Here, we will share the skills you need to make your experience and adventure out at sea, a success. Hear inspiring stories from experienced crew from all diversities, gain knowledge and know your rights. Be part of the Crew, Life at Sea and lets welcome your host: Raymond Crystal!
Raymond: Hello and welcome to Crew, Life at Sea – the only place where you can find useful information, advise, insights and resources to help inspire you to take that next step to working on a cruise ship. You know, a butler, always used to be attired in a special uniform, distinct from the junior servants. But, today a butler is more likely to wear a business suit or a business casual clothing and appear in a uniform only on special occasions. Pradeep, tell me, do you enjoy wearing a suit? Haha!
Pradeep: Haha! It’s always fun to wear a suit even if you’re tired and it has to be always ironed and presentable. It is fun to wear a suit.
Raymond: You always have to wear a suit?
Raymond: Well, welcome to the show Pradeep, it’s a honor to have you. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to this point in your life?
Pradeep: Well, I always wanted to be in a hospitality industry and I started my career as a waiter and then I got an opportunity to work in Dubai as a butler I took this opportunity to work as a butler and then I came to know about butler services, how to servant, how it begin the butler service, how it began and it made me very interesting.
Raymond: How long where you in Dubai for?
Pradeep: 5 years in Dubai and then when I joined Dubai I learned about cruise ships butler services and I got an opportunity to work in the sea line and I grabbed this opportunity to not only serve the guests, but to travel around the world looking and places and serving the guests.
Raymond: So how long where you a butler before you became a butler manager?
Pradeep: I was a butler for almost 10 years.
Raymond: So, you know the business in and out! Haha! So, where did you work in Dubai because I worked Limeridium, that’s next to the Royal Mirage. Do you remember next to the Royal Mirage there?
Pradeep: Yes, I worked for Buchalmirah, that was my first hotel as a butler.
Raymond: Right at the top with that little hotel where you step out and you look down and wah! It’s like so high!
Pradeep: That was my hotel in Dubai.
Raymond: So, how many years at sea have you been?
Pradeep: Now 8 years.
Raymond: 8 years at sea… and then how many years in Dubai?
Pradeep: 5 years.
Raymond: 5 and 8, so you’ve been around hey?
Pradeep: 13 years.
Raymond: So, what does a butler manager do onboard?
Pradeep: Onboard a butler manager is in charge of ensuite dining, butler services, personal wardrobe management, unpacking and packing, onboard services, laundry, delivery of valet service and what else… ensuite cocktail party. I’m in charge of all of this.
Raymond: That’s a lot of things for one man. Do you have a notepad or something or do you remember everything?
Pradeep: Yes, I do take notes and I do have my computer so I have to keep reminding myself what is the plan of action next.
Raymond: So, can you tell me the process of someone who wanted to work onboard as a butler manager. How did you get this job or did you have to start as a butler?
Pradeep: I started as a butler to become a butler manager. I was a butler for almost 3 years and then I became a senior butler, it’s like a head butler who is in charge of butlers and then I was trained as a butler manager. It’s like, when you’re a butler, you already getting trained for a senior butler. You need to have that interest to become a butler manager or you have to have a goal or an aim to become a butler manager.
Raymond: I didn’t know that. That’s very interesting.
Pradeep: So, if you’re a butler manager now and already doing room divisions or hotel directors so that I become the next step so that will be my next step.
Raymond: That’s just about perfect because the next question was that I was going to ask you is to become a butler manager what where the procedures you’d have to go through.
Pradeep: Senior butler and then the butler manager.
Raymond: And is there some sort of time period or …
Pradeep: It doesn’t matter as long as you have the right attitude, you are at the right time, the right place.
Raymond: Right time, right place baby! So, as a butler manager you must have some employees working under you. What are their duties?
Pradeep: The butler they have a particular section of guest like a maximum of up to 15 suites they handle each. I have a department of 15 people working under me. They have valet butlers and insuite butlers.
Raymond: Have you had any issues with your team and how did you handle these issues because it must come up a lot.
Well, issues in the sense it’s a cultural difference sometimes so people get culture shock when they come from basically a land based hotel and work on the ship. It’s totally different, their working hours differ, you don’t get offs as regular as land based hotels. In the ship life, they don’t get off, they have to work continuously and when there is deep cleaning or something, they have to put on extra hours. That makes them really, sometimes they come with the issues saying its long hours, we don’t get offs, breaks and things like that. That’s when we need to make them understand that they get paid really well than land, they get double the salary. I choose the job to work on the cruise liners so sometimes their issues are always there, but we handle. And their contracts are 6 months?
Pradeep: 6 months, yes.
Raymond: One day off, they like to complain but you’ve just got to spank them around, put them in their place once in a while – right?
Pradeep: Yes. But, we try to be flexible with them. Sometimes we give them extra time breaks so if there is a nice port where all the guests are out of the ship, so we have them, we don’t need them when the guests are out, so we give them an extra time off.
Raymond: When that happens do you correspond with the tour guide who’s on and off the ship and then how to go about that?
Pradeep: Yes, we always get told who is going out for the excursions so depending on how many guests are going we can give them a time off.
Raymond: That’s excellent. That’s very nice actually. Talking about guests, when you have unhappy guests, saying call me the butler manager and you go up there and all of a sudden this woman’s got a knife, wants to kill you hey, how do you get through that?
Pradeep: Well, we need to understand why they are unhappy first, in the first, what has exactly.. they can only be 2 reasons. 1 thing is they are not happy with themselves or they are not happy with us. If they are not happy with they’ll definitely complain and they look for things and they didn’t have it. If it is possible to do a local purchase for us, we will definitely make them happy, but if we can’t provide what they need, then we will try to give an alternative, but we will never say no.
If they call us and complain, we stay calm, take notes what exactly they looking for, try to give them suggestions and alternatives and then we go to my supervisor and ask them what the guest needs so if there is anything we can give them to make them happy and most probably, 99% we try to accommodate their request and we do a local purchase normally. It’s a special liquor or it could be a small tea or a soft drink. It could be a special rum from the Carribean or a scotch from Scotland. Anything could be, but we try to make them happy. Or give them a good bottle of Dom Perignon champagne to make them happy.
Raymond: I can imagine because if I was the guest and I had issues and all of a sudden I come into my cabin and there’s a beautiful gift that really sparkles, they’ll change their mind very quickly. Deliver the wow kind of thing! W-o-w! So, tell me a little bit about your hours and your… how do you schedule your day?
Pradeep: Well, it always depends on the port which we arrive. If we are early, we have to start early. Normally the boats dock at around 8 ‘o clock, butlers normally start at 6:30, so we have to be there at 6:30 7 ‘o clock.
Raymond: So you wake at 6 to be there at 6:30 every day.
Pradeep: 6:30 7 ‘o clock and if it is a sea day, we start at like 7 7:30 depending on how many breakfasts we have in the morning service and how busy it’s going to be.
Raymond: And then you work a couple of hours, have a break?
Pradeep: The butlers finish normally at 12 ‘o clock in the afternoon, so have to be there until 1 ‘o clock then we go on a short break. The butlers start at 4, so I start at same time and then they sign out at 9:30 or 10 ‘o clock.
Raymond: What happens if you ever get sick?
Pradeep: Well, so far, touch wood, I didn’t get sick. But, if I get sick, yes we have a senior butler or my supervisor will be division manager who’ll take over.
Raymond: I was thinking about that because you have kind of a unique job you know, you got to handle all of it so if anything has to happen there could be a bit of a problem. Don’t get sick Pradeep, you know. So, living onboard can be kind of tough. How is your accommodation space and what are your benefits as a butler manager?
Pradeep: Well, butler manager, I have entitlement to stay in a single cabin facilitated with a suite attendant who’s cleaning my cabin so I don’t have to clean really my bed, my towels, my linen. Everything is being taken care of. My laundry is being taken care of, my personal uniform is being taken care of.
Raymond: And you wonder why people want to live and work on land! Hello?!
Pradeep: Well, since I am in charge of ensuite dining, so they would not say no if I was to order something.
Raymond: So, I’m coming to you – I’m hungry! I’ll give you a call Pradeep, I need some food!
Pradeep: I never sleep hungry, so I can always have something before I go for sleep so that’s one of the benefit I can have.
Raymond: Excellent. I think I am going to put in an interdepartmental transfer tomorrow and try to get to your position and steal your job! So, knowing what you know now in your career at sea, if you could change one thing, what would it be and why?
Pradeep: Well, I would definitely change the working hours and giving some extra off for the people working at sea, they have to plan on this. And, yip, that’s the only thing.
Raymond: I’ve met you and I can see you’re a very nice person and I can see you can see the people who really work hard, that deserve that little bit of time and for them to get it, it’s…
Pradeep: It should not be like a weekly off, at least once in a fortnight like 15 days 1 day off or in a month that would really help the people to, at least they can concentrate on, ok I’m getting an off on this day of this month so I can carry on.
Raymond: So, imagine your toughest day you have ever experienced at sea. Now, tell me about it and how you got through it.
Pradeep: Well, the toughest day was when we were about to almost fail public health and that ..
Raymond: What’s the public health? What’s that?
Pradeep: Like we get external inspectors came onboard and check our public health inspections and we almost got through there, but that was the toughest day, so every crew member has to work really hard every night almost 14 to 18 hours a day to make sure that everything is in place, the logs, the temperatures, the food hygiene and the area that everything is clean. So, that was the toughest.
Raymond: Do they check the guest cabins? No?
Pradeep: Not really the guest cabins, but yes the crew and the guest kitchen and the galley and the food items to make sure everything meets their sanitation and hygiene rules.
Raymond: They come onboard and they have these little glasses and these little scientific, like these scientific gadgets and they tested everything and you’re just I wish I could just get you out of my face! I worked hard last night and you’re coming here to ruin everything.
Pradeep: Normally it happens on a turnaround day which makes us more difficult for us to manage the time to prepare the suites and get them ready for the guests as well as pass the inpection it makes it a bit difficult job. Yes, we have to go through it. We have to pass it to show the certificate, to show everybody yes we passed and we can make it.
Raymond: Have you ever worked on a big ship?
Pradeep: Well, the maximum passenger capacity which I worked on a big cruise ship was 550.
Raymond: Ok, so that means no? Haha!
Pradeep: We are a small, cruise, luxury industry.
Raymond: But, I think also butlers and butler managers don’t work on the big ships?
Pradeep: Yes, normally butler service is specialized in handling suites, not the cabins or small rooms or something. Yes, luxury suites and royal grand owner suites and things like that.
Raymond: The big money spenders! So, tell me the negatives and positives of your job.
Pradeep: Well, positives are …
Raymond: That you can eat any time of the day or night!
Pradeep: No, we make people happy, we make their life easier, we prepare for them to be organized, taking care of their dresses, their shoe shine, their laundry, their grooming, their suites, everything. The negative would be, not really a negative thing, yes, we don’t have enough time for us. Only to get up, shower, take care of ourselves, but we do not have enough social time. But, of course, it comes with good pay and a good salary, so we’re happy about that.
Raymond: Once that cheque comes through, smiling ear to ear! Do you have any safety duties onboard?
Pradeep: Yes, we do have safety duties, we have the responsibility to evacuate passengers, because passenger comes first in case there is an emergency.
Raymond: But, you specifically, what do you have to do?
Pradeep: Take care of evacuation team, so I have a section where I have to evacuate guests from the suites and I have to send them to the master station to make them mastered and go to the lifeboat.
Raymond: So, normally, every single show I have a big question that I ask everyone. I’ve had some cool stuff, some crazy stuff, some unbelievable stuff. Tell me the most shocking thing you have ever encountered or seen in your career at sea, in your 8 years. There’s got to be something.
Pradeep: I’ve seen a very lost guest who’s walking naked in the …. Haha, thinking that he’s coming out of the bathroom, he came out of the suite and is walking around. It was a male and a female. 2 times I actually locked out of the suite and didn’t know where to go, so we had to run, give them bathrobes to cover themselves to find out we don’t know their exact suite numbers so we have to check their faces in the reception and try to find their suite numbers and send them to suite.
Raymond: So, you’re walking around with naked people saying, hang on, we have to check on the system to check your facial recognition here!
Pradeep: That happens normally when people are sleepy and they don’t know if they are opening the main door or the bathroom doors, the bathroom and the main doors are almost interlinked so that’s the most shocking thing I have ever…
Raymond: That’s a good one because I haven’t had one of those, right! Has working at sea changed your life?
Pradeep: Too many things. Yes, I have my own house after working at sea.
Raymond: Congratulations. I wish you the best of luck. I haven’t got there yet, but one day. Your own house in Gourwa or…
Pradeep: In Bengaluru. It’s the capital of South India. It’s called IT city now, it’s very developed. It used to be a garden city, but now they call it IT capital of India.
Raymond: I’ve been only to Mumbai with a ship, but I haven’t actually in, it’s inland, right? It’s inside. Is it sea-based or …
Pradeep: No, it’s not sea-based, no.
Raymond: You’ve been at sea for 8 years. Why do you keep coming back?
Pradeep: Salary – haha! It’s an easy life. 6 months contract, I get 2 months vacation, 2 to 3 months vacation which I have no disturbance, I don’t have to report to anybody. I can spend all these complete 2 months with my family. I believe that’s more important. Or, if I work on the land, I will get one day off in a week which I will have plans, but see, 2 months I don’t have to do anything.
Raymond: Don’t get in my way, I’ll sleep late every night, every day – I’ll do as I please. So, if anyone wanted to work as a butler manager in this industry, what would they have to do in their country. Or your country, what did you have to do?
Pradeep: Well, they must have experience as a butler manager in my country or any other country. But, if they have experience in the sea as a butler or a butler manager, then its easier. But, if they don’t have any experience at sea and if they have to join as a butler manager, then they have to start from being a butler.
Raymond: What is your favourite port of call and why?
Pradeep: Well, Santorini Greece is my favourite port of call and the place is simply beautiful. The blues and the whites and especially taking the cable car.
Raymond: Oh, I was about to say if you said donkey, I would be so angry because we have just chatted recently with the RDM and she was telling me, or I think it was the RDM. No, I think it was Mona Lee, one of my other guests and she was telling me how these guests get onto these poor donkeys. These donkeys are suffering man, have you seen it?
Pradeep: I would not do that. I’ll take the cable car, look at this place from the top and my ship from the top.
Raymond: Have you had the gyros? The Greek gyros?
Pradeep: Yes, and the Greek yoghurt.
Raymond: How good is that? It’s Tzatziki. At least you’ve had it. The other was like hey, what’s a gyro? So, is there anything else that maybe you’d like to end off with or tell the viewers out there that maybe they should be ready for or something?
Pradeep: Well, if you have to work on the ship, be your best and make sure that whatever you give it’s not 100%, but 200%. To be ready and never give up. Times will pass, you will have a hard time, tough time, but time will pass and you’ll have a time that you can remember always in the future to tell your Grandson and your family – YES! I have sailed the 7 continents of the World.
Raymond: Well Pradeep thank you so much for coming on my show, I really enjoyed it. It was amazing and I’ll be coming over to you tomorrow night for a dining room service – thank you!
Pradeep: This is my first show, I never know how people will take it, but thank you very much.
Raymond: It will be amazing. This will be just to help the people experience and understand what it is like to be at sea and you’ve done a great job and I thank you so much.
Pradeep: Thank you.
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