Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Silversea Just Shuffling Deck Chairs?

Silversea has announced today that on top of its 15% discount prepay option (and don't tell me that is not a cry for cash) and the slashing of its prices while still sailing with significantly lower passenger counts, it is adding butler service to all of its suites.

I immediately wondered, "Why?" and then "How?"

According to its press release "Each butler, assisted by a suite attendant, is empowered to troubleshoot problems and provide special service touches, if desired by the guest -- for example unpacking and packing clothing, facilitating a dry cleaning request or preparing a scented Jacuzzi bath -- ultimately creating a suite environment where one can relax and feel totally cared for."

The first thing that came to my mind was, "So what." and then it was "Isn't this exactly what the stewardesses do anyway?" and then "Wait a minute...Celebrity already does most of this for all its suite guests.  Don't tell me that is the measure!"  With that said, let's review:
  1. Unpacking and packing clothes - If there is one thing that most people do not want assistance with it is unpacking their clothes or packing their dirty clothes.  It is so infrequently done that it is, in reality, a nothing...and if requested a stewardess would normally assist a needing guest.
  2. Facilitating a dry cleaning request - Huh?  If laying the drycleaning on the bed and your stewardess needs assistance to take it we are all in trouble.  Anyone ever had such a request from a stewardess declined?  Ever?
  3. Preparing a scented bath - Standard stewardess request.  Heck, on Seabourn there is usually one day where there are lots of long tours where you are "surprised" by it being ready upon your arrival back at the ship.
Knowing that the stewardesses normally do these things and that they are truly nothing special, I ask, "Why?"  The reason is painfully obvious:  Silversea is probably cutting down on the number of stewardesses, so they need staff to shift the workload to.  Folks, there are only so many crew berths on a ship, so it is not like Silversea is bringing more staff onboard.  An alternative:  Silversea is seeking a way to address the reported decline in in service quality; not by improving training and crew retention, but by reducing the stewardess's responsibilities. 

And don't think these butlers are going to be lounging around all day while you are at the pool or dinner or on tours; they are going to be doing jobs which others have not been doing as well as they should.

To me the net result is:  Yes, this is it...you might receive the service you used to receive on Silversea albeit through the use of the previously dismissed European staff that Silversea recently discharged (allegedly for not being friendly or happy enough) being reintroduced.

Please, can anyone tell me what is wrong with luxury cruise lines just providing consistently solid service?