Q&A

with Filipe Silva, Scenic River Cruises Butler

Inside the Mind of a Scenic Butler

At Scenic, our crew and staff are at the very core of what makes your journey truly memorable. One person you’ll come to love on your 5-star luxury river cruise is your professional butler. Here we speak with Filipe Silva, a proud Scenic Butler, about his passion for his role and what his love of meeting new guests as they journey through Europe.

Q: Filipe, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

I was born in Portugal, in a small town near Porto, Marco de Canaveses. I was very fortunate as a child having a loving and caring family. My mother was the most concerned person I ever knew. She always anticipated our needs and tried to understand what we were thinking of even before we spoke. I grew up in an environment with lots of rules and also lots of love. The most important values were honesty, dignity, humility, and the realisation that all goals in life can only be achieved through commitment and hard work.

Q: What attracted you to the role of Scenic butler?

At the age of 18, I started with Scenic as a bartender while I was still in college. After a month and a half, the head butler at that time came to see if I’d be interested in position as a butler, in part, he said, because of my attitude towards the guests. Obviously, every single crew member is an important part of the guest experience, but this would be an opportunity to impact the guest experience in so many different ways. I have always been eager to get to know and understand the company and the place I work for from head to toe, this offer was the icing on the cake.

LEFT: Filipe Silva, Scenic River Cruises Butler

Q: You’ll have been to many corners of the world with Scenic. What’s been a highlight?

As a proud Portuguese, I have been working on the Douro River since 2017 and I can always see something new. Every day I learn more about this beautiful region and what it has to offer. It is also a benefit to our valued guests that many of the crew members have extensive knowledge of the various ports. As a butler, one of my goals is to enhance our guests' experience with this knowledge by, for example, suggesting shore activities, places of interest and the best restaurants or wineries.

Q: Can you describe what a typical day on board might look like for you?

As a Scenic trained professional butler, we should always expect the unexpected when working in this industry, especially in a position that requires a lot of time management and organisational skills. Let’s face it, we have the honour of waking up our valued guests with a beautiful tray and a white rose when they order coffee or tea, or breakfast in-suite so that they can effortlessly, and in a wonderful way, start another day. My days are very energetic but each evening I still have time to go over the agenda with my fellow butlers, eat ashore if I want to, or just relax on board with other crew members.

Q: How much interaction do you like to have with guests and do you have any techniques for establishing an early rapport with them?

It is really all about interaction. The interaction and the early relationship are inextricably linked: either I can establish an early relationship with the guest, or I need to focus even more on the small details and cues that the guest sends so that I can anticipate his or her needs and exceed their expectations.

At first, I study the guest list, not only to see my guests’ nationalities and become aware of any cultural differences, but also in order to know if there are any relevant details mentioned. Then, I go back to basics and follow what we call “butler techniques”, which include, of course, observance of body language to build an early rapport. For example, I tend to be an avid observer of eye signs, handshakes, position of legs and arms or the tone of voice. You must keep in mind that the interaction should always respect some boundaries; one of the best praises a butler can receive is "exceptional service without being intrusive".

RIGHT: Filipe Silva, Scenic River Cruises Butler

Q: What are some of the misconceptions people have about butler work?

Many people who work in the hospitality industry and are unfamiliar with butler service think of the butler as a "waiter" in a well-appointed suit. There is a quote by Steven Ferry that says, "Ask not what the butler has done, but what he can do for you". This may sound very abstract, but if you use the butler service and take into consideration the different services, the different venues or events in the hotel you are staying, the guest can be pretty sure that the butler can arrange everything for them.

Q: What are some of your most fond memories from moments shared with guests?

I have to mention that, after the whole COVID-19 situation, the first day of embarkation was very emotional and important to me. I have some guests who follow me on social media or via email, once we were so interactive and polite with each other during their stay with us that we are still in touch nowadays. I remember every single surprise we did for birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions; not just the typical surprises that the guest is already expecting but organising an entire day full of wonders. Can you imagine their smiles and their happiness? Well, I can!

Q. How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?

As a Scenic trained professional butler, we should always expect the unexpected when working in this industry, especially in a position that requires a lot of time management and organisational skills. Let’s face it, we have the honour of waking up our valued guests with a beautiful tray and a white rose when they order coffee or tea, or breakfast in-suite so that they can effortlessly, and in a wonderful way, start another day. My days are very energetic but each evening I still have time to go over the agenda with my fellow butlers, eat ashore if I want to, or just relax on board with other crew members.

LEFT: Filipe Silva, Scenic River Cruises Butler

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