“May I help you unpack?” the butler asked, welcoming us into our beach villa at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“No. No, thanks,” I replied, slightly embarrassed.
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I was both delighted and apprehensive to learn that a butler was included with our two-bedroom beach house at COMO Parrot Cay. A fan of “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown,” I had assumed that butlers were a thing of the past, relics of a glorious, bygone era.
Our temporary majordomo was smartly attired in a crisp, white, open-necked shirt and khaki trousers. Tinton Sudjana, a 32-year-old native of Jakarta, Indonesia, introduced himself with a big smile. He soon became not only our caretaker and guide but also our waiter and occasional babysitter.
At the villa, he knew how to be there when we needed him and to leave us alone when we didn’t. If we chose to eat “at home,” he would bring the meal in, set the table, and serve us. He was our waiter elsewhere in the resort, too. When he wasn’t busy in the villa, he escorted us around, sometimes carrying my heavy leather bag — note to self: Take a beach bag to a beach vacation — and keeping our 11-year-old son, Sebastian, company while my husband and I were off getting massages or doing yoga.
Butlers train at top hotels
It still took me some time to wrap my mind around the idea of a stranger indulging my whims. As the mother of a growing boy and the wife of a grown man, I’m used to being the butler in our family. Could someone on an island resort possibly take care of us as well as I do at home? The answer was yes, and then some.
The real difference is in the training that butlers like Tinton (he insisted we use his first name) receive. COMO Hotels and Resorts, the company that runs Parrot Cay, trains aspiring butlers for up to a year at its properties in Bali before sending them off to other locations around the world. The butlers’ motto is “maximum service, minimum disturbance,” the head trainer on Parrot Cay, Made Sumantra, told me. “The soul of the service is to follow up and make sure it happens, and doing it sincerely.”
Far from an anachronism, butlers have become an intrinsic part of many high-end resorts and hotels, including several in South Florida. At the St. Regis Bal Harbour, no request is too small or large for the butlers. Their mantra: “Let me do that for you.” Along with the usual personal tasks like unpacking, butlers at The Setai — offered for people staying in specialty suites — can help fetch their guests’ “late-night cravings that we may not have on our menu,” marketing director Portia Holt said. At the W South Beach, butlers are called VIP W Insiders and, for guests in the top two room categories, will walk dogs, send out dry cleaning and get the car washed.
Families return to butler year after year
At Parrot Cay, butler service is available to villa guests. We learned that many families who return to the resort year after year often request the same butler, sometimes organizing their trips around that butler’s availability. Tinton is one of those butlers. We understood why.
I liked that he straightened our books and magazines, and placed my reading glasses just so; that he picked up our discarded bathing suits and hung them to dry. He showed up as early as 7 a.m., inaudibly unfurling beach umbrellas and tidying the patio, and worked as late as 10 p.m., making sure we were safely home after dinner. He took pride in it, he said.
Tinton chatted with us like old friends as he drove us to the ferry we had to take to the main island for our flight back to Miami. He waited on shore while we boarded. When we cast off, we waved at each other until he disappeared in the horizon. This lovely man, with his calm manner and sweet disposition, had taken such good care of us, and I would miss him.
Before leaving, my husband affectionately said to Tinton that we wanted to take him home with us.
“Maybe someday,” Tinton replied, laughing. “Maybe someday.”
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