One of the many perks of sailing in a penthouse suite aboard the Crystal fleet is the ever-attentive service of a butler.
Working with the cruise line since 1995, Sasa Minic is one of a team of butlers dedicated to ensuring his guests don’t want for anything and it’s something he takes very seriously.
He speaks to Cruise in Review on a sailing from Rome to Athens about the most unique thing he has been asked to do as a butler and why he’s stayed with the cruise line for so many years.
Cruise in Review: Which ship did you first work aboard?
Sasa: I started at Harmony first, the first ship we had in the company, for one year. Then in 1995 the Crystal Symphony came out and they asked if anyone wanted to move to Symphony so I said yes!
I stayed there as a waiter in the dining room until this ship (Crystal Serenity) came up ten years ago and then I decided it was time to change.
You know, you have that feeling sometimes…that you need something different, so I targeted becoming a butler because it’s just something new, you know, a challenge.
Cruise in Review: What did you do before you worked with Crystal Cruises?
Sasa: I worked for Hyatt Regency in Belgrave for two years and then all the troubles in Yugoslavia started and so I thought it was time to start something new, to get out of the country.
I was reading a travel magazine and the picture of the first ship, Crystal Harmony was in it.
I thought that would be an amazing place to work and I just waited for three months for a position to be open.
Since then, I’ve been with them and I don’t want to change because it’s a nice company.
Guests always ask how I have stayed for so long!
But that’s me, what can I do? It’s nice!
I like to travel, you know, move around, see the places, meet the people…it’s nice. So far, I’m happy.
Cruise in Review: A lot of people see their life at sea being for a certain period of time and then they decide to go back to land.
Do you want to stay at sea for the rest of your career?
Sasa: It’s difficult to say, because I was planning to only stay a couple of years until everything settles down in Yugoslavia but then you start liking this job!
If you are a person who likes to travel, it’s the bomb. Even before, I was always on the move.
My parents never knew where I was!
I’m always on the move, and I like it. I’m quite sure I’m going to stay a few more years, that’s the plan…but, you never know.
Cruise in Review: Is there another position within the ship that you aspire to?
Sasa: A couple of years ago I was thinking the front desk, but now, I don’t want to change anything.
I wouldn’t leave this position for anything..I mean, maybe captain of the ship or something like that but reality is a different story!
It’s nice, it’s challenging, in a way, it’s a completely different way of working, a way to know the guests.
Cruise in Review: It’s more personal…
Sasa: Exactly! I have some guests that come back and we know each other, it’s like a family.
Cruise in Review: What’s the most interesting request you’ve had as a butler?
Sasa: It was a lady from the States, in one of the penthouses.
She had a camera, just a regular camera and the charger broke. The front desk didn’t have one and I had a completely different one. I asked around and nobody had the specific one.
So, like magic I fixed the charger and she couldn’t believe it! She always remembers when she sees me.
You try to do everything for the guests and sometimes it’s not possible, but this time it was!
Cruise in Review: Have you looked after any celebrities in the penthouses before?
Sasa: No, not celebrities, but five or six years ago, I had part of the royal family for Saudi Arabia.
They were very easy going, very friendly people.
Cruise in Review: How many languages do you speak?
Sasa: The official language is English here, but I do a little French, a little German, a little Spanish, just the basics for if they need a little help.
We have 25 nationalities onboard. It’s nice, like a small community.
Cruise in Review: Is it a problem when you have passengers that don’t speak a word of English? How do you communicate with them?
Sasa: I have had that happen before, a Japanese couple who only knew a few English words, but I learn a couple of basic things before they arrive and we manage somehow.
It’s not a problem, you just have to be more patient…have a little dictionary, nowadays Google and everything comes, it’s very easy.
Cruise in Review: How long is your contract?
Sasa: My contract is, generally speaking, five months on and two months off.
Cruise in Review: What do you do during your two months off?
Sasa: I do nothing! I mean, not nothing, but, I don’t work for those two months because this five months is really enough.
Long hours and you don’t have a day off to think about yourself, just a couple of hours in the morning, a couple of hours in the evening and that’s all.
So I just do nothing, the first few days when I arrive home I just want to sleep.
I go back to Belgrave, to my family and then after a while I go on vacation.
Ten days, just to relax, and enjoy it.
I’ve been around the world, I’ve been everywhere, but still, it’s nice to go on your own.
I like every single place…every single country has something special.
A few times I’ve been all over Europe, the inland, you know. While you’re onboard, it’s difficult to organise things.
Cruise in Review: Do you have a favourite port that Crystal Serenity sails into?
Sasa: It’s difficult to say. I like Italy overall; the language, the cuisine, the culture.
Then I like a part of France, the Côte d’Azur. Spain is nice in a different way, then of course, Turkey…
I like Canada. I have some friends that live in Vancouver and this world cruise we stopped for two days and I had more of a chance to see the city and the place that they live and I was so surprised, it is a very nice city, well organised.
Australia is nice. I’ve been to Sydney a couple of times, it’s really amazing! Though it’s kind of far away…
Each country has its own charm. If I have to decide where to settle down, that would be big problem!
Cruise in Review: So when you travel on your own, what are the three things that you have to take with you?
Sasa: Cell phone, my iPad and camera.
I like photography. I have so many pictures of everything and I like to write postcards.
I send one to every single friend!
I mean it’s nice to get an email but postcard is a postcard and I like it and all my friends still appreciate it very much.
Cruise in Review: From your perspective, what is the benefit of someone reserving a penthouse as opposed to a regular balcony state room?
Sasa: Well, of course, the butler!
I mean, their layout is different in the room and there are so many complimentary things!
With the penthouse, the minibar comes free, the hors d’oeuvres in the afternoon, the pressing is complimentary.
You have everything…the butler, the service, you have the maid. Everything is on a different level…
It’s a nice touch, definitely.
Cruise in Review: How many penthouses do you look after?
Sasa: I have fourteen penthouses this cruise so it can be really hectic.
Originally written by Natalie Aroyan for e-Travel Blackboard