Life & Culture

My very own butler? This is how to cruise...

Francine White’s holiday cruise got a boost with an upgrade, but could the crew sort out a kosher menu to satisfy her husband, Ray?


One rainy Sunday afternoon, my hubby, Ray, was leafing through the travel sections of the papers and said: “What about this?”

“This” was a two-week Caribbean cruise departing from Miami on a brand new ship, the MSC Seascape, large but one of the most environmentally friendly ships apparently. “Sounds lovely,” I said. Within half an hour, we were booked.

As the cruise date approached, I started to worry. Would there be enough for my kosher husband to eat? I investigated the restaurants on board. Butcher’s Cut, steakhouse, so not for us. Ocean Cay got me excited — fish! Except it was mainly seafood. I pinned my hopes on the buffet.

Checking in at the Miami Cruise terminal, the young man said: “Oh there’s been a change to your cabin.” We were escorted past the thronging hordes waiting to board in groups; the ship can take 5,800 passengers and looked pretty full. We arrived at a private cordoned- off area with drinks, snacks and butlers.

One stepped forward; “Good morning, I’m Waylan and I will be your butler for the next two weeks.” We had been upgraded to the exclusive ship-within-a-ship area, the MSC Yacht Club, a private area for 350 passengers with its own restaurant, bar and pool area. Did I mention our own butler for two weeks?

After we’d thoroughly examined our deluxe suite with black marble bathroom and power shower, we ventured upstairs to the restaurant, all white linen and silver service.

Still giddy with our good fortune, I looked at the menu; seafood spaghetti, grilled king prawns, pork fillet in Dijon mustard sauce, or baked stuffed tomatoes. My heart sank. Ray chose the tomatoes but looked glum.

Enter Arthur Javier, the maître d’, who instantly produced a kosher menu. A happy Ray ordered chicken soup and beef brisket for dinner and cheese blintz for breakfast.

That night said kosher meal arrived, beautifully served in a plastic container on a china plate. ‘How’s the soup?’ I asked. “It’s a bit watery, it’s not as good as yours,” replied Ray. Music to my ears, except I wanted my husband to enjoy the cruise.

The beef was another matter. “You know those brown shoes that need new soles?” he said. “We could use this.”

Ray , who can spot a kippah at 90 paces, had already spied a young Jewish family across the way. They had apparently brought their own pan for the kitchen to make their eggs for breakfast.

But then the maître d’ came to the rescue again and told Ray he would make him anything he fancied, pasta or fish dishes. This, along with the restaurant’s fabulous desserts, more than kept him happy. We just avoided the lobster — and everything else — on “Seafood Saturday”.

I was enjoying being priority escorted off the ship when in port, ignoring the mutterings of other passengers as we swept by with our butler in tow.

I loved being taken to the on-board theatre and sitting in our own cordoned-off area with Waylan serving us drinks. We had a pizza night, when our butler delivered fresh baked pizza to our suite. We ordered newspapers every day. I did ask about getting a copy of the JC. Waylan (pictured) found it online and printed it out.

I bought a dress in the on-board boutique, and the assistant said: “I see you are in the Yacht Club, Mrs White. Would you like me to call your butler and ask him to collect your package?” I began to fantastise about taking Waylan back to Leeds with us.

On a previous cruise we’d gone to the Friday night Shabbat service. It was an unusual joy with Jews from all over the world gathered together, rows of “electric candles” for the ladies to light, freshly baked challah and kosher wine supplied. This time our schedule read 6.30pm Shabbat

Gathering, and off we went. There was the challah, the candles, no wine but we could buy some, and sadly hardly any people.

Our young friends from upstairs, the Romanoffs, conducted Shabbat in their suite, so there was us, a young couple who looked slightly bewildered by the whole thing and a funeral director from Toronto. An award-winning funeral director, he told us, proudly pointing to his medallion. I’m not sure what the award was for.

It was the trip of a lifetime. The only problem is once you’ve tried the luxurious cocoon of the Yacht Club, you can’t go back to economy. Which is why we’ve booked two Yacht Club cruises for the future. Have butler, will travel.

MSC Cruises

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