Cruising 

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Rowland, a native Californian, began his career as a writer and animator for the Hanna-Barbera studios. When animation work began to be sent overseas, he joined Holland America, working his way up to head the cruise-activities team. He works a seven-day week for up to two months at a time, then takes a month's break at home in Laguna Hills, Calif.

Good life afloat even better with a butler

Aboard Crystal Serenity Cruise lines pamper their passengers. But for some, routine pampering isn't enough. They want the royal treatment. That's where Ural Korkmaz and his team come in.

Korkmaz is head butler on the Serenity, which is itself at the high end of the cruise market. He and his seven associates — and a parallel team on sister ship Crystal Symphony — make sure that the people who occupy the luxury penthouses want for nothing. I can vouch for their service, for I was fortunate enough to get upgraded to a penthouse on a Mediterranean voyage.

(Penthouse accommodation with butlers doesn't come cheap. Top rate for, say, a 12-day cruise is about $30,000. But you can sail for much less, even on Crystal. That same 12-day cruise in the bottom category — no butler, of course — comes in at about $4,500.)

"We're on call 24 hours a day," Korkmaz told me as he and Mahir, our personal butler, escorted my wife and me to our suite, the size of a small condo apartment (sitting room, bedroom, bar, verandah) at the beginning of the voyage from Rome to Barcelona.

Every morning Mahir (he preferred no other name, the way butlers do) would ask if there was anything he could do to make our cruise better. Every afternoon he appeared with canapés. And always he stressed that he was just a touch of the bell away. To be honest, we didn't call on him much.

We didn't even let him unpack for us. But other passengers expect more. They want their man to lay out their clothes (casual in the morning maybe, elegant for afternoon tea and formal for dinner), shine their shoes, do their laundry, organize their shore excursions.

Maybe you want a little pre-dinner cocktail party or a nightcap with friends you've met on board. Your butler will arrange the drinks and the hors d'oeuvres and be on hand to serve.

A good butler remembers not just his guests, but their likes and dislikes: how much popcorn they like when watching a video, who wants to chat and who prefers to be left alone. Repeat guests often ask for the same butler. On occasion, Crystal's butlers have been so well liked that guests have hired them permanently.

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