Nenad Popovic, 36, has flown over Arctic landscapes in the Scenic’s private helicopter while working aboard the ship.
Nenad Popovic is a butler on a six-star, 200-passenger luxury cruise called the Scenic Eclipse.
The ship travels to far-flung places like the Arctic and Antarctica and has its own submarine.
Popovic works for four months at a time on board the ship and then takes a two-month holiday.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Nenad Popovic, the cruise butler for the Scenic Eclipse. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I was working as a waiter in a café in my hometown in Serbia when I bumped into one of my school friends who was a stewardess on an ocean liner.
After listening to her adventures, I was hooked. I began to consider life on the water. Since then, I’ve traveled to the Arctic and Antarctica, among other destinations, as a cruise butler.
Scenic Eclipse is a six-star luxury discovery yacht that hosts up to 200 guests on board.
I started as a steward on fairy-tale river cruises across Europe
In September 2014, I applied to Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours to be a restaurant steward on its river cruises. I was accepted in October.
Before I could join the boat the following March, I had to pass the maritime industry’s SCTW training course — a five-day intensive in first aid, firefighting, and safety training. The company covered my course fees, and once I’d passed, I was ready to join the ship.
In March 2015, I started stewarding the river cruises for Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours. Each morning at work, I could wake up in a different city or country.
On the river boats, we could travel all the way from Amsterdam to Budapest for over two weeks. The river-cruise routes passed villages and castles in rural Europe that looked straight out of a fairy tale.
Moving from steward to butler gave me more opportunities
After two years as a steward, I was promoted to cruise butler. As a steward, I was trained in silver service. But working as a butler, I had to stay one step ahead of the guests’ needs and go above and beyond to create a wonderful experience.
To become a cruise butler, you need experience working for a luxury hotel or boat. I was trained by other butlers on the river cruises and soaked up everything they taught me.
In May 2021, I swapped the rivers of Europe for the open ocean and became a cruise butler on the Scenic Eclipse.
Now I work on a six-star luxury Discovery yacht
The Scenic Eclipse is a six-star Discovery yacht that sails to the Arctic and Antarctica, among other destinations. A single ticket can cost as much as $150,000 for a 30-day Arctic voyage but prices start at around $30,000 per person.
View of the Arctic landscape from a hot tub on the deck of the Scenic Eclipse.
The river boats I’d worked on were luxurious, but I was blown away stepping on board the Scenic Eclipse.
There are five restaurants on board including a French fine-dining restaurant with a Champagne bar. There are also two helicopter pads, a private submarine, and a helicopter for guests.
Every guest has a butler. There are eight butlers and a head butler on board. I oversee up to 10 suites and look after 20 people per cruise.
I spend four months on board, then I have a two-month holiday.
Every guest has a butler assigned to them with 24/7 service
On the Scenic Eclipse, the butler service is 24/7. We work in shifts, so when I finish at 9 p.m., another butler will start the night shift. I work between eight to 10 hours with a break at midday.
My alarm rings around 5:30 a.m. After a coffee in the crew mess, I deliver room-service breakfast to the suites who’ve ordered it.
While my guests leave the ship for excursions, I refill their mini bar and collect their laundry. I organize restaurant bookings for them on board or arrange helicopter or submarine trips. I also ensure their suite is flawless and make sure fresh fruit or a specific cocktail is waiting for them.
One of the two helicopter pads on board the Scenic Eclipse and its private helicopter.
In the evening, I offer a turndown service. I turn the lights down, make sure their itinerary for the following day is on the TV screen and leave treats.
For anniversaries or birthdays, I’ll leave flowers. I love overhearing guests’ reactions when they discover their gifts.
During my afternoon break, I’ll leave the ship with crew friends to enjoy the local food or visit a heritage area. If we’re docked overnight, I will go out for dinner or a walk in the evening. At sea, I hang out with colleagues in the crew mess.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve traveled from the Mediterranean island of Madeira to the wilds of Antarctica
My best day on the ship was my first trip to Antarctica. While cruising between the icebergs, two whales breached the side of the boat. It was magical.
I’ve flown in the Scenic Eclipse’s helicopter over Antarctica, which was unforgettable. Looking over the raw landscape was amazing.
I was also invited to join one of the dives in the Arctic in the ship’s submarine. As we submerged beneath the waves, the lights on the submarine’s side shone across a shoal of tiny transparent fish, creating a rainbow-like effect. It was surreal.
Scenic Eclipse’s private submarine for guests.
The cruise is all-inclusive, so I don’t expect any tips, but we do get them. However, my real reward is feedback from guests who say I’ve helped create a memory of a lifetime — that’s my favorite part of the job.