Why are we resisting the butler? It's cocktail hour, and my wife and I are looking out from the hilltop restaurant to the six villas that dot Royal Plantation Island at Fowl Cay, a new private island deep in the Exuma islands. We're eager to sit for our five-course dinner from the island's chef, but our butler has a question.
"What time would you like me to cook you breakfast?" Wayland asks, bow tie as crisp as it was earlier today when he met us on the arrival dock with a silver tray of drinks.
Michelle and I are too self-conscious to answer. We wrangle three boys back home; we're the ones used to waiting on people, sons up to sons down. But we do deserve time off, and maybe this is our big chance. "OK, OK," we agree. "How about 8:30?" He smiles.
In that moment, we realize that the absolute escape for us is to do, well, absolutely nothing. Royal Plantation Island is giving us that chance better than we've ever experienced. Island manager Steve Huggins surrounds us with not just Wayland but with chef Anthony, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, as well as a tour guide, bartender, dinner server, and whoever turns down our bed at night with heart-shaped flower petals and slippers at the bedside. Each appears only when needed and before our fingers can lift.
The next day, Wayland doesn't just sizzle up bacon and slice pineapple as we stroll on the beach outside the back door. He picks out our snorkel gear and loads up the boat when it's time for a special tour with Steve to the local highlights -- from the swimming pigs of Pig Beach to James Bond's Thunderball Grotto to the protected Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. At a place in the 176-square-mile park known as the Aquarium, we put our masks in the water to see big yellowtail snapper swim freely as we simply float along. That burden-free feeling is what we embrace from here on out. When an errant wave splashes Michelle as we cross an open channel from the park back to the (barely) inhabited cays, Wayland instantly turns to her with a fresh towel. When Steve lands the boat on a deserted beach among limestone mini-bluffs, Wayland lays out the picnic blanket and serves us the chef's tomato quiche. I don't even offer to help clean up.
We aren't just doing nothing; we're thinking nothing of it. Our staff handles the details. By the last evening, we can't imagine life without a butler. Wayland decorates our villa's dining nook like a restaurant for two and waits on us while Anthony mans our kitchen for a supreme lobster dinner. At the end, with homemade tiramisu on our table and candles casting the only light, Wayland disappears. As always, his timing is perfect.
Plan Your Trip
- Fly from the U.S. to the Bahamas, including Spirit Airlines from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Nassau International Airport (NAS), spiritair.com. Taxi to the executive airport for a 40-minute flight to Staniel Cay airstrip (TYM) in the Exuma islands with Dove Wings or several other charter services. The Royal Plantation boat picks you up at the airstrip.
- Stay in one of the six rental houses on Royal Plantation Island at Fowl Cay. All have modern comforts such as fully stocked kitchens, air-conditioning and satellite TV, and each feels like the lone villa on this private island. The Birdcage House is the largest: two stories, two bedrooms and 360-degree views. fowlcay.com
- Eat at the Harbour Club Eating & Drinking House. Perched on the island's highest point and open to passing yachters as well as resort guests, this scenic restaurant has a patio, pool, bar, dining room and lounge. The menu changes often; entrees include island-rubbed grilled pork loin and lobster.
- Find more intimate escapes at islands.com/intimate.