USHUAϏA UNCOVERED
From the crazy to the curious: tales of the unexpected from the staff at Ibiza’s most exclusive hotel

By Silvia Aparicio and Nicola Corfield, Photographs by Alex Soto August 2015 USHUAÏA Read in PDF format N7/2015
USHUAϏA UNCOVERED Renowned as one of the most exclusive destinations on the planet, Ushuaïa has become synonymous with unrivalled luxury, provocative design and some of Ibiza’s most celebrated clubbing events. It’s a favourite with a-listers, heavyweight djs and guests from all over the world looking for an exceptional experience where anything can – and does – happen. Behind this glamorous exterior lies a hidden world; a network of tunnels and rooms filled with a host of around 750 employees. From hostesses to heads of room service, production assistants to maintenance managers, each plays a vital role in the operation. And working at one of the world’s hottest party destinations, all have experienced plenty of outrageous, exciting and unexpected moments. We go behind the scenes to discover the unseen Ushuaïa, from the people who bring it to life

ALFONSO LEZCANO

Room Service Manager

5 years at Ushuaïa (and hopes to add a few years more)

Lezcano heads up the hotel’s 24-hour room service team

What are some of the strangest things ordered by the clients?

We once had a famous and very wealthy man requesting nachos all day long, every five minutes. He had trays and trays of them during his two or three days’ stay. And one night, another client called us, worried, because he had lost the keys to his Hummer. “Where did you lose them?” I asked. “I was dancing,” he answered. The Avicii show was in full swing and we started to look for the keys; in less than half an hour, somebody with eagle eyes found the keys among the crowd. The client said to me, “Alfonso, I don’t want to insult you by giving you a tip, so you are all invited to Miami.”

Are there often big tips?

One famous person left a tip of €110,000 – the bill was €120,000, so they paid almost double.

Do people fall in love at the hotel?

Love no, but something similar. One waiter Valentin, a very handsome guy, had to stop going to a room because the client would literally devour him.

What has been the most expensive order?

The sky is the limit at Ushuaïa. Yesterday, for example, some Russians told me, “Let the champagne flow!” They don’t mind the brand, what it costs, they only want us to open bottle after bottle after bottle… And with all those champagne and tequila bottles, the night goes flying. We have bottles from €150 to €120,000.

SILVIA ALONSO

Experience and VIP Service Manager

5 years at Ushuaïa

Alonso runs the Experience department, which attends to the orders of all of the hotel’s guests, as well as the VIP Services team, who look after the hotel’s VIP guests

What has been your funniest experience?

We had a client who arrived late and ordered a car to go to a meeting in Barcelona. “I want a car!” he said. “A CAR, the best one you have”, he kept repeating. We said to him, “Sir, sorry. Do you know that Ibiza is an island?” Silence. And no, he didn’t know. He had arrived by plane the night before and the poor man didn’t have a clue. And in a more surreal story, a person staying at the presidential suite called us asking for a priest so that they could confess. I didn’t expect that one here.

What is the most difficult thing to arrange?

Private planes.

Do people fall in love at Ushuaïa?

Yes. We even have an Ushuaïa baby! A female guest who was having IVF asked us to call an obstetrician for a pregnancy test. We got one and it came out that she was pregnant. She told us immediately.

What do you like the most about your job?

Dealing with all kinds of people – and learning, you never stop learning.

ISABEL PUENTE

Housekeeping Manager

5 years at Ushuaïa

Puente manages all of the cleaning staff in the Ushuaïa resort

What are the strangest things you’ve found left in a room?

We find a lot of everything. Alcohol, women… Lots of very high-heeled shoes, wedges and Cinderella-style shoes. I don’t know where all these people go without their shoes! Whatever guests leave behind, we keep for a year.

And then there are all those other things that people don’t claim... Do you mean the sex toys?

Yes, we find all kinds. On the rare occasion that they are claimed, it’s always the man who does it.

How do people ask for them?

“Hello, my wife has left something very important and the cleaning lady knows what I mean, please ask her.”

Any orders that surprise you?

We are ready for everything. If clients ask for the bed to be made upside down, then we do it. If they want black bedding, then we fit it. If they want us to clean the room three times a day, then we clean three times.

What is the best thing about your job?

When we all get together, we laugh about everything. And the unusual becomes usual and the other way round.

Have you encountered many unexpected situations?

Sometimes we’ve been called and when we get to the room, the guests don’t answer the door. The waitress opens it carefully and finds a man that is… How can I say this...? Feeling the music. And then the waitress waits outside or just leaves. Some people even get undressed in front of us! They do!

GUSTAVO GUERRERO

Ushuaïa Tower, Ushuaïa Club and Sir Rocco’s Maintenance Manager

4 years at Ushuaïa

Guerrero oversees the general maintenance of all of the hotel’s facilities and attends to special maintenance requests for clients

What was the most unexpected moment in your job?

The explosion of a fire extinguisher in the boiler room, which had arrived in a faulty state from the manufacturer. There was a guy checking them and we heard a massive boom. He was fine, but he took off his protective goggles afterwards and we could only see his eyes; he looked like a racoon.

What does Ushuaïa offer that other hotels don’t?

Exclusivity. We took all sorts of furniture out from the presidential suite once because the guests wanted to dance at 3am. Another time guests asked me to disconnect the fire alarm systems from a room because they wanted to cook and we told them it was not possible. A little later the fire alarm went off because they had set fire to the bin and were cooking on it, making fried eggs, and the woman was kneading bread on the bathroom counter with flour and all the ingredients.

What’s the most eccentric thing you’ve encountered?

Once we found 100 bottles of champagne in the pool. A client had bought them and then decided to throw them in. We had to remove them. Afterwards we had to return them to the client because he had paid for them. And another time we were asked to remove the TV set in a room because the person staying there lived by feng shui guidelines and it interfered with the energies and all that. Removing the TV was impossible, so we decided to turn it around and put against the wall.

JORDI PALASÍ

Rooms Division Manager

4 years at Ushuaïa

Palasí supervises the Reception, Experience and VIP Service departments, and the Housekeeping and Maintenance teams, overseeing more than 150 members of staff

What curious things have you come across in your job?

One client came to reception with his severed finger in the palm of his hand, all white and almost fainting. I took the finger, put it in ice, and we called an ambulance. We went to the hospital and then straight to Palma in a helicopter. What a mess! Thankfully they managed to save his finger. There is also a guest who comes every year and books exactly the same room. He brings a sign saying, ‘Villa Tomi’, which he puts on top of the room number. An Ushuaïa lover.

What is the record number of room changes in one stay?

It was during a four-day stay. The client booked the Tower Superior, then changed to the Club because he wanted a livelier vibe, then from the Club he changed to the Stage View and the next day he went back to the Tower, but to a room with a better view than the original one.

Do you have cases of people sleeping in rooms without paying?

Not really, but we do have some curious cases, like the customer who left early and gave his room to a person who he had met the night before at a party in Ushuaïa. He said to us, “I will cover all of the expenses.”

Have you ever had to say no to guests?

A few years back, there was a sexologist who held a masked party, Eyes Wide Shut-style and I had to go up to the room at 3am to stop her. She opened the door completely naked with a mask on and instead of sending me away she asked me to join the party. I had to tell her as best as I could that she had to stop because this was not the place for that kind of party.

TANIT MERINO

Hostess Supervisor

4 years at Ushuaïa

Merino supervises the hostesses, who are the first members of staff the guests meet at the hotel, and who assist with requests throughout their stay

What kind of thing happens at Ushuaïa that wouldn’t happen in other hotels?

The clients are here to party but that can sometimes be strenuous. It’s normal for us to find people sleeping in the corridors because they have forgotten their room number – and sometimes even their own name!

What unusual requests do you get?

“Hello! I have a room full of Gremlins. Could you come and clean it please?” We don’t know if the guest is joking or if they really think they are seeing Gremlins, so we have to be very professional and take it seriously and help as much as we can.

Have you come across any compromising situations?

Evidently this hotel is about partying and love, and we sometimes find people getting intimate in very inappropriate places!

What qualities does a good hostess need?

I love travelling, I love being on holiday and I treat guests as I would like to be treated. You have to make people feel like they are at home, and help them with everything they need.

JAVIER FERRER

Director of Ushuaïa Ibiza Lab

3 years at Ushuaïa

Ferrer runs the recording studio, manages the music licenses for Ushuaïa and manages Ushuaïa Ibiza Radio. He looks after artists including Axwell & Ingrosso, Hardwell and Martin Garrix, as well as brands including the BBC and MTV

What has been your favourite moment?

“One day I was working and suddenly a guy comes, sits next to me and tells me he wants to rehearse. And I say: “Hello! Rehearse, rehearse what?” And then I realised he was John Martin, the singer of one of the hits of the time. I was sitting on the sofa and he rehearsed his whole performance right there, just for me. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky – I’ve just enjoyed a private performance!’ And then he went straight onto the stage and all his fans went crazy.

And your most unusual clients?

When Avicii comes it’s just him, his security guys and me. Two security guys at the door of the studio, inside and outside. I feel a bit scared!

What’s the longest session you’ve done in the studio?

Sixteen hours without stopping. This happens more frequently than you might think. The studio is like my apartment in Playa d’en Bossa. I’ve never slept here but others, including Martin Garrix, have.

Do you have a personal relationship with the artists outside of the studio?

Last year, almost all of Pete Tong’s Radio 1 shows were recorded here. How can you not end up with a personal relationship? And last Saturday, Axwell called and asked me, “Where can I buy headphones?” He was going to play in some country or other and needed a pair. I told him: “At this time, nowhere. But I’ll lend you mine, they’re almost new.” He took them and told me, “I’ll send them back to you on a plane tonight.” To which I responded: “No need man!”

Did he return them?

“Yes, of course.”

The best thing about your job?

This is the only place in the world where you can make a song and then play it immediately afterwards on stage in front of thousands of people. This doesn’t happen anywhere else. It’s incredible.

RAÚL RODRÍGUEZ

ANTS and La Familia Resident DJ & DJ Production Assistant

5 years at Ushuaïa and 20 years working with Yann Pissenem

Rodríguez is in charge of supervising all the technical set-ups and equipment for the Ushuaïa parties and DJs

What makes the Ushuaïa parties different?

The thing that differentiates Ushuaïa from the rest is the person who runs it, the top man, Yann Pissenem. I love being involved in the world of shows and entertainment. Everybody wants to play here. And I learn something every day.

What eccentricities do you encounter?

Hardwell likes to hide the cables so they don’t come out in the pictures; it makes him nervous. Personally, I don’t understand, but we have to cover them with a piece of fabric.

Any good or bad surprises?

There’s an urban legend that DJs don’t really play live. But here they all do. They might have a more programmed set with all the tracks in line but it is not true they don’t play live. This is a good surprise.

What was the craziest moment?

When Luciano’s music stopped suddenly. I don’t know what happened, but the whole place fell silent. Thankfully he was quick and turned it back on again and nothing major happened, but those were the longest seconds of my life.

What was your favourite moment?

The excitement of opening the stage for ANTS, one of the most beautiful parties. It starts in the small booth, the place starts filling up and then the music stops, the fireworks start and the big stage opens suddenly. And to do it myself, it’s very exciting.

 

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