Serenity Limousines & Sedans co-owner and chauffeur Vivian Hecker awaits a Danish prince and his entourage during a ceremony in Solvang, Calif., on June 11.
SOLVANG, Calif. — Operator Chris Hecker underscored last weekend how small operators in this industry can bid for big-time business, including that of European royalty full of high expectations.
Hecker, owner of Santa Barbara-based Serenity Limousines & Sedans Service, chauffeured Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark during the Prince’s visit to the Danish town of Solvang June 11-12 for its centennial celebration. The Prince, who has a Facebook page, also celebrated his 77th birthday. He is the husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who was not part of the visiting entourage.
Serenity, a division of Hecker Transportation, supplied two Suburban SUVs and a Lincoln Town Car Executive L for the Prince and his nine-person entourage throughout the two-day visit. The group also included the Danish ambassador, Peter Taksoe-Jensen, a colonel from the Danish military, security staff, an usher who exclusively handled the Prince’s shoes, and a valet who exclusively handled his clothes. The Queen was not part of the group.
Hecker, his wife and co-owner, Vivian, and a chauffeur drove the three vehicles throughout the visit.
The royal party’s itinerary included a centennial celebration and ribbon-cutting in the Solvang town square, a visit to a local Danish museum for another ribbon cutting, a fundraising dinner for the city of Solvang for charity, and a tour of downtown Santa Barbara. The royal party stayed at the Hotel Corque in Solvang, and flew in and out of Santa Barbara airport on commercial flights.
Hecker, who served as a U.S. Marine, said his biggest challenge was learning how to address the Prince as “Your Royal Highness,” as opposed to just “Sir,” which is taught in the U.S. Marine Corps. He previously had chauffeured Arab royalty, but never European.
“I had to get used to the mannerisms needed to address the Royal Prince,” Hecker said. “I would always address as ‘Sir’ or ‘Yes, Sir.’ You’re supposed to say ‘Your Royal Highness,’ and never ‘the Prince.’ His security guy would chuckle. Finally on Sunday, when he was departing, I said, ‘Your Royal Highness, it was a pleasure to properly serve you.’ He said, ‘That’s the first time you addressed me properly. But it’s OK, I understand.’”
The Prince Consort gave Hecker one of the largest gratuities he has ever earned as an operator.
Hecker learned of the royal visit from an e-mail from the Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau that was seeking transportation bids from local operators. Hecker said he won the bid over two other companies.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor