Cruise ships of the future look set to carry up to 10,000 passengers, not even including the crew. That’s a city at sea…and a lot of mouths to feed. How do these ships feed several thousand people three meals a day, plus all-day snacking options?

The answer: with a great deal of supplies! In fact, the amount of chopping, slicing, dicing, sautéing, simmering and sizzling that happens behind the scenes on a large passenger cruise ship could be likened to feeding an army.

We’ve entered the kitchens to find out exactly what it takes to satisfy this many appetites and exactly how much work happens in the kitchens to make this military-like operation possible. Loosen your belts.

How many cooks does it take…

Symphony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean

Symphony of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship, hosting a maximum of 6,680 passengers.

On a typical week-long itinerary, this ship would require:

Eggs: 60,000

Chicken: 4,400kgs

Beef: 6,800kgs

Ice-cream: 317kgs

Potatoes: 9070kgs

Flour: 5,715kgs

Salmon: 1,133kgs

Lobster tails: 952kgs

French Fries: 2,267kgs

Bacon: 2,404kgs

Flour Tortillas: 5,443kgs

Chicken wings: 900kgs

Coffee: 680kgs

Varieties of Fruit: 40

Varieties of Vegetables: 80

Cases of Champagne: 450

Slices of Pizza: 3,200 per hour

How much pizza can you eat in a day?

MSC Bellissima – MSC Cruises

Still considered at the larger end of the scale as a passenger cruise ship, with 5,686 guests and approximately 1,500 crew.

Eggs: 36,000 per week

Cups of Coffee: 2,000 per day

Bottles of wine: 6,800 per week

Pizzas per day: 800

Chocolate: 1.5 tons per month

Ice cream: 1.2 tons per month

Cheese: 4 tons per week

Croissants: 15,000 per day

Sweet tooth heaven

Norwegian Bliss – Norwegian Cruise Lines

Considered mid-size as an ocean cruise ship, with 4,004 guests at maximum double occupancy and 1,716 crew. (Amounts are per week)

Eggs: 70,000

Potatoes: 6,804kgs

Beef: 7,707kgs

Chicken products: 10,654kgs

Loaves of baked bread: 7,497

Bottles of wine: 1,800

Pizzas: 3,997

Chocolate: 679kgs

Cups of Tea: 4,200

Cups of Coffee: 38,500

Bottles of champagne: 1,600

That’s a lot of chooks…

How do they do it?

This food doesn’t just magically appear, fully prepared, dished up, and then disposed of. There’s an obscene amount of coordination involved behind the scenes. Especially when you consider there are upwards of 25 separate bars and restaurants onboard some of these ships.

MSC Cruise’s Food and Beverages Procurement Director, Emanuele Lavarello says: “The ship sends a request to our office according to the loading schedule, usually one or two weeks prior to the loading day for local provision, but in some cases, further in advance.”

The ship’s food requests are based on past experience of consumption, and the list of basic food items needed to prepare for on board menus. For example, when touring in the Mediterranean, and before every cruise, MSC Bellissima loads most of its provisions at its homeport of Genoa, Italy and receives an average of 15 trucks full of food and beverages per cruise, including fresh produce.

Ports of call

During cruise seasons, ships generally stop at each port for a duration of around 10 hours, allowing for re-stocking of provisions, in a military-like fashion. This is the ‘behind the scenes’ action that few passengers ever see, but essential to the onboard dining offerings.

Even a relatively small cruise ship like Viking Orion with a maximum capacity of just under 1000 passengers can charge through 5,000 eggs and 4,000 cups of tea in a day.

Loading up

Mr Lavarello says: “Fresh produce is often sourced locally during the season, since it must be managed and delivered very carefully due to limited shelf life and storage temperature constraints.

“We also use tactics like buying different kinds of ripeness for the same products in order to have ready-to-eat items that can be served at perfect ripeness for the guests throughout the cruise,” he said.

Behind the scenes operators

Loading can involve more than 100 different operators and can take up to eight hours on the pier. The ships have an inventory compliance officer, the food and beverages director, the provision master and the chef and storekeeper all playing role.

Waste disposal

What goes on board must come off – and it’s an ever increasing concern for cruise operators to declare their investment into waste management, waste recycling and repurposing.

On the upside, cruise ships on average recycle about 60% more waste per person than the average person recycles on shore.

A ship with 6,000 people on board can generate around 12,000 tons of waste water, 24 tons of wet waste (food waste and bio sludge from waste water treatment plants) and 14 tons of dry waste (solid burnable waste, plastic, glass, tins and cans) per day. All this waste together is enough to fill around 110 trucks.