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.
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:
Lobster tails: 952kgs
French Fries: 2,267kgs
Flour Tortillas: 5,443kgs
Chicken wings: 900kgs
Varieties of Fruit: 40
Varieties of Vegetables: 80
Cases of Champagne: 450
Slices of Pizza: 3,200 per hour
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
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)
Chicken products: 10,654kgs
Loaves of baked bread: 7,497
Bottles of wine: 1,800
Cups of Tea: 4,200
Cups of Coffee: 38,500
Bottles of champagne: 1,600
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.
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.
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.
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.
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