Sunday, 26 June 2016

Feeding a cruise ship

Almost everyone has asked me one common question since I got home from my cruise: "How was the food?" Honestly: it was excellent. Given that the Pacific Pearl is a three star ship and I'd read so many conflicting reviews before leaving, it was hard to know what to expect, but the overall standard of food and service in the Waterfront restaurant was fantastic and certainly a highlight of the cruise. They also catered for special dietary requirements. One of our group is allergic to nuts so she was brought the next day's menu in advance and her selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner were cooked separately.

They say that you board a cruise as a passenger and leave as cargo. It's entirely probable as the food is plentiful and you’ll never be hungry. This is both a good and bad thing. An almost continuous buffet with meals and snacks and an a la carte restaurant is included in the cruise fare. The menu changes daily and there are also themed menus each day such as Swedish, Italian, Greek and so on. You can order extra vegetables, something we started to miss, or extra fries or fruit on the side for most meals if you feel like something else. I got into the habit of ordering a plate of watermelon (five small pieces) to gorge on with breakfast and lunch.

It's worth checking out some of the specialty restaurants on board (these come with a surcharge) and the treats you can purchase from the cafes are worth trying at least once. While it's tempting to start each three course meal with the bread brought to your table (or pastries and toast for breakfast), I decided to pace myself and was even crazy enough to only have one course for lunch. Sometimes.
Fruit and marscapone tart
As one comedian on board pointed out, there are two days that you'll go to the gym: the first day as you try to establish a good routine and the last day when you try and undo all the eating in between. My Fitbit kept me honest most days and I managed to maintain or exceed my 10000 daily step goal, thanks to the walking track on the top deck and walking up copious flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator.

So what does it take to feed a cruise ship? Here are some shopping list stats for average food consumption during a 10 day cruise:
  • 2900 kg flour
  • 2200 kg watermelon (I probably ate 200 kg of this alone)
  • 9800 l milk
  • 110 kg espresso beans (I also helped out here)
  • 1500 kg tomatoes
  • 1250 kg French fries
  • 2800 dozen eggs
  • 700 kg oranges
  • 850 kg apples
  • 3200 kg chicken
  • 2200 kg rice 
To serve all this food, 32000 plates, 13000 glasses and 30000 pieces of cutlery are washed every day. Here's a glimpse of the ship's galley (kitchen). We were lucky enough to catch a walk through tour on our second to last day at sea.
Kitchen assembly line, where meals are plated for serving
A row of gigantic refrigerators
Look at that mixer!
Apart from our vegetarian former chef friend, who was disappointed with aspects of almost every dish (either how they were made or the ingredients she expected they'd use), we were really impressed with the quality and variety of food. I enjoyed watching cooking demonstrations by some of the chefs and was really glad that menu was not based entirely around deep fried wonders like I'd worried they would be.

According to my calculations, we probably got our money's worth from the food alone, let alone travel, accommodation and entertainment - and that's with pacing ourselves and not getting carried away at each meal or in between. And my net damage? 1 kg down. Woo hoo!

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