When I was invited to the inaugural celebrations on board a new cruise ship I was somewhat hesitant. Cruises have never appealed to me; the thought of being ‘stuck on a boat’ for weeks has never been my idea of a good time, particularly as I can barely swim (and even then only in shallow water) and I have an, let’s call it uneasiness on rather than outright fear of, the open sea when I can’t see land. Especially at night (shudder). So not exactly the ideal candidate then.
Nevertheless, I saw this as a good opportunity to leave my preconceptions behind, get a grip on my irrational nervousness and see just what these cruise ships were like. And I was intrigued by the invitation to dine at the chef’s table; just what would this floating restaurant be like? So with blow up life belt packed in my overnight bag and scenes from ‘Titanic’ pushed firmly from my mind I stepped on board for an overnight sail.
The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the ship. With 16 decks, ten restaurants, three swimming pools, a theatre, and occupancy of 2,850 this is no small boat. And the rooms are much more luxurious than I imagined they would be, with large, comfortable double beds, nicely fitted bathrooms, small lounge areas and balconies with sun loungers. Hmm…perhaps being stuck on a boat wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
And so to the Murano restaurant. I, along with fellow food bloggers Liz, Douglas and Andrew, were invited to dine with Jacques Van Staden, Vice President of Food and Beverage Operations for Celebrity Cruises. In other words, the man behind the restaurants, from design, décor and crockery through to menus, wines and food sourcing. There have been some mixed reactions to the food served at the restaurant but I have to say, if you don’t compare it to the top end on shore restaurants (and really how can you when you think of the logistics) and consider that this is a floating restaurant with meat and fish that has to be frozen for the long cruises, you may be pleasantly surprised. I think perhaps the problem though is that the team are asking you to do precisely that in aiming for on shore restaurant standards, even reaching for a Michelin star, were it not to be restricted to on shore establishments.
Michelin star quality or not, I enjoyed the food I sampled and would be quite happy dining in Murano. This restaurant, along with the spectacular décor and facilities on board the ship and the friendly, impeccable staff, would almost be enough to tempt me to book a cruise. I said almost. Visions of Leonardo Dicaprio’s last heat-wrenching moments (ahem) with Kate, along with memories of the sea sickness I unfortunately experienced at the end of my otherwise very pleasant evening are enough to keep my feet on dry land, thank you very much.
I’ll leave you with an exclusive interview with Jacques including some rather impressive stats about the food on board.
How is the food stored?
We have a large provisions area in the aft section of the ship, over two decks. In order to maintain the cooling chain and keep the process consistent we have separate cooling boxes for a wide range of fresh vegetables, as well as other fresh produce, such as dairy, cold cuts, cheese and eggs. There are a further two separate coolers for seafood, and similar to restaurant kitchens, we have separate coolers where we store cooked or raw seafood.
For frozen foods our coolers are divided up so that poultry and meat are separated. We are very conscience not to mix produce, so also have a separate freezer for ice blocks, and one for Ice Cream.
Our provisions system ensures that we can keep fresh foods for 10 days whist catering for 4,000 people daily. We simply do not carry for any fresh food longer than this and for those voyages that exceed 10 days we always have “Top Off” loading in order to maintain the freshness.
Can you share some food statistics?
We carry approximately 4,000 people on each sailing – this means we have to provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as afternoon tea, room service and snacks which means were are providing around 12,000+ meals on a daily basis.
The average loading for a ship the size of Celebrity Equinox is 330 pallets of foods for 7 days, which is equal to around 30 metric tonnes a week.
330 standard Euro pallets would look like something like this:
4 Trucks with Fresh Produce 88 Pallets.
1/2 Truck with Baking Potatoes 11 Pallets
1-1/2 Truck with Dairy 33 Pallets
1/2 Truck with Fresh Eggs 11 Pallets
1/2 Truck with Frozen Eggs Whole, Yolk, whites 11 Pallets
2 Trucks with Meat, Poultry Proteins 44 Pallets
1 Truck with Seafoods 22 Pallets
2 Trucks with Dry Foods 44 Pallets
3 Trucks with Ice Cream and other Frozen Foods 66 Pallets
1 40″ Sea Container with Speciality items 20 US Pallets.
So just how much food is consumed on an average cruise?
45,645 pounds of beef
2800 pounds of lamb
4000 pounds of pork
3600 pounds of veal
2000 pounds of sausage
8250 pounds of chicken
2000 pounds of turkey
12650 pounds of fish
250 pounds of crab
1800 pounds of lobster
39898 pounds of fresh veg.
16000 pounds of potatoes
36895 pounds of fresh fruit
105000 liters of milk
850 quarts of cream
400 gallons of ice cream
5000 dozen eggs
6500 pounds of sugar
5000 pounds of rice
1250pounds of cereal
300 pounds of jelly
1950 pounds of coffee
1200 pounds of cookies
2,450 tea bags
200 pounds of herbs and spices
18450 bottles of assorted wines
155 bottles of champagne
180 bottles of gin
200 bottles of vodka
260 bottles of whiskey
220 bottles of rum
30 bottles of sherry
450 bottles of assorted liqueurs
16000 liters of beer
Wow. Bottoms up.