Palate on Wheels

Cruise ship cuisine

Mariner of the SeasThe Mariner of the Seas is a big ship. It takes 15 minutes to walk around the entire circumference of the ship; that’s longer than it would take you to walk around a regulation FIFA football field.

And spread over nine levels it’s a high as it’s broad. A fully fitted, cruise ship it accommodates about 3800 guests and a crew of around 1200. That means the kitchen has to put out meals 15000 meals three times a day, not counting all-day nibbles. While that’s a task in itself, no one want to eat the same food every day on a 3-4 day voyage so to avoid repetition the chefs have to make sure they have a completely different menu every day.

This is logistically a mammoth task, considering that you can’t pop into the nearest market if you running short of supplies or some dishes are getting over. The chefs have to be extremely systematic while planning for each journey; right from indenting for supplies, making sure that there is no spoilage, ensuring food is cooked on time, appropriate portion control and finally making sure that your food appeals to a diverse customer base.

Breakfast at Windjammer Cafe, Mariner of the Seas

Breakfast at Windjammer Cafe

On the Mariner of the Seas, the guests on board came from across Asia including Indonesia, India, China, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia. Both dietary preferences and tastes can vary widely. While most Asians are beef eaters, they like their food very lightly spiced. Indians tend to eat more vegetables and want strongly flavoured food; balancing out the menu can be tricky but Royal Caribbean, which runs the Mariner of the Seas, has turned it into a science.

I got a sense of the scale of the operation from the meals Windjammer Café, the ship’s complimentary multi-cuisine restaurant. Almost everyone has their breakfast and lunch at this buffet-style restaurant at the top-level of the ship. The spread is so huge that at lunch one day I decided to count the dishes that had been laid out. It came to – including accompaniments, condiments, sauces and breads – an amazing 150 dishes. That’s almost three times the size of an average five-star coffee-shop buffet. Of the entire spread about 10% was purely Indian, but there was more than enough for the pure vegetarian to choose from. 

 

A ship this size has to offer multiple dining options, so apart from Windjammer there was the 24-hour Café Promenade for sandwiches and snacks. There were two speciality restaurants: Giovanni’s Table which serve Italian and Chops Grille which is an American-style steak House. There’s also an outlet of burger chain Johnny Rockets and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Giovanni’s did some excellent antipasti, at Chops Grille I had one of the best filet mignon steaks I’ve had in a long time and Johnny Rockets, where the crew comes relax, I had a classic beefy cheeseburger.

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