Monthly Archives: March 2017

What You’ll Cook as a Cruise Ship Chef

world cuisine on cruise ship

Research suggests that the average guest gains around 7-10 pounds on a cruise. With thousands of guests per cruise, that’s a lot of food to cook to satiate the cravings of all. Cruise ship chef jobs demand a wide knowledge of culinary styles to cater to varied tastes and also offer folks on vacation a different experience from what they’re used to at home.

Generally, cruise ships have a main dining room and a buffet area that are complimentary for all passengers. But there are also a number of specialty restaurants, lounges, bars and cafes throughout the liner. The new Carnival Vista has around 29 dining spots across the ship, including two by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Overall, the types of cuisines cruise ship chefs rustle up fall into one of the following categories:

Comfort food

Despite the many gourmet options often available on board, many guests – especially children – reach out for things they are familiar with. British guests might want bangers and mash, fish and chips, Welsh rarebits, Cornish pastries or sticky toffee pudding. The French look forward to onion soup, gratin dauphinois and croque monsieurs. US comfort food is favoured by many around the world – macaroni and cheese, apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, meat loaf, tuna casserole, fried chicken and stews. Ice cream, hamburgers, pizza, dumplings, sliders, pancakes, and others are popular as easy choices and grab-and-go meals.

All of these – including breads, pastry bases, ice creams, sauces and soups – are made from scratch on board the cruise ship, and as a chef, you could be responsible for any of these.

Specialty cuisine

Cruises offer a well-rounded experience, and while the ship is sailing, it is not uncommon for guests to go the extra mile and try out specialty cuisine to set their vacation apart from the rest. Cooking specialty cuisines often involves using rare ingredients and having a special skill set, so experience works in your favour. Gourmet ingredients used here include foie gras, caviar, stinky tofu, artisanal cheese and coffee, edible seaweed, truffles, certain types of mushrooms, and umeboshi.

The Epicurean on P&O Cruises, for example, serves a range of delicate dishes, from chicken liver parfait with wood smoke and Spanish cured ham with Manchego cheese and olives, to loin of wild boar and salt marsh rack of lamb. Many are cooked using molecular gastronomy techniques and incorporate liquid nitrogen for special textural effects.

Regional tastes

Restaurants serving cuisines from around the world find their way on board. Asian tastes – Japanese, Thai and Korean – have long been a favourite, as have Italian and Spanish dishes. Indian food is now making inroads onto cruise lines as well.

Cruise ships also cook cuisines of the ports they stop at, offering trainee chefs a welcome insight into specific regional dishes and varied experience with every contract. Princess Cruises rustles up delicious Bahamian favourites including cracked conch shells, johnnycakes, souse and guava duff. Uniworld’s south of France tour sees dishes like daube provencal, bouillabaise, and iced Montélimar nougat parfait.

Guest requests

Now and then, as more people realise cruising is fun and do-able, cruise ship kitchens receive special requests from guests. These span the range from allergies to diets and even baby food. Companies differ in their policies of what is available to guests on board, but as competition increases, they widen their offerings to be more inclusive.

There might be requests to tweak certain dishes to suit special requirements, particularly when ordering room service. Food is generally required for vegetarian, vegan, low or no fat, low or no salt, lactose intolerant, dairy free, gluten- or wheat-free, low cholesterol, diabetic, kosher and halal diets, as well as allergies to certain ingredients.

In all cases, the more of a variety of food you cook as a cruise ship chef, the better your chances of moving forward in your career.

How to Survive your First Cruise Ship Contract

ship crew

Working a cruise ship chef job is quite unlike anything you’ll find on land. Living and work conditions vary with each company but in general you’ll find similar situations across the board. On your first contract, it’s easy to get stressed with unfamiliar circumstances, but you will soon discover a method to the madness.

Overpacking

Before you even leave for your port of embarkation, you’ll have to pack your bags and former cruise ship employees have the ultimate advice: pack light, but include lots of white socks and underwear. This might seem like strange advice, but once on board you will find that it makes a lot of sense. Cabins are small, particularly for those lower in the hierarchy, so storing bulky suitcases are difficult. Shelf space is also limited. Crew are required to be in uniform – typically white – while on duty so the only clothes required are for the times you are free on board and in port. The white socks and underwear come in handy for hot days in the kitchen when you need to change often. However, do carry a sweater as the air-conditioning in crew areas where you might relax after hours often gets rather cold.

Contract & information

Once you arrive, you will be given your contract and information about the ship. It is imperative to read these very carefully so you are intimately aware of all the do’s and don’ts on board, and what standards and principles will govern you during the length of your contract. The initial few days of the job for first time cruise ship staff include orientation and training in things like safety and other aspects related to the job you will do on board.

Staff Only entryAlways remember the way to your cabin when it is shown to you, as without signs, many new employees find themselves wasting valuable time searching for what is now their home. Also note which areas are meant for staff and those where only guests and officers are allowed. Most cruise ship companies take engagement with guests very seriously.

Clean crew cabin

You will be required to keep your cabin clean at all times, so it helps to create a schedule with your roommate of how this will work. Additionally, it is possible to pay a cleaner a small amount each week to clean it for you. Cabin inspections occur every month so you must also ensure you know what is in your room. You can be in severe trouble if contraband items like drugs, candles, toasters are found in your cabin, even if it belongs to your roommate.

Crew laundry

Doing laundry is usually not accounted for when planning time off on first contracts, but this is important. Often, there’s just one or two laundry rooms so it’s imperative to hold out for as long as you can, and then always stick around the room when your clothes are in the machine. Theft of clothes, or rushed crew taking your load out and replacing it with theirs, is not unheard of.

Mobile & Computer

It helps to carry your mobile phone and laptop with you, along with chargers so you can take advantage of the heavily discounted crew Wi-Fi and internet facilities on board or get in touch with your family at free Wi-Fi spots at port. Saving movies or favourite TV shows on your laptop or hard drive can come in handy during off-duty hours when your roommate might be asleep and you do not want to switch on the cabin television.

employee relation

The most important tip to surviving your first contract is your relationships with the hundreds of colleagues and supervisors you will meet and engage with every day. With so many nationalities and personality types, it is difficult to judge immediately who will be a genuine friend. It is advisable to keep your cards close to your chest and make friends at a pace you are comfortable with. Getting into arguments or heated political debates are better attempted with good friends.

Your first contract will be a breeze if you always remember to work hard, be a good person to all on board, and always put the guest first.

Also read the ultimate guide to tackling seasickness here