Category Archives: Cruise Life

Career Prospects: Cruise Ship jobs and land-based hospitality jobs

Career prospects in cruise ship jobs and land-based hospitality jobsOn many fronts, cruise ship jobs and land-based hospitality jobs are rather alike since they deal with the same premise – hospitality and service – but in other ways they are vastly different.

One must first understand the hierarchy of working in a galley or a kitchen to strategise a path towards progress within the industry. In both, cruise ship jobs and land-based hospitality jobs, you will mostly begin at the bottom of the pyramid. Depending on the kitchen you choose, you will be a line cook in any one of the various departments – pastry, buffet, sushi, etc.

On board a cruise ship, you will be required to have educational qualifications in food and beverage, or hospitality, and perhaps some experience too. For land-based jobs, experience is not compulsory, and smaller restaurants may not require you to have an educational qualification in the culinary arts. Larger establishments, such as five-star hotels particularly in big cities or tourist destinations, will expect previous experience but you might be able to win them over with a great interview even if you do not have a certificate to match. This would not happen for cruise ship jobs.

Once you have a foot in the door, things change. On board a cruise ship, there are hundreds of line cooks owing to the vast volumes of food required. As you go higher in the hierarchy, the number of vacant positions dwindle and you can spend quite a bit of time in a single position before moving up. At the lower end, people quitting owing to the jobs being a financial stop-gap option or moving back home to their families helps open up vacancies.

Cruise companies are far more likely to promote a chef from their own ships than one with similar experience from elsewhere as they will have better feedback on work ethic and personality. This is not so important in land-based hospitality jobs where moving up between different companies  is frequent.

Theoretically, cruise ship chef jobs offer excellent variety in terms of experience. With so many restaurants of diverse cuisines on board, you could be a sushi chef one contract, work the teppanyaki bar on another, whip up Continental dishes on a third and put your fingers in the Asian pot the following time. Even the open buffets serve such a huge variety of food that within a few years you will have quite a repertoire on your hands.

This would be an impossible scenario in land-based hospitality jobs, where you would work in one type of kitchen or cuisine for a significant portion of time. Still, this offers the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of that particular type of cuisine, and work with superiors on changing menus. On cruise ships, unless you are in a position of management, you will have to follow recipes created by others with no chance of personal tweaks.

It is generally much easier to get top jobs on land compared with cruise ships. Indian food is taking the world by storm, but not many chefs find their way to the top spot on board. Things are changing, however, slowly but surely. The Q Experiences has recently launched an exclusive luxury cruise to Antarctica with Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar on board.

In the meanwhile, cruise ship jobs are creating more and more great chefs from India who go on to make a name for themselves in land-based jobs. Vicky Ratnani, for example, worked on board for 14 years, including on the Queen Elizabeth 2 training with Todd English as his executive sous chef. With the skills and experience they receive on board, others become trainers and fulfill high-level positions in leading hospitality firms and hotels around the world.

Weighing the benefits and disadvantages of cruise ship chef jobs and land-based hospitality jobs, and combining this with a target for the future will help you chart out your trajectory for success in the industry.

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How Cruise Ship Chefs deal with Dietary Restrictions

How cruise ship chefs deal with dietary restrictionsToday, cruising is becoming increasingly inclusive, with people across ages and dietary needs coming on board to have a good time. This makes cruise ship chef jobs that much more skilled as many dietary restrictions, such as allergies, can be harmful to the guest.

Voluntary restrictions include diets such as vegetarianism, lacto-ovo vegetarianism, veganism, pescetarianism and others, in which people do not eat certain food items or meats. This is mostly prompted by personal or religious philosophy and many can be quite strict about it. This means that any mistakes on the chef’s part can lead to complaints to the cruise line, so staff in the galleys must be careful.

Here is what the most popular diets include:

Vegetarianism: A diet that excludes meat, including products that result from animal slaughter, such as gelatin and rennet. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains often follow this diet, although some may be lacto-vegetarian. Jains additionally do not consume root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, etc, as well as mushrooms, fungi and yeasts. Strict Jains may not consume fermented foods either such as beer, wines and other alcohols.

Fruitarianism: A diet that consists mostly of raw fruits

Lacto-vegetarianism: A vegetarian diet that includes eggs, but excludes dairy.

Ovo-vegetarianism: A vegetarian diet that includes dairy, but excludes eggs. Many Indians follow this diet, and as such, a lot of north Indian cuisine adheres to it

Lacto-ovo vegetarianism: A vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs

Veganism: Vegans extend the vegetarian diet to exclude any items produced by animals, including bee honey, dairy and eggs

Pescetarianism: A diet that includes fish but not meat

Flexitarianism: A diet that is mostly vegetarian but occasionally includes meat

Halal food: Many Muslims strictly adhere to diets that consist of halal food or food allowed to be eaten under Islamic law. Those not permitted are called haraam, and include alcohol, pork, and meat from any animal not slaughtered according to Islamic ritual methods

Kosher diet: Cruise ship chefs catering for Jews on board must learn more about their Kashrut laws which requires food to be prepared a certain way for it to be considered Kosher. It prohibits alcohol, caffeinated beverages and certain shellfish.

In some diets, such as the variants of vegetarianism, chefs use substitutes, such as vegetable oil instead of butter, soy or almond milk instead of cow’s milk, or a mixture of baking powder, oil and water instead of egg.

Cruise ship chefs must also consider diets for guests with food allergies. Any food can cause an allergy, but the most common ones are cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, tree nuts like cashew or walnut, wheat and soy. Peanuts, fish, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and gluten from wheat can cause severe reactions including anaphylaxis characterised by swelling and breathing problems, which must be treated using epinephrine.

Typically, guests fill out a form ahead of the cruise, or on the first day, noting their dietary restrictions and allergies. Main dining rooms and specialty restaurants often point out the main allergens on the menu card itself, and kitchens ensure they are equipped to handle such cases. For example, dishes made for people with tree nut or peanut allergies will in no way come in contact with those containing the allergen.

Many other diets exist, such as Paleo diets, macrobiotic diets, organic food diets and Mediterranean diet. Because any hospitality venture, including cruises, are rated mainly on service, cruise ship chefs and other kitchen staff must go out of their way to ensure standards are met, particularly when the health of a guest is concerned.

Cruise ship chefs should constantly read about the various diets and allergies, what to include and what to exclude, so they are better able to help guests with specific culinary requirements.

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How Cruise Ship Jobs put Hygiene on top priority

How cruise ship jobs put hygiene on top priority

Thousands of people need to be fed on a regular basis each day on a typical cruise line, and with the volume of food being prepared, cooked and served, the number of dirty dishes also piles up. The danger of dirty dishes and raw food stems from the buildup of dangerous bacteria and viruses which can make people very sick.

One of the most contagious illnesses that strike cruise ships in particular is from the Norovirus bug, which causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It is easily transmitted through person-to-person contact, through food, water and sometimes even via air-borne particles of vomit. With so many people on a cruise ship in close proximity to each other – both guests and staff – this virus can travel extremely fast and cause an epidemic. The main method of prevention of food-borne illnesses on cruise ships is cleanliness and hygiene.

All cruise ship kitchens maintain a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness to prevent food-borne illnesses from being spread. All staff working in the galley, including cruise ship chefs, must wash their hands thoroughly as often as required, particularly before and after working with different types of foods, and after using the toilet. They are also expected to use single-use gloves when handling items like raw meat, poultry and seafood.

They also have high-standard personal hygiene rules, including having short, neatly cut nails at all times, hair tied away from the face and beards trimmed, and clean uniforms. Staffs involved in preparation and cooking of food are even prohibited from wearing jewellery, including wrist-watches.

Shipments of food go through a thorough check on delivery for standards of cleanliness before being stored in areas that are sanitised on a regular basis. Before preparation, raw food, particularly salad leaves and fruit, are washed thoroughly. Some cruise ships have their own industrial-size salad washing machines that allow them to efficiently wash large quantities of leaves in a shorter period of time without compromising on cleanliness.

Restaurants, cafés and other food service areas are constantly kept clean by staff specially assigned to the job. Self-serve stalls, such as beverage or ice cream machines, pasta or dessert counters and sandwich bars, are areas that need constant attention and regular cleaning.

Cruise ship galleys have strict guidelines for dealing with dirty dishes and utensils. Most follow the process of rinse, clean and sanitise, in which remaining dried bits of food are first scraped off the dish or utensil, which is then rinsed in potable water, then cleaned with a food-grade detergent and finally sanitised with a food-grade chemical solution or hot water before being left to air-dry.

Regulatory authorities, such as the United States Public Health department and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, require that galleys are in order before closing for the day, so staff are often working late into the night to ensure every last fork is cleaned, every piece of equipment and service area is wiped down with sanitising solution, the store rooms are in order and food is labelled appropriately.

Even though the lowest level of kitchen staff – the utility assistants and cleaners – may not require prior training to land cruise ship jobs, they receive thorough training on board and are constantly supervised to ensure they follow the correct procedures. Spot checks by management are common as are frequent unannounced inspections by health authorities.

Cruise companies can be fined heavily or lose licences if they fail government health checks. This means that all levels of kitchen staff must comply with high-quality strict health and safety standards at all times.

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Safety in Cruise Ship Chef Jobs

Safety in cruise ship chef jobs

While most people view the physical safety of passengers as a priority, what happens deep in the belly of the cruise ship can also gravely affect them. Cruise ship chef jobs lay as much focus on cooking as they do on safety in the galley to ensure the smooth functioning of the food service operation.

The two main kinds of safety in the galley are food safety and personal safety

Food safety

With thousands of people within such close proximity to each other, it is easy for germs to spread, even bacteria from food. Food-related illnesses such as norovirus or E.coli have spread to epidemic proportions on ships as cross-contamination occurs easily from one passenger to the next. So it is ideal to reduce risks at the source itself.

All food on board ships are required to meet certain safety standards. Your culinary institute will teach you the best practices to keep edible items fresh and germ-free. Temperatures in the galley and more importantly storage areas are vital, as ships go into port once every few days. Food must be stored at temperatures that kill, or at least discourage, the growth of germs that can cause illnesses.

Cruise ship chefs learn how to prevent cross-contamination through good cooking and hygiene practices. Consistently keeping the work space clean ensures food that’s ready to be served is safe from germs that may be on raw produce.

Safety measures also need to be taken when handling food during service, and also when cleaning and sanitising dishes, equipment, storage containers and food preparation areas.

Personal safety

Staying safe while at work allows for better efficiency. A cruise ship chef’s job requires full attention when using knives and choppers so there is less chance of serious injury. It’s also important to ensure that your hands are dry when using electrical equipment such as blenders while dangerous parts such as blades are secure before switching the device on.

On ships, chefs have a few more safety measures compared to their land-based counterparts. Pots should never be filled to the brim so hot liquid does not splash around. Chefs are also advised to never heat grease in an oven in case it overheats and catches fire.

It’s important for chefs to wear their uniform so they are protected from accidentally spilled hot liquids or burns. Proper footwear is also important to keep feet and toes safe from hot gravies or heavy vessels. Any spills are cleaned up immediately to avoid people slipping and falling.

Cruise ships add an additional layer of safety by avoiding any open flames in the galley. All stoves, ovens and even grills are electric as fire is one of the biggest hazards on board. In addition, fire extinguishers are within easy reach in all galleys and food preparation areas, and all staff are trained how to use them.

There are many measures that cruise companies insist on regarding safety on board, particularly in the galleys. Staffs receive regular training to keep them up-to-date with new regulations and also to refresh their memory when joining on new contracts. This ensures fewer injuries and better work efficiency.

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Art and Food Combine for Cruise Ship Chefs

Art and Food Combine for Cruise Ship Chefs

On board, one doesn’t need to go very far to see beauty. Everything is made to be pleasing to the eyes. So when two of a guest’s favourite things – beauty and food – combine, you know you have a winner.

Cruise ship chef jobs include more than just making delicious food to international standard. It means creating pieces of culinary art, both in the sense of beauty and of use of ingredients.

On board, cruise ship chefs work against restrictions of using ingredients within a designated time frame. Knowing how to use ingredients that may not look perfect or taste a little overdone is also an art.

Produce with short shelf lives such as fruit and vegetables needs to be used quickly. But certain items can be turned into delicious dishes such as jams, cobblers, pancakes, fritters, cakes and smoothies even when overripe. Bread that’s been overbaked turns into decorative pieces for the buffet, panko or breadcrumbs.

Culinary art has pervaded most spaces on a cruise line. Even cupcakes at the corner patisserie are dressed daintily with frosting, edible dust or perhaps a sprig of fresh herb. Plating is an important technique taught in many culinary schools today. Without a tastefully decorated plate, the power of first impression is lost.

Thanks to social media and literature both online and otherwise, cruise companies are enticing guests with images, and food plays an important part here. Cruise ship chef jobs demand an artistic eye along with discerning taste to climb the hierarchy ladder.

The first step to creating an exquisitely designed dish is to imagine what it will look like. Top chefs have even resorted to using paper cut outs of the elements of the dish to decide what it will finally look like. It’s like a painter imagining the final product, making rough sketches and then working on the masterpiece.

When assembling, it’s always safe to start at the centre of the plate and then move outward. Most dishes revolve around a main player, and based on its shape and size, you can then create beautiful patterns around it with the sides and garnishes.

Sauces, gravies and pan jus should either be spooned on last or served in a gravy boat alongside. To keep these runny ingredients from ruining your piece of art, drain the juices before placing the centrepiece of your creation on the plate. Then you can ladle them over as desired later.

Just like a painting, the visual presentation of food should be harmonious, so all the colours on your plate should blend seamlessly with the colour of the plate. Most chefs choose white plates as these provide the perfect background, but many choose black to create a sharp contrast with brightly coloured elements or other shades such as powder blue, or perhaps even serve on a wooden board. Colours are important as they change the diner’s perception of their food – yellow eggs on a yellow plate will look paler and perhaps, to the guest, less fresh.

The most important part of culinary art, just like other art, is that the dish must speak to the guest. So your overall presentation should sum up what you’re hoping for the guest to perceive from your food. Both, the edible elements and visual elements, should blend together fluidly. For example, using drops of emulsified oyster, along with edible seaweed sand and clam-flavoured sea foam as your garnish can tie in your idea of the sea, both visually and gastronomically.

To be a true culinary artist, you must think like one and approach every dish as a painter would approach a blank canvas.

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Cruise Ship Jobs: Pros and Cons

Cruise ship jobs: Pros and cons

Every job has aspects of it that you absolutely love and others that don’t appeal to you all that much. It’s the same case with cruise ship jobs, but compared to land-based employment, working at sea is quite different. Let’s look at a few advantages and disadvantages of cruise ship jobs.

PROS

savings

Savings

This is the single biggest advantage of working a cruise ship job, particularly for staff originating from developing countries. Cruise crew are mostly paid in dollars, and with excellent exchange rates, earnings are much higher compared to land-based jobs of the same position.

Additionally, almost all essentials are paid for on board, so you spend next to nothing getting by. You get free accommodation, food and medical insurance, low-cost laundry, communication, medicines, and even entertainment. Everything you earn can go straight to savings.

For someone starting out and looking to put together a chunk of money for something big, like a house, expensive medical treatment for a family member or even an advanced college degree, a cruise ship job is ideal.

Travel

Travel

Being moving hotels, cruise ships naturally call in at the most picturesque ports in the world. On one’s own steam, it would be difficult even imagining a holiday at places like St Maarten, the fjords of Norway or even the Arctic circle. But as part of the crew, you’ll have no choice but to travel to some of the most coveted holiday destinations in the world.

Many cruise ships have a dedicated crew manager who ensures that those off duty get a chance to tour the ports or call, often at a lesser fee than the tours for guests. Cruise ship jobs ensure your passport pages are filled with stamps that make your friends jealous.

Friendship

Friendship

People from around the world sign up for cruise ship jobs. So it’s only natural that you will meet and work with people of different nationalities. Working on a cruise ship offers opportunity to learn cultures and even languages of new friends from everywhere, from Scandinavia to Asia, Africa to Australasia, the Americas to the Middle East. It serves as an excellent way to widen perspectives and enrich lives.

CONS

Long Hours

Long hours

The service and hospitality industry is notorious for its long hours. Given the high standards and volume of guests on board a cruise line, 10-12 hour shifts are not uncommon. While the Maritime Labour Convention ensures a required amount of rest for all employees, there is no uncertainty about cruise ship jobs being long, hard work.

While on board, staff work seven days a week for the length of their contract, which ranges between four months for higher positions and up to eight months. This means not a single day of leave, unless you are ill, for the entire duration of your contract. Instead, you receive around four months off – unpaid – between contracts.

cabin quarters

Cabin quarters

Space is limited on board, and passengers obviously get preference. Crew must learn to live with at least one other person in a restricted space. The cabins are kitted with amenities, but they’re often just enough to get by. You’ll mostly find bunk or twin beds, small cupboards, a desk, small safe for valuables, telephone, DVD player and perhaps a mini fridge. It is certainly not spacious and will probably not compare to your room at home.

Cabins for crew are also below sea level, so there will be no view to look out at. There will probably be no porthole – or window – at all, which can be a problem for people with claustrophobia.

Family

Family

Due to their nature of being away at sea for months at a time, cruise ship jobs can affect family life. Depending on contracts, you are typically unsure of being at home for important occasions, events and festivals celebrated with family. Working parents may miss out on their children growing up, and youngsters may feel like they cannot spend enough time with ageing parents.

Wi-Fi connectivity on board has made this easier, but many suffer homesickness at least in the first few weeks of their cruise ship jobs, until they learn to adjust.

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Food of the Future – The Future of Culinary Education

Food of the Future - The Future of Culinary Education

At the current rate of growth, the cruise industry is expected to continue profiting well into the future. It is therefore no rocket science to assume that the demand for services, particularly cruise ship chefs who feed the thousands of passengers on board each year, will thrive alongside.

Still, novelty continues to attract patrons and the more innovative the service, the higher the expected returns. Cruise culinary education is part of this preparation for the future, empowering new chefs with thought processes that will stand them in good stead for the years to come.

As with other spheres of life, technology has also entered the kitchen, not restricting itself to equipment for the cook, but also extending itself to the guest. Already, wait staff on the Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Of The Seas are robotic. Even the bartenders at the cruise liner’s Bionic Bar are mechanical. This means that cruise ship crew must be in a position to offer something more than a computer program that guides these robots.

Cruise culinary institutes can no longer be content with teaching students basic recipes and standard cocktails. While the foundation of cruise cooking must remain strong, education must also include ideation, creation and out-of-the-box thinking. So in a space where robotic bartenders or chefs make standard drinks, flesh-and-blood bar and kitchen staff can offer innovative, personalised dishes or cocktails while adding a human touch. Performance is still expected to win, so flair bartending, teppanyaki and open kitchens can continue to astound guests.

Technology is not all bad, however. New apps allow cruise management to understand performance to increase efficiency, or even allergens that affect guests. Tablets can help guests understand menus in their own time, particularly the history and construction of complex dishes or offer interactive, educational material about wine varietals.

All of this does not mean that technology will completely replace humans on board. Management is looking at an ideal balance between efficiency and a personal connection with the guests.

The food of the future on board will also follow land-based trends of putting a focus on local, sustainable cuisine. While global tastes will continue to prevail to offer guests as diverse a menu as possible, local ingredients available at ports of call are being used to add interesting twists to known flavours as well as improve efficiency and costs.

To feed this interest, culinary cruise institutes will need to broaden students’ perspectives of using local cuisines in innovative ways. It is obviously not be possible to touch on everything, given the wide distinction in cuisine styles over just a few kilometres, but the key is to whet curiosity for travel to very localised areas, research in dying recipes and subsequently innovation to reinvent the old for the new.

To equip students for the future, culinary cruise educators must focus on mixing technology with personalised service, innovation, and ‘glocal’ cuisine – global with a touch of the local. After all, the world is just one big village.

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Why uniforms are important for Cruise Ship Chefs

Chefs Uniforms

On board a cruise ship, chefs are most easily distinguished by their uniforms. Chef’s whites, as they are called, are one of the most recognised uniforms around the world. It sets them apart in the world of hospitality and lends a unique air of professionalism and respect to the wearer.

The first modern uniforms for chefs appeared somewhere in the 19th century, introduced by top chef of the time Marie-Antoine Carême. Toques, or chefs’ hats, were already being used with rumors suggesting that they became a trend after King Henry VIII beheaded his chef after he found hair in his soup.

Carême’s design for his chef’s uniform has not changed much over the years as the style served a more practical rather than fashionable purpose. He chose the colour white as it signified cleanliness, and on board a ship with space constraints, keeping uniforms impeccable is the mark of a good chef.

The main purpose of a chef’s jacket is to keep its wearer safe in a hot kitchen. The material is usually high quality, with cotton of double thickness and often fire resistant. On board a cruise ship, open flames are prohibited for safety reasons but that does not mean the uniform loses its purpose.

During service, it’s a rush to get food to patrons as quickly as possible and a small nudge could result in hot liquids spilling out of vessels. The thick uniform saves the chef from being scalded by boiling liquids and oils, and also from hot steam when a pot lid is suddenly lifted. It also offers a degree of safety against sharp tools like knives and peelers that could cause a health hazard should blood be spilled.

The jacket is also a nifty item when a chef happens to stain it. In a kitchen, it’s difficult to keep one’s uniform spotless all the time, but it could occur that a chef might need to meet a guest. Appearance is important, so with a traditional double-breasted jacket, the chef can quickly cover up in the event of a spill.

The jacket has two rows of buttons in front, so if the chef needs to leave the kitchen, all that needs to be done is to switch so that the clean layer is in front, and button up again.

Classical chef’s whites also consist of a white neck-tie or neckerchief that was originally meant to soak up sweat or wipe one’s face or forehead. Today, it’s often a fashion statement that completes the chef look.

In addition, chefs wear a white knee-length apron and a dish cloth. Trousers are mostly chequered so that stains are not easily visible, and loose-fitted for ease of movement. Shoes must be closed to protect the feet and have soles that offer sufficient grip so that the chef does not slip on spilled liquids. It’s important to wear the right shoes as chefs spend a lot of their day standing and this could cause health problems over time.

The toque is always white, unless it has been conferred on the chef by a guild for recognition of excellence, in which case it is black. Other than serving the purpose of keeping hair out of food, toques also prevent damage to hair caused by smoke and oil, as well as absorb perspiration from the forehead. Often, its height signifies the experience of the chef wearing it.

Put together, the chef’s uniform is a symbol of hard work, persistence and skill, and keeping it clean only proves his/her respect and passion for the job.

 

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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.

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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

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