Category Archives: Cruise Ship Jobs

Cruise Ship Chefs on Show

Cruise ship chefs on showIf you thought that cruise ship chefs jobs meant slogging it behind closed doors for hours on end with guests having no clue who the creator of their delicious dish is, you’re partly mistaken. Yes, you will be slogging for long hours, but you knew that already. However, cruise ship chefs today are not entirely hidden from the public gaze.

Food is a quintessential part of the cruise experience, and today, has become a huge part of the travel industry. In fact, the Food Travel Monitor for 2016 by the World Food Travel Association stated that as much as 93 per cent of travellers can be considered ‘food travellers’, or travellers who participated in a food or beverage experience other than dining out. This means gourmet store visits, cooking schools, food tours, tastings, etc.

Cruise ship companies are not too far from cashing in on this exciting statistic. On the high seas, guests focus on the experiences on board, and food comes with a high social media-friendly factor. Think Facebook live feeds, Instagram pictures and Twitter updates.

Cruise ship chefs jobs call upon individuals to do more than just cook a meal. They often put on a show. One of the easiest ways cruises do this is to host live cooking demos on board. This involves the chef demonstrating his cooking skills in a particular cuisine style or theme.

Cruise ship chefs are required to have an interactive session with guests while doing so, explaining the ingredients being used, asking and answering questions, offering tips on techniques, etc. Guests then get a chance to enjoy the meal that was demonstrated before them. It offers them a chance to learn more about the food they love, and the people behind their meals. In turn, chefs get a chance in the spotlight and an opportunity to share their passion for food.

Disney Cruise Line offers complimentary on board cooking demonstrations, showing just how popular these experiences are. Many other cruise lines have hands-on cooking sessions, where guests who sign up cook alongside the staff. Chefs teach them how to make the perfect salsa or how to cook risotto just right, the ideal way to roll sushi. It often takes place in the galley, or kitchen, and chefs offer one-on-one technique tips before participants enjoy the meal together.

Another programme offered by companies that greatly involves cruise ship chefs is the Chef’s Table. This is usually an event with the executive chef who heads the entire food and beverage operation on board. It is often a special, formal affair, priced quite high. Guests get a private tour of the galley with the executive chef with Champagne and hors d’oeuvres, following which they share a meal cooked by him or her with a chance to spend some time with the top chef on board.

Cruise ships also offer cooking classes on board. Holland America, for example, has a state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Centre specially created by Food & Wine magazine for its cooking classes. The demonstration theatre features auditorium-style seating and plasma screens so minute observations can be made. Celebrity chefs make guest appearances and cruise ship chefs take over culinary events such as wine or chocolate tastings.

Luxe line Silversea holds its L’École des Chefs by Relais and Châteaux cruise, which is an entire voyage dedicated to cooking demonstrations, “lunch and learn” sessions, market tours and classes, knife skills workshops and more. Celebrity Cruises even hosted a Top Chef At Sea competition in 2015 and 2016 in which guests watched the reality TV show contestants battle it out on board, and also got a chance to take private cooking classes or dine with them.

Today, cruise ship chefs are more than makers of meals. They are a major part of the reason the industry keeps growing.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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

Learn & Earn: Why cruise kitchens are the quickest way to get ahead.

PacificRimDining_SevenSeas

There are many careers that offer opportunities to learn on the job, but none as intensive, cost-effective or quick as cruise ship jobs. It generally takes years for a confident, hard-working and forward-thinking employee to get ahead, but on a cruise line, passenger volumes and restaurant diversities ensure unmatched career experience in much less time.

With fresh produce hundreds of miles away and no chance to ‘pop to the grocery store’ for emergency ingredients, cruise line chefs learn quickly how to prepare ahead and make do in times of need. Menus may be planned months in advance but knowledge of great deals and where to get the best ingredients helps keep cruise ship passengers happy.

This means that cruise ship jobs can be great lessons not only in the culinary arts,but also geography, world markets and business. This means knowing it’s better to buy mussels in New Zealand and oysters in Sydney, understanding that short cruises encourage passengers to eat more than usual, or figuring out that Chinese travellers prefer meals to snacks and that Spanish guests opt for a lot more fruit, bread and cheese.

And contrary to regular careers where learning comes with a price tag, cruise jobs allow you to earn while you learn. Positions come in a variety of culinary sub-sectors and include range chefs, commis, demi-chefs de partie, chefs de partie, sous-chefs, executive sous-chefs and executive chefs.

With food and accommodation provided free, cruise ship salaries allow for immense savings. While they differ depending on the company, they are all in enviable ranges, from US$900-1200 (approx. INR 57,000-76,000) for crew cooks or pastry trainees to US$4500-7800 (approx. INR 286,000-496,000) for executive chefs or chefs de cuisine per month.

Cruise Lines International Association earlier forecast that 23 million passengers would sail in 2015, up four per cent from last year, proving a continuing rise. The industry itself supported nearly 900,000 jobs and contributed $38 billion in wages. Moreover, cruise ships are now looking eastward to destinations such as Asia and Australia, and focusing on new passenger-based innovations such as theme cruises and ‘foodcations’.

The market is ripe for you to enter the exciting world of cruise ship kitchens where learning and earning are two sides of the same coin.

1024px-Seven_Seas_Voyager-Copenhagen

Why choose a career as a cruise line chef?

Celebrity Cruise Chef

How do you do what you love, see the world and get paid for it? We could say join a travel show, but everyone knows that’s hard enough. Instead, cruise ship jobs prove the ideal match between exciting opportunities available and lucrative remuneration.

Cruise Ship Jobs Network believes there are 400,000 jobs available on cruise ships, with wages totalling up to $6 billion. Many of these vacancies are to be filled in by cruise chefs, who keep the thousands of holiday makers on board fed and happy.

And with the worldwide cruise market increasing 6.9 per cent to an estimated value of $39.6 billion with forecasted increase, there is no dearth of employment opportunities. For those interested in perfecting the culinary arts while traveling the world, cruise ship jobs are the way to go.

With food, accommodation and entertainment provided for free, you can save a lot of money. But what you gain in experience as a cruise ship chef is immeasurable. Depending on the size, cruise ships can carry passengers numbering from a hundred to as many as 5,000 or more. As the chef or part of the culinary team, you will need to ensure that all these people are fed interesting food, all the time. This means non-stop learning with dozens of recipes, large volumes and efficient cooking techniques.

To give passengers endless choice, cruise lines offer specialty restaurants and could run more than a dozen eating outlets on a single ship. So if you think you want to hone those sushi slicing skills or show off your knowledge of wines, there’s always something to choose from. Even food carving and decoration makes it to the list of cruise ship jobs.

Thanks to the volume of food required on the go, most cruise lines opt to make food – like bread, pralines, stocks and even ice cream – in the kitchens from scratch. This allows you to gain experience in the basics before working your way up.

Being a cruise line chef requires quick thinking, dedication and stamina, but once you’re out there, you find life gets more delightful every day.