October 17, 2016
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line broke records this year with the launch of Harmony of the Seas – the world’s largest passenger ship, so when I stepped aboard I was intrigued to understand the challenges of feeding 9,000 people out at sea.
The ship has 2,747 staterooms hosting up to 6,780 passengers, plus 2,300 staff and employs 1,056 food and beverage crew members: 249 culinary staff, 532 restaurants, 184 on beverage and 91 galley stewards.
“The catering all starts with a morning meeting,” explained Royal Caribbean’s travelling corporate chef, David Reihana, as he gave me a tour of one of the ship’s galleys. “Each turnaround day the ship gets new stock. Embarkation day is when we order our stock, bring everything onboard and replace items which aren’t up to scratch! Timing is key.”
Harmony’s staff focus hard on maintaining high standards of quality for all produce coming onboard, and ensuring it is handled safely and properly. Stock is broken down into different stations covering various food types or dishes and a dedicated team mans each station. “It’s about consistency in the product,” Reihana explains.
The bakery station is manned 24 hours a day and has 16 members of staff, producing more than 40 types of bread and over 100 kinds of pastries. Staff at the soup station run three soup vats producing 1,000 litres of soup each – each vat is large enough to fit four people standing!
It’s a mammoth task to get the stock onboard and ensure that it goes to the right station, but getting it to the right table is a whole other issue. The point of sale device sends orders through to the galley and a printed order shows how much of each dish is needed to avoid wastage from cooking too much.
For each seven-day cruise the ship is loaded with around 9,700lbs of chicken, 60,000 eggs and 15,000lbs of beef. And each week a Harmony cruise gets through no less than 20,000lbs of baking potatoes, 700lbs of ice cream and 20 jars of olives
As well as its three-tier main dining room, Harmony has eight specialty restaurants with a total seating of 4,908, with over 200 different dishes served daily. Restaurants include Royal Caribbean’s own food outlets, such as the gourmet restaurant ‘Wonderland’, and well-known franchises such as Johnny Rockets and Jamie’s Italia, which have their own supply chains.
To wash it all down, the ship carries 40 brands of beer, 160 spirits, 30 mixers and 340 wines on each sailing. Its Bionic Bar is manned by two robot arms named Mix and Mingle which take 45-60 seconds to mix a drink and produce around 120 drinks an hour. Passengers use a tablet in conjunction with their room card to order drinks, choosing from well-known classics or creating their own experimental mixes.