The numbers are mind-boggling… 2600 passengers, 900 crew. Ten days at sea. Seven restaurants. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just how does Carnival cater for that many people? We talk to Carnival Spirit Food Operations Manager, Raj Mandamparambil and Chef de Cuisine, Vicent Samuel about the logistics of feeding 3500 people a day at sea.
Could we start with some simple numbers?
Raj: On average, we do about 10,000 meals per day. And if you multiply that by the number of days of the cruise… well, on a 10-day cruise, that would be 10 times 10,000. That’s 100,000 meals.
Vicent: I have 120 chefs working with me, across four major galleys, to produce those 10,000 meals. For one dinner sitting, we dispense close to 3800 meals in a span of about 20 to 25 minutes.
What kind of produce quantities are we talking about?
Raj: As an example, for a seven-day cruise, there would be 2500 kilograms of potatoes, 2000 kilograms of onions, 1800 cases of tomatoes and 2000 dozens of eggs.
Vicent: I source roughly 1400 ingredients for every voyage so it’s a massive shopping list.
Where do you even start to organise such a huge operation?
Raj: It all starts when we get the exact voyage itinerary and the number of passengers that we’ll be taking on board. So based on the total number of people – the number of crew is fixed for every cruise – we do what is called a “total usage” of each and every commodity that we will use for the entire cruise. And we have inventory control software that tracks every item that is used on a day-to-day basis, which is then summarised at the end of each cruise. Based on that, we’re able to do an accurate food order.
How does the food get on to the ship?
Raj: We place our order about 10 to 15 days before the cruise to our shore-side vendors, like our Australian-sourced fruit and vegetable suppliers, who then bring all the fresh produce to the ship when we dock. And the loading starts as soon as we dock. We start around 7.30 in the morning and the entire loading needs to be finished by about 2.30pm.
Vicent: From the point where it’s being dropped alongside the ship to inspection of the produce to getting it into storage, it takes somewhere between six and eight hours.
And where is it all stored?
Raj: We have a huge storage facility onboard and an entire store room department that manages the section.
Vicent: There are eight to nine different walk-in units for each kind of produce … one for dairy, one for fruit, one for vegetables and so on.
How do you ensure that the food is great quality?
Vicent: I start by briefing my supervisors and the team, making sure they have the right numbers, and that they’re heading in the right direction. And we quality check around the clock. I would say I do food testing about 30 to 35 times a day, along with my supervisors.
How do you cater to so many different nationalities, as well as dietary requirements?
Vicent: We try and cater for everyone by creating multiple cuisines on board …Italian, Chinese, Greek, Indian and French. We get a lot of dietary requests as well – probably 300 to 350 a day. And it’s always best if guests let us know ahead of time … although we can do last-minute orders as well.
What do you think would surprise most people about the food operations on board?
Vicent: We make about 60 to 70 per cent of our food from scratch – things like the pizza dough and the tomato sauce for pizza – and that we source all of our fresh produce ingredients from Australia.
What is the most important aspect of your job?
Vicent: I think to ensure that my team is guided correctly, and to make sure that we exceed guests’ expectations about our food. And, also, to maintain our hygiene standards at all times.
What do you love most about your jobs?
Raj: I like to see a happy face after a person has had a good meal. The satisfaction on their face and to see an empty plate in front of them – that makes me very joyful.
Vicent: I get really satisfied when guests say, “Wow, this food is awesome.” They appreciate all the work we have put in, and appreciate what you do.