A cruise is probably not the place you’d expect to find fine food. Too often we hear stories of ‘all you can eat’ buffets, rather than stories of great food. OK, both of these options exist, as well as options to dine on your balcony, 24 hour room service etc. but, for us, the food quality on the Diamond Princess came as a bit of a surprise.
It was our first cruise: a pre-Christmas trial run from Sydney to Melbourne return to catch up with family and to test our sickness/boredom levels and value for money. We were also interested in the culinary scene and even the logistics of catering for so many guests.
Just give some thought to the shopping list. Catering for 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew members is no mean feat when there’s no backstop for grocery shopping! With food sourced from all over the world to cater for international passengers, each cruise requires between 110 to 115 tons of food delivered to the ship!
There are five formal dining rooms, each featuring different à la carte menus daily, three specialty restaurants, a buffet, ice cream bar, pizzeria and grill, as well as 24 hour room service availability and on deck dining.
Following Vegetable carving and a Cooking demonstration by Executive Chef Nilo Palma, our tour of the galley led us through the different preparation areas one by one: Fish, Meat, Garde manger (cold kitchen), Soup, pasta and vegetables, Bakery, Pastry, Fruit and cheese pantry, Coffee, Wine and liqueur (limoncello is made on board as well) and Dishwashing.
Behind the scenes, smiling as we passed on our tour, almost 500 crew members are dedicated to providing meals on the ship, over 200 in the galley and around 250 in service under the direction of Maitre D’Hotel Pasquale Marino. Everything is made from scratch, including handmade pastas, breads, pastries, vol-au-vents, pizza and biscuits!
Hygiene is a paramount issue on the ship. 5,000 pairs of gloves are used daily in the spotless kitchens, each different task requiring crew to use a different set of gloves. Each day, the bakery alone uses 600kg of flour, about 1,400 fresh fish are cleaned and prepared, 6,000 pastries are made… not to mention meat, salads, soups, pasta and vegetables in a total of eight galleys!
Breakfast in the formal dining room may include Danish pastries, Eggs your way, Bircher Muesli and a platter of freshly cut fruit; lunch a signature Pasta dish and a Caesar salad; dinner an entrée of prawns (bought on Australian shores) and a fresh fillet of fish, steak or veal for main. There’s always a choice of delicious desserts and a cheese platter available to follow, as well as a selection of world wines to accompany your meal. All meals were beautifully presented, the silver service waiters charming!
Then 57 people pre-wash, sort and feed dishes and glasses into the dishwashing machines! Each day 70,000 dishes and 24,000 glasses are cleaned ready to be used again, the silverware cleaned and polished through the night ready for use the next day, all while we were being gently rocked to sleep!
Was the cruise a success? Yes! No sickness, fairly calm seas, tons of activities/concerts/shows to attend (or not, according to your mood – for us it was very relaxing), some interesting people across a mix of ages, and excellent food – enough so we had to pace ourselves, eat only at mealtimes and choose wisely from the menu.
Would we cruise again? Yes. Alaska is definitely on the agenda. It’s a place we would probably not visit by land (but the seafood on this cruise is legendary)! Cruising east from Italy to Istanbul is up there as well. Why not check out a cruise to suit your interests. With some cruises running at around $100/day per person (or even less) there are some great deals to be enjoyed, especially last minute ones!