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By the Numbers: Behind the Scenes in a Cruise Ship Kitchen

At home most of us cook in a kitchen, but on a cruise ship the place where the culinary masterpieces are created is more commonly referred to as a galley.

Here, breads are baked daily, tantalizing menu dishes are created, desserts are carefully crafted and more. There’s an electric hustle during mealtime, when everyone moves like a symphony, playing their part to deliver an exceptional dining experience.

But have you ever wondered how many staff it takes to pull off such a large-scale operation? And how it comes together so smoothly? Most Holland America Line ships offer a behind-the-scenes galley tour that enables guests to get a peek into the inner-workings of the culinary side of the cruise. Be sure to check the daily program to see when this exciting complimentary tour is offered.

A galley tour on Rotterdam, captured by guest Elise.

A galley tour on Rotterdam, captured by guest Elise.

But if you’re not cruising any time soon, step inside the galley of ms Eurodam to learn more fun facts about the amount of food served and the number of people it takes to pull off the operation.

Every galley sets pars for their inventory and no chef likes it when they fall short. But unlike shoreside chefs who can run to the supermarket in a pinch, the chefs on Holland America Line have to wait until the next large-scale delivery. Because of this, Culinary Consultant and Master Chef Rudi Sodamin and his team have developed precise pars to order the right amount of each food and keep guests happy between ports. As you may imagine these pars are quite high for a cruise ship that carries 2,104 guests and 850 crew members!

The Kitchen of Ms Eurodam (4)

Each week the crew loads up the ship with fresh ingredients for the week ahead and these numbers can be staggering! The perfectly proportioned filet and lobster tail that’s served at dinner is a small representation of 11,830 lbs of beef and 1,875 lbs of seafood loaded onto the ship. 950 lbs of sugar accompany 3,150 lbs of flour and 1,675 lbs of butter and margarine to outfit the dessert buffet. Whenever possible the crew source ingredients in port, which can be a major boost to local economies. 137,500 lbs of fresh vegetables, 7,750 lbs of fresh potatoes and 5,500 quarts of dairy make their way onto the ship each week.

All of these ingredients are prepared in the galley under the supervision of the executive chef and organized for maximum efficiency with each dish made to order.

Like shoreside kitchens, the “cold kitchen,” or garde manger station, prepares cold appetizers, cheese platters and sandwiches, and the eight hot stations prepare all warm dishes. Unique outfits include a large bakery, located on the A deck, where the baker and his staff prepare over 20 different kinds of bread — totaling out to about 140 loaves of bread, 120 loaves of french bread, 5,000 dinner rolls, 1,000 croissants and 1,000 danish rolls daily. They even bake the hamburger buns and hot dog rolls for the Terrace Grill. Large stainless steel elevators transport the goods between decks.

The bakery staff prepare over 20 different types of bread onboard. Photo by Sophia Burns.

The bakery staff prepare over 20 different types of bread onboard. Photo by guest Sophia Burns.

Once all the culinary delights are prepared they are served under the direction of the dining room managers. The staff consists of 223 service professionals. Broken down that’s 61 dining room stewards, 59 assistant dining room stewards, 42 wine stewards; 32 servers at the Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto and Tamarind; 13 in-room dining stewards, nine assistant managers, one general manager for each restaurant onboard and two doormen. These hardworking men and women are the liaisons between the guest and the kitchen and provide the warmth and hospitality that guests have come to expect.

Guest Sophia Burns recently returned from a Holland America Line cruise to Alaska and had a blast with the staff. Sophia met everyone from the bakers on a tour of the kitchen to the manager of the Pinnacle Grill. She had wonderful things to say about everyone — from her in-room steward Made to the dining room servers and Neptune Lounge staff.

“…we were in the same spot where a kitchen tour was organized, so we decided to participate in that. So happy we did! The kitchen was beyond impressive, so huge, clean, and busy!…the crew were so warm and friendly…They hugged us as if we were their best friends, and truth be told we felt the same way. We thanked them for their fantastic service during the week, not once had we seen them grumpy or unhelpful.”

The numbers, of course, vary from ship to ship within the fleet, but outstanding food and service is a constant at Holland America Line. The talented crew work hard to make such a big production appear effortless and allow guests to kick back, relax and enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.

Have you ever toured the galley of a Holland America Line ship? What did you find most interesting about the experience? Let us know in the comments below!

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