CRUISE – Crew Food on Cruises: a bitter bill

11 May

It’s another sea day, *yawn*. On Sea days we have to work more hours, and don’t get to see a pretty port city; what a sorry trade-off. However, it also means I have time to eat properly, and wash my laundry. Yay!

Thank goodness the photo crew has access to the staff mess. When I was a university student all free food was good food, but now that I am committed to paid labour my standards have increased somewhat. The food that is offered in the crew mess comes in circa seven different bins. One kind of salad; some sort of sandwiches with sliced sausage and cheese; plain rice; coloured rice; chicken bits; sausage or meat bits; and some glob containing potato or pasta. As an added bonus you may get access to apples, bread roles, or something of the like.

Breakfast buffet for cruise crew

The breakfast buffet aboard the cruise ship is rather small.

It’s all pretty plain, and very repetitive. The food in the staff mess is somewhat better, often varied through trays of beans, various meats, sautéed vegetables, fried potato fingers, or cabbage. All that is also available in the crew mess, but appears to be of lower quality and quantity. But no matter where you eat – no-one really gets excited about the mess food; it just fills the stomach.

As a German I feel obliged to introduce problems beyond the exceptionally small degree of variety. I have been vegan for over seven years. My choice to maintain that dietary plan drastically reduces the layers of culinary complexity that the crew mess confronts us with, often reducing my choice to “plain rice with or without soup”. Because according tot the minds of the demented chefs of this vessel even beans or pasta require the support of sausage or ham to be counted as a meal option. In short – eating vegetarian is rather difficult aboard the ABC vessel; eating vegan (and surviving on it) is near impossible.

Vegan breakfast for cruise crew

Since I don’t eat eggs or other animal products my breakfast aboard the cruise ship consists mostly of fibres.

That leaves us with the Maya Buffet, the culinary wonderland on deck 14, where a wide range of food choices is offered at any major meal time. At the buffet I can fill myself with nutrients AND enjoy the process. It circumscribes a culinary journey through all the continents that our chefs come from, thus providing ample food for everyone. Yet, even here the vegan selection is rather sparsely spread. Apparently nearly every food item aboard the ABC RypMeOff has to be dunked in salt and butter before being fried. And nearly all rice or pasta dishes long for sliced animal parts. Thus, even with about thirty warm dishes to choose from my vegan selection is usually limited to two or three different items.

Now, that prospect might be devastating for anyone who expected this luxury liner to dispense luxury food. However, ABC Cruises is committed to underwhelm its passengers. The real tragedy lies in the timing of meals. As crew members we can only access the Maya Buffet a) for ten minutes during our evening break, or b) for lunch hour, on port days that do not foster an embarkation. One and a half meals a day won’t sustain my bodily needs, thus making visits to the staff mess unavoidable. The latter is open for approximately 2.5 hours during breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. Before or after this the designated room features an emptiness of trays, and a water fountain. If your schedule only allows you to fall into bed by 2 A.M. (as is not rare in our department), you may want to sleep until 10 A.M. For me those are the lucky days, because I can almost get enough sleep to not topple over during my late work hours.

Unfortunately, this schedule conflict asks you to choose between a healthy sleep and a healthy breakfast. After 9 A.M. you will not find a single bread roll anywhere in the crew area. The logistic and hygienic complexities involved in this conundrum escape me, and overall I am disillusioned by the lack of most basic food items for the hard-working crew during the non-meal hours.

The grand injustice in the distribution of food supplies has dire consequences. In the first two weeks aboard I was not very selective regarding my food items, mostly stuffing myself with all the foods that looked vaguely vegan. Often those foods turned out to be fatty and/or salty, thus fostering the placement of fat pouches all over my body. Already I can see myself growing chubby, mostly on my tummy and in my face. After only two weeks of this diet my face is markedly more round than before. And, thus, I have developed a diet plan. I call it Goemon Cruise Diet, and, no, I don’t recommend it to anyone.

Firstly, I limit my time ashore by returning to the ship for buffet time, whenever we are allowed to eat there. Since the crew has to dress up for the occasion to share meals with the passengers, this activity cuts approximately ninety minutes from my port exploration. However, it gains me a full meal of spring roles, samosa, and ripe fruit, thus allowing myself to be stuffed and healthy for an entire day. During dinner in the crew mess I rarely eat more than an apple and some bread for dinner on those happy port days.

During sea days I limit myself to relatively basic food items from the staff mess; mostly plain rice and uncooked carrot rasps, often accompanied by bread and some salty vegetable soup. This solution is rather uncomfortable for my taste buds, but considering how little exercise I get it should keep me in reasonably good health for the next few months.

Here we have it, another urban myth dispelled – cruise food is lavish and amply supplied, but the quality is far from amazing.


Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

The Grand Stairs are are becoming a nice place for me. I like posing people on them.

PS.: I’m shooting stairs again tonight. I’m getting used to that “studio”, and it really is fun posing people on the glittery stairwell. Maybe one day my resulting portraits won’t be “shit” any more.

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