Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day Before We Go Galley Tour

Chandeliers and Champagne
The head waiter came by our table earlier in the week to inquire if we'd be interested in joining a small crowd of 150 cruisers in a behind the scenes tour of the ship's kitchen. The amount of food one sees constantly available does invite some speculation, and most of our table chose to pay the $25 reservation fee. Any time we choose to dine at one of the specialty restaurants, there is a cover charge of about the same, so the value would be fair as the promise of a sampling from the Mexican and Sushi places onboard. After he had collected our stateroom information and provided each of us with a quaint hand written receipt, we laughed about them wanting to get rid of all the premade foods, since we would be home soon (wah).
Weren't we surprised to learn that in fact nearly all of the food on board is prepared fresh, even our evening dinner plates, which I'll go into with more detail later. At eleven o'clock Saturday morning, 150 hungry cruisers stood outside the Saphire dining room eagerly anticipating our decadent brunch options. I even managed to snag a few photos with some of my new friends from our crop room- and of course one with my friend Denise from the dance floor!

We had those moves like Jagger...

There was a little confusion over the proper dress attire for visiting the ship's kitchen; open toed shoes not being particularly sanitary even if they have been pampered to perfection in the onboard  spa. Of course on a cruise to the Caribbean it's no surprise that most of the women and even a few men arrived with their cutest sandals on! Some were sent back to their rooms to change, which led them to believe that it was a requirement, after all, it was a perfectly reasonable request. However, not Everyone was told to do so, and in fact when we inquired about whether it was neccessary we were informed that in fact it would be no problem at all... hmmm. Oh well, nothing a courtesy glass of champagne wouldn't cure!
Introductions of the head dining room staff were made, and the Polish Head Chef even took the microphone to address the crowd and welcome us into his territory. A few tidbits of info were dosed out to us and gave us a bit to ponder as we were then led into the stainless steel cavern that is the source of so much gastronimic delight throughout the trip. The crowd gave a collective gasp when our Head Matre'D stated the number of eggs required to sustain the breadkfast and baking needs of the ship's guest: 15,000! Think about that for a minute, and then picture an entire truck filled with cartons of eggs, lasting only One Week. Wow, right?
So, when first I started out working, one of my first jobs was at a restaurant, bussing tables. It was a pretty easy job, and Cricket's usually wasn't very crowded, and occassionally I would be required to run the commetcial dishwasher as well. Fast forward about 17 years, and in my house I'm generally doing about three sinkfuls of dishes a day. Not really fun (and I still can't figure out how they keep appearing-and why I don't use paper dishes), but I cannot fathom how overwhelming it would be to face the task of cleaning 15,000 dishes EACH NIGHT! I sure felt sorry for the young man drying cups before us, especially when my co-watcher commented that this same guy, "works so hard, that he was so tired he fell asleep on the tender boat the other day!" I'm not sure I'm going to have a change of heart about wanting to clean food off the plates, but I'll sure be glad it's only a sinkful, and not a ROOM full haha.
Next we learned about the room service prepping area. One of two on board, there were all the carafes, creamers, teas and plate covers I recognized from our morning meals delivered to the room. Again, I hadn't even thought of this, but there are two prep stations to aid in the speed of delivery. Apparently, the 15 minutes it can take to get from one side of the ship to the other would be too much to ask of the patrons waiting for their goodies?

Next, an observation of the most sandwiches I've ever witnessed being prepared all at once by one person. Subway workers ain't got nothin' on this gal! It is truly awe inspring to consider all of the different dishes, available at all hours of the day, that are continuously being prepared for consumption. Another point I hadn't thought of was that the staff are being fed in much the same manner throughout the day as well... what a task for whoever is the food manager!
Too many cooks in the kitchen?
Not on a cruise ship.
All of that food is delivered and stored in cold stoage on Deck One until the time it will be used; first in, first out. We learned there is even a food checkout of sorts; the time and temperature of items is documented both upon pickup and delivery. Four hours is the limit for food to be out, and then it is disposed and replaced. The thought of so much potential waste was quite appalling, but before it is deemed no good, it is offered to the crew, and then some is incinerated.  Their wet goods are mashed and pulped and then released when we are more than 20 nautical miles from shore. So, the fish are eating well too- and then we can go and catch and eat the fish, beginning the cycle all over again.
Can you spot my plate?
Would you be surprised that it cost $300,000 for the food stocked onboard for each week's journey? That explains how they can affored those eggs, 10,000 pounds of flour, and 25,000 pounds of beef! Is all this information making your stomach growl as loudly as ours did when it was announced that we could now go back into the kitchen for a visit-as-many-times-as-you-like smorgasboard of food choices?
As facinating as all of the information about the food was, the concern for our wait staff was apparent, with many guests wondering aloud all manner of questions about their pay structure, rate of advancement, length of employment (or deployment, I suppose). Our water, James, had shared with us early on that this was his first cruise as head waiter. He was excellent! His enthusiasm for giving us exceptional dining experienes throughout our voyage was almost as enjoyable as the warmth in his smile. His assistant Zekun was sweet as could be, too. Head waitors can advance and earn the privledge of more tables (i.e. more shared tips) through the scores they recieve on the after-cruise- questionairre mailed by Royal Caribbean. I'll be sure to remember how welcome to the table we felt each night when I respond to that email!
Well, friends, my time on board has nearly come to an end. There is still a day of departure tomorrow that I hope you'll join me for. No one wants to stand in line alone! I've so enjoyed reliving this "epic" adventure with you all. Feel free to come back and re-read these posts as I'll be filling them in with more memories as they reoccur. And of course, if you want to share these with friends, or feel inclined to comment, there are buttons to click beneath each lengthy rememberance.
My rise to Craft Diva Superstardom continues, but first... 

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