Much is talked about regarding the kind of food served to guests on board cruise ships. After all, it is a big part of the cruising experience. But what do cruise ship crew eat?
Food is free, for the most part, on board all cruise lines for crew, staff and officers. Their hierarchy determines the extent of service and options which these categories of employees are allowed.
Cruise ship crew are often restricted to the crew messes – a self-service buffet where they can eat their fill during the hours of operation. So if they are on shifts and absolutely must have a certain meal, such as breakfast, it is up to them to wake up early and get to the buffet in time.
Staff also have a buffet, generally the same one as the crew, but have the option of ordering table service from those under training to wait on guests. They also have more options at their disposal compared to crew.
Officers on the other hand have many other options, including a full range salad bar, and typically order table service from staff waiters under training. Some staff – who interact with guests on work – and officers are also able to access passenger areas like the main dining room and certain restaurants where they can eat certain meals.
The cruise crew menu largely depends on the composition of nationalities. It’s often noticed that Asians make up a large part of the cruise ship crew demography so catering tends to lean towards their sort of fare. However, to keep things interesting, cruise ship companies ensure a variety. They rotate the menus each day, so one day might feature Indian food, another day Italian, Filipino, Mexican, sometimes even Eastern European.
However, since a large percentage of the cruise crew are Asian, steamed white rice forms an important part of the menu each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Indians have made their presence felt in crew numbers and are guaranteed ‘home-style’ food. Indian guests have been known to befriend compatriot crew members to get a taste of familiar food during their stay on board. It is certainly important for cruise companies to offer more authentic traditional meals, especially when the demographic is so skewed, to keep crew happy.
For breakfast, crew can expect a decent range of Continental fare – the usual suspects such as cereal, milk, hot beverages, fruit juice, toast, eggs any way you like them, and a rice dish that is often a popular morning meal in places like The Philippines.
For lunch and dinner, the menu varies each day, but you will certainly find rice and a broth or curry to go with it. Some cruises offer a health menu with salads, fruit and low-calorie dessert, although this might be restricted to staff and officers. There will be vegetarian dishes as well as meats – fish, pork, beef and chicken mostly. You may also find turkey.
A midnight buffet is also available for those on odd shifts. A full range of fast food such as hot dogs, burgers, pizzas and more are made available for crew. Items like soda pop and dry items like instant noodles or cookies may be charged, but at a nominal fee.
It is important to note that cruise ship crew are not permitted to take food back to their cabins on most ships to ensure hygiene and prevent pest infestation. Companies sometimes treat their entire crew to a meal in the main dining room or one of the restaurants during which time they can relish dishes generally served to passengers.
In general, all cruise ship companies ensure their employees are well-fed and keep the menus consistent with the kind of demographic that populates the crew roster most.