This is “Day 2” of the posts of the a day by day reporting of a typical 7 Night Norwegian Fjords Cruise, based on my trip on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. The trip cruised through the North Sea and visited Bergen, Geiranger, Skjolden and Stavanger. In this series I look at Cunard, Queen Elizabeth ship, and tips and advice on each of the stops.
The first post was 7 Nights Cruising the Fjords (Day 1 Departure). Also on the blog my “Ultimate Guide to Cruising the Norwegian Fjords” with a background on Norway, the Fjords and 8 Key Tips of you are considering cruising to the area.
The day started bright and sunny. Very promising. But by midday it was very foggy. We have been passing a number of North Sea Oil Rig Platforms along the route. Also, bizarrely, there are a lot of birds, seagulls I think, flying around.
Dumping food into the sea
It seems strange to come across so many birds flying about in what feels and seems to be the middle of the ocean with and no land close by. I guess they are either migrating or, more likely, travel to and from the many oil rigs in the North Sea and busy sea lanes in this area to feed on food disposed.
Ships are allowed to dispose waste food into the sea when they are 12 miles for land. Ships like Cunard pulp the food into close to a liquid before it is deposited int the sea, but to sure all will do so.
Executive Chef Queen Elizabeth, James Abhilash, introduces the Kitchen Tour
Kitchen Tour & Demonstrations
The rule on dumping food is one that I learnt while doing the Kitchen Galley Tour that they ran this morning. They run it at least once on a cruise when there are sea days. I had been on one a few years ago when on the P&O Ship Arcadia when travelling back from the Caribbean to Southampton. It was really fascinating and so decided to do it on the Queen Elizabeth. Something I recommend you do if one is on offer.
It started with the Executive Chef, James Abhilash, standing on the very grand sweeping staircase in the Britannia Dining Room giving some key facts about the kitchen and introducing his key Chefs.
Here are some of the key Kitchen & Food Fact he told us:
- Cunard, unlike most cruise lines, make everything from scratch including things like sauces, bread and rolls. Others tend to buy them pre or part made on shore..
- He reminded that while there are over 1500 passengers to cater for, he also has to cater for about another 900 people who are the crew on the ship. So the logistics are even bigger than most people think about.
- He has worked his way up through the ranks in catering on Cunard and across many of their ships, including the launch of the Queen Mary 2.
- Food Facts & Figures about the Queen Elizabeth: There are 140 chefs (!) and 68 Galley Cleaners! The latter work on 24 shift pattern. The numbers of people is not sup rising when they serve 40000 meals on a 14 day voyage. To do that they use 70 tons of fruit & veg, 18 tons of meat. They make 1680 pizzas, 11200 scones, 70000 cups of teas, 5250 bottles if wine are consumed.
- All the supplies are taken on board on roughly a 24 day cycle, almost always at Southampton.
Galley Layout and What you see on the tour
There are other levels to the Kitchen than the one you get to see. You don’t get to see where the food is prepared (although I did get to see that on the “Behind the Scenes” Tour on the last day, more about that in that article). The level of the kitchen you get to see if more the :assembly area”. This is where the food is assembled, either plated or in the case of starters and desserts made. This is what you see:
- Scullery. In here is a dishwasher than can do in 2 minutes what your dishwasher at home can do in an hour.
- Beverage Station. This is where things like butter dishes are prepared, rolls into baskets, water jugs filled and teas and coffees made.
- Garde Manger. This is a cold larder that is where cold dishes including salads and canapés are made and stored.
- Hot Press. This is the real hub of the kitchen during service as is where orders are placed and taken from. The final plating up is done, checked by the Executive Chef or assistant and head off into the dining room.
- Pastry. Here is where all there very delicious desserts and pastries are made. Those items that we cannot resist, and help pile on the pounds on every cruise.
- Production. You cannot really see into this area no the tour, but it is where the actual cooking takes place.
- Veranda Galley. Every main dining room or restaurant has its own galley where the main food items are prepared. There are 9 of these in total. On the tour you see the one for the Veranda Restaurant. Some of the other of the 9 dedicated Galleys are for the Grills restaurants, Lido. Golden Lion Pub, Britannia Deck 2 and Britannia Deck 3 – and importantly also one for the Crew.
Cunard Queen Elizabeth Kitchen Tour
Veranda Restaurant. You enter the Galley Tour from the downstairs of the Britannia Restaurant, and exit into the Veranda Restaurant. This is the alternative dining venue where you pay a surcharge to eat there, by item on the menu versus a flat fee other cruise lines have in their alternative dining venues. It focuses on French style food. The name Veranda comes from the original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary as they both had restaurants of this name. Cunard are looking to build a new icon and name, on the Queen Mary 2 it is a Todd English Restaurant. He is a celebrity chef in the USA.
The Kitchens are rightly proud of what they do, which is not only a logistics feat but also incredible food. The food on the ship is just outstanding. They put on various demonstrations of the skills and craft they have. After the tour they did a vegetable carving demonstration. This was about creating table and buffet centrepieces, but also how they trim and style vegetables for the meals that can be used at home too.
Towards the end of the cruise there will be an Ice Sculpture and Chocolate Feast. This is a famous event, and will be covered in a future article relevant to the day it was run on. It is spectacular.
The “Add Ons” and “Revenue Generation to get you to spend on-board
Like all cruise lines, Cunard works hard to get you to spend as much as you can on-board and with them. Especially with so much price cutting on cruises this is likely even more key than ever for cruise lines like Cunard. These are many and varied, and every day in the daily program and the accompanying leaflets left in your cabin there is always something to try and extract more money. saying that, it is not pushy and aggressive – but there are many activities and promotions. Of course there are the off shore tours but lots of additional add on opportunities. For example:
- Photos. Photos. Photos. When you board, when you get off at every port, around the ship posing for portraits. They cost around $24 each to buy and they clearly sell a lot. It does seem environmentally bad as they print every one even if not sold.
- Drinks and Coffee Packages. Like special coffee and sodas.
- Every day in the Royal Arcade will be tables set up to sell something in front of the shops already there. One day perfumes, the next day watches, the next day bags and so on. Personally I find these cheapen the place, but people seem to love them and buy a great deal from them.
- Spa Treatments. The Spa is massive, an clearly a big revenue earner.
- Behind the Scenes Tour of the ship $120. THis was, though amazing. More on that later.
- DVD of the Cruise. This is a compilation of mostly standard footage with some bits added shot on the specific cruise. But not tailor made in entirety.
- Gym Classes and Weight and Anti-Aging Seminars.
- Artwoks by Claredon. I do not understand why art sales do so well on cruise ships. But they do and so many events and sales drives for artwork.
- And so on.
As writing this, I am having a Canadian Club Whiskey on ice in our stateroom. One of the bottles of spirits we chose as part of the Queens Grill offer. The other bottle we got was Bacardi Rum. Next time think I will chose one of the Liqueurs.
When we went up to dinner around 7pm it was bright and sunny. By the time we had finished around 8.30pm we had entered a thick fog and it was so thick that the ship was sounding the Fog Horn at regular intervals. Something that will happen all night I suspect.
As we are heading so far north it does not really get dark in the summer. We are not going far enough to experience “Midnight Sun”, where the sun basically does not set in summer. The sunset tonight is 11pm, and sunrise at 4.30am.
Flaming Trolley at Dinner
Dinner was amazingly good again. Even more impressive having seen the scale of the kitchens. I had Caviar with all the trimmings, which I chose off the a la Carte menu. In Queens Grill you have a large menu each day for dinner, but can also chose from an even longer a la Carte menu if nothing takes your fancy. I just love the idea of having Caviar and have it a few times on a cruise on Cunard. For main I had Pan Roasted Cod. Mark had Duck A La Orange, which they finish up at the table when the Assistant Matre De brings a trolley with gas hob and fires it up. He was busy tonight with his trolley as also he was doing a flambé desserts at other tables.
We missed the show tonight. It was called “Vanity Fair”. A song and dance show by the Ship Theatre. It was packed and we got there close to start. So off to gamble instead!
Next Post will be: Day 3 Bergen: Gateway to the Fjords