Dining is an important part of the cruise experience and so many cruise guests are curious about how so many meals are prepared each day on their ship. This has led a number of the cruise lines to offer galley tours. Some are mass, short walk-troughs while others are small groups tours done as part of longer behind-the-scenes tours. Some of these tours are complimentary and some involve an extra charge. In the latter category, Royal Caribbean has developed one that combines a tour of the galley with brunch and unlimited champagne (sparkling wine).
We did the Sip, Tour and Brunch on Anthem of the Seas, one of Royal's large Quantum class ships. Guests on Anthem consume a lot of food. On an average week, guests on Anthem consume 15,600 pounds of beef, 16,000 pounds of chicken, 10,517 pounds of pork, 4,000 pounds of salmon, 1,800 pounds of lobster and 11,000 pounds of other seafood. To go along with the main courses, the ship utilizes 62,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and 45,000 pounds of fresh fruits as well as 8,000 gallons of ice cream. 16,400 fresh eggs, 16,500 pounds of sugar and 16,500 pounds of flour are used. And there is some drinking: 17,000 bottles and cans of beer, 11,500 cans of soda, 2,225 bottles of wine, 1,500 pounds of coffee and 8,000 gallons of milk and cream.
Almost all of the food is taken aboard the ship on embarkation day and stored in vast refrigerated store rooms on lower decks. Only emergency items are picked up in the ports of call and even then they are usually flown in from Royal's supply bases in the United States. As a result, you can have the seemingly odd situations of a ship carrying lobsters to New England or bananas to Caribbean islands that grow bananas. However, this practice is actually quite logical for two reasons. First, taking on all the food at the embarkation port ensures that the ship will have the quantity of food it needs and that the food will meet Royal's quality standards. Second, this practice allows Royal to use its large purchasing power to obtain lower prices. This is good for passengers because it reduces upward pressure on cruise fares.
When the food is ready to be consumed it is brought to one of Anthem's 24 galleys. 280 cooks prepare the food. 385 waiters and assistant waiters then serve the food to the guests.
Before going on the Sip, Tour and Brunch tour, guests must sign a wavier. The galleys are cleaned frequently and as a result, the floors can be wet and slippery. Also, the stairs going between the galleys are steeper than the stairs in the public areas of the ship. Accordingly, the sipping part of the program takes place after the galley tour.
Guests going on our tour assembled in one of Anthem's four main dining rooms. We were then divided into groups of about 20 each and paired with either a chef or a restaurant manager.
Going through a door at the aft end of the dining room, we entered a much different world. Gone were the art work, decoration, carpeting and soft lighting of the dining room. In their place was a world of stainless steel appliances, rubberized flooring and industrial lighting.
Scurrying between the appliances were an army of men and women in white. The color of the bandannas they wore indicated their place in the galley hierarchy.
Unlike most cruise ships which have a single massive galley serving the main dining room, each of Anthem's four dining rooms has its own galley. The ship was designed around the concept of Dynamic Dining in which each of the dining rooms had a different menu. That concept proved unpopular and so the four dining rooms all now use the same menu. However, if you dine in the Chic dining room, your meal will be prepared in the Chic galley whereas your friend in the Silk dining room who has ordered the same items will have a meal prepared in the Silk galley.
Each galley is divided into sections where the cooks prepare specific items. For example, we saw a cook preparing rows of fruit plates and another working on a multitude of salads. There were stations where the main courses were prepared. In another area, vegetables were being prepared.
There are some parts of the galley that do prepare items for all the dining rooms. For example, we saw huge cauldrons of soup being prepared that were destined for all.
Although the appliances seemed quiet, the galley was quite noisy. Trolleys clattering along, people talking, fans blowing.
The last stop on the tour was at one of the waiters stations in the dining room. Here, our guide showed us a computer screen and explained that after the waiter takes an order, he or she goes to the screen and taps in the order, which is then communicated to the galley. The screen allows for considerable flexibility. For example, a main course could be ordered with or without sauce, with or without vegetables. If the guest wants something unusual to be done to his or her order, there is a box for special instructions. The cooks then prepare each item and put the finished product in a place for the waiter to pick it up along with a slip identifying it as that order.
Above: The galley is a world of stainless steel.
Below: Chefs preparing meals.
We were then shown to a section of the Chic dining room that had been set aside for guests in the Sip, Tour and Brunch program. A waiter appeared with a tray of champagne flutes. Some were filled with mimosa cocktails while others had just straight sparkling wine. The sparkling wine was typical cruise ship sparkling wine. The wine waiter appeared several more times during the meal, depositing fresh glasses of champagne or mimosa by each guest.
For the meal, the menu offered three courses. (See menu). It was about evenly divided between breakfast items and lunch items. You could mix and match. We enjoyed the smoked salmon starter and the French Toast main course.
The staff was very accommodating. Indeed, we had seen lasagna being prepared in the galley during the tour and remembering how much we liked Anthem's lasagna on previous cruises, we asked if we could have a plate. Our waiter obliged even though it was not on the Sip, Tour and Brunch menu.
Above: French Toast at the brunch.
Below: The cooks pose with Anthem's hotel director Ashley Quintal and the senior management of the culinary operation.
Cruise ship article/review - - Royal Caribbean - - Sip. Tour, Brunch