Holland America Line MS Ryndam Ship’s Galley – Catering Tour

Fruit preparation - Holland America LineTen o’clock Sunday morning and passengers bound for the next sailing aboard this Holland America ship are finishing off breakfast, working out in the gym, or relaxing on deck during the first full day on board. But in the ship’s galley on Deck 7, the catering team are hard at work preparing food for the ships many restaurants and cafes.

This size of ship – which includes the ms Maasdam and ms Veendam – is classed as a mid-sized and 90% of food for the c.1250 passengers and 600 or so crew is prepared on board. I’ve been invited behind the scenes for a closer look and if you’re a passenger who’s interested in how food gets from quayside to galley to table, ask about Holland America Line’s guest tours of the galley. Whilst not always possible on 7-night cruises, they are usually offered on 14-day itineraries.

As we head through the ‘Staff Only’ door, the ship’s Catering Operations Manager wows me with some statistics. The ship employs 84 galley staff under the supervision of their Executive Chef, with a further 97 service staff across its fine dining restaurants, self-service buffet and other food outlets.

Champagne Sailaway with added white chocolate - Holland America LineOn embarkation day, the ship can take on up to 250 pallets of food and drink, and the figures are mind-numbing – 8,500 lbs of meat and meat products; 3,814 lbs of poultry; and 1,875 lbs of fish on this 7-night trip alone. Over the course of this week, passengers will munch their way through 4,750 lbs of potatoes, more than 18,000 eggs, and 200 gallons of ice cream, washed down by up to 1,600 bottles of wine, 450 bottles of champagne and sparkling wine, and 280 cases of water.

Around 70% of the food is sourced in Europe and the rest in the US, where the company is based, supplemented by small amounts of local produce en route.

Quantities are worked out well in advance and adjusted according to the passenger mix of each cruise. With high numbers of British passengers on this trip, for instance, the ship will take on greater quantities of PG Tips than for a Caribbean itinerary with a larger proportion of American guests. Occasionally, a sudden run on a particular food item will be solved by a last minute call to an agent in an upcoming port, but there’s one thing the ship must never run out of: “Most of the crew are from Indonesia and the Philippines, so we always need plenty of rice on board”, I’m told. “More than 2,000 lbs for this week alone!” 

Lemon decorations - Holland America Line

I’m introduced to staff who are deftly peeling and preparing fruit for the buffet tables and I stop to watch one who is turning out edible table decorations from cucumbers, carrots and peppers. I find out that the bakery turns out 4,000 rolls a day in a round-the-clock operation, and when I’m invited to try a handmade chocolate and a freshly baked cookie, temptation wins hands down over diet and I succumb to both.

But the galley isn’t just about cooking. There’s all that cleaning up afterwards. My own domestic dishwasher looks like a child’s toy in comparison to the pot washing machine on the ship, and the thought of blitzing thousands of plates a day with a flexible hose is more washing up than I ever want to contemplate. All the equipment here is designed for maximum efficiency and hygiene, and I’m glad I’m not paying the bill. I’m shown three massive high tech ovens costing $40,000 each.

Surf & turf - Holland America LineThe ship operates a menu cycle of 7-7-14, which equates to two week-long cruises and a fortnight’s itinerary, and all main dishes are pictured on a photo wall in the galley so that everyone knows exactly how they should be presented. I’m talked through the automated ordering system that links serving staff in the restaurants with their colleagues in the galley, whilst syncing with the supplies team to ensure that none of the stocks run low. 

It’s been a fascinating insight into a high tech operation designed to provide the best in traditional service, and as the week goes by, I really appreciate the food and drink that appears before me, from the Surf & Turf in the restaurant to the daily pastries in the café, the Crème Brûlée trio in the grill and the breakfast buffet of exotic fruits, Full English Breakfast, and freshly made omelettes.

And as I relax in the Crow’s Nest bar for a final ‘Champagne Sailaway’, I am grateful to the person who dunked the top of the chilled glass in white chocolate, the person who poured my champagne, and even to the person who loaded it on in the first place. All done for my benefit and very well worth the effort!

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Holland America Line

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Gillian Thornton

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