"Guests should never want for anything. Ever!"
Head chef Ashley Duff (left) and his number two, Ding
Ever wondered how much food a large cruise ship needs every day? Or how it restocks and processes everything? We took a look behind the scenes during the restocking of the Nieuw Statendam, one of the flagships of the Holland America Line (HAL).
7.45 a.m. on a Sunday morning at the Passenger Terminal in the Port of Amsterdam. The view towards the striking skyline of Amsterdam Noord this morning has been replaced by a high wall of shining steel. The Nieuw Statendam, one of the most modern cruise ships in the HAL’s ‘Pinnacle’ class is docked at the port. The majestic ship – 297 metres in length and 12 stories high – dominates the waters of the IJ. Passengers are having their breakfast in one of the huge restaurants on deck 9. The international potpourri of guests strolls among the many and varied buffets where they can choose from readymade culinary delights or order directly from the staff. For some, this is the last day of their cruise and they will shortly be disembarking.
For others, a day of sightseeing in Amsterdam and a few more days on board are still to be enjoyed. A wave of new passengers is also expected in the afternoon.
All of these globetrotters have one thing in common: they expect to be served food that is even better than what you would find in a five-star restaurant. And they won’t be disappointed. In the central galley, deep in the bowels of the ships, head chef Ashly Duff and his number two, Ding, are busy giving orders to their crew. They know not only how many guests they will have to feed before the next scheduled restocking but also exactly what their guests’ individual dietary requirements are, including those based on religious restrictions. In theory, they have to be able to cater for 2,650 different diets. And that doesn’t include the crew, another 1,036 mouths that have to be fed, too. They work closely together with Food and Beverage director, Iulian Grumeza, when determining exactly what they need to stock to make all of the exquisite food they will be expected to serve. Grumeza also keeps tabs on the stock of beverages they will need to have on board until the next stop.
“All of the food is delivered fresh. We keep very little stock in the deep-freeze and that is kept for emergencies”, explains the head chef, with no shortage of pride. “This ship is a floating hotel where food is transformed into cultural cuisine. The meals are one of the most important features of the entire cruise. The guests should never want for anything. Ever! Ding and I cook together with a team of 145 cooks around the clock because we also provide room service on board.” The Nieuw Statendam has more than one galley, of course. One of the kitchens is dedicated entirely to vegetables, one to preparing meat, and another one busies itself solely with fish. The ship even has its own bakery where they make fresh bread, including croissants – a very labour-intensive process.
Outside on the quayside, the rows of pallets and wheelie bins full of provisions continue to grow. Security personnel check everything for explosives and drugs. And there is even more stuff waiting to be unloaded from the trucks. The rules for loading are simple: whenever a ship calls into port, it expects all stocks to be ready and waiting for them at the same moment. Exactly how long a truck driver has to wait to unload depends on the cargo and the specific loading bay on the ship, all of which is the responsibility of the loading master, who, in turn, has to answer to the ship’s Provision Master, Pieter van Andel. His job is made even harder by the fact that some of the cargo is labelled using kilograms and litres and some in ounces and pints. You would also expect the ship’s cargo to be tied down firmly. Standing in the middle of all the pallet trucks going to and fro, Pieter explains why this is not the case: “The ship is so big that it moves around very little while at sea. And we always sail around bad weather, too. After all, where’s the fun in ploughing your way through a storm with 2,500 souls on board?”
Fork-lift trucks are busy going in and out of the large doors on the ship that open onto the quayside. A total of 12 trucks and 5 containers full of provisions are required to stock the ship for 14 days. Each day the guests consume up to 8,000 eggs, 900 kg meat and 400 kg fish and shellfish. Thousands of kilos of oranges, pears, exotic fruit and bananas are still waiting on the quayside to be loaded. Pineapples, melons, the list is endless: all fresh and waiting to go on board. Not to mention the thousands of kilos of vegetables that Duff and his crew use. And the 800 kilos of flour needed not only for bread but also for cakes, pastries and whatever else you can think of. The list goes on: pasta, rice, potatoes; gallons of wine, beer, Coca-Cola and fruit juices; the very best champagne and whisky.”
Where's the fun in ploughing your way through a storm with 2,500 souls on board?
Each pallet is checked for drugs and explosives
Audrey de Vette, Director HZ Logistics
“What you are looking at here, in fact, is the end of a gigantic logistical chain,” explains Audrey de Vette, who, together with her brother, is owner and director of the Dutch transport company H.Z. Logistics in De Lier. The company takes care of all European cruise transport requirements for HAL. “This is Dutch logistics at its best and that’s something to be very proud of: a Dutch transporter with Dutch trucks, looking after all the needs of a global shipping company.” H.Z. Logistics ensures that everything a HAL cruise ship needs in terms of foodstuffs and hotel commodities is ready and waiting on the quayside the moment the ship docks. “It’s a lot more complicated than supplying a supermarket, for example. It is exacting and diverse and there is absolutely no room for error,” says Audrey. “It’s all about knowing precisely what HAL requires in terms of supplies. We have to make sure that the goods are delivered to the right port at exactly the right moment. The process involves lots of customs documentation, so there’s an awful lot of paperwork.” Most of the goods are from Europe. “But we also handle supplies from the USA”, explains Audrey. “Those goods arrive in containers that we then have to pick up and deliver.” H.Z. works together with the logistics firm Frigo in Breda for this specific purpose. “The suppliers send the majority of their goods to Frigo, where they are combined into loads that we can collect for transport. That said, responsibility for the goods lies on our shoulders because we have to ensure that each supplier delivers exactly what was ordered. Some goods come from Hamburg and Italy and we pick those up ourselves.”
For H.Z., this is seasonal work that runs from March until October, after which the cruise ships head off for sunnier climes. That doesn’t make the work any less hectic, however. “For example, we never know exactly how much capacity we need to reserve. All we really know is which ports we will need to deliver to and when. Those ports include Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Southampton and Civitavecchia, near Rome. HAL does give us an estimate of the kind of capacity they will need for the season, but the actual volumes depend ultimately on the ship’s occupancy rate and the kinds of guests on board. This changes from week to week, which really keeps us on our toes. And as head chef Duff says: guests should never want for anything. Ever.”
ABOUT H.Z. LOGISTICS
H.Z. Logistics is a logistics company that provides comprehensive international and intermodal road transport services in several different countries. H.Z. also has a separate unit for special transport services and is a leading player in the supply of ships.
Head office in the Netherlands
Locations: UK, Romania, Poland and Austria
trucks mostly DAF