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Why Galley Tours are Useless

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*Warning: profanity implied within (only implied, but we’re talkin’ about sailors here…)

New York Stock Exchange on a Sunday night.

Bourbon Street on a Monday morning.

Cruise ship kitchen on a galley tour.

All are silent, empty sights unable to convey the absolute bedlam and pandemonium perpetrated there daily. The echoes have died, the detritus of maelstrom removed: ticker tape swept, bottles recycled, grills scraped. I understand the desire to join a galley tour, but it really is useless in understanding the function of the place. For cruise ship galleys are not about equipment, nor layout, nor routine. They are not about the useless statistics guides boast of, of zillions of dishes served in mere minutes, etc. Cruise ship galleys are about the workers sweating and swearing and stealing within.

Swearing and stealing? THAT never happened at the chef’s table inside the kitchen, you say. Yeah, and I’m sure your teenage kids behave exactly the same when you’re gone as they do when you’re watching. Galley tours are organized groups pulsing through shiny stainless steel corridors like blood pumping through a healthy heart; meal times are a violent cardiac arrest, with bodies straining against blockage. As time ticks by the heart palpitates and everyone and everything pushes harder, louder, more erratically. But bodies pooling by the front line have nowhere to go. Pressure rises and things turn ugly. Eventually at every meal something will rupture and waiters will scamper and steal every which way, like internal bleeding.

Too graphic a metaphor, you think? Hardly. It’s a jungle in there. Cruise ship waiters squabble over hash browns like hyenas fighting for scraps stolen from a lion’s kill. It’s survival of the fittest. I will never, ever forget the first time I was assigned to pick up the hot food at breakfast in the dining room on Carnival Conquest. I had been given sixteen orders simultaneously. So had everyone else. Simultaneously.

“Hi, chef,” I began, “I need, uh, six orders of eggs over-easy, two with pancakes, one with bacon, one with pancakes and bacon, two with sausage and bacon, and one with pancakes, sausage, bacon, and hash browns. I need two orders of eggs over-hard with pancakes and sausage, and…”

“New boy, out of my way,” interrupted another waiter. He bellowed, “SIX OVER-HARD, PANCAKES, BACON, BROWNS! Let’s go!”

“Hey, Filipino,” an Indian waiter chided. “Leave the guy alone. Chef, ignore him and the American. Help a fellow Indian. Give me four scrambled, two with browns, four with….”

“Rasclat, get your hands off my pancakes!”

“Hey!” everyone cried as a Bulgarian butt in.

“Those are my hash browns, you bastard! I need four scrambled, two with bacon, one with sausage, and one with browns.”

“F@*# you! Chef, are those my hash browns?”

“Kiss my ass, Euro-boy. Colonize someone else!”

“Hey, why are you giving him my eggs?” I asked. “America never colonized anybody.”

“You bomb everybody. Take my oil but not my eggs!”

“What blood clot took my over-easies? Chef, lay those eggs faster!”

“Do I look like a chicken to you? You know any black chickens, motherf@*#er?”

“Get your f@*#ing jelly off my tray, a$#hole!”

“How you say chicken in your white-monkey language?”

“F@*# you!”

“No, f@*# you!”

“F@*# you both. Were are my sausages? Not the f@*#ing links, the f@*#ing patties, blood clot!”

At that point everyone dropped civility and the language turned truly ugly. The kicker? Breakfast in the dining room involved only about 10% of the waiters aboard. Enjoy the tour, ‘cause you sure as Hell don’t wanna be in there during a real dinner.

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