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Copyright © 2004-Jeffrey R. Stern

All Rights Reserved.

The single most noteworthy aspect of cruising; the one that is most attractive to the passengers; the drawing card; was, always, the food!

When the major “entertainment†consisted of doing the Dollar Wine, Hula Hoop Contests, and stuffing fresh fruit into your bathing suit, there was always the food for compensation..

Most of the cruise lines, in the 1970’s, with the exception of Carnival, used a Miami company to furnish the complete food service. The company supplied all of the personnel involved in food, from the preparers and chefs, in the kitchen, to the maitre d’.

They supplied, and prepared, all of the food served onboard.

…..That company was Apollo Ship Chandlers, of Miami.

They operated the food services on the Britanis, and provided the same for a majority of the cruise lines, such as Chandris, Commodore, Dolphin, Majesty, Renaissance and a host of others. Each line prepared its own menus, and had a different budget, per passenger, so the food did vary from line-to-line and ship-to-ship. The one thing that did not vary, was the quality. It was always tops.

One thing that hasn’t changed, in the world of cruising, is the emphasis

on food. The theory is, that if you keep the passengers well-fed, with

good food, and keep it coming until they burst out of their clothing,

they will have a good time. Thus it was in the beginning, and thus it

is today. Amen.

The last holdout was Celebrity, which finally went in-house a few years ago. The only place you can sample their special food is on Discovery Cruise Lines day cruises, from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama. Apollo owns the ship and uses it to train its staff…

However, this is the exception to the rule that good food makes the cuise, and nothing else matters. The cruise is not a nice experience, despite the food!

As I said, Apollo catered the Britanis. Considering the fact that the Britanis was a budget ship, the food was, surprisingly, excellent. Starting with the Elephant Ear cookies on the Welcome Aboard Buffet, through the breakfast croissants, wonderful sandwich breads at lunchtime, to the basket of rolls at the Captain’s Farewell Dinner, the baked goods were superb…the best I’ve ever had on any cruise line, from budget to upscale. All of the baked goods were prepared aboard, and every item had a distinct texture and flavor. Strudels and croissants were flaky; rolls were soft, with crunchy crusts; and the various different cakes all were made from different batters.

Today, ships tend to use a prepared, “basic,†cake and add strawberries and topping, and call it Strawberry Short Cake. Take the same basic cake, put some crème in the middle and encrust the top with chocolate and, voila, Boston Cream Pie. You know what I mean. They look terrific, but all have a common texture and flavor.….

Dinner, the traditional “Main†and “Late†seatings, was a special affair. The menus were much like todays, but the food was less neuveau and more “hearty.†When you ordered the entrée, it came without any side dishes.

The bus boy, now called the Assistant Waiter, in todays’ politically-correct world, would come to the table with a tray of potatoes and vegetables, and serve as much, or as little, as you wished. Not two asparagus, draped over a baby yellow squash and two small chunks of non-descript potato, or a small puddle of rice, affectionately called risotto, but mounds of mashed potato, or a large baked potato, with all the fixin’s, and a pile of veggies, or two. “More, sir?†“Sure! Pile it on!â€Â

The bus boys were able to do this because they only had one waiter to work with; a team; four or five tables; one waiter; one bus boy; great service. Nowadays, the Bus Boys have become Assistant Waiters, and are spread a bit more thinly; usually, one Assistant for each two Waiters. And, the waiters have to service more tables.

Friday night was always my favorite, aboard he Britanis. Dinner, for me, was always the churrasco steak. Living in Miami, I am exposed to Latin food all the time, and believe I have discerning taste. Therefore, it is quite a compliment that I looked forward to the Friday dinner so much. However, it wasn’t the dinner steak that truly thrilled me; it was the Linguini, at the midnight buffet that was the winner!

About 11:45, the entire ship would begin to fill with the aroma of the olive oil, garlic, spices and herbs.… By midnight, when the dining room doors opened, the passengers followed their noses, like lemmings to the sea…. Down the stairs, and straight to the waiters, with their giant pans, browning the garlic, adding the linguini and herbs, and, gently, mixing it all up…. A fresh, crunchy, roll and….oh, well, what’s another pound, or two?

I have heard people, lately, complain that we expect too much of cruise ship food; after all, they’re cooking catering-style for so many people; let’s accept mediocre food; etc; etc; Well, it’s a myth! Apollo proved then, on all of the lines they catered that you don’t have to settle for less than excellent food and service. Even the smallest details were taken care of.

Celebrity has done a decent job of continuing the “Apollo way†of doing things, and has hired a number of former Apollo employees. They still put linen liners on all the buffet trays, so you don’t get a wet tray, and the silver and dishes don’t rattle or slide… No paper cups, plastic “silverware,†(By the way, they still have cushions on the lounges on the lido deck, around the pool!) Other lines, like Princess, that do their own catering, are a close second. They do an excellent job, even though it is “banquet style.†You cannot prepare true gourmet food on a scale that large.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about the present quality of the food/service. I’m only saying it could be better. For the most part, nearly all of the cruise lines serve food, and serve it well, that is as good as many restaurants back home. Better, in fact, than the very popular chain restaurants, such as Bennigan’s, Cheesecake Factory, and such. Better quality, in fact, than many land-based restaurants.

I’m just saying they could do better…..OK, the ships are a lot larger, and there are three-to-four times the number of passengers to feed.

On the other hand, I sometimes find the food and service to be the source of entertainment, around the dinner table…..

As you get to know your tablemates, just a bit, you will realize that these mavens of exotic victuals; these connoisseurs of epicurean delights; spend their Saturday evenings having dinner at Bennigan’s, Friday’s, a local Chinese restaurant or a pizza parlor. Yet, they complain that the escargot could use a little more (less) garlic, the brie is a bit sharp (dry…bland…) and the crème brulee just a tad on the runny side. Yeah, and their Jell-O instant pudding, back home, was just right….said the Baby Bear.



(If you missed any of the preceding chapters, and wish to “catch up,†you can click on the links below….)

Part 1 – Introduction;


Part 2 – Onto The Ship; Out To Sea


Part 3 – First, there’s The Food


Part 4 – Shooting The Dice


Part 5 – Places To Visit; People To See


Part 6 – Catching Cruise Fever


Part 7 – A Love Affair at Sea


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Hi DaCruzNut,

Isn't great to know that one will never starve on a cruise ship.

I'm a big fan of Carnival's food, but then again, I don't know anything else. :grin:

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I'm becoming a big fan of Carnival's food, also!

When i sailed on the Mardi Gras, many years ago, the food was pretty poor and I, actually, never got that full/stuffed feeling.

On my recent cruises aboard the Triumph, Fascination, etc; I put on a little more weight than I intended to.....

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