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10 things you didn't know about cruise ship kitchens and food


Unlike hotels where you can leave to eat at a nearby restaurant, a cruise ship functions as your primary source of food while onboard. Naturally, it's curious to be interested in the kitchen and what goes into making sure that thousands are people are satisfied with each meal. 

Every aspect of the dining experience has been carefully calculated by the cruise line, ensuring that there are enough supplies and variety for the duration of the sailing— and then some! 

Here are 10 facts about cruise ship kitchens and food that you probably didn't know! 

Read more: Your really dumb cruise ship dining questions answered

The kitchens are pretty high-tech


Did you know that on the upcoming Utopia of the Seas, there will be a laser-guided water gun to help cut pieces of cake? According to Linken D'Souza, Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Food & Beverage, this is to help make tasks easier for crew members, as the high-pressure water will do the work. 

And as newer ships come out, cruise lines strive to increase the efficiency of their kitchens. Onboard Icon of the Seas, for instance, D'Souza claims that there's new equipment that's never been seen on any Royal Caribbean ships before, such as machines that can cut a whole piece of steak or fish into portions, vegetable slicers, and more.  

Cruise ship galleys aren't your average kitchens


Kitchens onboard cruise ships are actually called galleys, and they're probably unlike anything you have ever seen on land. 

These massive kitchens have to be able to serve thousands of people for each meal, so preparation stations have to be a little bit larger than normal. Aside from the cooking itself, there has to be enough space to safely store all of the supplies and ingredients (and there are a lot of them, especially on the largest cruise ships at sea!).

The staff, including chefs, kitchen assistants, etc., also need sufficient workspace to perform their duties, and this wouldn't be possible in a standard kitchen. 

Bread is constantly being baked


To keep up with the demand for freshly baked goods throughout the day, galleys typically are in the process of making bread 24/7 (yes, this means they operate around the clock!). 

This helps them provide a variety of different selections, such as bread rolls, specialty breads, baguettes, and more. At dinner, you might prefer a roll, whereas when lunchtime the following day comes around, you might be craving a sandwich from the ship's deli. 

If these items were brought onboard at the beginning of the cruise, especially on longer sailings, they wouldn't taste as fresh at the end. 

Many cruise ships also have their own ice cream-making facilities 

Celebrity Food Ice Cream

Have you ever noticed that ice cream is usually a dessert option each night in the Main Dining Room? Up on the lido deck, you'll often find soft-serve stations, too. Onboard Utopia of the Seas, for instance, you will find vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate machines. You also have the option to combine flavors before heading over to the toppings bar! 

Ice cream may also be available in the buffet or a standalone shop, such as Cherry on Top onboard Carnival ships or Sugar Beach or Royal. 

In order to keep all of these venues stocked, it is important that the ship has dedicated ice cream facilities. 

If you don't see anything appealing on the menu, ask for suggestions or an alternative menu


There's no shame in having preferences and cravings. If you aren't sure what you are in the mood for, ask your waiter. They'll give you suggestions based on their favorite dishes on the menu, as well as what's most popular with guests. In the event that you simply don't see anything that you think would appease your taste buds, ask if there's another menu available. 

Most cruise lines have rotating menus, so you have different selections each night, meaning you don't have to worry about getting tired of the same offerings! If, however, you're someone who appreciates simple food, don't hesitate to ask for a plain chicken breast. 

When I was cruising onboard Carnival Conquest, my friend frequently chose to order off of the kids' menu. She found that she didn't care for the more sophisticated dishes and was perfectly satisfied with a cheese pizza and french fries. 


It doesn't hurt to see if they can modify menu items, either. Usually, if there's a sauce or other side that you'd prefer, they can make it happen! You do, however, have to have the courage to ask. 

Cruise lines strive to reduce food waste


Royal Caribbean Group is working towards reducing food waste across the fleet by 50% in 2025. In 2023, they were roughly halfway there, having reported that they had achieved a 24% reduction. 

Icon of the Seas is the most innovative ship in the fleet when it comes to the cruise line's "War on Waste." With the use of AI, chefs are able to see what's been produced, consumed, repurposed, and wasted, allowing them to understand the best way to make adjustments for the next batch. In essence, AI helps them measure food to predict how much the ship will need for the next sailing. 

It's not uncommon for cruise lines to donate excess food, either. In 2017, for instance, Costa Cruises partnered with Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus (FBAO) to provide excess food from their ships to organizations that specialize in food assistance to children and others. 

Read more: 10 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet

Cruise ships use a combination of fresh, frozen, and dry ingredients 


While passengers are boarding the ship on embarkation day, new supplies are being loaded on, too. That doesn't mean they won't stock up in other ports of call, though. 

"We are always looking to source local, and so the last couple of years, we've shifted a lot of our purchasing very domestically within [the] marketplace," D'Souza said.

"Fresh ingredients have always been the case, but now we've really shifted...we'll literally go and match products against our U.S. products and say, 'Okay, what works for us? How do we buy locally?'"


Of course, some items, like select meats, tend to be brought on frozen to last longer, whereas cheeses and fresh fruits have to be replenished more frequently. 

In some venues, such as specialty restaurants, you may notice a stronger emphasis on fresh ingredients. This is because since you're paying an upcharge, cruise lines try and save their best culinary experiences for these venues. 

Whereas in the Main Dining Room, you may be served a pasta dish made with dry pasta, an Italian specialty venue will most likely handmake the pasta that day. 

Read more: Top 10 Cruise Dining Mistakes

You can take a tour of the galley on your next cruise


If you want to have a look at the behind-the-scenes areas of a cruise ship, why not book an all-access tour? Note that this isn't included in your cruise fare and will cost extra! However, it's pretty neat if you want to learn more about cruise operations.

According to Carnival Cruise Line's website, the cost of their "Behind the Fun" Ultimate Tour is $130 per person, and, in addition to the galley and staff dining areas, you'll also be able to take a peek in the ship's bridge and laundry room! 

If this interests you, be sure to check your cruise planner, regardless of line, to see when/if it is available, as the tour tends to sell out pretty quickly! 

Read more: Cruise ship crew quarters: what are the areas onboard a cruise ship like for crew only?

Chefs onboard cruise ships are highly trained individuals 


On Icon of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, there are 425 chefs onboard. 45 of them can be found working in the Main Dining Room galley on Deck 3 alone (Icon has a total of 23 galleys!).

In order to feed thousands of passengers, they must be able to efficiently manage the preparation, cooking, and presentation of meals in a fast-paced environment. 

Oftentimes, menus onboard will also be curated by culinary celebrities. Recently, for example, Carnival has partnered with Emeril Lagasse to recreate their Main Dining Room menus, while Daniel Boulud helped craft signature dishes for Luminae, Celebrity Cruises' suite-only restaurant. Some chefs even have their own restaurants onboard, such as Guy Fieri.   

Cruise lines will often revise menus based off of customer feedback


Food is one of the most important aspects of any cruise, and if passengers are unsatisfied with the quality or diversity of the options, then they'll likely seek out a vacation on a competitor for their next sailing. 

For instance, before Royal Caribbean changed the Main Dining Room dinner menus fleetwide, they tested them on Symphony of the Seas to receive feedback. Before reaching that stage, however, they surveyed passengers to see what they thought of the menus. Carnival Cruise Line took a similar approach, testing new menus onboard Carnival Dream in mid-2023 before launching them on the entire fleet. 

Moreover, when Icon of the Seas launched, Pier 7, the new specialty restaurant in Surfside, was an á la carte venue. Less than one month into operation, however, the cruise line changed it to a fixed-cost venue. Now, you can order two dishes for $14.99. Additionally, Izumi in the Park is now included in the Unlimited Dining Package. On the maiden voyage, it was an extra cost even if you had the package! 

Suffice to say, if you're ever unhappy with the dining experience onboard your cruise, don't be afraid to say so in a survey. You never know if your comment will be one of many and actually result in some sort of change. 

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