The Cruise Ship Galley – Feeding the Thousands

When it comes to preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 4,248 people every single day (day after day) you better know what you’re doing. It almost seems unfathomable from the outside looking in that it can be done. I always had a curiosity of HOW a cruise ship kitchen crew could feed that many people so successfully. So that curiosity is exactly why I recently took the ‘behind the scenes’ ship tour on board the Norwegian Escape. The Escape is one of the newer ships in the Norwegian fleet. My family thought I was crazy to spend $75 on a ninety minute ship tour, but to me it was worth it just to help understand the type of facilities and staffing required to feed so many people.

Wow… did I learn a few things. And to make it even better, all of the tour members were dubbed honorary chefs for the day!


The tour started in the galley where dozens and dozens of people were focused on specific tasks in different areas. The color of your scarf signified what level you were at in the kitchen. I saw black, red, white, and blue. Some people were not wearing a scarf at all, or as I like to call them, the newbies. All in all there were 865 crew slated for the galley.


See the guy in front? The black scarf said you were “the boss” – one of the executive chefs. Not sure why, but they didn’t smile much. I’m guessing because they were ultimately held responsible for the success of the galley.

The main galley was broken into 4 stations (with multiple areas for each station):

The Pantry – where they prepared cold appetizers, salads, sandwiches, canapés, the cold food items for the lunch and dinner buffets. This are also made all ice, vegetable and fruit carvings.

Fish, Meat & Poultry Stations – each protein is prepared individually at these different stations. The meat freezers (yes plural) that supplied these stations might have been bigger than the first floor of my house. Red meat and poultry each had their own specific freezers (yes, again plural).


Bakery – All bakery products are made fresh on board, operating 24 hours a day.


Pastry – All desserts and pastry items are also made fresh on a daily basis. Fun fact: over 500 lbs of chocolate are used on every cruise!


At the end of the tour they shared with us a typical “Shopping List” for the week:

2,000    lbs       Cereal
3,600    lbs       Butter
2,500    lbs       Pasta
6,000    lbs       Cheese
45,000  lbs       Fresh Fruit
3,900     lbs      Sugar
5,600     doz (72,200) Fresh Eggs
20,700   lbs      Fish & Seafood
1,000     lbs      Veal
1,000     lbs      Lobster
20,000  lbs     Poultry
25,000  lbs      Beef
1,300     gal      Ice Cream
3,000    lbs      Coffee
45,000  lbs      Vegetables
3,000    gal      Milk

I would imagine they must have a powerful software application like Total Party Planner catering software to manage a massive shopping list like that – not to mention many, many fork trucks to haul it all in.

So at the end of the day, I was more than pleased to witness the inner workings of the cruise ship galley first hand. AND even better… after sharing this amazing experience later with my family, they changed their mind about me being crazy to have spent the $75 on the tour.

Do you have anything to share about mass food preparation? We’d love to hear your story!