How 30,000 meals a day are made on the world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas

  • Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas has a weekly passenger list of at least 6,600 vacationers every week.
  • A culinary team of 280 chefs run the kitchens 24/7, with each chef working 10 to 12 hours a day to feed their guests on the cruise ship.
  • Cooking and prep work is divided between 36 kitchens, with main storage and prep kitchens off the ship's secret highway, I-95, which runs the entire length of the ship on deck two.
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Following is a transcription of the video.


Narrator: Every week, over 6,600 people vacation aboard the world's largest cruise ship. And all those people need to eat three, four, eight times a day.

Allan Gentile: You have to calculate. There is breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus snacks, plus night, plus all 24-hour food all around. And that never stops.

Narrator: Ship kitchens run 24/7. Manned by a culinary team of more that 1,000 people, they dish out over 30,000 meals every single day. And they do it all from compact kitchens on a rocking ship. So how does all this food make it to the plate?

We'll start on the loading dock on a Saturday. This is turnaround day, when all new food is delivered to deck two.


Jaret de Silva: This is basically a place that you would not like to be on on turnaround when we are loading. It's busy, busy, super busy.

Narrator: That's Jaret. He orders food for the ship's 23 different restaurants. Every week, Jaret's got a $1 million shopping budget. All of that is just for seven days of food. Sometimes Jaret will tweak his orders based on who's coming aboard. More kids means more chicken fingers.

De Silva: That's how the operation runs. We monitor it on a daily basis, what has been used, what has not been used. And then we adjust our orders accordingly. But by in large, being in Miami, having the same number of people, it's almost the same every cruise.

Narrator: On turnaround day, 30 trucks arrive at Miami Port. They're carrying 500 pallets worth of inventory, and all that has to be loaded onto the ship by 4 p.m.

De Silva: Any delay in our operation can hamper the sail away of the ship, which is, again, a big logistic requirement.


Narrator: Over 600,000 pounds of food and drinks are provisioned for just one week of sailing. Once on board, everything is moved along the ship's secret highway. This is I-95, and it runs the entire length of the ship on deck two.

De Silva: We separate all the stores to the different locations that they are supposed to go. We have about 20 different storerooms, divided into freezers, fridges, walk-in fridges, and dry stores.

Narrator: Seafood, meat, vegetables, and fruit are all divided and stored in separate fridges.

De Silva: If you come towards the end of the cruise, this box will be almost empty with a few fruits that are needed for two more days, which we keep as backup stock.

Narrator: There are also six freezers. That's where the 700 pounds of ice cream that'll be eaten each week are stored. Dry goods are stored down on deck one.


De Silva: Full of spices, full of chocolate in this storeroom, coffee, it's nice to be in this storeroom.

Narrator: An elevator gets the food downstairs. Jaret's team checks all of the food for quality control every day. If produce is ripening faster than expected, they try to work it into another meal. For example, overripe broccoli could go into broccoli cheddar soup instead of being tossed. Once inventory is stored, restaurants on upper decks put in food orders with Jaret. Chefs will come downstairs, pick up their order, and cart it away to be cooked. That's where this guy comes in.

German Eladio Rijo Rijo: Any food on board this beautiful ship, anything you're eating, is my responsibility. Whenever you have beautiful potato fry, it's mine. Rice is mine, pâté is mine, pastry is mine. Salad, shrimp, whatever you're eating is my responsibility.

Narrator: Rijo's team of 280 chefs run the kitchens 24/7. Each chef works 10- to 12-hour days. Contracts typically last four months, without a single day off.

Rijo: Some of the people start to work at 8:00 in the morning all the way to 2:00, take a break, come back again 5:00, feeding by 9:30. Then other group starts to work at 10:00 in the night, all the way to 10:00 in the morning. So we cover day and night productions.


Narrator: Chefs on board cook up nearly 100 different menus every week. All the menus are developed at Royal Caribbean's Miami headquarters. And every week, chefs stick to the same rotation of menus, cooking up everything from racks of lamb to hand-rolled sushi. The food has to be diverse to match Symphony of the Seas' international passengers vacationing at all kinds of price points.

Rijo: We try to please everybody and to make sure that everybody find what you're looking for.

Narrator: All the cooking happens in 36 kitchens, or galleys, as they're called on a ship. There are 12 specialty restaurants on board, costing up to $50 a person, and each of those restaurants has its own small galley. In those tight quarters, chefs crank out the same menu every day. At Jamie's Italian, it's fresh pasta. At Hooked, it's over 2,000 oysters shucked per cruise.

But the largest amount of food is reserved for the main dining room, which spans three decks and serves up to 6,000 people a night. Eating here is included in your ticket. Before food heads up to the main galleys, it starts in one of the prep kitchens. Off I-95, there's a butcher shop.

De Silva: Butcher! Good morning! These are the gentlemen looking after all the meat cuts.


Narrator: The butcher goes through about 15,000 pounds of beef and 9,700 pounds of chicken each week. There's also a veggie-cutting room and a fish-thawing box. Lobster is the most popular dish in main dining. The ship goes through about 2,100 pounds of lobster tails every week.

Finally, the food heads upstairs to the main galley. The ship's biggest kitchen is broken down by categories. Desserts, bread, cold food, and hot food. In dessert, chefs whip up cakes, chocolates, and 100 different types of pastries. Over in the bread bakery, they make 40 different kinds of bread from all over the world, all from scratch. But the real hustle comes just before the dinner rush. 6,000 hungry passengers in the main dining room.

Remember Rijo? Before dinner prep starts, he has to approve all the dishes.

Rijo: Good afternoon.

Chefs: Good afternoon, chef.


Rijo: How are you, chefs?

Chefs: Good.

Rijo: Good.

Narrator: Rijo tries each dish and gives his critiques.

Rijo: We're going to put a little bit more fennel, a little bit more garlic, a little bit more herbs.


Very, very good. So this is what we're looking for.

Aioli. Aioli, we need to put a little bit more for today. Yeah? You can see, chef, how it looks. Yeah? Take a note. Don't forget.

That's what I'm talking about. All right. Beautiful, beautiful.

We don't have any challenges. So we are ready to go?

Chefs: Yes, chef.


Rijo: Está bien? Chefs, thank you so much, and thank you so much. I look forward to having a beautiful night tonight. Thank you. Have a beautiful day. Bye-bye.

Narrator: Chefs take his notes and get cooking. Chefs can see a tally of each dish ordered up on screens. The system also keeps track of how much inventory is used. In the cold room, salads and appetizers like carpaccio come together. In the hot room, chefs dish out soups, sauces, sides, and mains.

Andreas Dymke: We have two kinds of chefs. Chefs working here on the line, which is close to me, plating up, and chefs on the stove cooking. So, everything we do is in batch cooking. So basically, we grill the steak there. We pass it over to the pass. The person on the pass is plating it up to the requested temperature. That means, always, that the guests are getting fresh food, and from an operational point, we don't have any overproduction.

Narrator: Finally, waiters deliver those dishes to hungry passengers out in main dining. Between the chefs, inventory crew, waiters, and dishwashers, it takes a team of 1,085 people to keep this massive operation going. Together, they cook nearly 11 million meals each year. And they're doing it all on a moving ship.

Gentile: The ship is rocking, then all the equipment is built to the ship rocking. And in whatever moment, maybe the ship moves, somebody don't put one break in one trolley, and you see that trolley flying away. It happen. That's why all the cooks always pay attention with that.


Narrator: But if crew members are doing their job right, passengers won't even know any of it's happening. They'll just get back to eating their eighth meal of the day.