How a Cruise Ship Feeds 4,000

              â€¢ 230,000 bottles of wine, plus 1.5 million other drinks
              â€¢ 55,000 pounds of coffee
              â€¢ 7,000 boxes of strawberries (and I don't mean pints)
              â€¢ 38,000 pounds of smoked salmon
              â€¢ 198,000 pounds of pineapples
              â€¢ Enough beef to supply the city of Southampton (UK) for one year

And did you know that during a 2005 transatlantic crossing, the Queen Mary 2 carried in a locked steamer trunk the first U.S. copy of J.K. Rowling's book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince , autographed by the author? Or that by custom every shipyard employed a dwarf because in photos the smaller the man the larger the engine looked? Or that the most dangerous voyage of any ship is from land to sea?

Stefan says it would be boring to go back to working at a land-based hotel after his experience on the Queen Mary. Everyday brings a new challenge and requires you to be proactive and resourceful. For example: A few years ago departure was delayed by five hours because the truck transporting the beef and lobster tails to the ship was in an accident. The passengers were very understanding. Three weeks ago, two hours before sailing the ship had no milk, due to an ordering error. Stefan organized an emergency last-minute delivery of 1,200 gallons.

Even though the ship is very large and the passengers number over 2,700, the waitstaff, maitre d's, and wine stewards seem to recognize everyone and recall preferences and prior conversations. They are eager to please without being in the least obsequious. Quite the opposite of Bemelmans' Mespoulets, one of my favorite fictional characters from one of my favorite (Belgo-Austrian) writers.

I have resolved to find a copy of Hotel Splendide to send to Karl and Stefan, both Austrians who have spent time in the kitchen of grand hotels. [Curator's note: Hotel Splendide is required reading for anyone interested in food and restaurants and general Mitteleuropa naughtiness, and a complete must for a summer porch or hammock.] Traveling in the company of such kind, attentive people makes you want to sail more often.


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