It’s lunchtime on day six of our maiden 8-day voyage aboard the Carnival Sunshine and I’m going in for a salad from the Lido Marketplace because to this point, I’ve been a drum in the meat parade that’s been beaten pretty soundly by Guy Fieri.
Back on land, 6-day-old lettuce in the fridge leaves everything to be desired but what I found in the buffet bins upon the Sunshine were deep reservoirs of crisp, bright green leaves. This was astounding because I do the grocery shopping at home. I’ve seen the bags of lettuces in the produce aisle. It made no logical sense that the Carnival Sunshine could be serving its floating guests fresh bowls of romaine, iceberg and spring mix this far into this journey, but there it all was. I had to do my best Huckle Cat impersonation and get to the bottom (literally) of this mystery. That’s a Busytown Mysteries reference if you’re keeping score at home.
I finished my green goodness cleanse and sought out the PR rep who was sailing with our group. I had to know how, whilst hundreds of miles and nearly a week away from home, I’m able to eat a salad of anything but browning bits of limp lettuce leaves.
What’s the secret to how Carnival Cruise ships keep food fresh for the duration of a 5, 8, 10 day cruise?
As we made our way to Grand Turk, the 3rd and final port stop on the Sunshine’s Southern Caribbean journey, some 3000 passengers clamored for spots in the sun, in chaise lounge chairs around the pool and on the SportsSquare shuffleboard and basketball court, but not me. I waited with a couple of security guards and the Carnival Sunshine’s chef de cuisine in the 3rd deck lobby bar as calls were made, clearances checked and my intentions verified. Such is the protocol when proprietary process is involved. I was minutes from an exclusive behind the scenes tour of a Carnival Cruise ship kitchen (or galley as it’s called on a ship), bakery, and food storage areas deep in the bowels of this 102,000-ton vessel.
What I discovered down in the Carnival Sunshine galley was a finely tuned machine of checks and balances, passion and precision by a dedicated staff of hundreds (146 chefs in all!) working damn near ’round the clock to keep thousands of guests fed and happy. What I discovered specifically in regards to my salad query that started this adventure were boxes upon boxes upon even more boxes of fresh heads of lettuce kept just this side of icy cold, and chopped by hand every single day. There were no bags of triple rinsed still-moist leaves like those that now line grocery store shelves. Every leaf of lettuce (many of those found on the 8,400!! heads of iceburg lettuce) that’s loaded onto a Carnival Cruise ship for an week long cruise is stored dry and fresh, waiting to be washed and chopped daily. Same goes for the 17,250 tomatoes. 17K!
I was amazed, and, not coincidentally, hungry for another entrée-sized lunch salad from the Lido Marketplace several decks above.
For years I looked down on cruising as a means of travel mainly because of my perception of the food on board. I already knew those judgments were cast foolishly by day two of our Sunshine trek but Carnival really blew me away during this rare peek inside the process of storing, preparing and serving meals to thousands all while barely touching land to restock. I mean, EVERYTHING is made fresh, from the 32,500 pastries per week to multiple soups daily to the chocolate covered strawberries which are being HAND DIPPED EVERY DAY!
In just a few days we’ll walk onto the newest ship in Carnival’s fleet, the Vista, and yes, I will probably belly up to a Guy’s Burger before too long but I’ll also be helping myself to many a freshly made salad because 1) that’s waaaaay healthier for me and 2) I know how much care goes into ensuring those lettuces are crisp, clean and delicious throughout the entirety of the cruise.