A recent post on the Cruise Critic Message Boards from a member expressing her shock that the food on her cruise was – wait for it – frozen, got a lot of responses from members.
Most of them were very gently ribbing her about fresh fish caught at night with nets strung from the back of the ship and cows mooing softly in the hold.
Our favorite funny response came from nukesailor who wrote: “The snails used for escargot are raised free-range on a ranch in the Midwest. A couple of times a year the fully-grown ones are rounded up and herded to market. This takes a looooooooooooooong time. Or course, there’s always the dangers of snail rustling or, if spooked by a whiff of garlic, a snail stampede. Not a pretty sight. They can run as far as a hundred feet in a week, leaving slime trails everywhere. Terrible slip hazard.”
I hate to shatter illusions about delicious, fresh food on a cruise but like the many members who jumped in with kind but firm responses – yes. The food on your cruise is frozen.
Tripkat, the member who posted the question could be forgiven for thinking back to the old days before deep freezing had been invented and ships would indeed set off on voyages carrying live chickens and perhaps a goat for milk and, ultimately, a nice barbecue on deck. Sailors would drink rum and beer, as there was no means of desalinating seawater, and would often develop scurvy from the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The reality is cruise lines are depressingly poor performers when it comes to food miles – or how many miles were travelled and how much fossil fuel was burned to get the food on the table. Most of the American-operated lines even ship in all their meat and fish from the US, even when their ships are sailing in Europe.
But that doesn’t detract from the quality of the food, which can be world class — and in some cases better than what you would get on land.
The simple fact is, it all comes down to food hygiene, what’s acceptable to the passengers – and economies of scale. And frankly, as many members on the forum point out to Tripkat, if you’re on a two week cruise that only loads provisions at the beginning, would you really want to be eating two week-old meat by the end of it?
There are a few exceptions to the frozen food situation, but even these are not what they might seem. Smaller cruise lines and river cruisers, which carry far lower numbers, often promote tours to local markets in the company of the chef. It’s a lot of fun watching the chef haggle for industrial quantities of local fish and cheese, and armloads of fresh herbs. And yes, it does appear on the menu, and you do get a taste of local food. But really, much of this is show.
One ship that does genuinely serve local, fresh food is Hebridean Princess – but with a maximum passenger number of 50, it’s not as herculean a task as feeding 4,000 passengers on a mega-ship.
Does it bother you that cruise food is frozen? Sound off in the comments.