What Does It Take To Keep Cruise Passengers Fed?

Last updated on March 3rd, 2024 at 09:45 pm

Every week, thousands of people set sail on mega cruise ships, bound for destinations all over the world. What does it take to prepare thousands of meals each and every day, week after week. Let's get into the logistics of such a task.
buffet on a cruise ship
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Do you know the feeling of anxiety and chaos that accompanies having a group of guests for dinner? Now imagine being on one of the world’s largest cruise ships, like the Royal Caribbean’s, Symphony of the Seas, and serving 30,000 passengers three meals a day each and every day for a week!

Shopping for guests who are coming to dinner can be exhausting, so think about ordering for 6,600 passengers! The inventory manager on Symphony of the Seas has a $1 million budget for groceries each week to stock the ship’s many restaurants.

We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat

The food each week on Symphony of the Seas translates to 30 trucks with 500 pallets of food and drink. These provisions weigh in at about 600,000 pounds. What a nightmare putting that load of groceries away!

Food preparation never stops on most cruise ships. There is breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and at least one or two areas of 24 hour food and room service on top of that. For the chef’s and crew, it is all they do, mostly without a day off for the duration of the cruise.

A larger ship, like Symphony of the Seas will have over 200 chefs, about 1,000 staff and 36 different kitchens.

Check out this YouTube video to get a glimpse of what it would be like:

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How One Of The World’s Largest Cruise Ship Makes 30,000 Meals Every Day

How Much Do Meals Cost A Cruise Line?

A cruise ship will usually spend about $12 – $15 per person on food per night. About 6% of the fare paid by each passenger is what the cruise line expects to spend, on average, for their food.

This is a reasonable cost, and it would be difficult on land to replicate the cost per person. Cruise lines benefit from economies of scale and keep the costs down because they buy in such incredible bulks.

Cruise lines often complete the same journeys with similar passengers, and this commonality enables them to predict the amount of food, and the type of food, with a high degree of accuracy. This helps cut down on waste, and most cruise ships do a good job of keeping waste to a minimum.

Cruise Ship Meals By The Numbers

Here are some of the amounts that a large cruise ship, like Symphony of the Seas, goes through in a seven day cruise.

  • 1,500 lbs of coffee
  • 60,000 eggs
  • 9,700 lbs of chicken
  • 15,000 lbs of beef
  • 18,680 hot dogs
  • 700 lbs of ice cream
  • 20,000 lbs of potatoes
  • 2,100 lbs of lobster tails
  • 12,600 lbs of flour
  • 2,500 lbs of salmon
  • 5,000 lbs of french fries
  • 5,300 lbs of bacon
  • 12,000 lbs of flour tortillas
  • 2,000 lbs of wings
  • 2,000 lbs shrimp
  • 4,850 lbs of strawberries
  • 8,800 lbs of tomatoes
  • 21,000 ice cream cones
  • 44,000 bread rolls
  • 67,500 pastries

It’s Not Just Bread And Water

All of that food makes a person thirsty, so just in water alone, there are almost half a million gallons of freshwater consumed each day.

To keep the water cold, 120,000 pounds of ice cubes are generated each day, too. That is in addition to the 28,000 bottles and cans of beer served!

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Even though Betty Crocker liked to bake, she would have found it a daunting task to keep up with the 40 types of fresh baked bread and over 100 kinds of pastries made each day.


Infographic from Symphony of the Seas

Combating Food Waste On Cruise Ships

Most cruise lines, especially the larger lines, take various measures to avoid food waste.

Royal Caribbean has proprietary technology that tracks how much food is being wasted. One of the strategies used is to weigh pans of lasagna before and after they are served. Depending on the information gained, RC amends production accordingly.

Royal Caribbean also uses point-of-sales data to help forecast how much food will be used based on passenger demographics, their itinerary or other information.

For example, if a cruise has a good portion of kids aboard, Disney is one such line, they automatically know that they are going to need significantly more chicken fingers than if the majority of passengers were adults.

Cruise lines take various measures to avoid food waste, as it is not only environmentally responsible but also helps them reduce costs.

Here are some common practices and strategies employed by cruise lines to minimize food waste:

Menu Planning

Careful menu planning is crucial to ensure that food is ordered and prepared in quantities that can be consumed by passengers.

Cruise lines often design menus that minimize the use of ingredients that spoil quickly.

Portion Control

Cruise ships typically serve meals in controlled portions to reduce the likelihood of leftovers.

Buffet-style dining areas may have staff members who portion out food items to prevent excessive servings.

Real-Time Monitoring

Some cruise lines use technology to monitor food consumption trends in real-time, helping them adjust food production accordingly.

Donation Programs

Many cruise lines have established partnerships with local charities or food banks at ports of call to donate surplus food that can’t be used onboard.

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Staff Training

Crew members are often trained to be mindful of food waste and may receive training on portion control, food handling, and preservation techniques.

Recycling and Composting

Cruise ships often have recycling and composting programs to manage food scraps and packaging waste more sustainably.

Repurposing Leftovers

Leftover food can sometimes be creatively repurposed into new dishes or incorporated into staff meals to minimize waste.

Sustainable Sourcing

Cruise lines may prioritize sourcing food locally at port destinations to reduce the need for excessive food storage and minimize waste.

Guest Education

Some cruise lines educate passengers about the importance of reducing food waste and encourage them to be mindful of their own consumption.

Food Waste Tracking

Cruise lines may track and analyze food waste data to identify areas where improvements can be made and set goals for waste reduction.

Adjusting Menus

Cruise lines might adjust menus based on passenger preferences and consumption patterns to minimize the production of less popular dishes.

Portion Customization

Some cruise lines offer passengers the option to customize their portions, allowing them to choose smaller portions to reduce food waste.

Final Thoughts

The astounding amount of food needed on cruise ships is a testament to the complex logistical operations that sustain these floating cities. It provides passengers with diverse culinary experiences and cultural immersion.

However, it also highlights the importance of responsible food management to minimize waste, reduce environmental impact, and ensure the sustainability of this remarkable industry.

Cruise lines seek to balance the extravagance of onboard dining with sustainable practices that make for a fun and enjoyable vacation.

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Joy is the Co-Founder & Content Manager/Expert for and one of the founders of the site. She loves to travel, sing & bake.


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