Cool, slick and cosmopolitan, the intriguing capital of Finland is a Cunard favourite that’s well worth discovering.
In light of the Covid-19 situation, the recommendations and activities mentioned in this article are for the purpose of possible future cruise holidays. Please always refer to local government health advisories for travel.
A string quartet plays as white-gloved waiters process into the ballroom bearing teapots, cakes and scones. As the sun sets over the Tasman Sea, servers glide through a black-tie reception offering champagne and foie gras. A bartender caramelises a cocktail with a blowtorch; a bell jar unleashes billowing clouds of hickory smoke; a pastry chef demonstrates the fine art of working with chocolate to an eager crowd of guests.
Yet below the theatrical elegance of cruise ship dining lies a food and beverage operation on a scale that would put many hotels to shame. Mark Oldroyd, executive chef on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth liner, would usually oversee six restaurants, seven galleys and 234 kitchen staff who, between them, prepare more than 12,000 meals on an ordinary day for about 2,000 guests and 1,000 crew: fine dining dinners, afternoon teas, plus breakfasts, lunches, room service, salads and snacks, not to mention a smorgasbord of meals for both guests and crew.
Providing five or six different choices of appetiser, entrée and dessert every evening, including low-calorie and vegetarian options, to 2,000 people does not allow a great deal of room for improvisation, so the menus in the main restaurants and crew galley repeat on a 24-day cycle. Guests enjoy five or six different choices of appetiser, entrée and dessert every evening of those 24 days, but Oldroyd endeavours to offer local flavours alongside classics like rump steak or rack of lamb. In South Africa, guests might be treated to wildebeest, warthog or springbok; in Australia, he might track down Moreton Bay bugs, barramundi, kangaroo or local cheese.
Freshness, naturally, is key. After a trial on one of Queen Elizabeth’s sister ships, Oldroyd plans to grow micro-herbs on board, while he sources local fruits from suppliers in port to ensure maximum variety. “I’ll try and pick up as many seasonal things as I can as I’m going around, particularly fruits,” he explains. “In Hawaii, we got guava, lychees, jackfruit, sharon fruit and durian – which stunk the whole place out. In Polynesia, I got pineapple, mango and banana.”
This article was produced for Cunard by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News.
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