Shopping for 9,000 Lbs. of Chicken

| Saturday, 24 Sept. 2005

We all like to shop, right? Clothing, jewelry and home furnishings are all items that make shopping fun. But, if you shop for food every week -- and if you've been doing it as long as I have, it has long ceased being enjoyable. It's simply another chore on your list.

Imagine, however, a food shopping list for 2,700 people. That's what David Armitage, a hotel manager with Royal Caribbean International, faces weekly. I conversed with this engaging gentleman on a recent Majesty of the Seas cruise and uncovered some fascinating details.

David began his career in 1971 as a purser on Royal Caribbean's Nordic Prince and has worked aboard nearly every vessel in the RCI fleet. When he began, there were no computers -- everything was done by phone and typewriter. Not even a calculator to simplify his tasks. How times have changed. Today, with a click of a mouse, everything he needs is at his fingertips.

Picture calling the butcher and ordering 11,000 pounds of beef, 9,000 pounds of chicken, 2,400 pounds of pork and 1,200 pounds of bacon. How about asking the fish market to set aside 2,100 pounds of shrimp, 1,000 pounds of salmon, and 2,200 pounds of fresh fish? Tell them you'll be by later with your U-Haul to pick it up! And of course, any liquor store would be thrilled to deliver 11,000 bottles of beer, and enough wine to fill 1,300 glasses. Some 22,000 drinks are sold weekly aboard the Majesty, and 8,000 of those are pina coladas!

The grocery list for Majesty of the Seas is very extensive. Everything from soup to nuts is calculated down to a science, and nothing is left to chance. Can you conceive of running out of sugar for coffee, or coffee while cruising at sea, hundreds of miles from Miami? "Unthinkable," says David.

While you disembark in Miami, ships are inundated by truckload after truckload of goods waiting to be loaded, everything needed to feed tens of thousands of cruise passengers. If your ship departs from San Juan, food is transported by container vessels. Cruise ships are also loaded in St. Thomas. So, while you are looking at carats in jewelry stores, carrots are loaded for your salad.

David also mentioned that storage warehouses are filled with crockery and silverware, as breakage is an ongoing fact of life aboard ship. An interesting side note: there are three RCL training facilities in Turkey, India, and the Philippines, for hotel, steward, and bar staff, affording men and women in these countries opportunities to earn a living and see the world.

Royal Caribbean's 142,000-ton Voyager of the Seas, carrying over 3,000 passengers, may be the next assignment for this dedicated "sailor," and can you imagine the grocery list for that mega-ship? Everything we take for granted at our home away from home falls under the direct supervision of this department, so trust me when I say that wherever David Armitage sails, passengers are in good hands. And, you'll never run out of sugar!

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