The two-day event running alongside Seatrade Cruise Global was a hive of activity on the opening day Tuesday, as F&B vendors exhibited their products, ranging from seafood to pastries, bubble tea to wine and spirits and vegan ‘meats’ to chocolate.

‘Altering people’s perception of what F&B is about on cruise ships is a challenge: a lot think it’s about volume,’ noted Cornelius Gallagher Jr, VP operations, Celebrity Cruises. ‘A few years ago diet and gluten-free food was all guests worried about.’

More demanding guests

According to Richard Morse, SVP F&B, Carnival Cruise Line, ‘We are all food experts these days and guests are becoming more demanding. You need to cater to vegetarians, vegans, those with glucose intolerance.’ Added to the challenge, ‘You just don’t know week on week what is going to show up on the quayside when restocking the vessels at turnaround.’

Everything from scratch

Wes Cort VP, F&B operations, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, feels the cruise F&B sector does not get enough credit — the chefs onboard create every meal from scratch which nowadays is seen only in a few land-based restaurants and hotels.

The produce-sourcing challenge

Turning to key challenges, all panelists highlighted quality and quantity produce souring is one of the biggest hurdles. ‘I need quality and consistency from suppliers nd what we have learnt since the restart is we are all in this together,’ said Jacques van Standen, VP Global F&B Ops MSC Cruises.

All said the supply chain is now more stable but Cort added, ‘Guests are becoming less forgiving if their favourite food or drink brand is not onboard.’