My transatlantic travels

You are probably wondering what on earth any sane person could possibly do for 6 days at sea?  Well, quite a lot actually!

As a Strictly Come Dancing fan of course I had to do the dancing lessons.
Then there were the art classes – 4 of our party went every day, and we had a competition every evening for the best painting of the day.
Shuffle board and Quoits on deck gave us more than our fair share of fresh air.
And with 3 circuits of the promenade deck equalling more than a mile (and a fully equipped gym if you were really keen) there was no excuse for lack of exercise to work off maybe a tiny fraction of the food that was on offer 24 hours a day if we wanted it.

Our trip was to celebrate the Silver Wedding Anniversary of some close and dear friends.  So we had plenty of opportunity for celebrating. Every evening was like a special occasion, with posh frocks and DJ’s. And with food and service to match. Catering for some 2500 covers per night in our restaurant I was amazed at the quality of the food – how did they manage to get chateaubriand so perfectly cooked to all our varying requirements on such a scale.  My previous visit to P&O’s Arcadia gave me an insight into the sheer logistics of such an operation – ordering food stuffs at times 6 months in advance for it to be in port when they arrive.  Certainly no nipping down to Tesco’s here!

The standard of hygiene and cleanliness was very impressive.  Naturally I asked to see the galley, and it was immaculate.  The immaculate galley on board QM2Apparently everything is cleaned to a standard that most operations would only do on a deep clean basis – every single night!  This does have its logistical problems.  It imposes very strict deadlines on last orders, so that fryers and hot plates can cool down sufficiently in time to be cleaned.  However there were plenty of alternative restaurants serviced by other kitchens once one had closed.

The other impressive aspect was the loyalty of staff.  Many had been there for years, working for anything from 2 month to 8 month stints before having a break.  Each time they returned they would undergo 3  weeks of refresher training.  Not just the usual food safety and health and safety, but everything else associated with responsibility for 2500 passengers when you are stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Why did they do it? – Because they were well rewarded, training and promotional prospects were good and they were all well treated.  There must be a lesson in here somewhere.

Did they get everything right? Well, not quite.  The buffet food court area was a shambles and resembled a down market cafeteria.  Basic customer flow had been completely ignored, so everyone was back and forth causing congestion.  And for some reason you couldn’t get a cup of tea for love nor money at breakfast – coffee was no problem and came within a milli-second of sitting down – but ask for tea and you’d nearly finished your full English by the time it arrived – it seems they were short of teapots!

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