Virtual cruise, real food

Karl Wells
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The Carnival Legend serves up delightful feasts

I’ve never taken a cruise, so my only knowledge of cruising is from what I’ve read or heard from friends and acquaintances.

I have, however, been aboard a cruise ship to have my curiosity satisfied about what these giant ships that visit St. John’s (and other Newfoundland and Labrador ports) in late summer or early fall actually look like on the inside.

This week, St. John’s was visited by the cruise ship Carnival Legend. I was invited by the Tourism and Culture Division of the City of St. John’s to take a tour of the ship and, more specifically, to speak with a member of the culinary team on the vessel.

This was the second time the Carnival Legend visited St. John’s. In her first year afloat, 2002, the Carnival Legend also visited St. John’s. That was when our local cruise ship industry was just beginning to take off. As of 2012, our provincial cruise ship industry generates $11.3 million in annual revenue. Cruise ships of various sizes now visit 23 different ports in Newfoundland and Labrador — from Red Bay in the north to even smaller ports along the province’s south coast.

Carnival Legend is 12 stories high and weighs 88,000 tonnes. She accommodates 2,200 paying guests and 920 crew members for a total of 3,120 people. The vessel has three restaurants: Truffles, the main dining room that accommodates 1,200 seats, Unicorn, the lido deck buffet restaurant, and Golden Fleece, a steak house.

Of 920 crew members, 400 of them work strictly for the culinary arts team. That’s a lot of emphasis on food, which is in line with what I’ve always heard about cruising. It’s really all about the food.

Senior maître d’

Goran Gjorgjievski is the senior maître d’ on Carnival Legend. He’s from Macedonia and began working on cruise ships in the late ’90s as a cleaner.

Eventually he joined the culinary side and rose to its management ranks.

He loves his job and knows everything there is to know about food and beverage service aboard Carnival Legend.

We met in one of the ship’s many lounges where Andrea, a server from Hungary, offered me a mimosa (champagne and orange juice) and several hors d’oeuvres: gazpacho with shrimp, and crab Napoleon.

It was early in the day but I could still appreciate the deliciousness of it all.

The crab, tasting of the shellfish as well as piquant tomato flavoured mayonnaise, was icy cold and presented in circular cut-outs featuring layers of crab separated by a layer of pale yellow gelée.

Each was topped with the yellow gelée, a dot of tomato purée and an herb leaf.

I asked Gjorgjievski to tell me about the various kinds of food served on Carnival Legend.

“Every day we have a different menu,” he said.

“This cruise (British Isles to Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland and New York) has been 15 days, so we have 15 different menus. Every day it’s a different taste of various nations.

“You also find common comfort food dishes which people appreciate and we also have items which we call, ‘Did you ever?’” Gjorgjievski said. “These are extraordinary items that people may never have dared to try before, and we give them an opportunity just to taste it. We have frog legs, alligator fritters, escargots and things like that. It’s quite a popular feature.

“During the day on the lido deck in the buffet area we have a different theme every day. Sometimes we have American, sometimes Mexican, Italian and Chinese food.”

When touring Truffles — Carnival Legend’s massive two-level main restaurant, with its chandeliers, marbled floors and golden columns — I saw staff laying the tables with linens, china, stemware and stainless flatware. It occurred to me that in addition to dish and pot washing, the crew also had to ensure a supply of freshly laundered and pressed linens daily. Goran Gjorgjievski was happy to give me the details of this operation.


“In our laundry we have a par level of linen that we have to maintain. After every meal the linen is washed. We have a cycle of six napkins per person, per day.

“The par level of tablecloths is established based on demands on table capacity. In fact the smaller tables are most popular and the turnover of small tables is high. So, the par level is maintained based on that. If one set of linen is sent down to be washed, one is on the shelves, one is in operation, and we have two additional sets on stand-by just to make sure we have sufficient supply.”

Altogether I spent about 90 minutes aboard Carnival Legend. Naturally, the most impressive part of the vessel for me was the main dining facility, Truffles. I’d never been in a restaurant able to accommodate 1,200 diners. All of those formally set tables and the room’s general glitter made an impressive sight.

Taking everything I saw into account, which included an ornate atrium lobby with glass elevator and a casino, I think it’s fair to say that the Carnival Legend is the closest thing afloat to a Las Vegas hotel, where increasingly they too are becoming all about the food.

• • •

For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells

Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute Magazine. Contact him through his website,

Twitter @karl_wells

Organizations: Tourism and Culture Division, Las Vegas hotel, Canadian Culinary Federation Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Red Bay, Golden Fleece Macedonia Hungary British Isles Greenland Iceland New York

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