When Virgin Voyages asked me to lead the charge on the brand’s food and beverage approach, I could not have been more excited.
After having to work hard in previous roles to get sustainability prioritised, at Virgin Voyages it was clearly being placed at the forefront. As the Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations, I knew the brand mission of driving 'An Epic Sea Change' would not be easy. Still, it was an exciting challenge I was honoured to take on.
And here we are today, committed to being one of the cleanest fleets at sea. We are eliminating single use plastics for sailors, maximising energy and water efficiencies with the latest state of the art equipment onboard our ships, reducing waste, and making commitments to sustainable food sourcing. But how can we implement change when it comes to a core element of the sailing experience; eating and drinking in the over 20 eateries onboard? We knew we wanted food that was not only there where and when you want it, but also incorporates health and wellness, fosters and encourages connections between sailors and provides people with an element of discovery and indulgence here and there.
Rather than adhering to traditional cruise dining limitations, we decided to treat our ship more like a small city full of different culinary experiences – delivering an epic culinary journey that upholds transparent, ethical and responsible sourcing practices.
We are eliminating single use plastics for sailors, maximising energy and water efficiencies with the latest state of the art equipment onboard our ships, reducing waste, and making commitments to sustainable food sourcing.
Because for us, being responsible and delivering high quality experiences go hand-in-hand. We believe our sailors prefer the more thoughtful and curated, over the bigger and mass produced. That means no buffet and no main dining room – what that also means is much less waste.
Instead of the buffet we will feature a food hall style market, where everything is made-to-order and portion controlled to reduce waste. The main dining room will be replaced with multiple smaller a la carte restaurants, to eliminate the overproduction of food and deliver higher quality.
We want to give sailors a chance to discover new foods and savor old favorites, while also providing well-being elements promoting mind body and spirit.
Much like in restaurants on land, ours have head chefs who lead with a passionate made-to-order philosophy around food. Kitchens are designed to be highly efficient, with the best technology on the market to make the food production itself less wasteful, more energy and water efficient as well.
We want to give sailors a chance to discover new foods and savour old favourites, while also providing well-being elements promoting mind body and spirit. Because being good to our Earth is good for the soul too, we’ve eliminated unnecessary single use plastics, such as bottled water. In fact, we’ve reduced the use of disposables by more than 60 per cent in comparison to a ship’s standard operational usage, and we are committed to sustainable and responsible food sourcing practices.
To support this effort we choose our suppliers and partners very deliberately making sure we share the same values. That includes full supply chain visibility and knowing where our food comes from and protecting our oceans by sourcing sustainable fish and seafood. This also means procuring direct trade coffee and items that ensure that workers are paid a fair wage, serving cage-free eggs and humane certified products. Protecting our rainforests from deforestation through supporting responsibly sourced palm oil, soy beans, and beef while integrating locally sourced ingredients where possible.
Looking ahead we will continuously evaluate our food sourcing practices to provide the best quality products and support healthy food systems. We are also continually working towards more commitments which will revolve around specific menus for each restaurant, food quantities and food costs.
Beyond simply feeding people, we are rethinking the entire idea of dining while at sea, so sailors leave with memories that were made around the table. From experimental and haute cuisine to healthy quick bite options, the onboard eateries are tailored for sailors to realise new discoveries and transformative experiences.
In the end, sourcing responsibly and being naturally different as a brand encourages sailors to come as they are, be their wonderfully weird selves and always embrace the new. We know we will.