Indulging On Food & Viking History On HAL's MS Ryndam

11 June 2015

Welcome to the engine room of the MS Ryndam. Not the one with all the mechanics and men in overalls, the real engine room. The kitchen is the heart and soul of any cruise ship.

It’s our first sea day on the Holland America Line's seven-day Vikings Sagas cruise from Harwich (about three hours from London) to Norway and back.

 One of the ship's lounge areas (all images: Holland America Line)

Such is the interest about what happens in the kitchen these days thanks to reality TV shows like MKR and MasterChef, about 10 per cent of the 1,200 passengers have gathered for the tour.

In terms of numbers it takes 181 people (84 galley staff and 97 service staff) to deliver the tens of thousands of meals served each week throughout the various onboard food outlets.


Digest Some Dizzying Numbers


The tour starts in the service entrance of the Rotterdam dining room before winding through the spotlessly clean stainless steel preparation areas. The first stop is next to the soup chef, who tells me he makes about 379 litres of soup each day.

The bakers and pastry chefs are hard at work filling the air with the most amazing smells. Each day passengers have the choice of 20 different breads.

 The ship's culinary centre

When it comes to numbers, what we eat and drink on board in a week is pretty amazing.

At a rough count, 18,000 eggs were eaten over the seven days. More than 3,855 kilograms of meat was consumed; 1,168 kilograms of seafood eaten; 2,154 kilograms of potatoes mashed, baked or turned into fries; 232 cases of beer drunk; 450 bottles of champagne popped; and 1,636 bottles of wine enjoyed.

There are about 90 Australians on board headed for a Viking-themed adventure in Norway.


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Sunshine, Rain And Hail In Three Hours


Our first stop is Oslo, Norway’s largest city with about 500,000 residents. Oslo is an easy city to navigate on foot, which is important to me as I’m counting steps in a bid to not put on any weight.

My goal is to clock just over 15,000 steps a day which, I estimate, should allow me to indulge in something sweet each night with my evening meal.

 The magnificent MS Ryndam

It’s hard to get lost in Oslo and its waterfront area, where our ship is berthed, is one of the highlights. Thankfully the sun is shining even though the temperature has just nudged past 12C.

Norway in May is still waking from its winter slumber. There’s snow on the mountains and the air has that coldness that constantly takes your breath away.

From Oslo we sail overnight to Kristiansand, a university town, with a strong war history.

During my three-hour walk around Odderoya – one of the islands – we get a taste of brilliant sunshine, rain, and even some hail. I’m glad to get back on board to the comfort of my suite that has an enlarged balcony, separate lounge area and comfortable queen-sized bed.


Real Viking Helmets Had No Horns


Our next stop is Stavanger, which has a fascinating Museum of Archaeology that is rich in Viking relics. The first thing I learn from the tour is that Viking helmets never had horns, apparently they were a Hollywood addition to the legend. And also that primarily the Vikings were traders and explorers before they became brutal warriors.

 A suite on the MS Ryndam

In Eidfjord, our last stop, we take a three-hour walk to the Haereid terrace to wander through the forest and explore some of the 400 Iron Age burial mounds. There are no markings on the grave sites. They simply pop up in fields that are now used to run cattle and sheep.

The Vikings believed strongly in the afterlife and I have to admit that there is something ghostly to this setting.

Back on board we sail back through the beautiful fjords and make our way back to England.

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Brian Crisp

I've has been a journalist for more than 30 years and travelled to more than 60 countries. When I travel I love getting lost because that's when you find the true heart of a city. I love country music, but as yet I haven't made it to Nashville. Perhaps next year!