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QUEEN MARY 2
CUNARD
CONTINUING
THE TRADITION


An Interview with QM2 Food
and Beverage Manager
Bernhard Fischer

by Richard H. Wagner
Bernhard Fischer is the Food and Beverage Manager on
Cunard’s flagship, the Queen Mary 2.  His department has
750 staff and covers “the entire spectrum of the service in
all the public areas as well as the crew” areas including the
restaurants, the bars, and even room service.  His
responsibilities also include the provisioning of the ship,
except for technical items, scheduling the staff’s vacations,
and hiring and training replacements to ensure the desired
level of service is maintained.   
        The food and beverage operation on Queen Mary 2 is
defined by the Cunard style.  “This is a continuation of the
Cunard way of doing things, the liner.  It is a unique product
really.  It is not comparable to a cruise ship anywhere.  This
was built on history and tradition.  This is our product.  
Every time someone comes from [another line] and says do
things like this, we say well, we don’t because we are not
just another ship. This is who we are, this is our product.  It
is like the Claridges Hotel is the Claridges Hotel.  It is what it
is.  We have high tea and we do all these things.”
  “Here, we are not selling you a cheap ticket and expensive
drinks.   If somebody asked me how could we increase the
volume by 25 percent, I’d say it would be the easiest thing
in the world - - I would have the [staff] pitching every five
minutes something else.  That is what I have seen on other
ships. But then, I would be destroying what Cunard is all
about.  That is not what we do.  We are order takers, we are
not sales people.  There is a very big difference.  Still, this is
one of the highest earning ships in the entire Carnival fleet
without the nonsense.”
“It comes down to a certain level of guest that you attract.  
It will be even more so when the QE2 goes because people
want to continue what they are doing with the QE2.   There
is a certain type of clientele.  Not so many first timers, a lot
of repeaters and they are looking for that the familiarity of
it.  It continues the tradition.”
  While Queen Mary 2 carries on in the footsteps of QE2,
she stands on her own. “They did not try to copy anything.  
It is uniquely itself.  I watched it for two years from the time
it was built to when I actually joined this ship.  You heard all
the comments: This is going to be the biggest flop ever.  Has
Micky Arison [Chairman of Carnival Corporation] lost his
marbles? It has been successful despite all of what they said
because there is obviously a market for this.  But this by
itself is an institution by itself.  It is like the Mount Nelson
Hotel in Capetown or Claridges or whatever. It is what it is.  
The Waldorf Astoria is the Waldorf Astoria.  The Mandarin
and so on. You don’t change it.   When you go there, you
expect to see certain things.  That is the way it is.”
  

In order to maintain the Cunard atmosphere, “we channel
[new] employees through the White Star Academy.  It is a
two week course that we conduct on board. It familiarizes
them with life on board - - what Cunard is all about, what
the history is, the way one conducts himself in public spaces
and so forth.   So, when they do get into their place of work,
they will know the way they are supposed to behave and
what it is all about. It is even for chefs, it is not just for
public rooms service staff.”
  “To most people when they first come aboard it is a shock
the way it works. First of all, it moves.  Second, it is very
condensed. It is restricted depending upon what job you do.  
You do not have the freedom of movement that you have
shoreside.  You have to get used to sharing a fairly small
cabin with somebody you just met.  It takes time to adjust
and the two weeks are there to bridge that a little bit so they
are not dealing with the pressure of getting into work as well
as the environment.  Other cruise lines don’t do that.  You
get off the aircraft, onto the ship and into the uniform,
within an hour and you are working.  I have been there.  It
is a lot harder than here.  This is rather civilized.  It works
for us, the end product is rather better.”
  Indoctrination into the Cunard style does not end when an
employee graduates from the White Star Academy.   “We
have this strict policy of speaking English only, even in the
crew areas.  It is a constant reiteration of what we are all
about.  That is how you maintain it.  It is a very formal
approach to service.”
  At the same time, Cunard recognizes that it must motivate
the employees and maintain morale.   “It is difficult to
employ highly qualified people in this particular industry
from the outside.  There is a huge competition going on now
with everybody building ships. Everybody is looking for the
same thing.  So, the biggest issue is to hold onto your staff.”
  To this end. “we need to create opportunities for people.  
We have an unwritten policy that we recruit from the
bottom levels most of the time so that our people can
progress through the different ranks.  It is a bottom-in filling
it up to the top type of system that works very well.  It is
not always possible but a lot of opportunities are being
created by Queen Victoria, which has taken staff out of
here.  There has been a huge amount of movement.  For a
long time the company was static with very little movement
between here and the QE2.  It was not uncommon for
people to be in the same position for years.  With the QE2
going and Queen Elizabeth being built, there will be massive
movement again. Right now, we see a lot of advancement
and movement.”
  “The company does a lot for the crew.  We have crew
events on board, all kinds of natures, shapes and sizes you
can imagine.    There is something every night.  There were
six parties last night.  They participate in everything.  They
have spa night for the crew.  There is something going on all
the time, you are not going to get bored here.  The feeling is
that we are all in the same boat and we prop each other up.”
  In general, two employees share a cabin, whereas it was
six to a cabin on QE2 and in “the old days on the SS
Norway we had ten to a cabin.  You had hot bunking as
well, early shift, late shift, but this was 25 years ago.  
Conditions have certainly improved.”
  “There is a nice mix of male and female that helps on the
ship.”  Indeed, “another unique thing about this ship is that
we have a lot of couples on board, married and otherwise.  
It was not common in other ships I’ve worked on.  There,
they discouraged it. Here, they encourage it.”
  Crew members get to go ashore based upon a rotation
system.  However, when the ship is doing back-to-back
transatlantic crossings, which it does throughout the summer
months, there is little opportunity to ashore.  “New York is a
turn around day, so is Southampton and there are only six
days of water in between.  There are no other stops.”  In
sharp contrast, when the ship is doing a Caribbean or other
cruise, there are port days and “there is time off for
everybody - - a couple of hours or half a day.  The shop
people, the casino people, the bars - - only half of them are
open during the day because of licensing issues - - they have
a good life; they basically work in the evenings.”

There are 19 bars on Queen Mary 2.  Most of these are
based on their own concept.  “We want people to go there
for different reasons.  Obviously, the champagne bar is self-
explanatory what that is all about.  It is mostly a pre-dinner
set-up.  The Commodore Club is essentially a martini bar.  
That was what it was set up to be.  But, anything else is
served as well.  Then, you can have a drink with a smoke in
the cigar bar, obviously it offers all the brandies, the cognacs
and so forth.  It is an after dinner venue more than anything
else.  The pub is a pub is a pub.  You don’t want to make a
sports bar out of it or anything.  Sir Samuel’s is a kind of a
coffee shop that doubles up as a wine bar in the evening.  
The Chart Room is basically a type of a lounge.  It is quiet,
you’ll see that the music is very tuned down there.  Those
were the initial concepts.  It does go into gray areas because
everything is available everywhere.”
  “The other ones are deck bars.  They are there but it is
not what you would find on a cruise ship where you have a
lot of action at the bars [on the open decks].”
  QM2 has an international following and the mix of
nationalities changes from voyage to voyage.  These
demographic shifts affect which venues will be patronized.   
When there is a “large amount of British guests on board,
you have higher sales in the bars than in the dining room.  
Next voyage, it will be exactly the other way around.  We
have a large contingent of Western Europeans, Swiss,
Germans and French, there is about 400, there are quite a
few French Canadians, 600 British and about 800
Americans.  You will see it shifting.  Your wine
consumption will be a lot higher, your beer consumption will
be a lot lower, that is just the way it is.”  
  This in turn affects the mix of provisions the ship takes
on.  “We adjust for that.  We have the projection of the
nationality mix and we buy accordingly six weeks in
advance.”
  Since QM2’s schedule is dominated by six day
transatlantic crossings, provisioning is done primarily in New
York and Southampton. “Most of our provisioning is done
in the States, it is half the cost of England.  England is
expensive as far as food is concerned.    We do a 14 day
load [in New York] and we do a top off in England.  What
we do is a 12 plus two - - two day stand-by, which we are
required to do by maritime law in case anything happens to
the ship”  
  European products, such as European wines, are also
loaded in Southampton during the transatlantic season.  
“They are shipped over from Amsterdam by truck.  They
leave in the morning and meet us that afternoon.  It has
become quick.  Europe has become a very small place, the
world has become a very small place.”  However, when the
ship is deployed elsewhere in the world, other re-supply
points are established.   For example, in the winter of 2008,
QM2 was doing Caribbean cruises out of New York.  “All
our China, our cutlery, our glassware, the British beer, and
the things that we normally receive from Europe - - certain
liquors, the European wines, they [were] all shipped to
Barbados.”
  To be consistent with Cunard’s image, freshness must be
maintained.  “Temperature control, really that is all it is.  We
[ensure] the products are controlled in the ideal temperature
from the manufacturer until we get it on board and we
maintain that whole chain.  When we get to New York, we
get fresh fish on board.  For the first two days, it is fresh
fish and then it is fresh chilled fish.”
   “I was speaking to a lady last night who asked: ‘How do
you make sure your bananas don’t all become ripe at the
same time?’  I said: ‘You buy them accordingly.’  It is
gauged by the days that you want to consume it.  You buy a
certain amount of the 500 bananas that you use on a [ten-
day] voyage for the first three days ready to serve, the next
few days will have a few days to ripen by the time on board,
the rest are basically green and will ripen during the last six
days of the voyage.  The same with avocados and any other
sensitive item like that. They come in different stages of
ripeness. It is the same with the melons and all the other
fruit. That is how we buy them.  We have special cabinets
where we ripen them.  It goes from one temperature set to
another temperature set. We do that in the provision area.”

There are 11 restaurants on Queen Mary 2.  However,
each passenger is assigned a place for dinner in either the
main dining room, the Britannia Restaurant, or one of the
two small Grill restaurants, depending upon his or her cabin
category.  “Essentially, there are two big differences.  One is
that [the Grills are] not restricted to a certain seating time,
we don’t have an early and a late seating.  So, whenever
you feel like having breakfast, lunch or supper is when you
arrive.  Secondly, basically, it is the Britannia menu but in
addition to that it has a Grill menu, and in addition to that it
has an ala carte menu. The Princess Grill has a slightly more
limited choice [in comparison] to what the Queens Grill has.”
  “In addition to that, you can ask for whatever you want
and they will cook it for you.  If you feel like a lobster
thermador tonight, we will make it for you.  You want to
have a party in your suite or whatever, we will make it for
you and serve it to you.  There is no limit on anything in the
Grills in either one of them.  You want to eat lobster every
night, eat lobster every night.  You want steak, have steak.  
They won’t question that.  You want us to cook some funny
bread, we will do that too. You get some really strange
requests and as far as humanly and skill-wise possible, we
will do it.  Some people come with their own recipes and
their own ideas and some people come to test us and see
what can be done.  Chocolate soufflés the size of buckets, if
that is what they want.  Some guys eat snails every night, I
don’t know why.”
Food and Beverage Manager Bernhard Fischer
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A table set for a wine tasting.
The Commodore Club
A bon voyage champagne in QM2's
champagne bar.
The Golden Lion Pub.
Less glamorous than the public areas,
the crew-only areas of the ship are clean
and utilitarian.   
The Chart Room.
Churchill's Cigar Bar  
The Regatta Bar.
Above: The Britannia Restaurant
Below:  The Queens Grill
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard - - Queen Mary 2 - - Food and Beverage Manager Bernhard Fischer
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