John Peijs, procurement manager, MHO food and beverage, hotel and corporate, Holland America Line

In general, at Holland America Line we establish contracts in local home markets so we have a steady supply of produce at a good price, at the quality that we need, wherever we go. Being a larger cruise line, with 14 ships cruising to 320 ports in more than 100 countries, we feel we have a duty to maximise what we get from local markets. It provides us with a lot of positive publicity, and the chance to lure people from the local market to our ships as cruise guests.

“In our planning, we try to make sure we account for holidays and incidents, but sometimes we may underestimate the potential size or impact of an event.”

But there are some products we know we’re going to have to ship in containers to meet up at other ports. For example, we know it’s going to be hard to source American tenderloin in South America.

We have a couple of ships – such as the MS Prinsendam and MS Amsterdam, which have one-off stops at ports in Africa – where we’re more comfortable sending a container to them because we know the produce is going to be there on time and will be of good quality.

In our planning, we try to make sure we account for holidays and incidents, but sometimes we may underestimate the potential size or impact of an event. Last year we were shipping containers to Istanbul but were unable to load the containers on the day we had planned because of Ramadan. So we had to divert them to Cyprus. That was almost a problem, but we saved that one.

Of course we have a lot of near misses, but we cope with those instances as quickly as we can. The last thing we want is for the guests to notice we have an issue behind the scenes. What we try to do in anticipation of containers not making it to a ship in time is to make sure each vessel has enough supplies on board that are a necessity and that we feel we cannot get in a local market.

With US beef, for instance, we make sure we have an extra seven to ten days’ supply on board so that if we miss a container it will not jeopardize the menu, just the supply. In Europe we also have an emergency supply, or safety stock, with one of our main suppliers that sits there in the event of a container missing a ship. At a moment’s notice we can pull it out of inventory, put it in a container and get it to the ship in time.

Sometimes there are areas in certain itineraries where it’s very hard to get supplies. If you’re on a repositioning cruise, spending ten out of 40 days at sea, then people know that some food won’t stay fresh for that long. In that situation, at the first available opportunity, we try to fly in items such as soft fruit.

Another thing we do is make sure there is so much variety that people don’t realise when something goes missing from the menu. With produce, we try to never have more than seven to ten days between supplies, so we always have the best and the freshest available.

Ole Christiansen, Director of hotel operations, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

Our five ships cruise from the UK and Europe to the US, Canada and Africa. Depending on the cruise, we mainly source fresh and frozen food products from the UK.

On some international turnarounds, many food and beverage items have to be forwarded in containers. This is also to maintain continuity with British items that are familiar to passengers, such as baked beans. We ship stores at intervals to ports such as Singapore, Vancouver or Barbados.

While we occasionally purchase local products, this approach is better for us because our UK suppliers offer better prices, not to mention the level of quality we know they provide. Even when shipping costs come into play, in many cases it is still more affordable to ship from home.

“While we can deal with emergencies, we still like to use our regular suppliers because we know they deliver on quality.”

We have looked at taking on board wines in the countries of origin, but we’ve found that it is more economical to get them – whether they’re French, Spanish or South African – in the UK. Because of the volume that our wholesalers are generating, they tend to get considerably better prices than what we would get if we were buying them direct.

Unfortunately there are also challenges to the shipping container aspect of the supply chain. Our supply chains are affected when unforeseen challenges arise, such as containers being delayed or bad weather affecting ship schedules. If crew, stores or entertainment are in a particular port waiting for a ship’s arrival, and bad weather prevents the ship from making its stop, repositioning these supplies is a further time and monetary constraint.

A good example of this was back in January 2009, when the 929-passenger Braemar was due to visit the Roatan Islands. The ship was to receive a ton of potatoes, but due to large swells we were unable to get alongside the port.

We then had to source what we needed from the next port of call, which obviously caused some inconvenience both for ourselves and the suppliers.

We’ve also had occasions where the shipping containers have accidently been set at the wrong temperature, partially freezing fresh produce, and again we’ve had to then source that produce locally.

While we do not have an emergency supply chain, we do work with port agents around the world who normally have close connections with different ship chandlers. So if something should go wrong we would be capable of sourcing what we need.

While we can deal with emergencies, we still like to use our regular suppliers because we know they deliver on quality. We also try to time our purchasing in a way that if something goes wrong, we’re not empty.