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Festive dishes lift seafarers’ spirits

Festive dishes lift seafarers’ spirits

(Posted on 13/12/21)

Festive and celebratory dishes can lift the spirits of crew members who are spending more time away from family amid the crew change challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.

Christian Ioannou, Managing Director of MCTC, believes meals prepared for special events such as religious and cultural festivals, birthdays or anniversaries give mariners “celebrating” at sea something to look forward to – particularly for those who might have grown a bit tired of the ship’s standard dishes.

“The life of a seafarer can be lonely, especially when friends and loved ones back home are celebrating a cultural event or national holiday,” said Mr. Ioannou, whose company, MCTC, is an international catering management specialist.

“It’s important to bring a taste of home to them, by serving meals they would typically eat when celebrating Diwali, Christmas, Independence Day (Philippines) or Islamic Eid, for example, with their relatives.”

Mr. Ioannou believes the benefits of this approach was reflected in the latest Seafarers Happiness Index report, which shows an increase to 6.59 out of 10 for Q3 of 2021 compared to 5.99 in the previous quarter.

When feeling more upbeat, mariners tend to find more issues with smaller items such as food. Conversely, they harbour fewer concerns about the quality of dishes if challenged by other aspects of being at sea.

“When everything else is suffering, it seems that meals are a literal and figurative crumb of comfort,” the report said.

Seafarers unhappy with their meals pointed to feeding rates, the standard of catering and the dearth of good quality ingredients, the report revealed.

While making seafarers feel more at home, specially prepared dishes can also help them learn about and embrace other cultures.

“You have people from different countries and cultural backgrounds working and living with each other for months on end,” Mr Ioannou said. “At some point, most, if not all of them, will feel homesick. Encouraging crew who yearn for home to communicate and socialise with their colleagues is one way to help improve their outlook.”

Eating meals is a communal activity that brings people together, so serving dishes onboard for special occasions not only gets seafarers talking, but also inspires them to learn about each other’s cultural and religious background.

MCTC helps make this happen by training onboard cooks to make national dishes featuring, among others, Chinese, European, Filipino, Indian/Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Korean cuisine. This allows the cooks to provide special meals for crew members at their employers’ request.

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