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See what merchant mariners eat while stuck for months at sea on a container ship

Courtesy of Bryan Boyle

  • A merchant mariner captured what it’s like to eat everyday at sea on a cargo ship.
  • The YouTube video shows a day’s worth of food in the officer’s mess hall on a Maersk ship.
  • During the holidays, the mess hall is a primary source of community and entertainment for workers.

A merchant mariner provided a peek into what it’s like to live on a cargo ship for months on end in a YouTube video.

In the video, second mate Bryan Boyle shows what meals look like on board a Maersk cargo ship. 

Boyle previously told Insider that meals in the mess halls are a primary source of community for the crew. During Thanksgiving, Boyle said crew were offered a series of festive meals and gathered to watch a football game in the lounge, using a satellite television. Though seamen can’t take a day off at sea for holidays like Christmas and New Years, Boyle says most shipping companies try to make the days special and some will even decorate the ships for the holidays.

 “I recall a few unique experiences such as singing and playing music together on Christmas since one of the Able Bodied Seaman onboard was a skillful harmonica player,” Boyle told Insider. ” Another time we were anchored in Dubai on New Years’ Eve surrounded by many ships.  We were counting down to the new year and then many of the ships started to blow their whistles in celebration as fireworks were being launched from shore in front of us.”

There are typically two mess halls on a ship — one for the officers and another for the crew. Boyle said that the officers’ mess hall accommodates about 10 people, while the crew’s can house up to 13 at a time.

The video focuses on the officers’ mess hall. Each day, the workers are provided with a daily menu for breakfast lunch, and dinner. 

Maersk menu

Courtesy of Bryan Boyle


While the menu changes from day to day, there are some constants. For breakfast, crew can choose from rotating breakfast items, like French toast and smoked salmon, or pick through a breakfast bar with freshly cut fruit and  pastries, as well as made-to-order eggs. In the video, a ship cook ladles Boyle’s eggs onto a griddle and fires up an omelet with a side of bacon. 

Similarly, for lunch and dinner, officers are always offered a salad bar option in addition to menu items like seafood, soup, and sandwiches. Every meal includes vegetable, fruit, and starch options on the menu. Boyle told Insider the menu options often shift based on their destination and the make-up of the crew. It’s not uncommon to sample foreign cuisines throughout the journey.

Boyle’s video also shows footage of the ship’s pantry and its slop chest bonded supplies for purchase, a store on the ship where workers can purchase anything from cigarettes and candy to clothes and soda.

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